Fazio portable coop

Recent Judah Christian graduate Griffin Fazio is building this chicken tractor — a sort of small mobile coop — for Hendrick House, for which he'll receive his Eagle Scout badge.

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CHAMPAIGN — Griffin Fazio was fired up when he reviewed some options for his Eagle Scout project with Ann Swanson, the farm director for Hendrick House.

But he and his father, David, admit they had to Google one of them.

“When she first said ‘chicken tractor,’ I conjured a few crazy images in my head,” David said.

After some research, though, Griffin became interested in what a chicken tractor, which serves as a small mobile chicken coop, can do.

It’s a cleaner way to raise chickens, he found, because they like to dig in dirt to clean themselves, which makes a stationary coop less sanitary. It also allows them to fertilize different patches of ground while giving them different patches of land to graze.

The conservation aspect of the project piqued his interest, so he decided to give it a go.

“It’s just a better way to raise chickens, in my opinion,” he said. “We’re just trying our best to think ahead for the chickens’ every possible need so that way they live as comfortably as possible.”

In the early going, the main hurdle was acquiring the materials. Armstrong Lumber, though, provided much of it, and Fazio received donations from Home Depot and the Champaign-Urbana Schools Foundation, which runs Fowler Farm adjacent to Hendrick House Farm. Overall, he used $835 in materials.

After buying instructions to build the coop, the recent Judah Christian grad made a few tweaks with the help of a few of his father’s friends, who are contractors. After several months of work, the tractor, which features a triangular wooden frame complete with a sheet metal roof, will be ready to haul off by Monday. That’ll be a few weeks before his 18th birthday, which is the deadline for the Eagle Scout badge.

The chicken coop will be used for educational purposes for Champaign and Urbana students as well as students at the University of Illinois.

To Griffin’s father, that’s what made the project special.

“Something I thought was important was the teaching aspect that this could be used for,” David Fazio said. “So the fact that the Unit 4 schools can use it as a tool to bring students in to talk about or demonstrate ultimate farming practices ... I thought that was great.

“It’s more than just handing over something to be used, but it’s something to be used and to pass on knowledge and to teach something more to kids who wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to.”

Fazio, who will enroll in the Parkland Pathway program this fall with the idea of becoming a paleontologist, has spent plenty of time serving the community throughout his time as a scout. For several years, he volunteered at Swann Special Care Center helping developmentally disabled children paint.

Community service will always likely be a part of his life. And after months of hard work, he’s looking forward to closing this chapter.

“I’m super excited to have it completed,” Fazio said. “I think they’re really going to like it.”

Multimedia Specialist

Anthony Zilis is a multimedia specialist at The News-Gazette. His email is azilis@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@adzilis).