A pair of purebred bantam leghorn chickens are part of the winnings earned by Ben Hildebrandt, Kansasville, in this year’s Pullet Surprise Youth Essay Contest.

By Patricia Bogumil

Staff writer

Ben Hildebrant, 15, was fine just limiting his personal acquaintance with backyard fowl to chickens.

But Ben’s appreciation for guinea fowl quickly took flight when a pair of characters named Dot and Dip snuck into his family’s life.

Ben’s humorous account of Dot and Dip’s adventures – including their surreptitious entry into the Hildebrandts’ coop  – earned him a first-place win in this year’s 25th Anniversary Pullet Surprise Youth Essay Contest, sponsored by the Wisconsin International Poultry Club.

Ben’s winnings include a pair of show-quality purebred bantam light-brown leghorn chickens complete with an incubator, caging, carrier and feed as well as a one-year WIPC membership and two professional breeding guides.

“I’ve been trying to breed and raise these birds and this will help me get a better start at that,” Ben said.

Ben is a member and youth leader of the Kan-Do 4-H Club of Kansasville and a sophomore at Catholic Central High School in Burlington.

He said he’s been writing stories and poems for the Pullet Surprise Contest since he was about 9 years old.

“This contest is fun, especially this year, which was the 25th anniversary of the contest,” Ben said. “I was excited to be part of the celebration.”

Ben and his siblings have raised backyard poultry for years while growing up in Sturtevant.

At first, he considered guinea fowl to be obnoxious, Ben said, and resisted his older sister’s attempts to add a pair to their coop.

So, when opportunity arose, she didn’t bother to ask anyone’s permission.

Instead, Dot and Dip were smuggled home in a show bag after a poultry show and discovered in there too late to return. “But I grew fond of the guineas,” Ben admits in his essay.

Barb Gromacki, a Racine County 4-H poultry resource leader, said she was impressed with the quality of Ben’s essay and called Ben a real role model in the Racine County 4-H program.

Ben returned the compliment.

“The people who support this contest really like mentoring youth in raising poultry,” Ben said, “and they help us any time they can.”