For the Birds: Alternatives to Chick Hatching
Last updated: May 20, 2014
Learn more about the realities and alternatives to chick hatching.
You may want your students to experience the joy of caring for an animal. You may see chick hatching as an opportunity to teach students about the amazing avarian egg or the process of an animal’s growth and development. Perhaps you are hoping to encourage scientific observation and improve students’ data-recording skills. Most teachers have the best intentions when they undertake a chick hatching project. Unfortunately, many lessons learned from such projects are better left unlearned.
Problems arise in chick hatching projects because providing the right sort of environment is difficult in a classroom setting. Mother hens rotate their eggs up to 30 times a day, maintaining the optimum temperature, humidity and ventilation for embryo development. If this same level of care is not observed in the classroom, the results of hatching projects can be upsetting to students and detrimental to the chicks. Providing the correct level of care is demanding on both teacher and student.
Many eggs never hatch because of poor hatching conditions. Chicks that do hatch may be deformed due to unsuitable humidity levels or incorrect egg rotation. The sight of deformed chicks can be upsetting to both teacher and students. Some newly hatched chicks die due to illness or physical abnormalities related to their unnatural hatching environment. It is not uncommon for chicks to hatch on weekends and die because no-one was there to care for them or because the incubator malfunctioned.
A major difficulty with classroom chick hatching is the question of what to do with surviving chicks once the project has finished. Adult chickens do not make ideal classroom animals! Some farmers are unwilling to take in chicks from classroom projects. Chicks sent home with children are often unwelcome and may be treated inhumanely. Some classroom-hatched chicks are euthanased at the end of the project. Understandably, many children become upset when they learn that the animals that they have observed, cared for and nurtured will be put to death simply because a lesson has been completed.
Despite good intentions, the problems with classroom chick-hatching means that some students may come away with unintended, negative lessons. Students may learn that bringing a life into the world is not a serious, long term responsibility and that the life of an animal is unimportant. When imperfect chicks are disposed of, students may infer that physical abnormalities make living beings worthless. Rather than implying in students a sense of respect and appreciation for the wonders of the animal world, classroom chick hatching may imply that animals are disposable educational tools.
Fortunately there are many viable alternatives. The following activities provide fun, easy-to-use activities to help you meet the traditional objectives of chick hatching while avoiding the pitfalls. Most activities can be adapted for P – 7. Time needed for each activity will vary. We hope that you will use these fun activities as replacement to chick hatching in your classroom.