Spring is in full swing over here now, and we’ve been keeping busy with lots of little projects! At our homeschool co-op, we’ve planted seedlings, and started building a living play structure out of willow shoots. At home we’ve made a temporary habitat for observing earthworms, and filled our bookshelves with beautiful spring stories. We’ve seen the frogs come out of hibernation, and the deers venture out of the woods to lick the salt off the roads.
It’s so nice to have warm weather again. And it’s like a brand new world out there. Things are coming back to life, and hey, so am I! The changing seasons inspire me. It never gets old.
It was sometime last month (in March), when I realized that spring was just around the corner. Suddenly, I was itching to start spring projects in our home.
I’ve dreamed of owning chickens for a long time, and when the idea of an egg hatch project came up, I jumped right in.
Back when I was in first grade, I remember the buzz of the other first grade class across the hall. They were doing an egg hatch project! How fun, I remember thinking. I so hoped that our class would do it too, but sadly we never got the chance!
Seeing as my kids are home with me, and that I can literally customize their education for them, I try to do lots of fun seasonal projects. Project based learning has always been fun for us. And I love to learn alongside my children.
I contacted a farm that provides chick hatches, and was excited to find out our expected hatch date would be March 31st. Just in time for Easter! It was perfect. What says springtime more than baby animals?
She delivered our beautiful eggs, which varied in shades of green, brown, and off-white, along with an incubator, egg turner, and some other supplies we’d need for when the chicks hatched.
It was three long weeks of waiting. In the meantime, we kept the incubator humidity high, and added water as needed. The egg turner was set up to slowly turn the eggs from side to side throughout the day.
The kids and I waited in anticipation. Our library visits consisted of us scouring the shelves for books about chickens, farms, oviparous animals, and spring in general. We even candled an egg every night to see the miraculous changes taking place inside. (This requires going into a dark room and holding a flashlight underneath the egg.)
And then one day, as we were sitting around the dining table eating lunch…
We heard a tiny peep! coming from inside the incubator.
Peep! Peep! Peep!
And more and more peeps as the day went on.
The next morning, we awoke to six chicks hopping around in the incubator! And the remaining chicks hatched throughout the day. We even managed to see a couple of them breaking out of their shells.
It was fascinating. My kids were eager to hold the chicks right away, but I told them that we’d have to let them dry off first and get used to their surroundings.
We set up a heat lamp and brooding box for them, filled with wood shavings, a water dish, and second dish filled with chick feed. My kids hovered there constantly! They observed in awe and treated these little animals with such kindness.
The farmer had told us that sometimes, even with the right conditions, there would be a few eggs that wouldn’t hatch. And she was right. She also told us that some chicks would start pecking their way out of the egg, and for whatever reason, might not be strong enough to finish.
We were keeping an eye on one egg in particular, as it had been an entire day since we first noticed the little beak popping out from inside, trying to peck away the eggshell. We had been instructed to help a chick out of it’s egg if it had been over 24 hours from the time a sizeable crack had formed. And so, ever-so-gently, we peeled away the eggshell and freed the chick. We gave him as warm bath, as advised in our manual, to help loosen the little egg shell bits that remained fixated to his fluff. Then, we put him back into the incubator to warm up.
We named him Peep.
Poor little Peep was weak from the start. He was smaller than the other chicks and he wasn’t quite as spritely.
One morning, my daughter sat glumly by the brooding box and I saw big fat tears falling as she cupped little Peep in her hands.
What’s wrong? I asked.
It’s Peep. He’s going to die. All the other chicks were running over top of him and he’s hurt, she replied.
My heart sank. I took a quick look, and it was clear that Peep was in some sort of distress. We immediately separated him from the other chicks, and placed him in his own, comfortable box with all the chick necessities. We made sure his box was nice and warm, and checked on him throughout the day.
Peep’s state was very upsetting to the kids. We were doing a bit more life learning with this project than I had expected! We talked about nature, and the circle of life. We talked about death and what happens. And little Peep died in peace.
One of the hardest parts about being a mother is seeing my kids sad. They grieved over this poor little chick. They had not yet experienced loss. I made sure to answer all of their questions to the best of my abilities. They made peace with it over time.
Our egg hatch project was certainly one to remember. Lots of learning about life.
One warm evening, I took the kids outside for some photos with their fluffy friends. I simply needed to document the special love and care they had for their baby chicks. I hope they will always remember this special experience!
So everyone has been asking me. Are we keeping the chicks? I wish we could. I’d love to have some backyard chickens, but my husband and I agreed that it’s not the right place or time for us right now. The chicks have moved up the street to our friend’s lovely homestead where they will be joining the chickens that live there already, as well as ducks, goats, sheep, cats, dogs, and a large pig named Petunia.
We may not be able to keep chickens right now, but we will be able to see these chicks grow up at our homestead co-op every week (and hopefully in a few months, be able to take home some of the eggs they’ve been laying)!
Soon, I’m hoping we’ll have backyard chickens of our own. ;) In the meantime, I’ll be doing plenty of reading on raising them.
I hope you all had a wonderful Easter weekend, and are enjoying these first days of Spring!