Hatching Projects: Not all they’re cracked up to be

Hi friends ūüôā

I am ending my extended blogging break by introducing an article that I wrote about classroom hatching projects for Discordia Zine.

 

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Chicks in the classroom: Not all it’s cracked up to be

The children squeal and jostle as they compete for a good viewing spot.

‚ÄėOk, boys and girls, do you all remember what to do?‚Äô The question is largely rhetorical. Of course they remember! They have practised many times, and all have eagerly awaited this moment.

‚ÄėCluck, cluck‚Ķcluck, cluck‚Äô. The teacher joins the chorus of children‚Äôs voices. Their efforts are rewarded: An egg with a pronounced crack emits a faint chirp.

One by one, the inhabitants of the eggs emerge into an incubator; to a motherless existence. The chicks do not experience the welcoming chirps or body warmth of a doting and nurturing mother. Instead, a heat lamp set to 37 degrees Celsius provides their only warmth. They will never know the comfort of snuggling beneath a mother’s outstretched wing.

An unhatched egg lies still, and silent. Several of the children express their concerns for the unborn chick. The teacher knows that it should have hatched by now: the chick is dead.

What is a hatching project?

Hatching projects are promoted as ‚Äėfun and easy do-it-yourself programs that enable children to see chicks actually hatching from their eggs‚Äô. School teachers are particularly encouraged to use hatching projects¬†in their classrooms, and some companies also offer hatching projects to nursing homes.

 

To continue reading, click here.

 

Photo credit: ozecha

 

 

{A-Z:Veganism} H is for Hatching Project

H is for…

Hatching project.

This is Sarge:

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Sarge the rooster.
Photo used with kind permission of B. Carmody.

Here is Sarge as a chick, with his sister and brothers:

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Chicks dust-bathing.
Photo by author.

I first encountered Sarge when he lived in an egg. His egg, his world, was part of a school hatching program.

The fragile inhabitants of those 12 eggs emerged into an incubator, to a motherless existence. They did not experience the welcoming chirps or body warmth of a nurturing mother. A heat lamp set to 37 degrees Celsius was their only warmth and comfort.

What is a hatching project?

Hatching projects are promoted as ‘fun and easy do-it-yourself programs that enable children to see chicks actually hatching from their eggs’. School teachers are encouraged to use hatching projects ¬†in their classrooms.

One company,¬†Living Eggs¬†, asserts that their program provides children with ‘the opportunity to experience the miracle of life first hand…’. Hatching projects are promoted as ‘hands-on’ enhancements ¬†for life cycle studies.

When participating in the Living Eggs hatching program, schools are provided with an incubator, eggs, a brooder box for the chicks, educational resources and chick feed.

The company aims for the chicks to hatch on a Wednesday (‘please inform us Wednesday afternoon if there are no signs of hatching‘), and instructs that all chicks should be moved to the brooder box by Friday afternoon. It is requested that a ‘responsible person’ take the chicks home over the weekend.

On Monday, the chicks are ‘ready’ to be handled by the students. On the twelfth day, at the completion of the program, the chicks are collected, along with the incubator and brooder box.

What do hatching projects teach children? 

According to the companies that provide this ‘experience’ for pre-schools and schools, children are learning about ‘the life cycle’.

A testimonial on the Living Eggs home page states:

¬†‘A wonderful¬†stimulus for work across the curriculum. It gave the children an amazing experience of a real life-cycle’.

Perhaps the chicks were a ‘wonderful stimulus’, however, I do not agree that there is anything ‘real’ about this set-up. A hatching project is not indicative of a ‘real’ life cycle. It is totally artificial!

Another testimonial exclaims:

Brilliant! ¬†One of the most unique bonding experiences ever.’

Huh!? Who bonded? The kids? The kids and teacher? Or the kids and chicks? Perhaps the teacher and the chicks bonded?

It is disappointing that there is no concern for hen-chick bonding – ¬†the bond between mother and baby. ¬†I am curious to know what the children are told about the ‘absent’ mother.

In fact,¬†one of the criticisms directed at hatching projects is that the chicks may ‘imprint’ (bond) with the children who are caring for them, only to experience separation anxiety when they are removed from the school a few days later.

Opponents of hatching projects assert that children are being taught to regard the fragile chicks as mere ‘teaching aides’, not sentient beings. This is further enforced when the chicks are collected at the end of the project. The chicks are disposable.

A classroom environment can not emulate the role of a mother hen, who rotates her eggs up to 30 times a day to ensure proper embryonic development.  A mother hen communicates with her offspring while they are still inside the eggs, welcoming them and guiding them as they emerge from their eggs.

This particular ‘educational experience’ patronises children. We only give them part of the story. Yes, the avian egg is fascinating. However, the ‘life cycle’ that is demonstrated to school students is a false one.¬†¬†A mother, a hen, is essential for the life cycle. She is the layer of eggs, the one who gave them life.

Not just Chicks

I was dismayed to discover that one company,  Hatch n Grow , provides duckling eggs as part of its hatching program.

The Hatch n Grow website provides the following cautionary announcement:

‘PLEASE NOTE: Ducklings can drown if you don’t provide a step for them to get out of the water by themselves.¬†It’s always best to supervise the ducklings in the water and if at any time they look tired or cold put them back near their heat light for a rest.’

It is very unlikely that a duckling would drown under the guidance and supervision of her mother, but in a busy classroom a tired or struggling duckling  may go unnoticed.

The web site also states that their program is:

Great for keeping the kids in the neighbourhood occupied at home during the school holidays.’

Is that the value we truly wish to place on living beings? When we use living beings as ‘occupiers’ of our children’s time, we treat them as a novelty. The ducklings are reduced to the status of a play thing, a toy.

Ducklings are very cute, undeniably so. I am sure that  my kids would love to hold one. But, this is where our influence and guidance as parents is so important. It is essential that we instill in our children a belief that ducklings (and other beings) are not play things, that they have inherent value as living beings.

At all stages, we must ask: Is this action beneficial to the duckling (or chick)? Is it kind, is it right? This process requires empathy.

We must also ask: What are my children learning from this experience? Are these the types of beliefs that I want them to develop about animals?

I do not want my children to regard animals as toys. This belief, therefore, influences the type of activities  that I would seek for my children to be involved in.  Hatching projects in the home are definitely out.

Sarge’s Story

I rescued four of the chicks from the school hatching project that Sarge was a part of, and took them home to my suburban backyard.

My sister and I named the chicks according to their unique features: Sarge appeared to be ‘the boss’, the benevolent leader. Tails grew her white tail feathers first. Lionel’s tail feathers appeared as distinct ‘lines’. Baby was the smallest.

They were tiny, precious and fragile- and we fell in love with them.

As they grew, two things became apparent-

1. Three were roosters, Tails was the only hen;

2. They were ‘broilers’ (meat chickens), not ‘egg laying’ chickens. The company had stated that the remaining chicks, Sarge’s siblings, were going to a ‘free range’ egg facility. ¬†I had not believed this assertion at the time and, as our chicks ‘grew’ into broilers, we confirmed the claims to be false.

Broiler Chickens

As the chicks grew, deformities began to emerge. And grow they did. Rapidly. Broiler chickens have been bred to gain weight fast. They are commonly slaughtered at approximately 30-35 days old (but no later than 55-60 days old). They are just babies.

I felt so relieved that I had brought the chicks to my home. What fate had awaited them otherwise?

Before long, the chickens could barely carry their own weight. Any amount of exertion would render them exhausted. At times it seemed conceivable that their fragile legs may snap under the weight of their unnaturally large bodies. Eventually, Lionel could only walk short distances at a time.

At the time that we shared our lives with Sarge, Lionel, Tails and Baby I had not eaten chicken for 4 years. I had read about broiler chickens and their crippling deformities. I had seen photos of them.

Now, I was sharing my life and home with broiler chickens. I observed their dust bathing and their exploration of the backyard. My heart ached as I watched them struggle to walk.

I wanted everyone to meet them. To know them. To know what these beings endure in order for humans to eat roast chicken and chicken nuggets. They were just babies. Do people realise that they are eating babies?

There was a happier ending for Sarge, Tails, Lionel and Baby.

A New Home

Once Sarge, Lionel and Baby began crowing each morning, it became apparent  that it was time to find them a more suitable, more rural home.

That is when Bede Carmody came in to our lives. Bede was living on a property that was home to ex-battery hens. He agreed to provide a home for our 4 friends. For this act of kindness and compassion, I will be grateful to Bede, forever.

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Tails, resting at her new home.
Photo used with kind permission of B. Carmody.

Bede updated us on the lives of our broiler friends with photos and letters, and it became apparent to me that he had welcomed them into his heart.

Sadly, all of  these precious chickens died before their first birthday. 

Unlike millions of their kin, however, they died FREE. They were not slaves, they were not subjected to the stress of transportation or the horrors of a slaughterhouse – and they knew kindness. In a chicken production facility, they would have been slaughtered before they reached 2 months old.

A Poultry Place

Bede Carmody now runs a no-kill sanctuary called A Poultry Place in Southern New South Wales. A Poultry Place (APP) is home to rescued and unwanted hens, roosters, ducks, turkeys and geese. No doubt, some of the roosters in residence are former hatching project chicks. APP celebrated its 12th birthday this week.

I have not seen Bede for many years, but I look forward to the day that I can hug him and thank him again for his kindness.

I eagerly anticipate  the day that Mat and I visit  A Poultry Place with our children.

For this is the appropriate place to gain a ‘hands on’ educational experience about chickens and ducks (and others). ¬†I want my children to learn about the lives of the precious beings who reside there, to understand that the residents have been blessed with a ¬†second chance. I want them to hear about the personalities, habits and ‘quirks’ of Bede’s feathered friends.

My kids can also gain some ‘education’ by helping Bede with some of the never-ending jobs that stack up at an animal sanctuary! I’m thinking cleaning, shoveling, feeding…..that is very ‘hands on’!

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Sarge and his pals at dinner time.
Photo used with kind permission of B. Carmody.

Have you visited an animal sanctuary? Please let me know in the comments. 

An alternative to chicken hatching programs, a lesson plan called Beak, Wings and Feet is available here.

More information about A Poultry Place is available here.

You may also want to check out my post E is for Eggs

References:

Edgar’s Mission

World of Animal Welfare (WOAW) 

In¬†My A-Z of Veganism¬†series, I discuss and explore a topic or issue related to veganism, and my experiences as a vegan ‚Äď as I work my way through the alphabet!

Ally

{A-Z:Veganism} E is for Eggs

E is for…

Eggs.

During my time as a vegan, I have been asked (more than a few times) why I don’t eat free-range eggs. People understand why I don’t eat cage eggs- anyone with half a shred of common sense realises that the battery system is abhorrent.*

So, while I have never had to justify my ‘boycott’ of cage eggs, I have had to explain my opposition to free-range eggs.

As someone who subscribes to a vegan ethic, I do not support a system where hens are valued only for their capacity to produce eggs.

Regardless of the egg production method in place, when a hen stops laying eggs, she is regarded as worthless, unprofitable. Invariably, this means that she is slaughtered. Chickens, like all non-human animals, do not exist for the benefit of humans. A hen lays an egg as part of her reproductive cycle. She does not lay eggs for humans.

Moreover, there is another significant issue that influences my opposition to free-range systems (and other egg production systems):

Male chicks.

Do you ever wonder where the male chickens (roosters) are hanging out while the hens are doing all the egg-laying? Free- range, barn and cage systems require only egg layers, that is, hens. Roosters are not required.

Hatcheries breed ‘egg laying’ hens for free-range, barn, and cage systems.

In hatcheries, the eggs mature in industrial incubators. Obviously, there is a 50% chance of each egg containing a male chick.

What happens to male chicks?

When the chicks hatch they join a ‘production line’, where they are inspected to determine their sex. Apparently, it is not an easy task to differentiate males from females, so the ‘inspectors’ are required to be skilled at this process. Female chicks are separated from male chicks. Female chicks will go on to provide eggs in free-range, barn, or cage facilities.

Male chicks do not leave the facility alive. They are regarded as ‘unwanted by-products of egg production’. They are killed shortly after their emergence from their egg. Weak and sickly female chicks are killed too.

According to the Hatchery Management section of the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Domestic Poultry 4th ed. there are 2 ‘recommended’ methods by which male (and ‘unwanted’ female) chicks may be killed:

1. Quick maceration, or

2. Carbon dioxide gassing.

There are videos of male chicks being macerated and gassed in hatcheries, on YouTube. I cannot watch them. I won’t inflict them on you either. I feel repulsed by the thought of a live, newborn chick being ‘ground up’ by sharp blades. My heart aches when I envisage a tiny, delicate being, newly emerged from his egg, gasping for oxygen.

According to the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals (RSPCA) Australia, quick maceration is preferable to carbon dioxide gassing. The RSPCA states:

‘Gassing results in gasping and head shaking and, depending on the mixture of gases used, it may take up to two minutes for the chick to die’.

However, the Hen Welfare Advisory Group states, in relation to male chicks:

‘The majority are humanely destroyed as day-old chicks using carbon dioxide’.

Humanely destroyed? What an oxymoron that is!

If the Humane Welfare Advisory Group (HWAG) is correct – and most chicks in Australia are killed by carbon dioxide gassing – then, by the standards of the RSPCA, the majority of chicks are dying by the least ‘humane’ of these two gruesome methods.

Both of these ‘disposal’ methods sound horrific to me.

Male chicks are bred by humans, and they are killed by machines or poisonous gas at the hands of humans. ¬†They are regarded as ‘surplus hatchlings’. Only their sisters are prized. Their only ‘fault’ is to be born male and, therefore, unprofitable.**

Male and female chicks born at hatcheries never know the nurturing touch and gentle guidance of a mother. They emerge from their eggs into an industrial incubator, to a ‘motherless’ existence. An unnatural and heartless existence.

Free-range systems are not ‘cruelty free’. The killing of 50% of the chicks born at hatcheries cannot be overlooked or disregarded.

I do not believe that the killing of male chicks in hatcheries can be separated from the egg production method. To me, an egg, whether free range or cage, represents the killing of male chicks.

In addition, some hatcheries promote day-old female chicks for use in ‘backyard’ egg production systems.¬†One hatchery¬†charges $3.50 per female chick.

For some male chicks, another fate awaits them. One Australian hatchery advertises live chicks for $1.50 each in their reptile food section. No doubt they are male chicks.

Chicks. They commonly decorate Easter cards. They are a symbol of life and renewal. Chicks are undeniably cute, fluffy and fragile. Children adore them.¬†I believe that my children would be horrified and outraged to learn of the sacrifice that male chicks are forced to make in order to satisfy humanity’s appetite for scrambled eggs.*** I imagine most children would be.

Chicken eggs are not necessary for human health. We can nurture our bodies, and our children’s bodies, without consuming eggs.

Did you know about the killing of male chicks? What are your thoughts? Are YOU outraged?

***

Notes:

For tips on baking and cooking without eggs, go to VegWeb Guide to Egg Replacers

Footnotes:

* The industry still defends the ‘battery’ system method. The Hen Welfare Advisory Group states: ‘the weight of scientific evidence shows that cages systems provide many welfare benefits to hens compared to other methods, including reduced cannibalism, better disease control and lower overall mortalities’.

** Of course, the life of a female chick is not a ‘walk in the park’. She will live her days in a cage, barn or free range system- her body valued only for as long as she is able to produce eggs. Ultimately, she will be slaughtered when her role as an ‘egg layer’ is over.

*** Up until now, we have told our children that chickens do not like humans to take their eggs. This has been a sufficient explanation. I do not look forward to the day that they will discover the unpalatable truth about male chicks.

Ally

In My A-Z of Veganism series, I discuss and explore a topic or issue related to veganism, and my experiences as a vegan Рas I work my way through the alphabet!

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