This spring, we signed up for a Nanny McCluckins Chick Hatching Experience! We received six (hopefully!) fertilized eggs from local farms, and everything we needed to look after the chicks once hatched for a week.
We spent 22 days talking to the eggs, candling them to see if they were fertilized and developing, and monitoring the incubator humidity. To be honest, 22 days felt like a LONG time!
On what was supposed to be “hatch day” the girls wanted to camp out in front of the incubator, as that morning one egg had a small crack and a beak poking out. Knowing that hatching could take a while, we kept up our regular activities that day and I’m glad we did. Twelve hours later, at bedtime, there was still no further development since the initial crack. We all went to sleep with heavy hearts.
Would we have a successful hatch?
The next morning was Friday, and we were woken early with a start by our youngest throwing our bedroom door open announcing that “there is the cutest little black chick in the incubator, cheeping and chirping!” Yes! Six hours later, a second black and yellow chick hatched and both were thriving and strong. They would be the only hatchlings from our eggs.
The next seven days were a blurr of chick cuddling, tidying up shavings, topping up food and water – we had NO idea how much those little ones eat in a day! The girls let them explore the room they were in, the chicks fell asleep in their hands, and they even watched “chick flicks” with them and had sleepovers in their room.
The day we had to return them was filled with tears as our two open-hearted girls got quite attached. Their long list of questions about the next steps of what these two little chicks’ lives would look like were so kindly answered by the Nanny McCluckins Chicken Whisperers. And lucky for us, the actual farmer who would be raising our two chicks was there on site to provide even more details for the girls and ease their aching hearts. They went to bed relieved and excited for the beautiful continuation of a wonderful life these two chicks would undoubtedly receive.
How we tied this experience into our homeschool learning
I downloaded the Middle School package of curriculum from the Nanny McCluckins website as the girls are in grades 5 and 7. It was an excellent starting point! The right balance of science and biology for our curious girls, excellent charts for tracking data on growth, and a few cool math activities.
But it wouldn’t be me if I didn’t use their materials as a launching pad to springboard into a few other activities.
Here’s what we did:
- Language Arts: For whatever reason, the girls have been exploring sarcasm. Everyday, the witty comments are flying and some more appropriate than others. I took this as a great opportunity to have them write sarcastically what a baby chick needs its first week of life. This could easily be done through exploring other methods and tactics:
- A journal entry of a newly hatched chick
- A newspaper article announcing the arrival of a new chick
- Instruction manual for how to care for a chick
- A letter from the baby chick to their mom telling them what life was like in their new home
- Math: The Nanny McCluckins kit came with a fantastic mapping project that the girls did together mapping coordinates in a Cartesian Plane. And we could have done SO MUCH MORE with weighing and measuring the chicks…but I’ll explain why later.
- Science: Each week we would discuss what part of a chicken’s anatomy would be potentially developing inside the egg, as this material was provided in our kit. It was fascinating to think of the many complex aspects of a living organism developing simultaneously. The majority of our science was investigating questions that came up such as:
- How long is a fertilized egg viable?
- How long can a mother chicken leave her clutch before the eggs stop developing?
- Can a chicken lay eggs fertilized by different roosters?
- How often does a chicken lay an egg?
- How much food does a chick eat in a day?
- What are some of the common problems that can occur with a newly hatched chick (thanks to Nanny McCluckins for an EXCELLENT booklet on this!)
- How many hours does a chick sleep in a day?
The greatest curriculum tie-ins had nothing to do with curriculum.
On about day 3 of enjoying our new chicks, it occurred to me that what we were experiencing went far deeper than what I had hoped would be a cool educational experience. It was a deeply emotional experience for the girls. Something switched off in my brain and I stopped being homeschool mom wanting to track and chart chick growth and simply became a witness.
I witnessed how they coordinated “babysitting duties”, one minding the chicks while the other cleaned their bin. I witnessed how the girls encouraged the chicks to get stronger and hop and walk a little farther each day while out exploring. I witnessed their compassion and the connection that was inevitably forming. (We do believe the chicks imprinted on our eldest who was in front of the incubator NON STOP during their hatching!). And I witnessed the pain and sadness of letting the chicks go once our week was up.
I find it’s easy to make excuses on this homeschooling journey of why things didn’t get done. “Life” just happens, which is understandable. But in this case, life itself was happening and providing beautiful teachable moments. Experiencing life with these two little chicks provided something for the girls that went beyond their writing or science exploration – it deepened their character. To love so deeply, consciously knowing that they had to let go was profound. Being able to celebrate this, sit with their feelings, and discuss them, isn’t something that can be taught, it must be lived.
These chicks taught us the memorable and meaningful lessons that can only come from experience. And this experience is one we will never forget.