We've been distracted lately. It was a good thing that this is our last week of school for the year and we had a light schedule. Our latest science project hatched this week and our attention has been hijacked by 4 little balls of fluff. We have never done such a project before and so this has been a very exciting week for us.
This has been such a great lesson / project to go through for so many reasons. Yet, I do have some advice to pass on for anyone who should desire to hatch eggs for a project of their own.
1. Think ahead. These are living, breathing beings that are being brought into the world. Take some responsibility and think ahead to what will happen to your animals after they are hatched. Whether chickens, ducks, frogs, butterflies - there are things to think about. Can they be released into the wild? (Beware of introducing non-native species to the local ecosystem). Do they have a home to go to? Will you keep them? Get this lined up before beginning the project.
In our case, I talked with someone beforehand as to if they would take the chickens after they hatched. Then, I mentioned our project to a few other people who volunteered to take the chicks or knew someone who would if our original plans didn't pan out. That's a load off my mind.
2. Prepare. This means not only education based on the project, but the reality that things don't always happen as planned. Illness or poor health can claim a life that was so faithfully nurtured. It happens.
Preparing the kids can also mean laying the ground rules before they are needed. Who can handle animals? When is appropriate to interact with the newborns? And, don't for get to wash your hands!
I also had to prepare myself. This meant lots of reading up on what to expect and how to care for the chicks once hatched. I also ended up researching our local laws regarding backyard chickens. You know...in case we decided to keep them. Maybe next year.
3. Beg and Borrow. With our project there was some expense involved (eggs, incubator, brooding supplies, feed, etc.) To help cut down on what we had to pay out, we borrowed some supplies from others we knew who had done the same project before. In my search for supplies I even came across a site that would rent out incubators (of course, I can't find it now...).
In our case, I was unsuccessful locating anyone local that I could get eggs for hatching from. So, I went online. There are a few places online to find fertile eggs for hatching and they are easily found doing a simple search. I went with a website called My Pet Chicken. If you go this route, be sure to read the fine print. Usually it will explain how you will be lucky to get a 50% hatch rate from mail-order eggs. Knowing the expected hatch rate, I ordered extra eggs. Our hatch rate was about 30% - disappointing, yet we were happy with what we got. For fertile eggs, expect to pay anywhere from $2 - $5 per egg.
This has been a great experience for us all. And, I noticed today how little TV or games the kids have played after school time. Watching the chicks is so much more fun! This will definitely be a memory they carry with them for a long while.