About six months ago a group of Kindergarten children gathered around a conversation I was having with one child. We were talking about eggs and why chickens lay different colored eggs. One thing led to another, and the children decided that the school should have chickens. They also decided that the chickens should come from eggs that we hatched ourselves in our classroom.
Well - not being one to argue with motivated children, I supported them in their desire to start this project. I mentioned that they would need funding as well as approval from the Head of School (aka - Erin). Next thing I know, there is a meeting scheduled and a budget created (some of the numbers MAY have been drawn backward, but hey - it was no harder to read than any other budget I’ve ever come across…)
In order to create this budget, the children had to research what we would need to hatch eggs. I said we could not have a mother hen in our classroom, so we would need something to pretend to be a mother hen. That’s when the incubator research began. Following incubator research was brooder discussions and more discussions about why we had to order eggs and why we couldn’t just go buy them at the grocery store. A lot of research, discussion, and time went into creating this budget and proposal.
When the day finally arrived to meet with Erin and Jim, the children were so excited and marched into the office. We started over and practiced knocking and entering politely….
Erin and Jim listened attentively as the children presented their proposal. The children answered questions about care of the eggs and chicks, as well as fundraising goals and strategies. The children presented a strong proposal complete with plans for “the Aaron that builds things to just quick build a chicken coop”. Erin and Jim said they had to think about it and that they would get back to the class.
The following week Erin presented a counter proposal, and after some negotiations it was agreed that the Kinders could hatch the eggs. However, all of the chicks would need to be adopted and that Woodland would not be starting a chicken coop at this time.
The kids were over the moon. We started our fundraising plans and projects. The children worked hard to create projects for a “market” that they hosted for two afternoons in Classroom 4. This project, along with the donations that were made, raised more than enough money to purchase an incubator, brooder, food, and hatching eggs.
Then the research began about what type of chickens we wanted to hatch. We read all about many different breads. The children all voted and ranked their favorites and an order was placed for Buff Orpingtons, Easter Eggers, Barred Rocks, and Black Australorps. We ordered our eggs from a small farm south of Milwaukee (because buying local is important - yes that was a lesson too…) and we waited. When the eggs arrived the excitement was palpable. And then we opened them.
There were broken eggs. Not all of them, but some of them. That was the first taste of sorrow and disappointment. But we still had some eggs, so that was something. The farm sent us new eggs a week or so later and now we had about a dozen eggs that we were hoping to see hatch just before Spring Break.
Our days were full of chicken love and excitement. We had an alum student present her chicken knowledge to us and teach us how to candle the eggs. We hid in the dark closet and looked through the egg shells to see if any development was happening. It was so exciting!
We watched and waited. We counted down the days. Until finally - it was day 21. And then day 22….day 23….Nothing. Eggs hatch after 21 days of development. Nothing. That was our next dose of sadness and disappointment. But we knew that there was another round of eggs that had been delivered to replace the broken eggs. Maybe those would hatch.
One of the children volunteered to care for the eggs over Spring Break. This child was the one who started the discussion in the first place. Surely these eggs would hatch under his care. He waited. He counted. Nothing….
We had a 0% hatch rate. I felt terrible. I was so sad for the children. But you know what? After they were initially sad and upset, they were inspired to learn more and try again. They wanted to do research. That’s right - research. They didn’t want to give up. They wanted me to go to the library and get more information. What went wrong? What can we do differently? And when can we order more eggs?
They were so inspiring. I was humbled and I was motivated. We got the books. We ordered the eggs. We ended up with 42 eggs from three different hatcheries. We sanitized the incubator, made sure the temp and humidity was JUST right. And then we waited….again.
Day 20 came. Day 21 came. And we finally had a baby. After all of that struggle and heartache one chick hatched. Shortly after, another chick poked a hole in the shell and by the end of the day we had two! It was awe inspiring watching the chick push out of the shell, working so hard to free itself. It was awe inspiring to think of the hard work and perseverance these children put forth to get to this place.
We happily welcomed Peep and Slow to our Woodland family on May 16th. We will wait and see if any of the others hatch. Maybe. Regardless - this project was an amazing ride, and I would not change a single part.