The Richmond Register


March 26, 2014

Spring chicks, goslings make first appearance at Silver Creek

RICHMOND — Although they will have their chicks and goslings for only another week, first-graders at Silver Creek Elementary school had picked out names Tuesday for their newborn friends.

“This one’s called Fluffyhead,” said Caleb McCulloch as he gently cradled a black and yellow speckled chick in his hands.

All five first-grade classes are finishing up their annual unit on life cycles, during which they observe and record data on the incubation period of chicks (21 days) and goslings (31 days).

“There’s nothing like actually having the bird in your hand, seeing its eyelids, inspecting its scales and peering closely at their nostrils,” said Alice White, who has been hatching chicks in her classroom for 21 of her 23 years as a teacher.

White said former students always tell her the egg-hatching project is something they remember from first grade.

She partners with several Jackson County farmers who donate eggs to the school. But the arrangement is mutually beneficial, she said. Farmers do not have to cut back egg production while hens sit on the eggs, and students get to experience a “hands-on science experiment.”

After the project is complete, Silver Creek will return nearly 100 chicks back to the farmers, White said.  

The rest of the first-grade teachers joined in the project about four years ago, said Pam Hayes, who had a newborn chick resting in the incubator in her classroom Tuesday. Her students could hear the birds peeping this morning, before they began pipping holes into their eggshells, she said.

“I’ve got a barnyard in the back,” she laughed, pointing to the two egg-filled incubators and a box set up for chicks once they are able to walk on their own.

Hayes displayed a few notebooks in which students made observations and drew pictures of each stage of the chicks’ development.

Students will soon learn about the life cycle of butterflies as well as study all animal classifications for a lesson that will culminate into a trip to the zoo, Hayes said.

The eggs are kept for 18 days in egg turners, which rotate the eggs very slowly around six to eight times a day, White said. The temperature must always be between 98.5 to 101 degrees.

“One degree below or above that range can cause problems or be fatal to the chicks,” she said.

The next stage is to leave the eggs in the incubator while the chicks take their first breath of air from the small air space in the top of the shell.

It takes approximately a day for the chicks’ lungs to develop enough to start peeping. And then in the next day or so, they will begin to make pip holes in the eggshell with their beaks. 

“If the chicks are not strong enough to break through the eggshell themselves, then they are not strong enough to survive,” White said.

After the chicks are out of the egg, each classroom will care for their chicks for another week. During that time, she said, chicks will have developed feathers and will attempt to fly around in their box.

White said other elementary schools in the district also conduct similar egg-hatching projects. 

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