The MSPCA at Nevins Farm receives dozens of calls each year from parents and teachers looking to surrender unwanted chicks from classroom hatching projects. While hands-on projects can offer a special learning opportunity to students, this particular project has many drawbacks. Even in the most responsible classrooms, incubator malfunctions can result in dead or deformed chicks, and others grow sick because their exacting needs for heat, humidity, and egg rotation are not met during or after hatching. Considerations are rarely made regarding the responsibility involved in caring for a chicken throughout its lifetime. When these animals are surrendered at the conclusion of the project due to reasons that are simply part of their nature, children are unintentionally taught that the responsibility to the animals ends as soon as the project is over.
Moreover, it is nearly impossible to find a suitable home for the resulting chicks. Most working farms will not accept school-project birds, and those that do will rarely accept roosters. Simply killing the chicks after birth promotes the idea that these animals are disposable commodities. In a country with millions of homeless animals, what we should be teaching our youngest community members is the importance of commitment and responsibility, particularly for animals we actively bring into the world.
The MSPCA is happy to pair with local schools and educators to develop enriching and humane lessons in lieu of chick hatching. Recommended alternatives include a trip to a farm or the purchase of a butterfly hatching kit (be sure the species are native to your area). There are also some great videos of chick hatching that are perfectly good substitutes for the live project. We also encourage lessons and projects that are focused around observing animals in their own, natural environment such as bird watching or studying ecosystems in tide pools. Removing an animal from its natural environment, and observing it in an artificial environment, deemphasizes how important it is for that animal to be able to provide for itself. We want children to learn to value and respect wildlife, including insects, from a distance.
Watch our YouTube video to learn about Marsha, a chicken surrendered to the MSPCA at Nevins Farm in October 2008. Marsha was adopted in April 2009 along with the goat she befriended while at the farm.
For information on alternative projects, including books and manipulatives, visit our Resources and Materials page.