We’ve had chickens for several years, and with the exception of a broody hen that hatched four chicks, we’ve only dealt with adult birds. That changed this past spring when we decided to try hatching our own chicks, much to the delight of my children. The adventure inspired some reflection on the benefits that children and chicks receive from one another.
First, the children were involved in the preparation and planning. They did their best to find the eggs while still warm despite the unseasonably cold March weather. When successful they carefully hurried them into the house and excitedly declared their victory. Over the ten day window of viability, they managed to find 32 warmish eggs. During this prep phase they also helped their DIY Dad with the finishing touches of the our homemade bread proofer/incubator. All the while their anticipation and excitement began to grow.
Next came the period of patiently awaiting the chicks’ arrival. During the three weeks they frequently checked the temperature and humidity readings to ensure they stayed within the proper ranges. On day 10 of incubation we turned out the lights, huddled around our makeshift egg candling device and flicked it on. Their eyes grew into excited circles when they saw the shadowy evidence of a growing embryo. They were witnessing new life growing, literally, at their fingertips. The anticipation mounted as they counted off the days left to hatching. They were learning the value of waiting for a delayed gratification rather than one of the instant variety; something that those choosing to live a sustainable lifestyle must embrace if they seek to work within nature’s rhythms.
Finally, on the morning of hatching, the day began with loud peeps and excited children’s voices. All throughout the day the children peered into the incubator, monitoring the progress of hatching chicks and searching out new hatchees. On that day, they learned a greater appreciation for tenacity and the fight for life as they watched the chicks struggle to hatch. One empathetic daughter wanted to help a chick out of an egg from which it was unable to hatch because the shell had become too dry. Knowing the chick was dead without her intervention, we let her give it a try. She succeeded in hatching that chick. It’s still alive today and bears the name Miracle.
Upon moving into the brooder the chicks provided hours of entertainment and opportunities for careful study. The children noted their differences in behaviour, colouration, and size and gave them monikers such as Dot, Roly-poly, and Eggnog. Under such devoted vigilance those chicks were well cared for, never short on water or food and quickly assisted if anything was amiss. The children participated in the care for the chicks, learning the responsibility of tending to creatures dependent upon their vigilance.
Now the children are each planning to grow chicken gardens, inspired by Jessie Bloom’s book Free-range Chicken Gardens and Melissa Caughey’s book A Kid’s Guide to Keeping Chickens. Their awareness of what chickens need to not just survive, but to live healthy, happy lives was inspired by the chicks they nurtured. An awareness of a wider world around themselves, of the part they play within it, was fostered along with those chicks. Considering how few children in our modern world have such an experience, I’m grateful for these lessons the chicks unknowingly bestowed on my children. And If chickens are the gateway animal, then my children are all in and I can’t help but I wonder what it will be next? Ducks? Goats? Pigs? A dairy cow?
Rebecca Harrold homesteads and homeschools on a 23-acre property in rural Ontario, where she is engaged with all types of wiser living skills. She believes that restoring the land to its healthy, sustainable state will increase its resilience, and in turn, the resilience of the people who depend upon it. Connect with Rebecca at Harrold Country Home and on Instagram. Read all of Rebecca’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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