From the Love, Life and Little People Blog,
written by Renata Halpin
As a busy children’s entertainer, telling stories to children in schools and kindergartens is my occupation. I would now like to tell a very special story to the educators I meet everyday about the popular chick hatching boxes in the classrooms, and the life cycle reality of these chicks.
While it may be compulsory to include the chicken’s life cycle in educational programs, the classroom is never the end of their life. I agree it is a very nice experience to cuddle cute chicks, however they do grow up to need full time homes and care. With up to 15 eggs per box in these popular programs, all these little chickies actually add up to monstrous numbers Australia wide. Approximately fifty percent will grow up to be the noisier kind, the rooster, illegal in suburbia!
In 2011 I took time out to have many conversations about the chick hatching program in schools and childcares. Most directors and teachers are of the opinion that while the cuddles are nice, it is a nightmare to find the chicks homes, especially roosters, and people with properties will only take in one rooster as according to rooster law, two is a crowd!
Most often they report having a stressful busy period of phoning around trying to find the chicks homes. This was a quote from a Brisbane kindergarten educator:
We had such a hard time trying to find this one rooster ‘Olly’ a home. We had many parents and all our staff ringing around asking all their friends for weeks. The suburban family housing the rooster was starting to get nervous of being fined by the council. It was 7 weeks before we found Olly a home where he was rejected by the coop and killed by a fox within a week. We all felt exhausted!
Then there are those children who are obsessed with the chicks with little awareness of how to handle them gently. Here is a story from a mother at a childcare centre:
I have personally witnessed unsupervised children around these boxes not using their ‘gentle hands.’ Born in a box with no mother, I did feel very sorry for the chicks. The children also ask lots of questions like ‘Where is their mummy? Why are they in a box? Where will they go?’ Our centre’s chicks went ‘back to the farm’ but we couldn’t tell the children what that really meant! I felt puzzled as to what we were really teaching them
Here is a story from an educator at a north side kindergarten director:
The company (unnamed) came to take back our chicks and I was shocked at how roughly they shoved the chicks into their vehicle. It was the most unceremonious thing I had ever seen!
In my story I continued to learn I am not the only person concerned for these chicks. Many other articles have been written, for example by Pam Ahern at Edgars Mission in Victoria you can read about Tigga, Togga and Fluffy’s story at this link:
I then felt I should call and talk to people in animal refuges who receive calls when an animal does not have a home. Here is what they had to say:
Bede from “A Poultry Place” says:
I have been taking in unwanted chickens and roosters from hatching projects since 1999. Taking in roosters is always a challenge as you don’t know how they will fit in, however by default you feel responsible. Unfortunately there are so few of us who can help out in these situations
Monique from Brisbane Homes for Hens:
I receive many calls from distraught parents who need to re-home much loved pet roosters from the chick hatching programs, as well as calls from people who have seen roosters dumped at council tips and in bush land. I feel the school hatching programs promote the idea that the chicks are disposable objects or toys, something to be played with and tossed away.
Elizabeth, a worker from Peninsula Animal Aid says:
I feel frustrated that these programs are still running. We get countless calls from these school programs wanting to dump chickens and roosters on us. Late last year a live rooster wrapped in a sealed taped plastic bag was found in an industrial bin. A passerby heard a noise coming from the bin. This is just one incident among many.
I also personally contacted the RSPCA to get their story. They also admit to receiving roosters and chickens from these programs. Because of this growing problem they released this statement in 2011:
The RSPCA believes there are better ways to teach children about life than depending on the suffering of chicks. There are plenty of excellent alternative resources available e.g. as suggested on our WOAW website.
They are right! There are so many less expensive longer lasting resources! The live chick hatching box costs a centre or school budget approximately $250 for each program. Instead educators could choose to spend this money on educational tools such as posters, DVD’s and books. A great egg hatching lifestyle kit can be found at the 2 websites below along with links to some great books and posters.
Elizabeth Richards http://www.elizabethrichards.com.au/search.php?search_query=egg+hat...
Books such as: “An Egg is Quiet” available at this link:
“From Egg to Chicken” available at this link:
“Where Do Chicks Come From” available at this link:
“Chickens Aren’t the Only Ones” available at this link:
Posters of The Life Cycle available at this link:
This issue is not just in Australia. Even in America concerned people are creating websites discussing this issue and offering free alternative program ideas. See the linkhttp://www.teachkind.org/humanesci_hatching.asp
Another alternative is many children do have pet chickens and their parents could be asked to bring one in to show the class and talk about their experiences.
Being an educator myself, I do realize that life cycles are an important part of our children’s curriculum. As educators we have choices as to how we are going to communicate these topics. I would encourage everyone to think of the animals feelings and make a decision from a compassionate level. I personally feel there are enough homeless animals in our world and that they would like to see their mother at birth. By using alternate resources and showing pictures of the hatching box to explain why we would not have one at our school would be a much more kind and beneficial lesson for our next generation.
Renata Halpin is a children’s musician and storyteller, with over 10 educational shows to choose from. Her show topics reflect her passions: multiculturism, family issues, the environment, animal welfare and co-operating with peers. You can visit her website atwww.renatashows.com.au. She is accredited for school programs with education Queensland for Prep to Grade 2.