“I missed my $100,000 chance!” exclaimed Jonna Carter, first grade teacher at East Rockingham. She’s talking about what happened when the baby hatchlings that were born in her classroom earlier this week heard the sirens from the drill.
“It was a strange sound, like a UFO landing or something, but all the little babies laid down together,” said Carter. With the children huddling in the position they’d been shown to assume when they heard the siren, the huddling baby chicks made Carter laugh. She wished she had the chance to get a video of it, because she is sure it would have won a hefty prize.
After 21 days of incubating 14 eggs and following all the directions diligently, 11 have hatched into yellow and white fuzzy peeping chicks. One egg didn’t make it through incubation, and two have yet to hatch.
“One shows activity” she said with hope. “I never give up on them. I give them til Friday.”
Friday someone from 4-H will come pick up the chicks and take them to a farm. Until then, the children will enjoy every second they get to spend with their peeping friends.
“They get tired in unison and then one comes through and knocks them all around,” said Carter. The chicks vary in size, shape and color, with some being more yellow and some more white. Carter explained that the chicks have established a pecking order, with the larger ones in charge and the smaller ones getting pushed around.
“I’ve got the whole school into this,” said Carter, as teachers and students from other classes pass in and out of the doorway, craning their necks to see the little ones.
“Look at them. They’re sleeping,” said Carter to Corrine Watson’s kindergarten class as they filed past the box at the front of the room and circled to the back to see the last two eggs incubating.
“We just read ‘Are You My Mother?,’” said Watson.
Carter promised her class that if they were on their best behavior they could each hold a chick, one at a time, and once their hands have been washed.
“We watched one hatch, and it was like ‘wow’,” she said. She captured the moment on camera using her Blackberry smart phone, and then uploaded it to a bigger screen to show the children again for discussion. She said it took the chick only 39 seconds to come out of the shell, and the children had questions about the stuff he was covered in.
Carter explained that the blood vessels the children saw during the candling process were now left over. Each morning during the incubation Carter would take a small group of children into the dark bathroom with one egg and a flashlight. She would hold the light to the egg so the children could see inside. The first things to become visible during development are the eyes, and next are the feet.
One of the eggs that has yet to hatch has movement happening within. When held, one can feel what seems like a heartbeat, but is actually the chick inside beginning to pick away at the shell with the help of a small tooth that grows on the tip of the beak. The process is called “pipping.” The chick will crack the egg all around in a circle, like a can-opener, and will then push away the bottom half of the egg and pop out. Once the chick is out it is still wet but dries within a few hours.
4-H provided all the materials needed for the project, at no cost to the schools. That included the incubator, a notebook put together by NC State with technical chicken information, a brooder box that holds them now and a bag of food. The baby chicks live under a heat lamp for warmth, and have soft wood chips to sleep on. One dish holds chicken feed and another shallow dish holds water with dice in it.
Carter has to explain to all who come to visit that those aren’t ice cubes. The dice prevents the chicks from drowning in the water by taking up most of the space, but not keeping them from being able to drink. She said marbles were recommended, but she didn’t have any. She told her students that the chicks are learning to count while they drink.
When the chicks were first born, Carter had to hold them and lightly dip their beaks into the water, so they knew it was there. She said they went straight to the food and began eating, which made things easier for her. Craning their necks to try to see more, the baby chicks are curious and not so much fearful. Carter suspects this is because the eggs were handled by the children, and the chicks could hear the sounds of their voices through the eggs during development.
Carter said she will be sad to see the babies go on Friday. The project is something she looks forward to each year, and she plans to do it again. She has a soft spot in her heart for animals as she was raised on a farm. She loves to share her love of nature with the children she teaches.
Staff Writer Dawn Kurry can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ex. 43, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.