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Welcome Frances Chick, the Smartest Chicken in the World! March 28, 2012

Filed under: Animals,Environmental Education,Gratitude — explorergarden @ 5:20 am

She just hatched yesterday in my classroom, and already she has learned how to walk, peck at food, dip her tiny beak into a lid of water! Without a doubt, she is the smartest chicken who ever lived!

She took over 22 hours to hatch — first a tiny crack, then 4 hours later a centimeter hole. Four hours later another small hole. Then a long night of worry and a 5:30 a.m. visit to my classroom to see another small hole. By 11:30 a.m. she had not hatched, and I called the hatchery — Meyer Hatchery — to ask advice. They said I could pull back some of the “shrinkwrap” membrane which was clinging to her, if the incubator was too dry. I did so, and 15 minutes later Frances kicked out of the shell like a karate chicken! Then she proceeded to roll around the incubator for an hour, drying off and struggling to her feet. What a powerhouse! She is an amazing chicken!

I am hoping she will be followed by a second chick, who was pecking inside the second egg, but had not cracked it open today. It was a terrible dilemma — do I help? Do I let nature take its course? Was my incubator too hot, too dry, too cool, too — what? When do we intervene, when we’ve already intervened by incubation?

At the end of the day, I brought Frances  home in a makeshift brooder — then could not find anywhere that had chick mash for her to eat — everyone was out! So I rode around to various neighbors who have chickens, and found a hidden gem — Marie, a former teacher who has many, many chickens and was very generous with mash and advice. A lovely way to get to know neighbors!

Here is Frances Chick’s hatching “Odd”ysee: (what is it about chickens that makes you want to pun?!)

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Heavy Little Eggs March 14, 2012

Filed under: Everything Under the Sun — explorergarden @ 4:26 am

We’ve gotten into a rhythm, these eggs and I. I get up early, turn them, put in a fresh, wet paper towel, make sure their temperature is ok, then go to the gym. When I return, I turn the eggs again — one quarter turn — and check the temp again, and leave the incubator cracked a quarter inch to try to control the temperature during the day. When the kids and I leave the house, we give the eggs a little word of encouragement. Then I head off to work to check the eggs in my classroom, and do the routine of turning them, making sure they are the right temperature and humidity levels throughout the day. 

It is now day 10. My prediction is that the eggs at school will hatch, but the eggs at home will not. One long day we were out of the house too long — work/school/play practice, karate — and came home to find the temperature in the incubator too hot, and the humidity level too low. I think they will not survive the experience. But in case I am wrong, I don’t want to turn the incubator off. I will wait until hatching day, eleven days from now, and see. So, I continue to turn them, check on them, keep them moist, and hope for the best for these little eggs.


I am not a Hen — Day One March 6, 2012

Filed under: Animals — explorergarden @ 5:37 am

I am not a hen. I don’t have a big feathery behind to nestle over these eggs. I don’t have exactly the right body temperature to keep them warm. And while I have a genuine desire to do right by these little eggs, I am awfully ill-equipped to give them what they need. I have technology — such a poor substitute for mother love! So, I turn them, check them — adjust the top of the incubator, add more water to the sponge — anything to help them stay healthy! Oh, dear eggs! When I go to work, I worry about you! When I go home, I worry about the eggs in my classroom. Little eggs, I am praying for you! I’m not sure what else I can do, as I am not a hen.


Hummingbird Babies! March 5, 2012

Filed under: Animals,Environmental Education,Gratitude — explorergarden @ 6:03 am

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Three weeks after we saw the mother sitting on eggs in the icy cold rain, we found two fat and fuzzy baby hummingbirds crammed into the nest so tightly there was no possible way the mother could sit anywhere on top. In fact, she was nowhere to be found, which was rather worrisome. Then, last week, another storm blew through, this time with rain pouring in buckets and hail the size of a hummingbird egg. We went out the next day to check on them, and there they were, shivering slightly, and — was it my imagination? — steaming in the sunrise.

This morning I went out again. It was hot today, spring all over, and dry as a bone. And there they were, eyes bright as adult humminbirds, sitting up in a dignified way, feathers sleek. The mother is still nowhere to be seen, but she obviously is taking care of them, as they looked healthy and much bigger than last week. How they are sitting in that little next together, I can’t imagine, unless they stretch it somehow!



Do We Have to Take Turns Sitting On Them?

Filed under: Animals,Environmental Education,Gardening — explorergarden @ 3:27 am

Motherhood will always mean early morning wake-up calls — even if you’re a hen.
A box of 6 chicken eggs arrived at the post office early Saturday morning from the Meyer Hatchery in Ohio. I rushed over to pick them up, thinking they had to go in the incubator right away. Turns out you have a week of viability to get yourself ready for parenthood.

We got six — 3 Rhode Island Reds, and 3 Buff Orpingtons — having heard that those types are both friendly and decent egg layers. Four of the eggs will be for my classroom unit on animals. Two will be for my own children to incubate and watch. While I have an incubator in the classroom, I don’t have one at home. I found what looked like a fairly easy incubator design on, and built one of my own. For the last 24 hours I”ve been trying to stablize the temperature and humidity inside before adding the two eggs we picked out as our own — one small and pink, one larger, darker and slightly speckled.

I just added the eggs. The temperature was 101, and the humidity in the 70s. I feel like I did when I first brought my first child home from the hospital — terrified. Can I keep this baby alive? I wondered. I felt so skill-less, clue-less, completely inadequate to the task. Not being a mother hen, I will just have to do my best with an incubator and good intentions.

When I told my youngest students that we would be incubating eggs, one boy looked worried.

“Is there one for each of us?” he asked. “No,” I said. “Only six.”

“Do we have to take turns sitting on them?” he asked.


Susan A. Olcott

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