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Teach Kids with Chickens

Whether they’re in the classroom, on a farm or in your own backyard, chickens are ready to teach your kids about a lot more than the three Rs.

By Christine Heinrichs

Chickens and Elementary Students

Chicks in incubator
Courtesy Hemera/Thinkstock
In some classrooms, teachers will hatch chicks to spark young students' interest in chickens.
Many teachers bring eggs into the preschool or primary-school classroom to show students how eggs hatch. At the beginning of the learning process, the hands-on interaction gives children a positive experience with education.

Chicken eggs take about 21 days to hatch. This can seem like a long time to kids, so some teachers prefer to purchase eggs that have already been incubated for 21 days, increasing the likelihood of a hatch in less time.

Check with your extension office for local sources of incubated hatching eggs. Ron Kean, extension poultry specialist at the University of Wisconsin, supplies eggs to local schools. Teachers pick up incubated eggs from his facility on the Madison campus and bring them back to school to hatch. (The eggs can tolerate an hour or so out of the incubator.)

Books like Terry Golson’s Tillie Lays an Egg (Scholastic Press, 2009), inspired by the author’s own backyard flock, can also spark youngsters’ interest in chickens. Elaina Romines teaches kindergarten in Dallas, Texas, but lives north of the city in Denton. She raises her own chickens, along with other livestock, and sells their eggs locally.

“I share my love of animals with my students, and it’s often a topic of discussion,” she says.

After she read Tillie to her class at K.B. Polk Vanguard Elementary School, the students wanted to compose a message to Golson: “We felt like we were on a field trip to your farm!” they wrote.

A real-time video feed from Golson’s henhouse and yard, The HenCam, has become another popular tool for primary-school teachers. Donita McClurg, a kindergarten teacher at McKinley Elementary School in Enid, Okla., has used the video feed to enrich her unit on “The Farm” for the past three years.

“My students just love it,” she says. “They are always asking, ‘Can we check on our chickens?’ It is a joy to know there are still people in this world who take the time to share something so special with, in our case, a class of students who have never held a chicken before.”

Romines says that her students are also devoted HenCam viewers.

“Some of my students check in to HenCam from home and report back to us,” she adds.

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