Lower School Students Enjoy Raising Chicks
The sweet cheeps of little chicks emanated from Mrs. Pat Whiffen’s science classroom. There were 11 little yellow and brown bundles of fluffy feathers darting around their enclosure, happily scratching and pecking away. “Students, faculty, staff, and parents have all stopped by to greet the chicks and enjoy watching their antics,” said Mrs. Whiffen.
Mrs. Whiffen participated in the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension – Chicken University program. Through this program, she received twelve eggs of the Ameraucana, Chochin and Brahma variety, and all the equipment needed to successfully hatch the fowl – an incubator, a brooder, feed, and a heater. The eggs had an approximate incubation day of 19-21 days. So the incubator was set up and the classes patiently waited. . . .
For 11 of the 12 eggs to hatch a day or so early than expected in record time of five hours for all of them to emerge from their eggs. “It’s so wonderful to see the students intently focused on the chicks hatching. We have discussed so many things from how do they know when to peck out of their shell to why there’s a pecking order, which looks to students like being picked on, and behavior questions like why they scratch the ground? Our second-grade students noted that the chicks huddle together for warmth like the penguins we are studying do. Fifth-grade students are studying the human body, so they were in awe that they could feel the heart beat and breathing of the chicks when they held them.”
Over just a few days, students have watched the growth and development of the chicks since hatching, witnessing the socialization of the little flock. One chick in particular had some difficulty eating and was starting to pecked every time he went to feed, which resulted in him not eating. Mrs. Whiffen focused time and attention on him to ensure his survival and the class watched as this little guy stood up for himself when reintroduced to the group, with positive results as Steve is now growing with his siblings just fine.
The chicks were returned to the farm from which they arrived as eggs, which is part of the Lake County 4H program. “This process is such an excellent learning tool and process. Everyone is very attached to the chicks, who have been named for their personalities and appearance with names such as Lemon, Juanito, Noisy, Bebe, and Nugget. We are all sad to see them go, but know that their life on the farm is what is best,” said Mrs. Whiffen.