Every year, thousands of eager little faces watch as the first cracks appear in the side of a smooth eggshell. For weeks the egg has been basting under the warm glow of an incubation light and finally the moment has arrived. From the egg emerges a scrawny, soggy little chick who peers about and sees… a classroom.
Without giving it too much thought, I have always agreed with the idea of school chick-hatching programs. How wonderful for kids to start piecing together the cycle of life by seeing firsthand where chickens come from. It’s recently come to my attention however that, while chick hatching is great for the kids, it ain’t so great for the chooks involved.
Chicks hatched in day care centres, schools and aged-care facilities are created for the sole purpose of hatching. After that, they are at the mercy of a wide range of factors. In my opinion it is unethical to hatch chickens without planning their future first and I’d like to hope that most educators think about this.
Animal welfare organisations go so far as to say that egg-hatching programs are cruel. Here are some of the reasons why:
- Eggs can be improperly cared for, resulting in death and deformities (mother chickens apparently rotate the eggs to stop the membrane from sticking to the shell – they also talk to their eggs, just like we talk to our pregnant bellies).
- Roosters get the raw deal. Illegal in most suburban areas, roosters end up killed or at animal welfare shelters which are already struggling with too many unwanted animals. Half of the chicks that hatch will be roosters (obviously…)
- The chicks form an attachment to their child carers, who may not be able to take them home at the end of the project.
In addition to the animal welfare considerations, I’m not sure I’m comfortable with what chick hatching teaches children. You don’t bring a life into this world just for fun – or even for education. If the school or centre had a living chicken farm, now that would be another story. Kids would learn so much more about the food cycle and also about how hens care for their offspring.
If your school or kindy has a chick-hatching program and you’re uncomfortable with it, why not let them know? There are alternatives to live chick-hatching programs in schools, such as videos, excursions, embryo-development charts like the one pictured.
Do you think chick-hatching is unethical? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic, talk to me in the comments section x