The Needs Of Developing Birds Are Not Likely To Be Met
Every year, kindergarten and elementary school teachers
and their students place thousands of fertilized eggs in classroom
incubators to be hatched within three or four weeks. These birds are not
only deprived of a mother; many grow sick and deformed because their
exacting needs are not met during incubation and after hatching. Body
organs stick to the sides of the shells because they are not rotated
properly. Birds are born with their intestines outside their bodies.
Eggs can hatch on weekends when no one is in school. The heat may be
turned off for the weekend causing the embryos to become crippled or die
in the shell. Commercial suppliers' eggs hatch an abnormally high number
of deformed birds reflecting the limited gene pool from which they
derive. Some teachers even remove an egg from the incubator every other
day and open it up to look at the embryo in various stages of
development, adding the killing of innocent life to the child's
When the project is over, these now unwanted birds may
be left in boxes in the main office for many hours without food, water,
or adequate ventilation waiting to be collected for disposal. The school
system does not even provide a budget for the veterinary care and
treatment of birds and other animals who are used in the classroom. That
this lesson sinks into students is shown by the decision of millions of
adults each year to "get rid of" a sick, injured, or crippled "pet"
rather than pay for veterinary treatment.
Good Homes Cannot Be Found And The Problem Is Getting
Worse . . .
Because a child bonds naturally with infant animals,
students and even some teachers are misled to believe that the surviving
birds are going to live out their lives happily on a farm, when in
reality, most of them are going to be killed immediately (most working
farms do not add school-project birds to their existing flocks for fear
of importing germs), sold to live poultry markets and auctions, fed to
captive zoo animals, or left to die slowly of hunger and thirst as a
result of ignorance and neglect. Commercial egg suppliers routinely send
returned hatching-project birds to slaughter. Baby quails may be used
for hunting and hunting-dog practice or recycled into repetitive
"nutrition deprivation" experiments. As one egg supply farm explained,
"We don't tell the school and kids the truth because they become
emotionally involved. The emotional involvement of people goes beyond
our counseling capacity."
Some children do learn the truth, however. At a special
education school in New York City, for example, the custodian flushed
deformed live chicks down the toilet, while at another special education
school, the teacher twisted the deformed chicks' necks and then flushed
them -- significant lessons for children who are themselves disabled.
School hatching projects increase the number of animals
no one is asking for -- those millions of precious creatures, including
classroom chickens and other birds, whom we pay people to "euthanize"
each year or whom a parent may reluctantly take on, usually temporarily.
School hatching projects encourage students to desire to repeat the
classroom experience by producing unwanted litters of puppies and
kittens. After all, aren't we assured that a "farm" or a "shelter" will
absorb our castoffs?
Each year, animal shelters across the country are
confronted with unwanted chicks, ducklings, quails, even turkeys and
ostriches, many of them ill, from educators who never thought of the
fate of the birds, or could not find homes for them, adding to the
tremendous burden already borne by the shelters. Surely there are enough
animals who need homes already without adding to the population and
perpetuating the behavior that is responsible for the problem.
Increasing urbanization enormously compounds the
problem. Residential zones ban the keeping of domestic fowl, while even
people who can provide a good home can accommodate only so many male
birds. Normal flocks have several female birds to one male. Roosters
crow before dawn and during the day. (Crowing is part of the complex
visual and communication system evolved in the chickens' jungle
habitat.) Unfortunately, half of all chickens born are males.
The Lesson Never Taught: Chickens, Ducks, and Quails are
Marvels of Nature
The lesson never taught is that chickens, ducks, and
quails are marvels of nature. These birds are energetic foragers with
excellent eyesight, strong legs and other features that enable them to
find their own plants, seeds, and insects with expertise. Japanese quail
mate for life and have strong migratory instincts that are totally
frustrated in captivity. Ducks need water not only to drink and swim in,
but to ensure the health of their eyes with constant rinsing. Chickens
and turkeys have an inborn need to range and be social. Ostriches and
emus have a strong family life in which both parents play an active role
in the nesting, incubation, protection and teaching of their young.
Hatching project birds have real mothers and fathers . .
. somewhere. A mother hen turns each egg carefully as often as 30 times
a day, using her body, her feet, and her beak to move the egg precisely
in order to maintain the proper temperature, moisture, ventilation,
humidity, and position of the egg during the 3-week incubation period.
Embryonic chicks, ducklings, quails, turkeys, ostriches and emus respond
to soothing sounds from the mother hen. Chicken embryos respond to
warning cries of the rooster. Two to three days before the baby birds
are ready to hatch, they start peeping to notify their mother and
siblings that they are ready to emerge from the shell, and to draw her
attention to any distress such as cold or abnormal positioning. A
communication network is established among the baby birds, and between
the baby birds and their mother, who must stay calm while all the
peeping, sawing, and breaking of eggs goes on underneath her. As soon as
all the eggs are hatched, the hungry mother and her brood go forth
eagerly to eat, drink, and explore.
Instead of teaching these valuable lessons, school
hatching projects mislead children to think that artificially incubated
birds come from machines with no need of a mother or a family life. They
do not perceive the parents' role in nest-making, incubation,
protection, care, and teaching of their young. Supplemental facts, even
if provided, cannot compete with this barren, mechanistic, and
decontextualized classroom experience which gets passed on from one
generation to the next. For example, a teacher whose students hatched an
ostrich in class mistakenly told the newspaper that the only thing baby
ostriches learn from their parents is "the pecking process."
Meaningful, Humane, Creative Replacements Are Needed
School hatching projects teach children (and teachers)
that bringing a life into the world is not a grave and permanent
responsibility with ultimate consequences for the life created.
Elimination of this destructive idea from our schools is a practical
extension of the socially responsible atmosphere we are trying to create
for our children, including respect for the family life of all
creatures. Hatching projects need to be replaced with creative programs
including colorful books, filmstrips, videos, computer programs, and
plastic models that demonstrate the embryonic process in the major
stages of development of a bird inside an egg. Easily-adapted programs
are already in use in other areas of biology and can be adapted to
hands-on instruction based on materials that do not entail the
repetitive generation of living beings for a terminal procedure.
Educators can help by urging educational supply companies to develop
alternative programs, and by purchasing existing alternative programs,
creating a demand.
In addition, an understanding of the natural life of
chickens, ducks, and quails incorporating the fact that they are birds
can be encouraged by quietly observing a nest of wild birds including
pigeons, sparrows and other birds who have adapted to city life. Field
trips to places where ducks can be seen swimming and chickens can be
seen socializing, sunbathing, dustbathing, foraging and enjoying
themselves outside will help students to see these birds in a
sensitizing and appealing perspective. Field trips with the local
Audubon Society or other local nature study organizations can
incorporate holistic projects in which students observe the fascinating
ecology of many kinds of birds.
What Educators And Others Can Do
If a hatching project is being considered at your
school, please use an alternative project, or urge the science
curriculum coordinator or whoever else is responsible to use a
replacement that respects the life, feelings, and family life of all
creatures. In doing so, you are helping to build a society in which it
will one day be considered unthinkable to generate a living being simply
as an experiment. If young children are "excited" by classroom
bird-hatching projects and the production of litters of puppies and
kittens, this is because they are innocently bonding with these baby
animals without understanding the true situation. Most of the animals do
not have a happy (or any) life ahead, and multiple unwanted offspring
result from those who do. The majority of children who learn the truth
are emotionally traumatized and justifiably feel betrayed.
Source: United Poultry Concerns <[email protected]>
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