Are They All That They’re Cracked Up To Be?
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What Are Hatching Projects?
Hatching projects involve keeping fertilised eggs in an incubator in schools, early learning centres and nursing homes so that people can watch the chicks or ducklings hatch. At NSW Hen Rescue we receive emails every day from people desperate for help rehoming unwanted animals from hatching projects. As our foster homes are based in residential areas we are not able to take in roosters.
Is your school or facility considering running a hatching project?
Download the PDF version of this page to give to the decision maker.
So What’s Wrong With Hatching Projects?
1. They Support Factory Farming
The fertilised eggs are obtained from a commercial hatchery. The parent chickens are kept in factory farm conditions and will never see their chicks. The parent chickens will eventually be slaughtered. A mother hen would usually love her fertilised eggs and would even cluck to the unhatched chicks as they develop. She would sit on them to keep them warm and gently turn them. But in hatching projects, the chicks are kept in incubators and the mother hen lives a life of misery in a packed barn.
2. Unsuitable Environment for Baby Chicks
A classroom is not the right place for a chick to hatch and grow. Sick chicks may not get the veterinary attention they need. They may not be supervised at weekends and even the most well intentioned children can be too rough and harm the chicks.
3. A Dangerous Lesson
Children learn a dangerous lesson from watching chicks hatch in a machine. These projects teach that animals are disposable and can be bred without any concern for their lives. Do you think this is a smart lesson? Surely it would be better to nurture children’s innate compassion by encouraging respect for life and teaching that animals are a life long commitment and responsibility.
4. Dumped Chickens & Broken Hearts
Once the project is over, the teacher has to decide what to do with the chicks. One option is to give them back to the hatching project company. The chicks are either further exploited in farms or are killed immediately. Hatching project companies may say the chicks go to ‘hobby farms.’ Keep in mind how many chickens they will be providing these so-called ‘hobby farms’. You can be assured the farmer will kill many of the chickens. A lot of schools don’t feel comfortable with this, so they try to rehome the chicks to parents. Who wouldn’t want to adopt a beautiful, fluffy chick? The problem is most parents feel under pressure to take the chicks without having a chance to think it through. They may love the idea of chickens now, but they probably haven’t budgeted for vet bills down the line and they almost never have a plan for roosters who crow and who aren’t allowed to be kept in suburban areas.
5. Placing a Strain on Sanctuaries
Hatching projects put enormous pressure on already under resourced animal sanctuaries and rescue centres. Hatching project companies will only take back chicks when they pick up the equipment at the end of the project. Once the roosters start to crow the responsibility for rehoming falls to the parents. Parents may receive council complaints and decide to take the roosters to the vet or RSPCA to be killed. Kids are often bonded to the chickens and are heartbroken when they are taken away. Some people even dump the chickens in the bush where they are likely to be eaten by predators, starve to death or get caught by the council and put down. Some people manage to rehome the roosters whilst they keep the hens. This is devastating for both the roosters and the hens, who have bonded after growing up together. All this stress and suffering because of an ineffective school project. Breeders cause enough strain on rescues without the added issue of hatching projects. If you are the decision maker in your school or classroom please consider another more compassionate educational project; one that teaches a positive lesson.
Ethical and Educational Alternatives to Hatching Projects
- Search Youtube for ‘chick hatching’ and you will find hundreds of videos suitable for showing the class
- Visit a farm sanctuary
- Order a model egg kit to see how eggs develop without using living eggs. The Chicken Lifecycle kit from Modern Teaching Aids is educational and cost effective.
- Go bird watching to learn more about birds in the wild
- Watch live videos of rescued farmed animals
If your school or facility is already running a hatching project make sure it is the last one and concentrate on rehoming the little ones you have brought into existence. Remember they are individuals with their own personalities. They deserve love, care and vet attention for their entire 8-12 years of life.
Please do not send the chicks back to the hatching project company. The birds will be exploited and killed no matter what the company claims.
What You Can Do
Make sure there is a care plan for the chicks when the school or facility is closed, such as during evenings, holidays and weekends. Make a plan for rehoming the animals at the end of the project.
If parents or staff are willing to adopt the chicks they should be aware that there is a 50/50 chance of the chicks being roosters and that commitment is for the life of the chicken. They will need a predator proof home for the chickens. There will also be vet bills down the track. They may find our information on hen care useful.
As a last resort you may need to find the chicks a safe home at a sanctuary. The problem is sanctuaries get contacted every day about unwanted chicks and roosters and many are full. If you do find a sanctuary that will offer a loving home to the baby animals, consider doing a fundraiser to help with the cost of caring for the chickens.