The saying goes, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” For many families across the nation, that saying has become a personal mantra as they hunker down to avoid the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). Schools here in Iowa have closed for at least a month, and parents like us are looking for ways to keep their kids entertained and educated. As a parent, I too was looking for ideas on how to get through the coming weeks with the kids out of school. Then it hit me, I work at a hatchery — baby chicks and eggs! There is so much to learn from them! So I grabbed a catalog, an egg poster, a few chicks, a few eggs, and headed home to teach ‘Chicken School’.

The baby chicks and hatching eggs will offer a wide range of learning opportunities over the next month as the eggs incubate and the chicks grow and change. Needless to say, ‘Chicken School’ was a success. Just look at the photos on the kids’ faces.

Here are some of the topics we covered:

  • Caring for Baby Chicks — We set up a brooder, learned how to hold baby chicks, learned about their needs (food, water, heat), and had some fun holding them.
  • Biosecurity — We learned that caring for baby chicks is similar to our ‘new normal’ of avoiding illness: washing our hands frequently, keeping things clean like our equipment and brooder, and not carrying germs from house-to-house or person-to-person.
  • Life Science — After cracking open and egg, we talked about how to tell if an egg is fertilized (parent, it’s your choice on how far to go into that one depending on the age of your children!) While loading up a few eggs in our incubator, we looked at a diagram of how the chick develops inside and egg and made plans to candle the eggs in one week.
  • Poultry Breeds — Our four chicks in the brooder are a Pearl White Leghorn, a Red Star, Buff Orpington and a Whiting True Blue. We used the chicks, the hatching eggs, our egg poster and the 2020 McMurray Hatchery catalog to look at the differences in breed appearance, origin, size, egg color, personality and use.

If you have questions about how to conduct your own ‘Chicken School’, message us at Check back here, or over on our Facebook page, in the coming weeks as we share some other educational ideas and some of the lessons we are doing at home. In the meantime, stay safe and stay healthy!