Look who’s hatching!
‘This has been our best year yet
TORRINGTON – There are new arrivals at the Goshen County Library. These new arrivals are not of the book variety but instead of the tiny, adorable baby animal variety. Five chicks hatched at the library on April 18 and 19.
“We are thrilled,” Goshen County Library Executive Director Cristine Braddy said. “It’s been fun. My thing with the library is that literacy happens in a lot of different ways, not just through reading books. Even though they’re watching this, it changes how kids engage with books and think about the world.”
On March 28, the Goshen County 4-H and University of Wyoming (UW) Extension Office helped set up many different incubators with eggs in them around the county as a part of its “Chick Quest” project. The incubators were set up in two classrooms at Lincoln Elementary, the library, in LaGrange and in Fort Laramie. Some of these incubators were for groups of public school children, while others were for groups of homeschooled children.
University Extension and 4-H youth development educator Megan Brittingham said this project was created in 2017 by Jakob Llewellyn, a 4-H member in the eighth grade. The project has only grown from there since. Jakob is now a freshman at UW and his little brother Jaxon has taken over the project.
“Jakob is the egg-pert of my life,” Brittingham told the Telegram. “At the time, he was just knee-deep into poultry. One quality of chicken people is that they love to share the elements of their passion with others. We connected and bonded all those years ago when he came up with this and then we wrote a grant to help get some tools and other things for this project.”
Brittingham said the boys help provide the eggs for the classrooms, answer questions and raise the birds after the teachers send them back to the farm. Since Jaxon is only eight-years-old, he is only a Cloverbud instead of a full-fledged 4-H member. This means he will not compete in the regular competitions. At fair time, Jaxon will bring at least one per group of the chickens to fair. The chicks can be identified by predetermined charms attached to their leg.
There were eight eggs placed in the incubator at the library and five of them hatched. The chicks were expected to start hatching on April 17 and the duck on April 24. In total, there were 33 eggs started throughout the county.
“This has been our best year yet,” Brittingham said.
The eggs placed at the library were under the supervision of about 25 Goshen County homeschoolers. These children were in charge of checking on the incubator, adding water and checking the humidity. Throughout the process, they learned about an egg’s development from yolk to chick, the process of candling and a bird’s life cycle, among other important lessons.
She said the library was an essential piece for this group since it provided a place for the homeschoolers to work cooperatively on the project.
Candling is the process of holding a light to the top or bottom of the egg and observing the development of the embryo within. Depending on the chick’s development there will be shadows that show veins and the chick. If the embryo has not developed, the egg will not show the appropriate signs expected of the embryo’s age.
Brittingham said when she came in to do the candling she let the children present in person and on the live stream make the decision on what to do with the eggs.
“We use consensus and democracy because that’s a 4-H skill that we learn, to decide if it is a quitter, a winner or a dud,” Brittingham said. “It’s interesting when you translate their thought process to their life approach. The kids live in such hope saying, ‘We shouldn’t give up on it.”
The eggs considered to be winners and possible quitters go back into the incubator. The quitters are marked with question marks. The eggs considered duds are thrown away.
“It’s so neat to see their worldview in this process because they come from such a place of kindness,” Brittingham said.
Brittingham recalled a previous year where there was one chick that hatched that had a “wonky” leg. The kids made a splint for the chick and told her, “He’s every bit of a chick as the others, even though his leg is in a splint.”
The program is built around a whole curriculum targeting specific age groups. For the younger kids, the teachers build lessons more concentrated on reading skills. For older children, the teachers are given workbooks for the students to complete with a curriculum targeted towards third to fifth graders.
“I learn something new every year from the kids,” Brittingham said. “Each year there’s something completely different that comes up; it’s interesting.”
“They’re going to hold on to what they learn here, whether it influences them to be research scientists, own poultry themselves or even just think about it when they buy eggs at the grocery store,” she continued.
The next round of incubators are currently being or has already been, delivered to every third-grade class in the district for their turn at the project. In addition, the third-graders will be working with preschoolers as a part of a literacy program.
“I love the partnership between youth-serving entities,” Brittingham told the Telegram. “I think that’s a sign of a vibrant community. We take care of our kids in a variety of ways. From a 4-H perspective, youth development is a passion of mine, but I recognize that we have to work together to be able to do that.”
In thanks, Brittingham said, “We have had a lot of great sponsors for the project. Z&W Mill donates feed and other supplies for the chicks. Each year 21st Century Equipment gives a sizeable donation that supports this project. [Overall], the supportiveness of our ag community, of sharing what they do and helping us, it’s a unifying view of our community.”