Article and photos by Celeste McNeil
The kindergarten enrichment class at Buffalo Ridge Elementary (BRE) school learned about eggs and chicks hands-on this spring. Four dozen fertilized eggs were generously loaned to the enrichment class during incubation. Throughout the three-week wait, students learned about embryo life cycles, chick development, genetics and much more.
This is the fourth year BRE hosted these delicate visitors. They are a favorite of everyone in the school. The incubator and eventually the cage sat in an inside window, facing the main hallway where all students, staff and visitors had the opportunity to peek at the eggs and chicks. Students predicted how many of the 48 eggs would hatch. Roughly half of the fertilized eggs developed properly and had enough strength to hatch and survive. One winner from each grade with the closest guess was awarded a prize. Thanks to prize sponsors Castle Pines King Soopers, Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers, SmallCakes and the new Castle Rock Chick-fil-A.
This year, the eggs came from three different farms. The farm variety translates to differences in physical characteristics, like egg or feather colors. Valerie Miller, a BRE mom and source for some of the eggs and necessary equipment explained, “The eggs are many different colors. Blues, greens, tans and darker browns. Different breeds of chickens lay different colored eggs. Just like humans have many different shades of skin, different chickens lay different colored eggs. It’s all about genetics. We are excited to see what the chicks look like!”
While waiting for the chicken embryos to grow and develop, a few of the eggs were quickly and carefully candled. Candling creates an x-ray vision peek inside the eggshell. Some eggs showed growing embryos, while others did not. After the long anticipated three weeks, 14 chicks hatched. Surprisingly, nearly all the chicks had black feathers. Only one chick was the stereotypical pale yellow. The newly-hatched chicks remained at the school for a couple of weeks before they were returned to their farms.
The return of eggs and chicks next year is uncertain. Kindergarten enrichment is run through the school district Before and After Care department. It serves half-day kindergarten students who stay at school all day. The kindergarten enrichment class was discontinued next year due to projected low enrollment numbers. With recently announced changes for state-funded full-day kindergarten classes, no practical need for kindergarten enrichment exists and may therefore not continue.