Hatching a zoology lesson

Published 8:53 pm Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Typically, when you hear about students working with animals in a lab, you think about slimy creatures. But the zoology students at Chilton County High School have had more of a warm, fuzzy experience.

The class has been incubating and hatching chickens. Each lab group was assigned a chick to monitor its growth rate for two weeks.

“You get really attached to them,” student Krystal Striegel said.

The students got to know their chicks, quite literally, from the beginning — before they could walk around or flutter their wings. Some of the incubating eggs from another class were cracked and the embryos observed at different stages of development.

“This project was an excellent way to demonstrate the growth of an embryo,” instructor Brenda Sullivan said.

The class monitored the temperature and water inside the incubator on a daily basis. After the chicks hatched, the students monitored the changes in the birds during the first 10 days of life.

“All 12 chicks were hatched in the incubator that was kept in the stockroom,” Sullivan said.

Throughout the project, emphasis was placed on the importance of prenatal care for all animals. The project was also a way of explaining the concept of imprinting. Simply put, this means that the chicks see the students as their “parents.” Due to the lack of time, however, this part of the project was unable to be completed.

“I didn’t know you could imprint a chicken and they would follow you around,” student Jo McQueen said.

Student reactions to the chickens’ growth stages were varied, but everyone seemed intrigued.

“As little kids, chicks are pretty, but when they grow up you see their ugly side,” Andy Cannon laughed.

The class thanks Danny Eiland, a local poultry breeder, for donating the eggs for chicken labs performed during both semesters. He also has acted as a consultant and mentor during the project.