Chicken Hatching Programs

Posted Apr 15, 2019
The animal welfare problems associated with chicken hatching programs in schools and kindergartens

Chickens are adorable! There is no denying it. So you wouldn’t think that there would be any problem with having a program in schools and kindergartens that raise chicks from eggs, right?

While cute in theory, there are actually underlying animal welfare concerns with such programs.

Here is what you need to know about chicken hatching and alternatives that you can suggest to your school or kindy.

What is a Chicken Hatching Program (CHP)?

A chicken hatching program is a chicken life cycle activity carried out in schools, pre-schools, kindergartens and aged care facilities across Australia. 

Approximately 12 fertile eggs, an incubator, a brooding pen, bedding and food are delivered to the facility participating in the program.  The eggs hatch within 2-3 days from delivery and the chicks remain at the facility for about two weeks.

animal welfare concerns with chicken hatching programs

Who runs these programs?

There are a number of companies who sell and market hatching programs. You can read more on the Animal Liberation Queensland website here.

Why are schools participating in these programs?

Chicken hatching companies regularly market their programs to schools. The incubator is of a suitably small size that will fit inside most classrooms.  Children generally find live animals to be fascinating and enjoy having animals in the classroom.  Educators use them as a tool to teach various lessons. By having live chicks, they encourage children to participate in discussions and activities about the chickens.

What happens to the chicks after the school program concludes?

The Queensland Schools Animal Ethics Committee has a requirement for schools to return all of the hatched chicks back to the company that supplied the commercial chicken hatching program.  Whilst companies claim that they send chicks to live out their lives on hobby farms, their fate is uncertain.  

If chicks are rehomed, this can be problematic as 50 percent of hatchlings will be male and roosters are not welcome (and illegal) in suburban environments due to council noise regulations.  Unwanted chicks may end up being euthanised.

So what’s the big deal? Why don’t the RSPCA and Animal Liberation Queensland support Chicken Hatching Programs?

There are many welfare issues associated with Chicken Hatching Programs:

● Inexperienced staff being responsible for live animals.
● Power failure and other equipment malfunctions resulting in eggs /chicks dying due to lack of warmth.
● Rough handling and inappropriate timing of handling of chicks resulting in injury or death to chicks.
● Chicks with injuries or disease may not receive proper treatment or appropriate immediate euthanasia.
● Inappropriate maintenance of the enclosure resulting in disease.
● Inadequate food or water resulting in starvation or dehydration of chicks.
● Inappropriate location of incubator or brooding box resulting in heat or cold stress and potentially death of chicks.
● Chick mortality or deformity could cause distress to children (deformed chicks are immediately killed. What message is this giving to children?).
● The implied message is that animals are commodities for enjoyment/education that can then be disposed of.

Are there alternatives that can be implemented in schools and kindies to Chicken Hatching Programs?

Yes. There are video resources, egg hatching model kits, books, excursions to a farm sanctuary and plant studies. 

There are also more life cycle study videos here

And how does a chicken hatch teaching material here.

There are many ways to educate young children about life cycles without the need of bringing new lives in to the world to be then disposed of.

I disagree with Chicken Hatching Programs, what can I do to help?

1. Parents and Guardians can contact their child’s classroom teacher to express their concerns and disagreement with the programs. Sample letter attached here. 

2. Teachers and educators can discuss concerns with colleagues and/or the leadership team and meet with them to discuss alternatives.

3. You can contact your local MP and ask that they support a ban on all Chicken Hatching Program activities.

4. If you know of a centre where Chicken Hatching Programs are taking place, contact the RSPCA or Animal Liberation Queensland so that we can supply information about alternatives. 

5. Talk to your friends and family about Chicken Hatching Programs and express your concerns and discuss more humane alternatives

6. Enrol your children into the RSPCA Junior Ambassador program (ages 10 – 15) to learn more about appropriate animal husbandry on site at the Brisbane RSPCA Animal Care Campus. 

If you would like more information, or wish to discuss this further, please contact ALQ or RSPCA Qld.  We welcome any opportunity to chat to you about these programs.

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