21 April 2023
Spruce resident Bill Lawrence has recently become a father again…this time to four baby chickens.
“It’s a job I didn’t really want, but I’ve learned that sometimes you just have to go along with what happens here,” he jokes. “[Life, Learning and Leisure facilitator] Tatiana is a fireball and can convince anyone of anything, her enthusiasm is very infectious.”
Bill and other residents at Spruce watched the development of eight fertilized chicken eggs for 21 days and were delighted when four fluffy chicks hatched late last week.
Bill suggested this egg-cellent undertaking after seeing a similar project at the seniors’ residence where his wife lives.
“I told Tatiana it might be a fun thing to do here and didn’t think too much about it again after that.”
Then late on a Friday afternoon at the end of March, Tatiana knocked on Bill’s door and asked if he was ready to set up the incubator. So, Bill became the de facto egg caretaker, documenting the condition of the eggs every four days by candling them with a flashlight to see what was happening inside each shell.
Bill created data sheets and recorded the developmental progress of the chickens. The egg supplier provided an outline of what to look for, so residents could follow each egg’s progress through observations.
As the eggs got closer to hatching day, other residents started getting more and more curious and interested in the project. On Day 21, the first chick was born, right on schedule.
“Everyone was so excited and wanted to see it, so we had to take pictures and share them around because the chicks need to stay warm in the incubator for the first few days,” he explains.
Four of the eggs did not end up hatching. A 50% hatching rate is typical, says Bill. The chicks have been given names: Chickpie, Carol, Crowchick and Nimble Neil (named for Community Manager Neil Reimer). They each have their own distinct personalities.
Now the chicks are living in a plastic tub with a heater in Spruce’s plant room. They’ve graduated from their initial honey/vinegar feed mixture to solids. They will be returned to the supplier this weekend, who will reunite them with their mother hen.
“The day the first chickens were born, I received a card signed by many people congratulating me on the chicken project,” Bill chuckles. “I was quite touched by that. This project has really encouraged a few residents who are normally very quiet to come out and get involved.”
The team is not yet hatching a plan for another chick project, but Bill says if there’s a next time, they’ll do a better job educating residents about the process earlier so more people embrace the project sooner. They are also considering getting a butterfly rearing kit.
“It has been so wonderful to have a resident-led project that has been so much fun for everyone to watch,” says Tatiana. “Having the chicks here has created a really fantastic, busy atmosphere and sparked great conversations among residents. It’s been so enjoyable for residents, staff and visiting families alike.”
You could even say Spruce’s chick hatching project has been…egg-ceptional!