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Library experiment helps kids relate to farm life

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Library staffers loaded eggs into the incubator this week, and they are planning a variety of programs and activities to explore the life cycle of the developing baby chicks.
Library staffers loaded eggs into the incubator this week, and they are planning a variety of programs and activities to explore the life cycle of the developing baby chicks.

GREENFIELD — The jokes and the puns have already begun.

An incubator has been in the children’s room of the Hancock County Public Library only three days, and staff is already egg-static about all of the chicken-themed events, crafts and stories they’ll be sharing in anticipation of the big hatching in about 21 days.

“Kids will have a lot of questions,” said Cathy Riley, who was definitely sunny-side up Thursday morning.

Youth services staff participated in a lesson on chicks so they can be prepared for the onslaught of curious queries this month. Riley, youth services manager, said they’re eager to help children learn about agriculture with events that could spark a springtime interest in reading, too.

The age-old question, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” will attempt to be answered in a family event on embryology at 6:30 p.m. Monday. The event will help folks understand the 12-egg incubator and the life cycle.

The children’s department has already been holding bird-themed events in the last couple of weeks and will continue to do so while students gaze on the small, clear incubator that’s kept at 100 degrees for the next three weeks.

By the end of April or the first days of May, Riley said, onlookers will start seeing some action.

“They should all hatch within 72 hours of each other,” she said.

While this is a new experiment for the library, incubators are somewhat common in county classrooms. Diana Davis, Purdue Extension school programs and communications specialist, said this spring, incubators are in 10 classrooms in Greenfield-Central, Mt. Vernon and Eastern Hancock schools. Southern Hancock schools have had incubators in the past.

Davis, who will be the speaker at Monday’s library event, said incubators are a good way for children and teens to learn about science and the cycle of life.

“It’s very common you won’t have all 12 hatch, so they learn in nature not everything goes as planned,” she added. “The kids handle it better than we’d expect.”

Children are encouraged to name the eggs, and a technique called candling can be done by using a bright light to check on the chick’s development.

Davis also compares grocery store eggs to the eggs in incubators. While they look the same on the outside, candling shows children the difference.

“They’re worried they have live chickens in their refrigerator at home,” Davis said.

The idea to bring an incubator to the library came last year when staff members were brainstorming how to celebrate National Agriculture Day.

“Hatch chickens” was a group brainstorm, Riley said, but by the time they thought of it, it was too late to reserve an incubator.

“I kept it in my notes. I said, ‘If we can’t hatch the idea this year, we’ll keep it and expand on it,’” Riley said.

National Agriculture Day was March 25, and the department has been doing bird and egg-themed events ever since. There was a chicken hat craft, chicken stories during story time, an Angry Birds event for teens, plus a “Peepshi” party (sushi made with Peeps candy) next week for the Anime and Manga Club.

To honor April as National Poetry Month, the staff is creating a chicken-themed wall display with quotes from favorite poems.

“We’re comparing poetry and chickens in an egg-citing way,” Riley said.

Once the eggs hatch, children will be able to handle the chicks under supervision.

“We have a tub and a light, and we’ll keep them here about a week, Riley said. “Then we’ll adopt them out to families.”

Staff has already contacted farming families that are willing to take the chicks. Riley said she hopes all of the events will help children get excited about agriculture, science and reading.

“Maybe the magic of waiting (for the eggs to hatch) gets their imagination fired up,” she said.

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