Why try to explain miracles to kids when you can just have them hatch their own duckling?
Providing children with opportunities to interact with mother nature in a safe way is one of the best ways to spark a love and concern for the natural world. As we embrace longer days, sunshine, and new life, spring is the perfect opportunity to connect children to their local environment and their interaction with it. Incubating duck eggs is a great place to start!
Attempting to nurture eggs into ducklings can stir the same excitement in your children as Christmas morning! And it offers learning opportunities that no written curriculum can match. This, is authentic education. I know this because I am the proud mother of a five-year-old, a two-year-old, and 4 ducklings.
For the project I picked up 6 duck eggs and an incubator from our treasured, Abma’s Farm.http://abmasfarm.com/egg-incubators/
This is an educational process that brings life into the world, and they encourage hatching them responsibly.
Here is what we learned.
1. Life is a beautiful, precious miracle. Each and every little one.
Because of the supply and demand dynamic in nature, and because eggs often simply never hatch, we’ve set an expectation that we might expect to eventually see one duckling swimming in our baby pool this summer. We’ve told our kids, some eggs hatch, and some don’t. We will love, protect, and care for these eggs as much as we can, and pray that mother nature will take its course and provide us with a duckling.
The ducklings hatch at around 28 days. We put the hatch day on our calendar so that we wouldn’t miss the big event. I filled the wait by reading stories and educating my little ones through play all about ducks. We read “Dear Children of the Earth” and “ The Golden Egg Book” . We made duck crafts and letter D pancakes. We talked a lot about what we would name them, and what they might look like. The 28-day incubation is not the only wait time. Even when we saw the first chip in the egg we still had to wait a few hours for the duckling to fully hatch. My son sweetly cheered the tired little ones on as they mustered their strength for the next big crack. “C’mon nature!” “You got this, nature!”
My heart swells and my eyes fill as I recount this.
The water in the incubator needed to be monitored daily to ensure there was enough humidification for the eggs to be able to hatch. Both my boys helped me check and fill this every day. We also needed to monitor the internal temperature of the incubator. It needed to remain around 100 degrees. This was a good lesson in number recognition as well as understanding that when the incubator opened, the temperature dropped. When the incubator remained closed, it kept the internal temperature at a safe 100 degrees. My oldest son got very protective of this and made sure no one unnecessarily opened the incubator! As we checked on the safety and incubation process we engaged in valuable discussions.
Once the ducklings arrived, and they fluffed up, they were placed in a box where their water and food needed to be filled daily. Whether they offered the ducklings food from their little hands, or filled their dish, these boys made sure their ducklings were well fed. They had fun coming up with treats for them and laughed watching them devour watermelon!
Getting small children to wash their hands regularly and to cover their sneezes can be a chore. But our rule was that you could not handle the eggs or the ducklings unless you washed your hands before and after. You’ve never seen children run so fast to the bathroom sink!
Our third duckling, Old McDonald was definitely the runt-of-the-litter and struggled greatly with his hatch. It took him almost 3 days to finally arrive and when he did he was weak and lethargic. I literally felt pain for my little feathered friend that very first night and set my alarm every two hours so that I could hand feed him food and water and give him every chance to survive. I felt sad in those moments that he didn’t have his own mother and hoped I was doing as well a job as she would have. Old McDonald perked right up the next day and joined his buddies Donny and Joe, and later, Baby Boots. One duckling never quite made it out of his shell. We monitored the water and temperature, and made sure no one opened the incubator during this time. My five year old wanted desperately to help chip him out, but I explained to him that sometimes help isn’t actually helpful and that this was all part of Mother Nature. Alas nature ran its course, despite our feeble human attempts to alter its plan.
After about 2 weeks our ducklings were big enough to bring outside to roam for a bit. I reminded the children that while it may seem unfair, other animals need to eat to survive too and that perhaps there is a mother raccoon or hawk that may also be caring for her spring family. So we needed to protect Donny, Joe, Old McDonald and Baby Boots as best we could but that nature provides a necessary cycle for a reason and while it might seem unfair, it is necessary too and there is often a bigger picture.
It is time for us now to find them a lifetime home. Our friends are moving to a new property in August with a private pond for our boys to splash and swim. Until then, we will keep watching, learning, loving, protecting and appreciating these beautiful life lessons from our ducklings. We feel honored to have had our home chosen as a safe haven for these little fellas, and take seriously the gift that life is.
Megan Jolin of Mother Earth Mama is a board certified Holistic Pediatric Nurse Practitioner whose passion is to bring health and wellness to the whole child. Megan provides evidenced-based, family centered care in:
-prenatal health and wellness
-nutritional analysis and counseling
-toxin free home environment
-self care for parents and children
-natural/integrative approach to common childhood illnesses
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