Primary schools should stop hatching chicks in lessons says RSPCA

Primary schools should stop hatching chicks in lessons says RSPCA after rescue charity saves 20 ‘starving’ birds that were due to be killed and fed to snakes

  • A staff member raised concerns about 19 chicks at infant school in Basingstoke 
  • She feared the chicks were due to be fed to snakes after pupil project was done
  • Animal charity took them in and said they were in poor condition when collected
  • Now RSPCA has appealed to schools to stop using live chicks to teach children 

The RSPCA has warned primary schools against egg-hatching projects after almost 20 ‘starving’ chicks had to be rescued having been used for ‘educational purposes’.

It was feared the baby birds were due to be sent to their deaths as food for snakes after the pupils had finished caring for them.

But a receptionist at the school, which has done the projects for almost half a decade, called an animal rescue charity which has since rehomed them at a sanctuary.

Now the RSPCA has warned schools not to regard chicks as ‘disposable teaching tools’.

The 19 young birds were hatched at Oakridge Infant School, in Basingstoke, Hants., and as part of the project pupils learned how to feed and take care of the chicks with staff taking them home for weekends.

However, at the end of the project Helping Dogs and Cats UK were called in by a worried staff member.

Kirsty Wrightson, rescue manager and founder of the charity, said nobody wants the birds once they are born as they are cockerels.

The RSPCA has warned primary schools against egg-hatching projects after almost 20 ‘starving’ chicks (pictured) had to be rescued having been used for ‘educational purposes’

She said: ‘The chicks came all wet, covered in dirt and absolutely starving. We were really annoyed that they hadn’t been looked after.

‘They were picked up in a plastic box with no food, they were all wet and they were starving. We were happy we had got there.

‘I can’t tell you where they would have gone if the lady from reception didn’t call. She was told they’re being taken to be killed and fed to snakes – and she didn’t want that.

‘It makes me angry and sad because there are other ways to teach these children. 

‘The chicks were so sweet, but because they’re cockerels nobody wants them – they just wring their necks.

‘I think it’s cruel because they’re being bred to show children how eggs hatch and then they’re being killed.

‘It’s not nice for them because [they can be] left at school overnight, handled by children and they’re not that gentle.’

Thanks to the charity’s intervention, the chicks have since been rehomed at Summers Rescue, a rescue sanctuary for poultry.

Emma Freeth, of Helping Dogs & Cats UK, with one of the chicks rescued from the school

Early years manager and assistant headteacher of the school, Libby Searle, said the project was important for ‘educational purposes’.

She said: ‘We get them from a reputable company that goes into a lot of schools and provide equipment. They deliver the eggs and we’ve been doing it for four or five years.

‘The children get a chance to see the eggs hatch and staff take them home over the weekend – children are taught what needs to help keep them fed and safe.

‘It’s a good opportunity to see first-hand and get an opportunity to look after the chicks. There is an option to rehome chicks or company we got them from can take them.

‘We also called out to members of community who can come and take them.’

The RSPCA urged schools to consider whether they can ‘meet the welfare needs of the animal’.

Oakridge Infant School (pictured) said the project was important for ‘educational purposes’

Dave Allen, head of education at the RSPCA, said: ‘It’s really important for children to learn about the natural world, and we understand why many schools and nurseries may look to hatching chicks or ducks for education purposes.

‘However, we’re concerned about eggs being hatched in schools for a number of reasons, for example schools can be noisy and frightening for animals, and because the school day is relatively short and the eggs may hatch at any time, it could be difficult to monitor the welfare of the animals, and seek veterinary advice if they fell ill.

‘It’s also not as easy as people may think to find an appropriate home for the animals once they are fully grown and it’s often that local animal welfare charities are left to pick up the pieces in the local areas to the schools, which isn’t fair on the charities or the animals.

‘We believe that animal welfare can be taught in other ways, such as online resources and videos, nature walks to observe animals in their natural habitats without disturbing them, and with educational talks.

‘We have plenty of resources on our education website and we are encouraging schools to become an RSPCA Animal Friendly School and teach pupils about kindness and compassion for wildlife and animals.

‘Bringing in eggs just to watch them hatching and then to move the animals on does the opposite of teaching children the right attitude towards them.

‘They are not disposable teaching tools but living, feeling individuals whose long term welfare should be prioritised.’

A Hampshire County Council spokesperson said that the issue was down to each school and that there is guidance in place to make sure it is safe.

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