Spring Chickens

Spring Chickens

The arrival of spring has brought new life to the free-range learning opportunities on offer at Leeston Playcentre. Since the doors opened for Term 4, the children have been captivated by a trio of spring chicks who have made Playcentre their home. 

With the help of a Fonterra Grass Roots Grant, Leeston Playcentre is developing its gardens. ‘The idea is that the chickens will help with the composting’, explains Playcentre Coordinator, Mary Harkess. 

‘One of our mums, Anna Nurse, is the driving force behind the garden project, and she has plans to make it available to the community with a “take what you need, leave what you can” plan – where people take the fresh vegetables and donate a can to our local food bank’. 

The families thought it would be ‘really cool for the children to see the life cycle of chickens’, continues Mary; ‘so we borrowed an incubator and got some fertilised eggs’. 

At the start of their lives, the three Araucana chicks were kept inside a brooder with a light to keep them warm. Over the holidays the chicks did a lot of growing, and, by the second week, they were strong enough to venture outside and learn about scratching in the dirt. 

Busy, curious and keen on the outdoors, they were ready for life at Playcentre!

On the first day of term some of the children spent half an hour watching intently and calling out ‘chook chook chook’ – ‘which is super cute, coming from two- and three-year-olds’, says Mary. 

The smallest chick is called May. A pretty name, the word ‘may’ expresses exciting possibilities, as in she may lay eggs one day! And, it conveys a tone of politeness, as in may I hold May? But possibilities and politeness aside, Leeston Playcentre is on May Street – which is the real reason for the choice. Mary says that the families are still working out names for the other two chicks.

With their chicks, the Playcentre children are participating in the East Club Pet Show on Friday 22 October. The show involves children from Leeston and Southbridge Primary Schools and Ellesmere College (along with their pets). ‘It will be the first time the Playcentre kids have participated’, says Mary. ‘We are all very excited!’ 

These chickens will become part of life at Playcentre. As President Jess Wilson explains, ‘we have introduced a food scraps bowl to the kai table – so the kids can feed them. We are also looking to develop a larger outdoor area for the chickens so that the children can interact with them.’

As Mary says, getting the chickens and developing the gardens will provide many valuable learning opportunities. The children will learn about where their food comes from, how to recycle food waste and, most importantly, how to care for animals. 

On the subject of food, the hope is that one or more of the chicks will turn out to be female and lays eggs! Male and female Araucana chickens have few physical characteristics – like combs or wattles – distinguishing them, which means May may in fact be male. Time (and eggs) will tell.

For now, these busy, social little creatures are exploring their world and growing fast. Just like the children who also call Playcentre home.



Spring Chickens

Posted: Wednesday 19 October 2016