An annual "ritual" in some schools is hatching chicken eggs in the classroom. This can be a great educational experience for children as they learn about eggs and incubation, watch them hatch and see the baby chicks. It can also be a great source of infection for children if certain precautions are neglected. The picture on the right, from an article in the Ilkley Gazette, shows a good example of a bad idea. This four-year-old boy has a newly hatched chick on his shoulder. Why does this bother me?
- Chicks are a great source of potentially harmful bacteria, particularly Salmonella.
- You can't litter train a day-old chick. I wouldn't be surprised if it left a little biohazardous "present" on the child's shoulder.
- Outbreaks of salmonellosis in people associated with baby chicks have been reported.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends children under five years of age should not have contact with chicks.
If there are going to be chicks in a classroom:
- They should only be in classrooms with older students.
- Contact with chicks should be restricted and always supervised.
- Careful attention must be paid to handwashing. Everyone who handles chicks or comes in contact with their environment (e.g. box, cage, incubator) should immediately and thoroughly wash their hands.
- Chicks should never be allowed to roam free in the classroom.
- Chicks should never be handled during lunch or snack time.
- Immunocompromised children should not be present in the class.
It's common sense, but it's amazing how uncommon "common sense" seems to be sometimes.