Project Chick hatches nature encounters at NS Library

Project Chick hatches nature encounters at NS Library

Eggs, some with cracks from chicks trying to get out, are visible inside their incubator in the children’s room earlier this week. (Breeze photos by Lauren Clem)

NORTH SMITHFIELD – Visitors to the North Smithfield Public Library this week may have noticed a strange cheeping coming from the main room.

It’s not the sound of children imitating their favorite barnyard animals, though after this week, those sounds may become more common around the library. The constant squeaks and peeps came from a box near the circulation desk, where the library’s newest visitors had taken up residence courtesy of a partnership with a local farm.

Project Chick is a program offered by the historic Casey Farm in Saunderstown to teach children how eggs become chicks. Renee Bichan, youth services librarian, said the future chickens arrived at the library on July 13.

“One of their educators came up and did a program about chickens and Casey Farm and when they left, they left us an incubator and 18 eggs,” she said.

Since then, the librarians have cared for the eggs, coming in on weekends to ensure they have the right humidity and heat. On Monday morning, after nearly three weeks, staff arrived to find their first hatchling waiting for them in the incubator.

“He’s an early bird. We were expecting them to hatch tomorrow,” she said on Monday.

After letting its feathers dry out, the librarians moved the chick to a “brooder box” in the front room where a heat lamp keeps the birds warm. They expect to hatch about seven or eight chicks by the end of the week. Bichan said the educator from Casey Farm explained it’s typical for several of the eggs not to hatch.

“This is the most fragile time for them, when they’re at this stage trying to come out,” she said.

The program has been a hit with kids, who enjoyed watching the eggs’ progress in the incubator in the children’s room. Bichan said the program pairs with this year’s summer reading theme of “Our Wild Neighbors.”

It’s not the first time the library has hosted feathered guests. When she first started working in North Smithfield, Bichan said, she brought with her two zebra finches she’d purchased at a pet store and kept at her previous library.

The newly hatched chicks represent a piece of New England history. Of the 18 eggs, 16 were Dominiques, a heritage breed that was bred in the U.S. during colonial times. The remaining two were Rhode Island Reds, better known as the Rhode Island state bird.

While the chicks are open for visitors, families hoping to see them will have to do so soon. Bichan said they plan to return the chicks to the farm once all the eggs are done hatching, which she expects to happen by Friday afternoon.

Renee Bichan said one patron suggested naming the new chick “nugget.”
Youth Services Librarian Renee Bichan picks up the first hatchling from Project Chick at the North Smithfield Public Library earlier this week.