If you haven't yet experienced the joy of hatching your own little friends at home - of the insect or mammalian or feathered variety - we can highly recommend it. Okay okay I know mammals don't 'hatch' but I am a chicken obsessive I call all birthing hatching now!
Looking at pictures and words about the lifecycle of different creatures is one thing, experiencing it directly is quite another. We home edders are into the hands-on, practical side of learning! Lots of us are raising butterflies using the Insect Lore kits. You get a little pot of teeny caterpillars with their own food who proceed to get extremely fat very quickly. They keep shedding their exoskeletons which is what the little balls that look like poop are. They then attach themselves to the underside of your pot and make themselves chrysalises. Then you need to carefully remove the bit of paper from the lid and pin it to the side of a butterfly habitat and wait for them to pop out as beautiful painted ladies. Be warned - there will be blood! Okay it isn't blood it's meconium - a byproduct of their metamorphosis. if you aren't prepared you might freak out as me and Felix did the first time. It's so cool to release them once they've dried off, stretched their wings and spent a while in their little indoor house where you can watch them for a bit (they weren't impressed by our sugar solution I don't think they touched any of it). We forgot the bit about getting them on your hand so they can warm up first before they fly - oops. Still they seemed to manage okay.
Another home edder has also been gifting cutey stick insects (I think the result of a very, very successful hatch) - we may not be able to resist the temptation to get some eggs of our own.
At our house though our main focus is always the chickens. We have lots of chickens. Some might say too many but really you can never have too many chickens especially if you have lots of friends who enjoy free-range eggs. As we have two cockerels (one for the large fowl flock and one for the bantams) pretty much every egg is fertile and you could hatch a chickie from it. Felix's big bro is masterminding this year's hatching using our own broody hens. First up have been Romana and Petunia two of our millefleur Pekins who hatched one egg each (don't ask why only one - this year's plan is a bit random) resulting in Scramble and Wipple. In sisterly solidarity they did it together (hens can get aggressive/jealous re chicks but not these two). Their dad, Han Solo, is an Isabella Pekin so we have our own hybrids! Next Capaldi the Siciliana is sat on a clutch of our own Marbar eggs (Maran dad /Cream Legbar mama) and another Pekin, Viola, is sat on a clutch of bought-in Poland eggs. Quite how it will all pan out and how many we will be able to keep, we aren't sure.
Of course the kids learn about responsible breeding - butterflies are a safe bet as they go into the wild and the wild needs more butterflies. With chickens you need to be rather more circumspect and have a plan for looking after or rehoming your new babies. Hatching is not all cuteness and fluff either. Felix has endured the heartache of dead chicks, hatches gone wrong, having to give up gorgeous, super friendly, funny cockerels. I would write more, I could write so much more....aaahh Felix is kicking me off the computer...these freerange kids