Science is For the Birds.

My homeschooling strength has never been science – as a student or a teacher. I buy experiment books and we never open them; we read our science book but never put it into practice; I managed to worm my way out of dissections in both high school and college, whereas by the time my younger brother was in high school, dissected frogs could be regularly found in lunch sacks in the fridge.

However.

When it comes to the Animal Kingdom and our neighborhood, we are keen observers, enjoying the beauty and intricacies of God’s creatures.

Whether it’s Yard Bunnies who allow us to see their beautiful babies, neighborhood cats (and kittens) that adopt us, or Copperheads that I erroneously assume are harmless, we are students.

(Okay. Except for the bats. Never the bats.)

Our latest observations have centered around this nest, lovingly built under the eave of our porch.

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We watched the two birds for days as they built the nest, stealing moss from our yard and somehow managing to find bleached out Easter Basket Grass that we’ve never used.

(I do hate that stuff.)

We further observed when the mother began her roost, having successfully chased her man away. Because everyone knows that Bird Husbands are only good for baby-making and homebuilding.

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With help from my much more nature-educated mother, we decided that she was a Phoebe Bird, and based on her roosting patterns and a little help from Wikipedia, I knew exactly when her babies would hatch.

Unfortunately, that date was going to occur while we were gone for a weekend trip to the beach.

Even more unfortunately, Fred apparently decided that he needed a supplemental snack while we were gone, despite the fact that our neighbors fed him for us, along with who-knows-how-many-other secret families he has.

When we returned, the mother bird was gone, there was a pile of matching feathers in the yard, and a very satisfied-looking cat.

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I texted my mom immediately and asked if she could use her chicken-egg incubator to hatch our babies. She informed me that no, the mother had probably been off of them for too long, and plus none of us were going to want to catch bugs all day and night for those babies.

She wasn’t wrong.

I was matter-of-fact with the kids, reminding myself that children never react to tragedy as strongly as adults assume they will. The Circle of Life is pretty cut and dry before you experience any true pain in life.

We left the eggs alone for a week, anxiously watching for the mother to miraculously return – perhaps she was a prop in a Bird-Watching Expedition or some other such pressing matter! But she didn’t come back, it was a sure thing that our eggs were not going to hatch, and the kids were eager to inspect them.

So I instructed them on how very fragile the eggs were, climbed up on the porch railing, and looked into the nest.

They were exactly as they had when I’d last peeked in (from a distance with a zoom lens) – undisturbed and peacefully resting.

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I let the kids each hold one, reminding them yet again to be very, very careful.

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(Ali’s taped hands had nothing to do with her caution – that there is magical tape that enables her to do amazing cartwheels. Or not.)

Noah asked questions, Ali inspected, and we talked about the different colors and markings of the eggs.

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We rehashed the fact that Fred wasn’t evil for eating their mother – that’s what God programmed him to do. It’s a part of life.

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We carefully set all the eggs back down and just looked at them.

Looking at Baby Bird Eggs

…Until Noah couldn’t stand it anymore and grabbed the whole bunch, then dropped them in horror when his toddler hands got more than they expected.

The Culprit and the Eggs

THIS. Is the look of guilt. Or aversion to yellow slime. Probably the latter.

Egg Smashing Guilt

Chaos ensued.

Noah was grossed out, Ali was indignant over the beautiful eggs, and I was in a frenzy to sanitize my toddler.

Once I was sure he was free of Salmonella, the eggs once again caught my eye. Although one of the three broken eggs was clearly nothing but yolk, the other two appeared to have more to investigate, so I carefully finished opening them.

PAUSE.

Anyone who has a weak stomach needs to tune out now. However, I and the kids found the contents of the eggs captivating, so if you can handle it, click here to continue to page two. If not, feel free to stop.

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Comments

  1. 1
    Jennifer Harder says:

    That is cool, in a gross sort of way! :). We have a bunch of nests here that blew out of the trees this last week, but i haven’t seen any whole eggs, just parts.

    If you’re looking for a new science program, check out the nature science book series from Queen Homeschool, I used them with my daughters for a couple years and they loved them. It’s pretty informal, a notebooking style, and all combined in a workbook. Lots of drawing, coloring, and observing with minimal preparation.

  2. 2
    Stephanie says:

    How fascinating! I would never be able to actually open an egg, either, but looking at the embryos was really cool. It was amazing to me how tiny the eggs were in comparison to Noah’s hands–like, malted-milk-egg size. (Um, sorry if that ruins malted-milk eggs for anyone.) I would give this episode of Rachel Does Science an A+.

    You didn’t miss out on much by ducking out of dissections. I spent most of that section in my Biology class yelling at my two (male) lab partners for flicking frog eyes at each other, while I was trying to be studious and actually learn enough about those frog innards to do well on the test.

    • 2.1

      They’re actually the same shape and colors as Cadbury Mini Eggs- my favorite seasonal candy. I had to warn Chris that the last one was sitting on the counter and it was NOT a leftover Mini Egg.

  3. 3
    Jan Moyer says:

    I appreciate the option to view or not. I’m sure it’s fascinating, but thanks for making it a second page. I still have horrifying memories of nearly fainting in grade 12 biology.

  4. 4
    renita says:

    I clicked through. I dissected a bunch of stuff in 9th grade bio, so it doesn’t really bother me :) My squicks are much more related to humans.

  5. 5
    Heather Brown says:

    That is truly fascinating. It’s great that Ali got to see that and correlate it with how human babies grow in a mom’s womb. I’ve never seen anything like that; thanks for sharing.

  6. 6
    Terram says:

    Wow. Fascinating. You underestimate yourself; I can’t imagine a better science lesson, or a better way to explain it all.

  7. 7
    Kathy Ashdown says:

    Gross, but fascinating.

  8. 8
    Kate says:

    That is a great unplanned lesson! Poor little birds but at least your kids got an up close and personal view. That’s pretty cool. I don’t think you can say you’re not good at science lessons any more :)

  9. 9

    This was SO cool! I always wondering what baby birds look like in their eggs. Wait, that sounds really weird and a little creepy.

  10. 10
    Breenah says:

    That is so cool and gross and amazing and awesome. I’m glad it happened to you and not me, though. I can handle a lot of things, but I”m not sure unborn baby birds are one of them.

  11. 11
    Rhonda High says:

    This is so awesome..except for the fact that I won’t be able to eat eggs for about three months! I guess you did warn me. :) I am a homeschool mom too and these little lessons along the way is one of the reasons I love it, :)

  12. 12
    Lindsay D. says:

    This is an A+ lesson for sure!
    I know I’ve said it before, but I LOVE that Noah is always without a shirt. Our first is very modest, and covers up all the time. But our 2 year old peels his clothes off every chance he gets and says, “I NaNed!” (translation; Naked)

  13. 13
    Rachel says:

    Wow, that was gross but also amazing! I’m in awe of God’s creation. Those eggs are so tiny, but the perfectly formed little beak is just amazing. Good job on the science lesson! I’m sure that had much more impact than any typical science lesson could ever have!!!

  14. 14
    Lindsay says:

    Science isn’t my forte either. I highly recommend the Mcwane homeschool science labs. They only meet once a month, which provides the perfect balance of not adding one more weekly thing to make our lives feel hectic, while providing at least SOME hands on fun science stuff (that I don’t have to do!). We loved it!

  15. 15
    Anne Marie says:

    Just a warning…we had a nest above our front door for years that a bird would come back to and lay eggs every so often. I heard the momma bird squawking one night a few weeks ago and decided the eggs must have hatched. I opened the door so I could peek at the birds and instead of seeing baby birds…I saw a snake eating the baby birds! :( My momma heart broke for the momma bird and then I freaked out! lol I never thought I would see a snake UP instead of down! Moral of the story, if you let birds make a nest on your porch, you might attract snakes! Another part of the circle of life! :)

  16. 16
    Carrie says:

    So I am sort of curious about how you talk about the birds and the bees early. I SOOOO want to do this with my girls so it really is not some secret and hidden thing. But my husband is completely against it. My oldest is very smart and already figured out where babies come out. She has tried to get library books recently about the topic. She is 6 but reads at a 4th grade level so I think I might let her, but help her choose the book. But my husband would lose it. He already lost it when my 3 yearold talked about the fact that boys have tails in front. I have her the correct term and she told him. I have yet to hear the end of that!!

  17. 17
    DONNA says:

    I was hesitant at first to click over, but I`m glad I did. It really was sad and fascinating all at once.

  18. 18
    Nancy says:

    Very cool! Much more so than any packaged science lesson. My daughter and her friends dissected a snake one time after they had learned about it in school. I think kids are a lot more open to the gross/natural stuff than adults learn to be. Good job!

  19. 19
    Teresa H says:

    Lovely lesson! Next spring I highly recommend the different nestcams from Cornell. l have watched their red-tailed hawk cam for three years, from egg-laying through hatch and fledge. And you will see that NOT all bird daddies are useless! The commentators on the chat can really help you learn more about what you are seeing. I think you and the children will find them fascinating! http://cams.allaboutbirds.org/channel/16/Red-tailed_Hawks/

  20. 20
    Qoumidan says:

    That’s really neat! Thanks for the detailed pictures. My 4yr old learned about the fragility of little bird eggs a few weeks ago when we found a killdeer egg in the grass at a cemetery. He was mad at me so he picked it when I told him not to and was too rough, sticking his finger through it. He was quite shocked when it broke and got his hand wet. It was just yellow inside. I don’t think he learned anything tho:(

  21. 21

    Really, really neat, but sad. :-( I feel so bad for all the birds! The babies and the mommy. Sigh. I’m such a sucker for animals. BUT I’m glad you guys got such a neat science lesson out of it! Silver lining.

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