All 7,000 white leghorn chicks born at the Museum of Science and Industry go to the Lincoln Park Zoo, where they are fed to the pythons, eagles and other animals. [Flickr/Braden Kowitz]
HYDE PARK — Ever wondered what happens to the 8,000 chickens hatched at the Museum of Science and Industry every year?
You know the ones: The adorable baby chicks in the genetics exhibit have long been a hit with visiting school kids, who crowd around the circular glass enclosures trying to get a peek.
For a lucky few of the chicks, they're destined for a Downstate farm to live out their days.
But most will end up at Lincoln Park Zoo, where they'll be fed to a python, snow leopard or even a bald eagle, according to spokeswomen from the zoo and museum.
Yep, one beloved Chicago institution serves as dinner for another.
Gazing into the baby chick hatchery at the Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive, it’s hard to tell which chicks are bound to be breeders and which ones are fated to be food.
“Just like people eat chicken, so is the need for some of the animals here at the zoo,” said Jillian Braun, a spokeswoman for the zoo. “The partnership came about as a way for providing chicks as food items for some of the zoo’s carnivores and reptiles.”
Reporter Sam Cholke reminds us about the "circle of life":
About 7,000 white leghorn chicks are sent to the zoo every year from the museum, according to Renee Mailhiot, a spokeswoman for the museum.
The leghorns are born as fluffy golden chicks from white eggs, unaware of their fated meeting with a python at the zoo.
Braun said when the chicks arrive at the zoo they are humanely euthanized and then included in the daily nutrition for a host of zoo creatures.
“Some animals that may receive chicks include birds of prey, such as our bald eagle, large cats such as the snow leopard and reptiles such as the ball python, among others,” Braun said.
But the brown eggs in the museum’s incubator hatch mottled black and yellow chicks. They're the lucky ones. They will live out their lives on farms that specialize in rare chicken breeds.
For more than 15 years, the Museum of Science and Industry has partnered with Garfield Farm in west suburban LaFox, to preserve the rare black, white and auburn Java species of chicken, a forefather of many popular modern varieties and a favored breed among 19th century American homesteaders, according to the Livestock Conservancy.
The chicks stay at the museum for about a week after hatching, according to Mailhiot.
She said the museum does not distinguish between the breeds, and whether the chicks go to the zoo or a farm, all are given away free of charge.
The three Java breeds of chicken that hatch at the Museum of Science and Industry go to farms where they help to rebuild the rare variety of chicken. [Flickr/LilyyyB]
The snow leopards at Lincoln Park Zoo are among the animals that get to eat the chicks born at the Museum of Science and Industry. [Flickr/grendelkhan]
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