Baby chicks come to BYU-I

BYU-I student Ashley Sloan holds her chick for class. Photo credit: Brittanie Smith

Chirping filled the halls of the Thomas E. Ricks building. Students currently enrolled in the Principles of Behavioral Learning course had quite the educational experience when around 50 baby chicks were brought in.

The goal of this class is to help students understand why we, as humans, behave the way we do in certain situations.

Heidi Higgins is a psychology professor at BYU-Idaho and an instructor for the Principles of Behavioral Learning course. With this course comes the opportunity for students to participate in the “Chick Lab.”

Throughout the week, students came and performed different behavioral experiments on a designated baby chick.

For the experiments, students are required to teach different behaviors for the chicks to learn. One experiment includes training the chick to peck a red dot a certain amount of times. If it successfully pecks the red dot the amount it needs to it is rewarded with food. This implants the behavior in its mind that by following that behavior it will receive food.

For this class, Hannah Eadie, a junior studying psychology, helps as a teaching assistant. She mentors students while they try to teach their chicks to do different tricks.

“The goal is that we’re applying the principles of behavioral learning,” Eadie said. “We’re teaching shaping by using small reinforcements to slowly get the animal to do what you want it to do.”

Every semester, BYU-I receives chicks from a meat supplier. This means that once the experimenting wraps up, the chicks are taken back. Since they are meat chicks, they don’t live much longer once they are returned.

“We want students and others to know that we don’t mistreat the animals,” Waters said. “We do experiment on them, but we never harm them. We actually take really good care of them.”

The chicks provided to the school receive all the things that they need to live comfortably. They are fed plenty of food and water. Students are also carefully monitored when handling chicks as to not bring any harm to the animals.