A Better Life for Hatchling Chickens: A Talk with Mac Dykeman

November 2, 2019

Last year, Mac Dykeman was recognized with a Platinum Award at the Canada-Wide Science Fair in Ottawa, for her work on Safe Chick-Ments.

We had the chance to talk with Mac, who continued her work as one of two students (the other, Sarah Choi, whom we interviewed here) who had the opportunity to travel to Abu Dhabi in September to share their remarkable work in STEM with the global community. The experience took place at the The Expo Sciences International (ESI) hosted by the International Movement of Leisure Activities in Science and Technology (MILSET).

Tell me a bit about your project. What is it about, and what were your conclusions? 

 I designed a safer container to ship day old chickens in. When a chicken hatches they have a yolk sack inside of their abdomen that provides them with all of the water and nutrients they need to sustain themselves for the first three days of life.  However, I live on a farm and when I would receive these shipments of chicks they would often arrive with with high losses. As a result I wanted to improve the conditions they are being shipped in.

After doing testing I came to the following conclusions:

  • The birds crowd to the corners of the boxes resulting in them trampling each other. To eliminate the corners I created a round insert with holes in it to allow air circulation.
  • In winter the chicks need a heat source, the most common one is a heat pack. However, this makes the floor of the box uneven and creates excessive localized heat. To eliminate this I made a raised false floor.
  • The walls of the box are sloped in word to allow for air circulation if boxes are stacked beside each other.
  • Lastly, this box is designed to withstand 200 pounds making it at least as crush resistant as currently sold boxes.  Triangular supports on the top of the box are also for this purpose.

What inspired you to pursue this project? 

I live on a poultry farm and when I would receive shipments of day old chicks they would often arrive with high rates of morbidity and mortality. As a result I wanted to see if I could improve the boxes the chicks were being shipped in.


Tell me about your experiences in Abu Dhabi 

 I really enjoyed Abu Dhabi, the cultural aspect of this trip was incredible. The purpose of the MILSET Expo is three fold, there is the science aspect (a way to share knowledge and showcase your countries work), the second is an opportunity to meet new people who share your interests, and the last part is to experience new cultures, that was so eye opening and really inspiring!

What experience in Abu Dhabi really taught you something about yourself? Did you have a groundbreaking/self-discovery moment? 

I am not sure if this really is something I learned about myself, but what I did learn is that I am so fortunate to be a part of an amazing community which exists because of science. Each fair, or expo I attend, there are also many of the same people, and we have formed strong friendships because of these experiences. What is so amazing is that when we are finished school we will be colleagues and have shared these incredible journeys together. I really am so fortunate, and feel so privileged.