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Amy Dalrymple, Forum News Service, Published April 23 2011

Man hatches new Easter tradition

JAMESTOWN, N.D. – Many families will dye Easter eggs this weekend, but a college professor here takes the tradition to the extreme.

Michael Kjelland dyes bright-colored Easter chicks by injecting chicken embryos with food coloring.

The assistant professor of biology at Jamestown College hopes it will get his students excited about science.

“I like to have fun with science,” Kjelland said. “At the same time, I do serious experiments, too. But I try and draw interest to things.”

Kjelland purchased eggs from a grocery store that gets its eggs locally and injected them with traditional food coloring during incubation.

He carefully uses sterile methods while injecting the dye with a syringe to prevent bacteria from getting inside.

He ended up with four chicks: one each of a brilliant green, pink and yellow color, and one chick that isn’t dyed.

Kjelland said if he doesn’t use enough dye, the chicks will hatch with just patches of color.

“I’ve kind of perfected it over the last couple of years,” he said.

Kjelland, originally from Valley City, worked on chicken cloning while earning a Ph.D. at Texas A&M University.

Don’t try this at home unless you know what you’re doing, Kjelland warned, because if you inject the syringe too far, it could lead to problems.

“I wouldn’t recommend it for everybody unless you have experience working with incubating chicken eggs,” he said.

The color will fade after a couple of weeks as the chickens lose their down feathers and new feathers come in, he said.

The dye does not harm the chickens, Kjelland said.

For a future project, Kjelland wants to use nontoxic florescent dye to make the chicks glow under a black light.

Although this experiment is for fun, it also has scientific applications, he said.

Chicken embryos are used to test the effects of chemicals on embryo development. Kjelland also does transgenic research.

Kjelland’s daughters, 13-year-old Frida and 7-year-old Alexa, are having fun with the colored chicks. The pink one is named Chickira, playing off of the singer Shakira.

“They are really cute,” Frida said. “It’s kind of cool.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590