Raising Tadpoles: the easy way

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Dear Bluegrass,

The hatching season is upon us. The first warm breezes are replacing winter’s crispness, and silence has turned to chirps, croaks, and competing radios at stoplights. Last year was the first time I’d attempted to catch, incubate, and release any type of wild thing, and despite my complete lack of knowledge, it was a roaring success! We only watch baby birds from a safe distance, so you won’t find a how-to on those guys here. Our first go was with baby frogs.

Photo by Warlen G Vasco on Unsplash

We started by collecting already hatched-from-that-weird-egg-mass tadpoles from my in-laws’ cattle water tank, but you can find them everywhere in springtime: ponds, low creeks, puddles, the sandbox lid you forgot to flip over. We brought home about 25, but ended up giving about 3/4 away to our Tinkergarten friends. You really only need a couple, but three or four might help to ensure a good survival plan.

Photo by Molly Frances on Unsplash

The tadpoles resided in our carport in a small sterilite bucket/tub. (We did put them in our water table for about 5 minutes before I realized they were way too accessible to my 3 year old and thoroughly traumatized.) Any shady spot outside will do–as long as they are not in direct sunlight and their water stays cool. A large rock sat on the bottom and stuck out of the water a little, acting as a resting place. They ate one thin, round slice of cucumber a day, cut in half so they could access the fleshy part of the cucumber. I changed the water about every 3-4 days, netting them with our sand sifter toy and putting them in a sand bucket during. THEY MUST HAVE CHLORINE-FREE WATER. You can purchase a water conditioner at a local pet store/ big box store/amazon OR you can look as crazy as me, slipping on galoshes every rainy forecast, running from gutter to gutter collecting rainwater.

 We watched them swim, grow legs, shrink their tails, and hop right out! I recommend trying to return them to their original habitat. A few of ours escaped, and we’ve spotted them near our gutters in the flower beds, so they’re doing alright, but we tried to keep as few suburban frogs as possible. The entire experience lasted about 3 weeks; it depends on frog species how long each part of the life cycle lasts. There are a ton of curriculum resources (especially on Pinterest) for turning this into a full-fledged science lesson, so that’s a plus, too. I don’t know about your tots, but mine are at their highest levels of creativity and active engagement when they’re outside. Raising tadpoles is the ideal way to introduce children to life cycles and animal habitats and ecosystems. There are also some excellent books and life cycle resources to aid in creating tangible learning. This website helped me tremendously also.

Photo by Marcel Fuentes on Unsplash

 The conversations surrounding our frog babies were endless and priceless. My momma self learned just as much as they did. The upkeep was minimal, education happened, and it was essentially free. What are you waiting for?  The family is already asking about when we can get more–we’re so excited for next spring!

P.S.- Stay tuned for our next adventure on butterfly metamorphisis!

With spirit & sass, 


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