The Sarah P. Duke Gardens is now home to several new residents—a family of baby chicks.

The chicks inhabit a portion of the Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden, which was launched in 2012 as a resource for teaching visitors about gardening and interacting with nature. The Duke Gardens’ curators hope that having chicks will promote best practices for urban gardening to visitors who may be considering raising their own chickens.

“These chicks share a vital role in our educational programming for both children and adults,” Jason Holmes, curator of the Doris Duke Center Gardens, wrote in an email. “Seeing plants, water management strategies, composting, bees and other pollinators, as well as chickens, allows us to discuss the entire relationship of humans to nature.”

The chicks arrived at the Duke Gardens in June and were moved to a coop in the Discovery Garden in mid-July. Holmes noted that the Gardens were unable to add chickens for about a year due to an outbreak of avian flu that affected several states.

As a teaching resource, the Discovery Garden grows food during the year. Holmes said that it has produced approximately one ton of food so far—including potatoes, peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers—which it has donated to several local relief organizations. The Discovery Garden has also partnered with Healthy Families of Durham, a group that provides education and support to parents, for the past year. However, eggs that the chickens produce cannot be donated due to University policies.

So far, the chicks have been a popular attraction, generating excitement among visitors.

“Younger kids think it is awesome to see and learn about where eggs come from,” Holmes wrote. “Often, families come to see the chickens, and it has become a destination stop to visit them.”

Although there are not currently plans to acquire other animals for the Discovery Garden, the gardens do have beehives to assist with pollination and red wiggler worms to aid in composting.

Chickens provide a number of benefits for gardens, according to a fact sheet provided by Holmes. They can produce nearly 300 eggs in a year and help rid gardens of bugs and weed seeds.

The Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden features vegetable beds, fruit-producing shrubs and an orchard. One of its buildings—the Burpee Learning Center—was built from the remains of two North Carolina tobacco barns.

Brody, who lived in Kinston, North Carolina, was a gardener who helped educate her community about the benefits of organic growing. Her children, Marilyn Brody Lane, Marsha Brody Shiff and Hynda Brody Dalton, along with several other donors, helped create the Discovery Garden to further her dream of creating a space for children to learn about gardening.

Today, the Discovery Garden is used for children’s summer camps, family programs and classes.

“Many gardeners are thinking more sustainably and growing their own produce and raising chickens, too,” Holmes wrote. “Our goal is to promote and teach these practices in the best possible way.”