Is this your first time setting up egg hatching in your classroom? Hatching chicken eggs is fun for students and teachers and gives you a firsthand glimpse into the development of life. Within 21 days, not only will you see the chicks hatch, but you can use the waiting time to investigate the life cycle of chickens and do some egg investigations and S.T.E.M. activities. Here are some of the items you need and why you need them to make your chick hatching experience a success!
Disclaimer: I'm not an expert at chick hatching. I'm just a classroom teacher that has had hatched eggs in the classroom for educational purposes. The following is just what has worked in my experience.
Above is the one we used for our eggs. It was very durable and stable around my first graders. I liked how I could easily and constantly view the humidity and temperature on the top. The students loved looking through the top to check on our eggs to see when they started hatching.
To the left is a video of how the automatic egg turner goes into in incubator. You will need to have a plug for this as well as the incubator. This will turn the eggs, which is also important to the incubation process. It doesn't really "turn" the eggs, but rocks them side to side. The rocking prevents the embryo from sticking to the inside of the egg shell.
Fertilized chick eggs
We received our fertilized chick eggs from a local provider. You will need to call about 3 months before you want your eggs, to make sure of availability. We ordered ours on to arrive on a Tuesday and they started hatching 21 days later. We plan for our chicks to hatch after end-of-year testing. You will need to focus all of your efforts when beginning the incubation process. Plus, the students will be very excited. Pace yourself so that you don’t feel overwhelmed. Consider the fact that not much other learning will happen in the first day or two. Enjoy this excited experience with your class, because they’ll remember it always!
After the chicks have hatched and dried in the incubator about 24 hours, they need to be moved to the brooder box. You could purchase a brooder box, but we just used some large plastic storage bins. It needs to be long enough to have a cool side and a warm side where you’ll keep the lamp light. This allow the chicks to move around to find the most comfortable temperature for themselves. The school had shorter plastic storage bins, so our helpful custodian cut off one end of each and connected them together with duct tape. It worked well and we will be able to reuse them. Pine bedding is best because it is soft. Just pick up something local and from a place you can make sure it is best for a chick brooder box.
Brooder lamp with bulb guard and light bulb
The chicks need a place to stay warm and the lamp will do this. Make sure to choose a lamp with a bulb guard so that if it gets bumped and falls, it will not shatter the bulb. You will need a bulb that is made for brooder boxes.
It’s very important to add a wireless temperature gauge to the brooder box. This will help keep track of the temperature of the box to keep the chicks comfortable and happy! In the first week of hatching, the chicks need an area to warm that is around 100F/38C.
Put the feeder and waterer diagonal from another in the middle area of the brooder box. Make sure there is a path for the chicks to walk between them. They will walk in the feed and water, so change the water if it starts looking yucky with pine bedding.
From the beginning of life, the chicks need to have the best chance of survival. The medicated chick feed starter will have all they need to start a strong, healthy life. Per teacher, we needed about 5 pounds for the amount of time we’d planned to keep them from the time they hatch until they left our classroom. We kept them for less than a week.
Finding the chicks a home should be something you've been working on even before the eggs arrive. I work in a rural district, so it's not too hard to find someone who will take free chicks. Make sure you have a forever home in mind for your hatched chicks. We've not offered the chicks to the students, well, because they all want to take them home. I've also only accepted homes that are able to take all the chicks. This is not only helpful to you but good for the chicks overall.
If you can go to a workshop to learn how to do your own “chick quest”, then do it! My team went with the S.T.E.A.M. teacher/coordinator to a local workshop by GrowNexGen and Ohio Soybean Farmers. GrowNextGen higher purpose is to grow the next generation of entrepreneurs and leaders for the changing industry that feeds the world by bringing agriculture science to the classroom.
At the workshop, teachers learn how to bring hands-on STEM challenges into the chick hatching process. These lessons engage students in learning all about the makeup, processing, and overall benefits of eggs and chickens. One of the projects was to create an egg-catcher out of limited supplies to safely catch an egg being dropped from 1 meter above the ground. Talking through the process of the best design of the egg-catcher made it very clear to the teachers how important STEM projects like these are to collaboration and student growth.
That's about everything you need to host a chick hatching in your classroom! Check out GroNexGen website for more information on some activities to do with your students during the 21 day incubation time. They are based in Ohio, but they may be able to help you find resources local to your area. This is one of the activities that I imagine all students will remember well into their adult life as one of the most exciting experiences in my classroom. I'd love to know if you're trying this in your classroom! You can email me by clicking the "Contact Me" in the upper right corner.