Is this your first time hatching eggs in your classroom? It is fun for students and teachers, and the experience gives you a firsthand glimpse into the development of life. Let me show you how to prepare yourself for your first time hatching eggs in the classroom.
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 STEM activities.
I’m going to share all there is to know about hatching eggs in the classroom. Here are some of the items you need and why you need them to make your chick hatching experience a success!
Preparing for the chick eggs
You’ll need to prepare with some equipment even before the eggs arrive. The incubator and egg turner should be the first thing set up in your classroom.
Find a sturdy table away near an outlet but away from student desks to keep the incubator. Above is the incubator we used for our fertilized chick eggs. It was very durable and stable around first graders in my classroom.
Choose an incubator that has an easy way to view the humidity and temperature on the top. This alone will be the biggest way to have a successful egg incubation.
On the incubator we used, it had a top with a clear view. Students loved looking through it daily to check on the eggs hoping to see the beginning signs of hatching. It’s perfect for predicting and observing as a young scientist.
You’ll see I’ve added a video of how the automatic egg turner goes into an 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 gently rocks them side to side. The rocking prevents the embryo from sticking to the inside of the eggshell. It does make a small click sound, but it wasn’t anything we couldn’t ignore during learning times.
Fertilized chick eggs arrival
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. Also, ask how the eggs are packaged to plan for handling when they arrive at your door.
My team ordered ours to arrive on a Tuesday, because we knew the eggs would start hatching 21 days later. Also, we planned for our chicks to hatch after end-of-year testing.
It’s important to plan out your 21 days and beyond while caring for the chicks. You will need to focus all of your efforts when you begin the incubation process. Plus, the students will be very excited, and this alone will take some lessons on how to act around the equipment and care for the eggs.
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 exciting 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 won’t need the brooder box in your room until about a week before you expect the first eggs to hatch.
You could purchase a brooder box, but we just used some large plastic storage bins. The box needs to be long enough to have a cool side and a warm side where you’ll keep the lamp light. This allows 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.
You’ll need some bedding appropriate for newly hatched chicks. Pine bedding is best because it is soft. Just pick up some bedding from a local farm and feed store, and make sure the bedding is recommended for a chick brooder box.
Heat and light for the chicks
For the brooder box, you will also need a brooder lamp with bulb guard and light bulb. The chicks need a constant 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.
Feed and water your chicks
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 brood, I 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 a home for the chicks
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.
Workshops on hatching eggs in the classroom
If you can go to a workshop to learn how to do your own “chick quest”, then do it! My team went with the STEAM 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 for 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.
Chick hatching eggs in the classroom is the one activity 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.