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Hatching Chicks – Science in My Own Backyard

Hatching Chickens to Learn About Embryology 

I have been raising egg-laying chickens for about 7 years.  I don’t have a large flock.  I have about 6 hens.  I love this experience as a city girl transported to a country place and allowed us to keep a few hens! Where we live we lose a lot of chickens to predators.  We have fox, raccoon, bobcat, and hawks, but I believe the most common predator is the neighborhood dog that someone lets run loose.

Last year my husband brought me home a surprise.  He brought me two bantam chicks.  I have never had bantams but they are darling.  Bantams are a breed that is smaller than your other chickens.  There are several varieties. The ones he brought to me had cute little feathers on their feet.

bantam chicks
bantam chicks
Bantams are a very tame breed of chicken.  They like to be cuddled and come when they are called!

One sad day one of my bantams disappeared.  I found her remains later.  Looked like a hawk got her.

My one remaining bantam struggled to integrate with the rest of the flock and I ended up putting her in her own tiny coop.   My husband made her a tiny coop to live in.

my broody hen

That is when something interesting happened. My bantam started sitting on her eggs.  She became broody.

Not all chickens have the instinct to be broody.  Most modern chickens have had the broodiness bred right out of them.  This is because a broody hen will stop egg production in order to raise her babies.

Now my broody hen sat diligently on an egg that would never hatch because I have no rooster and it was unfertilized.

 Kids love learning about animal life cycles.

broody hen waiting for eggs to hatch

I decided to buy her some fertilized eggs to hatch.  I was not sure she would understand all of her duties.  Mamma hens must turn the eggs so that the chicks form correctly. And she must keep them warm.  But I am a science teacher so I decided to experiment with this instinct of hers and see what would happen.

I went to a farm and got her some fertilized eggs.

fertilized eggs

Each egg I presented to her as she clucked excitedly and then rolled the egg towards herself and tucked it in.   She had to spread out kind of wide to cover them all, but she did it.

During the next 21 days, my hen barely left her nest.  I would lift a handful of food or some water and she would drink hastily.  About once a day she would jump off her nest and quickly eat a little and poop.

Broody hen on nest

She carefully turned her eggs and tucked them in.

When day 21 hit, just like clockwork, my first little chick appeared.   I said to my hen, “Can I see your baby?” And she lifted up her wing to show me!

It was about half the size as a normal chick. Tiny!  The next day another chick hatched. 

the first chick hatches
Children love learning about animals and their babies.
new chick
new chicks just hatched
Third graders will love this digital escape room on honey bees
little day old chicks
broody hen with chicks
 
If you are not sure the eggs are developing, you can candle them.
embryology
Candling The Egg
 
 Such a good little mamma!  My bantam kept them under her and if they got cold she would nestle down on them right there on the spot.  The chicks do not look like her and they will be full-size chickens. But they all love each other and it is a good message about adoption.   Even in the animal world, mammas love the babies they raise!
Broody hen with chicks


NOTE To TEACHERS

As a teacher of course I am thinking about how I could do this in the classroom.  I think the first thing to consider is what would happen to the chicks when we are done hatching them.  Teachers need to have a plan or a farm or somewhere that these living things can go to live once they are hatched.

You would need an incubator and some fertilized eggs and you need to do some research.  Eggs need to be turned as the mamma does.  Many incubators will do this.  Also, please remember that newly hatched chicks can drown in a small bowl of water.  Please use an actual water device designed for chicks.

Concepts you could teach:

Living Things
Life Cycle
Instinct
Structure of Living Things
Growth and Development
Offspring
What Living Things Need
Incubation

embryology
life cycle of a chicken
Incubation reminders 
• Set the incubator in a room with a stable temperature, away from drafts and direct sunlight. 
• Incubate together only species with the same incubation period. 
• Keep a daily record of incubator data. Check the temperature daily to make sure it is 99.5°F (Table 2). Verify that the water trough is full and that the wet-bulb temperature is 86°F. 
• Always wash your hands before touching eggs. Keep germs, dirt, and oil away from incubating eggs. 
• Turn the eggs three to five times a day for the first 18 days. 
• The large end of the egg should always be higher than the small end. 
• Do not turn the eggs for the last 3 days of incubation. 
• When the chicks hatch, provide cloth or rough paper surface for them to walk on.

 

Thank you for reading this post.

This story was so popular that I decided to turn it into a digital story with follow up pages and centers!
Digital Story and Worksheets Banti The Broody Hen

Life Cycle of a chicken unit
All about chickens

Banti The Broody Hen for K-1 Students

Life Cycle of a chicken unit
chicken life cycle
Looking for a Third Grade Unit designed to meet the Life Cycle standard?  I have a complete unit that includes the above Banti story and so much more.  Chicken Life Cycle for Third Grade NGSS 3-LS1-1 and Utah SEEd 3.2.1
third grade life cycle of a chicken
Life Cycle of a chicken unit
chicken life cycle
Kindergarten chicken activities
chicken life cycle

Start Here

I am so impressed with this unit which manages to be distance learning and hands-on at the same time.  Really well thought out and engaging activities that allow students to practice each of the eight Science and Engineering Practices.  Really no prep for me!

 
Science and Engineering Practices Distance Education Unit

Tina S

Teaching Science with Lynda R. Williams
5
2016-05-03T18:05:39-06:00

Tina S

I am so impressed with this unit which manages to be distance learning and hands-on at the same time.  Really well thought out and engaging activities that allow students to practice each of the eight Science and Engineering Practices.  Really no prep for me!   Science and Engineering Practices Distance Education Unit
The elephant article was excellent but I also thought the lab on dissecting a flower was broken down so easily, even telling me where to get inexpensive flowers!  This resource helped me teach this challenging standard in an engaging way.  Worth every penny!

 
Structure and Function NGSS 4-LS1-1 and 4-LS1-2

Richard S

Teaching Science with Lynda R. Williams
5
2016-05-03T18:07:52-06:00

Richard S

The elephant article was excellent but I also thought the lab on dissecting a flower was broken down so easily, even telling me where to get inexpensive flowers!  This resource helped me teach this challenging standard in an engaging way.  Worth every penny!   Structure and Function NGSS 4-LS1-1 and 4-LS1-2
As always, Lynda provides perfect alignment with the standards.

 
Age of the Earth and Geologic Time Scale NGSS MS ESS1-4

Sharon M

Teaching Science with Lynda R. Williams
5
2016-05-03T18:24:44-06:00

Sharon M

As always, Lynda provides perfect alignment with the standards.   Age of the Earth and Geologic Time Scale NGSS MS ESS1-4
Thank you so much for creating this resource! It is such a fun and engaging activity for my students, especially during distance learning.

 
Honey Bee Digital Escape Distance Learning

Expedition Fourth

Teaching Science with Lynda R. Williams
2020-11-03T20:44:55-07:00

Expedition Fourth

Thank you so much for creating this resource! It is such a fun and engaging activity for my students, especially during distance learning.   Honey Bee Digital Escape Distance Learning
My students loved this unit. I was able to present different elements of it throughout the month. It is hard to find interesting non-fictional, age-appropriate text for my students that they will enjoy. This was a great unit that aligned well for my students who have very different goals within the same group.

 
Compare and Contrast Two Texts on Reindeer

Heidi J

Teaching Science with Lynda R. Williams
2020-11-03T20:45:49-07:00

Heidi J

My students loved this unit. I was able to present different elements of it throughout the month. It is hard to find interesting non-fictional, age-appropriate text for my students that they will enjoy. This was a great unit that aligned well for my students who have very different goals within the same group.   Compare and Contrast Two Texts on Reindeer
5
3
Teaching Science with Lynda R. Williams