After reading an article about the lifecycle of chickens, Joanne LaPorta, a teacher at Saint Catherine Academy, wondered whether it might be possible to hatch some live chicks in the classroom. She found a local organization, Rent The Chicken, that would provide fertilized eggs and all the necessary equipment to hatch up to seven chicks. The idea quickly became a month-long science project for the entire school.
Classes watched videos and drew pictures of the lifecycle to prepare for the chicks’ arrival. After the first few days in the incubator, the chicks’ progress was monitored through a process called “candling,” where a bright light held up to the egg showed the development of the embryo, which appeared as a dark mass moving inside the shell. Students could see veins pumping blood and the beginnings of feathers.
At 21 days, four of the chicks started “pipping,” or pecking through their shells. “That’s when the whole process became more real for the students,” Joanne said. “They could really see there was a creature trying to get out.” The first one hatched after school; by the next morning, all four chicks had arrived. Each class named one: Stan (after Stan Steele, a teaching assistant, pictured with his namesake), Daisy, Nugget, and Goldie. View a 4-minute video of the first hatching.
The classes gathered to set up the wood shavings in the brooder box and food and water for the hatchlings. There was also a special heater under which the chicks could rest and stay warm, especially for the first days. Over the following week, two classes took turns feeding them and cleaning the box. Each student had a chance to hold or stroke one of the chicks.
“The project was especially great because it involved all the senses. I’m not sure who had more fun—the students or the staff,” said Eric Spencer, Principal. “Now that we know how it goes, we will definitely hatch some chicks again next year.”