Hatching Chicks Brings “Changing and Growing” Unit to Life

Ms. Wanda’s and Ms. Wren’s prekindergarten class – the Tortugas – focused on changing and growing during March, and a unit on hatching chickens helped the kids see those changes happen right before their eyes!

Ms. Sarah, one of the student’s moms, led the chicken lessons and started at the beginning with the students. Ms. Sarah’s mom, Mrs. Stark, taught her how to hatch chicks starting when Ms. Sarah was in preschool right here at Tucson Country Day School!

The Tortugas talked about the life cycle of a chicken – one can debate whether the chicken or the egg came first – and they thought the egg comes first, which leads to a chick and then a full-grown chicken.

Ms. Sarah brought in eggs and an incubator and explained to the students that it takes 21 days for a chicken to hatch and 28 days for a duck to hatch. That’s right, the class worked on hatching ducks too!

The kids got to see inside of both a fertile and non-fertile egg when Ms. Sarah candled the egg. Ms. Wanda helped make the room dark, and the students were able to see what an egg looks like inside when a small flashlight is put up to the shell.

Students observed that a non-fertile egg is bright and clear inside with a darker circle that was the yolk. The fertile egg looked very different. Students learned that the red lines inside these eggs were blood vessels, and kids could even see a small dot inside that was the heart. The fertile eggs had chickens that were beginning to develop!

The kids were very excited and did a great job learning and using new vocabulary words while observing and discussing the eggs. Some of the new words students learned during the unit were: incubator (a box-like structure with insulation and means for controlling the inside temperature), ventilation (circulating air), humidity (dampness in the air, provided by the water put into compartments in the bottom tray of the incubator), fertile (capable of developing, such as an egg), embryo (in this case, an animal in the early stages of development before it is hatched), and hatch (in the case of birds, to emerge from an egg).

After learning that the eggs will need to be kept warm in the incubator (we need to keep the incubator at 100 to 101-degrees), kept humid by adding warm water the an area below the eggs inside the incubator, and be turned there times a day (Ms. Sarah marked one side of the eggs with an X and one side with an O so the kids could keep track of the egg turning), the students were informed and ready for the embryos to develop in their eggs.

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The young students – only four and five years old – took turns turning the eggs and observing the changes in development that was taking place in the eggs. When Ms. Sarah candled the eggs several days before they began to hatch, the students were amazed to see movement in the eggs! They observed how the egg – once bright and easy to see the yolk – was now filling up with a chick or duck! Students could see a lot of movement especially in a duck egg. During the candling of the eggs, the students also learned that the eggs have an air cell (the air-filled space between the inside and outside shell membranes of an egg). Birds peck into the air cell before they begin to crack out of the egg.

The students got to take a closer look at a poster that showed pictures of various stages in the development of an egg; the listened to stories about chickens; students colored pictures of an egg and chick with their guesses of what the chicks would look like; and they each got to take home the makings of a “How a Chick Hatches” book.

The students waited patiently, and before they knew it, it was time for the birds to hatch! Ms. Sarah put the duck eggs in the incubator one week before the chicken eggs to allow for both types of birds to hatch around the same time.

The eggs went home with Ms. Sarah and her children on the weekends, and when she brought them back to school on Monday, the day before they were due to hatch, the students were in for quite a surprise!

Three chickens had hatched overnight, some eggs had peeping coming from them and several more eggs had a pip (the first crack that a chick makes through the eggshell) in them. Once the chick has broken into the air cell, the kids could hear peeping from the egg even if there was not a pip in it yet! Ms. Sarah put some of the eggs up to the kids’ ears so they could hear peeping, as well as a scratching sound which was the chick pecking away on the membrane and shell.

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During the next two days, one chick after another pipped and slowly cracked out of its egg. It can take 12 to 20 hours for a chick to completely peck out of the shell. The students learned that when the chick hatches, it is weak from all of the hard work it did to crack out of the shell. It is also wet when born.


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Here’s the duckling – slowly pushing out of the eggshell.

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Usually after only about two hours, the chick gains its strength back and also becomes fluffy!

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Students got to peek inside the incubator to observe the chicks coming out of their eggs at all different stages.

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Once they gained their strength, many of the chicks were walking around the incubator, bumping into and moving around unhatched eggs. That was a great signal to teachers and students that those chicks were ready to come out of the incubator and into a box with a light, ground-up chicken food called Lay Crumbles and a small amount of shallow water. With the light serving as a heat lamp, the chicks stayed warm and fluffed up quickly.


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Ms. Sarah was hoping the students would be able to see a chick hatch, even though it’s fairly rare to see. But on Tuesday morning, the students peeked into the incubator just in time to realize that one of the chicks was about to hatch! Students rotated so that each of them got to see the large crack in the egg – and the big efforts made by the chick as it pushed with its head on the inside of the top of the egg and its feet near the crack of the egg. With each push, the crack slowly got bigger. This was such an exciting moment, so the students all sat down in a circle on a rug with their art teacher Ms. S, and Ms. Sarah sat with them, and placed the cracking egg (which was in her hands) in the middle of the circle while the students quietly observed. Slowly but surely, the chick pushed and pushed – and was able to pop its head and top part of its body out of the shell. Wide-eyed, the kids were amazed as they witnessed a tiny chick hatch. After resting multiple times, it used its feet to push the other half of the egg and in doing so, pushed the rest of its body out of the egg.

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In all, the prekindergarten students successfully hatched 16 chicks and one duckling! The kids were thrilled!

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The Tortugas got to keep the chicks and duckling in their classroom for two more days. During that time, the children learned how to hold the birds and took turns gently holding the chicks and duck. They felt the birds’ egg tooth (a hard, sharp park on the tip of the beak that is used to break through the eggshell which falls off usually within a couple days after the bird hatches) and also compared and contrasted the chicks to the duckling. One big difference between the two types of bird? Their feet. Ducks have webbed feet for swimming, and chicks do not. Something similar? They both have feathers and are oviparous (they lay eggs).

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Ms. Wanda and Ms. Wren’s students learned a lot about changing and growing through the chicken unit. Many other classes stopped by to see the chicks and duckling as well.

Students ,you did an excellent job hatching chicks and a duck!