Chicken Lottery

Four days ago, on April 14th [tax day eve], my students and I placed 23 eggs into an incubator in the classroom and began studying embryology.  This is my very first foray into hatching chicks and so I am as excited or more excited even than my students.  Between researching the unit and entertaining a guest speaker this week, I am learning right along with my class.

Here are some random and interesting facts that I have learned.  We need to keep the incubator temperature around 100 degrees.  A hen’s normal temperature is 107˚.  The humidity in the incubator must be kept around 50% until a few days before hatching, when it should be raised to between 75 and 85%.  Most of the eggs you buy in the store are not fertilized– if you find a red dot on the yolk, then that egg was fertilized.  Once fertilized the eggs can hang out for days with the embryo in sort of a state of suspended animation until someone decides to either incubate them or sit on them.  Once they reach an internal temperature of 85%, development of the baby chick will commence.  Chickens need Roosters in order to lay fertilized eggs.  Chicken sex, however, is not what you would think it would be… it is really just an exchange of fluids between the rooster and the hen.  After they are born, baby chickens can live for like 48 hours with no food or water, but once removed from the incubator and mom, should be given baby chicken mash and plenty of water.  The water, however, should be offered in such a way that the baby chicks will not drown themselves, for instance in a shallow pan filled with marbles where they can drink around the marbles.  For some reason, perhaps their recent exit from a watery environment, the chicks are drawn to the water and will fling themselves into it and drown during the first days of life.

The chicks are due to be born on Cinco de Mayo, so we keep teasing they will be ‘Latin chicks.’  Of the 23 eggs, statistically, about 50-75% of them may end up with chicks developed and capable of pecking their way to freedom.  So, I wonder, almost daily, how many we will end up with and what they will look like.  The eggs were taken from four types of chickens:  Rhode Island Reds [whose chicks are sort of calico brown and yellow], Delewares [who produce the ubiquitous fluffy yellow chicks], Barred Rock Hens [dark brown chicks], and Bantams [I think also yellow chicks/white adults].  So, we could have any combination of breed and gender.

If you know me then you know that one of the items on my bucket list is to raise chickens, so I plan to take three hens home at the end of this project.  I live in a neighborhood and have no place to put three chickens, but I plan to order a portable chicken coop that looks like an A framed chalet.  I found it on the Internet and one of the places you can purchase it is, wow, Amazon.com.  You can really find nearly anything on Amazon.

It’s Sunday and I actually went in to the school three times yesterday to check on my eggs and make sure they are still at the right temperature and humidity.  Last week was spring break and it flew by, but now that we are hatching eggs, the time is creeping slowly by.  We are only on day four and today the embryos are about the size of butter beans.  We may get to candle them this week in order to see which are developing the way they are supposed to.

RHODE ISLAND REDS

BARRED ROCK HEN

STANDARD DELAWARE CHICKEN

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