When you incubate eggs in the classroom for the first time, it can seem very overwhelming, but this post and guide will help you overcome the unknown and embrace this fun classroom experience!
Teachers are always trying to bring fun, hands-on experiences to students.
We know that the classroom is a great place to learn and try new things, so we search high and low for awesome ideas.
Now, some of those ideas are easy to adopt, but others take a little more effort and bravery…like when you decide to incubate eggs in the classroom for the first time.
I remember the first time I decided to incubate eggs in the classroom for the first time. It seemed like such a great idea, but it took a lot of research and planning to do well.
Luckily for you, I’m laying out my tips and tricks so that you can learn from my experiences.
A few notes before we begin…
First, I have developed a special guide with informational passages that you can use with your students. In this Chicken Egg Incubation resource, I’ve included cards with pictures of the incubation process. The resource is designed for you to put up one card each day, so the students can see what is happening with the egg/chick each day. This resource also includes reading passages that will help your students learn about this process.
Incubating chicken eggs in the classroom is an exciting experience for students, but to make the whole process extra special, discuss the process daily with students using the chicken egg timeline!
Second, when you incubate eggs in the classroom, you must have the right tools. Throughout this post, I have provided links to some of my favorite products for this process.
Please note that Amazon affiliate links are used in this post, meaning I will receive compensation if you make a purchase using one of these links. All of the chicken incubation materials linked below are the same or similar to the ones I use in my own classroom.
Tips for Hatching Chicken Eggs in the Classroom:
Here are some of my top tips for getting started and making a plan for incubating eggs in your classroom.
Get your eggs from a reputable source.
Not all eggs are the same; even though the eggs from the grocery store are chicken eggs, they are not fertile.
To make sure that you have good, fertile eggs that will likely hatch, you’ll want to make sure you get good eggs to start with. I like contacting local 4-H groups or farmers to source my classroom eggs. These groups are great to work with because you have more options for the number of eggs you get, and you can also get a little support from them as well.
However, you can also go with bigger egg hatcheries if absolutely necessary, but sometimes they won’t send only a small number of eggs, so consider partnering up with other classrooms during this project so that you can learn together and share a load of eggs if needed.
Consider timing and other logistics.
It takes 21 days to incubate chicken eggs in the classroom, and then the baby chicks will remain in the classroom for 2-3 weeks.
Also, take into consideration that the eggs will need to be turned 3 times per day (even on weekends!) for the first 18 days, so you need to make arrangements for weekend egg turners (teachers or school employees with entry access).
Some incubators have automatic turners, so you may want to consider that feature if access to the eggs is going to be difficult at any point in your incubation process.
Also, plan ahead to find a home for the baby chicks. Some organizations will take the baby chicks back or help with rehoming. In many rural communities, families in your class or school would be happy to adopt.
I like to time my chicken egg incubation unit about 5 weeks before spring parent conferences. That way, parents can sneak a peek at the chicks (and some may even be taking them home that day).
Obtain an incubator.
Some organizations, such as 4H, will lend or rent out incubators, or you can purchase an incubator through school funding, PTO funding, or grant money. If you aren’t sure what kind of incubator to get, this incubator is a good one to use for classroom use.
Prepare a special space.
You’ll want to have a special, designated space in your classroom for the incubator (as quiet as possible where it won’t get bumped). Avoid drafty areas near a window or door. Also, avoid direct sunlight. You will want to keep our eggs cozy, safe, and calm throughout the process!
Set up the incubator.
The incubator will need to be set up and powered on a couple of days before the eggs arrive (make sure it heats to the right temperature of 99-100 degrees F). You’ll also want to make sure the incubator can maintain the correct humidity level (45%-50% for chicken eggs). Most incubators come with thermometers and humidity sensors, but you’ll want to make sure you understand how to adjust those settings and/or make adjustments as needed. If you feel more confident about that before you get the eggs, then that will give you some confidence when the eggs arrive.
Plan out a space and set up a brooder box.
A brooder box is where the baby chicks will live after hatching. A large cardboard or plastic box and a heat lamp with a heat bulb (securely attached) work well. You can use a heat lamp like this one as your heating source.
You will also need some bedding (paper towels at first, then pine chips after a few days) and a water and feed container. I usually drape a towel over the box in the evening to keep the chicks secure overnight.
You’ll also want to get some baby chicken feed, so you will be ready to go when the chicks arrive!
Before you ever get the eggs, prepare your students and lay out some ground rules/behavior expectations. Help students understand that the eggs and baby chicks will do best in a calm, quiet environment.
Important: When you incubate eggs in the classroom things don’t always go according to plan. Always prepare students for the unfortunate event of eggs not hatching, baby chicks dying, etc. This sometimes happens, and it is best if they are prepared for the possibility.
Teach about chicken incubation.
As I mentioned above, I like to spend some time talking and teaching about incubation using my Chickent Egg Incubation resource. We read through the passages, I answer questions, and we make sure that this whole process is a memorable learning experience!
Those are all the basics of setting up and preparing for the process of incubating chicken eggs in the classroom, but over the years, I have identified some other helpful tips that I’d like to pass on… one egg parent to another.
Other helpful tips:
Here are a few tried and true tips!
- Use a pencil to mark an “X” on one side of the egg and an “O” on the opposite side of the egg to keep track of proper egg turning. You may also like to number your eggs for record-keeping purposes.
- When you incubate eggs in the classroom, make a schedule for students to turn the eggs. This will prevent arguments and help students to know when their turn is coming up.
- Establish a hand-washing routine before and after handling eggs and chicks.
- Use a timeline with pictures to keep track of daily chick development inside the egg.
- Try “candling” your eggs with a flashlight to look inside.
- Take lots of pictures and share the process with families. It will be such a memorable experience for the students, and they will love sharing about it at home.
Lastly, even if you’re feeling nervous or overwhelmed, just go for it. The first time you incubate eggs in the classroom is a learning experience for everyone!
Often, local 4-H clubs are happy to help, and they may even send a speaker to help with the process and set-up. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!