Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Chicken Educational Unit

My first grader's school is going to do a unit on chicks, and are excited to have me show them how chicks hatch. They're going to borrow my incubator and have the whole process at school. It's going to be a lesson in patience for me, since I won't be able to go in and candle a million times, but that has to be good for me, right?

Here's an email I sent to her teacher with a lot of helpful links and information. Hopefully the links stay alive. If one dies, please let me know so I can remove it.

It's possible to "candle" an egg and see the chick's development. Here's a link where someone took a picture each day so you can see the progression: http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/261876/chicks-are-here-egg-candling-pics-progression-though-incubation

It's also possible to see the chick moving around when candling. Here's a video I took of one of my chicks moving around at 10 days incubation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qlrhtLc2_6Q  (if you do a youtube search for "candling Chicken Eggs", you'll find many more videos, and probably of better quality.

This video won an award from Nikon. It shows a chicken embryo at 72 hours development. The scientist injects a bit of black dye and you see the circulatory system spread the dye through the embryo, as well as through the yolk. If you watch closely, you can also see it's heart beating and moving the blood around. http://www.nikoninstruments.com/News/US-News/Chick-Embryo-Takes-Top-Prize-in-First-Year-of-Nikon-Small-World-in-Motion-Competition

Here is a time lapse video of a chick hatching. From "pip" (when the first tiny hole appears) to hatch can be anywhere from 2-30 hours (in my experience, it's in the 12-20 hour range).  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tof5b1Qs_OE&feature=related

(here's some fertilization information that may be dicey to share with the kids)  Most eggs that you buy from the grocery store are not fertile, which means that a chick will never develop from them. For a chick to develop, there has to be a rooster around the hens. In commercial egg farms, they don't keep a rooster around. Much like a human, a chicken will produce an egg whether or not a man (or rooster) is around. A hen can produce fertile weeks up to 3 weeks after a rooster has been taken out of the pen. Did you know that you can tell the difference between a fertile egg and a non-fertile egg? The difference is subtle, but there.

A non fertile egg will have a tiny white spot on it.  A fertile egg will have a larger spot, with a bullseye around it.  Examples: http://www.ca.uky.edu/smallflocks/_images/Fertile_vs_Infertile_egg.png

Many people think that a blood spot in the egg means that it is fertile. This is not true- it just means that the chicken was startled or had a slight injury when that egg was forming. They're perfectly safe to eat.

Even if an egg is fertile, it will not start developing unless it's incubated. If the egg farmer collects all eggs daily, and keeps them below 99 degrees, no chicks will form. If a hen goes "broody" (i.e. she sits in the nest all day and tries to sit on the eggs all day), she will steal others' eggs and sit on them, hoping to incubate them. If she does that for several days, those eggs will show development. I've also heard of eggs starting to develop if they're left in the hot hot (think 100 degree days) sun for days on end.

Fertile eggs can sit for several days before either being placed under a broody hen or into an incubator. I've heard that eggs can be up to 3 weeks old and still develop a chick. Fresh eggs do have a better rate of hatch though.

Many people will actually order "hatching eggs" from people in other places and have them shipped to them. Viability tends to go down with shipped eggs because the jostling can damage the eggs. I actually had eggs shipped to me over 2,000 miles during the Christmas rush in December, and still had 5/7 eggs hatch (the 6th completely developed, but died before hatch).

A grown up girl chicken is called a hen. A grown up boy chicken is called a rooster. Under a year of age, a boy chicken is called a cockerel. A girl chicken that hasn't started laying eggs yet is called a pullet.

Some classes will create a hatch countdown chart. There's lots of fun math activities that can be done to figure out how many days are left, how many have gone by, etc.

Here's a couple songs you can also teach the kids to sing about chickens.

Peep, Peep, Peep(Jingle Bells)by Lisa Curtis
Peep, peep, peep!
Peep, peep, peep!
We are hatching chicks/ducks!
We have waited for so long
And now they have arrived!
Peep, peep, peep!
Peep, peep, peep!
We are hatching chicks/ducks!
Yellow, fluffy, and so cute
We have baby chicks/ducks!
I'm a Little Chicken(I'm a Little Teapot)
by Susan Peters
I'm a little chicken,Ready to hatch,Pecking at my shell,Scratch, scratch, scratch.When I crack it open, out I'll leap,Fluff up my feathers and cheep, cheep, cheep!

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