Hatching Eggs or Hatching Problems?
Hatching chicken eggs is often done as a classroom project to demonstrate a part of animal life cycles. If you’re considering such an activity, here are some points to consider:
Successfully hatching chicks from eggs is not as simple as you might think
Unless you’re experienced at hatching and raising chicks, it’s very difficult to maintain conditions for eggs to hatch and chicks to survive. An incubator needs to be closely monitored and in a classroom setting that can be very difficult. Even with the best intentions and care, problems can arise that result in chicks being born malformed.
Eggs don’t lay themselves
Hatching eggs alone doesn’t show the entire life cycle. In nature, chicks are raised by their mothers who take an active role in their lives. Mother hens carefully turn their eggs frequently to prevent the embryo from being deformed. After the chicks hatch, the mother hen teaches them and cares for them. Watch this short 2-minute video to see the relationship between hen and chick.
What will you do with the chicks afterwards?
You need to ensure you have a place for them. Many commercial operations won’t take chickens from outside their facility to prevent the spread of disease. Under no circumstances should they be sent home with children whose families are not equipped to care for them.
Birds and other animals can pose a health risk.
There is a risk of Salmonella to people who have contact with live poultry and chicks are good vectors for zoonotic diseases. This 2015 Health Canada public notice highlights some of the dangers and symptoms of Salmonella infection, and how to take precautions.
There are also real concerns about human strains of avian flu being introduced to North America. Teachers should not participate in hatching activities until they have researched current information and are confident that recognized international sources such as the Centres for Disease Control and the World Health Organization – as well as Alberta Health Services – have not issued alerts about increased potential risk.
What are you teaching?
Your students look up to you as a role model for demonstrating responsible stewardship. If chicks are injured or killed during their time in the classroom, what message does that send to your students? Are you teaching them to appreciate the diversity of life found in nature, or inadvertently showing that animal life is disposable?
You are legally responsible.
As the person in charge of the animals, you are responsible under the Animal Protection Act for ensuring they are cared for and free from distress. The maximum fine for an offense under the Act is $20,000.
There are YouTube videos that demonstrate egg hatching:
Chick hatching (Cornell Lab Bird Cam)
How chickens breath in an egg? (NPR)
If you want to demonstrate the wonders of animal life to your students, there are many alternatives you can use.
See the other pages in this section for some classroom and outdoor ideas. If you have other ideas you would like to share, please send an email.