By Susan Moody, first-grade teacher at St. Patrick School in Weston Hatching chicks at St. Patrick School is something we all look forward to.  This project has been going on each year, with the exception of last year, for 13 years. It is something that students remember; the good, the bad, and the ugly.  And we have had all of that.  This project lasts for 4-4 ½ weeks. Three weeks of the incubation process and then a week or so of the chicks living in our classroom. We have been getting our eggs from a local chicken farmer and former first-grade parent, Liza Surrock, for about 6 years. We start off with a discussion on the incubator and the importance of a constant temperature and humidity.  We track the progress of development each day by watching a Youtube Video that shows what is happening inside the egg from day 1 through day 21.   Students keep a Chick Hatching Journal, which teaches them some vocabulary such as brooding, candling, egg tooth, etc.  Students also draw what the chick looks like on a specific day and write a description of the development; for example on day 2 the heart begins to beat.  I mark each egg with

a letter of the alphabet and students name the eggs according to the letter. This way we can track who is fertilized and who isn’t and who hatches and who does not.

Courtesy Photo First graders at St. Patrick School in Weston participate in the annual hatching chicks project. At right, Father Doug Ondeck blesses the eggs and the “candling” process. 

Throughout the 3 weeks, we do some different projects along with doing the journal.  In one project the students each take care of their own egg (hardboiled of course). They make a nest for the egg to stay warm, name their egg, turn their egg (which is what a mamma hen does) and do frequent safety checks.  If they leave their egg without someone watching it, then a predator (me) may come and take it, because that can happen in real life. Another project we do is candling the eggs.  This is how we find out which eggs are fertilized and which ones are not.  We use a high-powered flashlight on the eggs to see inside.  If it is fertilized, we will see the chick’s eye, veins and the air sac.   Students also do a life cycle project sometime during the three weeks.  The last project we do is with the book “Chicks and Salsa”.  Students get to eat chips and salsa. Day 21 is the most exciting day of the year!  If a chick has hatched before they come in, I always send pictures to parents so the kids can see.  During the school day, I put the Elmo on the incubator so everything will show on the Smartboard.  Students will cry when they watch a new life happening. They already know these chicks from spending so much time with them in the previous three weeks.  For the next week or so, the chicks will live with us. Students will get to watch them and hold them and love them.  At the end of the project, if a parent wants a chick or two, then they will go to their new home.  I have never had a chick that wasn’t wanted.  But, Liza Surrock, the chicken farmer we get our eggs from, has a home.