4-H Embryology Project Hatches “Eggsperts”

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Newly hatched chicks in brooder box under a heat lamp

The annual 4-H Embryology Project wrapped up March 24th, as eight classrooms around Caldwell County returned their incubators and equipment. However, instead of the fertile eggs with which they began, they returned fluffy, active chicks!

In early March, eggs, incubators, and related equipment and supplies were distributed to interested classrooms for monitoring as they developed. Several times each day, the temperature and humidity were logged, and the eggs were turned. Meanwhile, school studies were centered on embryology and just what was happening inside that egg. At the appropriate time, the eggs were “candled” to determine viability and the hatch countdown continued. Eventually, the much anticipated day arrived, and the “nursery” bin (called a brooder box) was assembled with shavings, a heat lamp, water, and food. While that was exciting, it didn’t compare to watching the little beaks appear as they pecked their way out of the shells! As Beth Vonnegut, a 2nd grade teacher at Valmead Elementary, described it, “Priceless watching their faces as they heard the peeps and saw them trying to hatch out!”

As the chicks hatched, they were allowed a short recuperation, then moved to the brooder box to await the others. Also, to be monitored very, very closely by the students! The excitement spread throughout the schools, with many other classes and individual students dropping by to visit the new chicks and marvel at the hatching process. Some chicks were placed into extra brooder boxes to share with other classrooms for the day.

Since not everyone could participate in person, an incubator was set up in the N.C. Cooperative Extension office and the hatching process was live streamed to classes throughout the two days of hatching. Classes were able to interact with 4-H personnel, asking questions and watching the process closely. The entire process will be edited and available for them to review later, since many of the chicks seemed to prefer to arrive when school was out!

After the hatch, students wrapped up the project and were encouraged to reflect on what they had learned from the process. The hatched chicks were returned to the Extension office on Friday for vaccinations and adoption.

In total, there were 8 classrooms which incubated 120 eggs. Those classrooms involved 155 students. That number doesn’t include the number of classrooms which dropped in for visits, nor the number of online/remote participants. The 2023 4-H Embryology Project is a success, and we look forward to repeating it next year!