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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – One of the phrases used over and over in the 4-H realm, “learning
by doing”, became a reality for some Garland County students over the past several
weeks. About a dozen members of the newly formed Hot Springs 4-H Schools Club chose
embryology and poultry as their project. Upon receiving project books to help them
learn about their project, students began to ask if there was any way to purchase
fertile eggs to try to hatch. Many of the members had never been around chickens
before, so most were quite clueless about hatching and raising chickens. Not knowing
where to begin to find fertile eggs, we called one of the Garland County Fairgrounds
poultry superintendents for possible contacts. He was very instrumental in providing
the group with 36 “possibly fertile” eggs.
Incubation of eggs in the classroom setting is usually quite hard, especially
when the incubation begins with day one. Eggs take 21 days to hatch. Usually Styrofoam
incubators designed for hatching eggs are used. This type of incubator sometimes
presents a problem with keeping the humidity at the correct level. The temperature
and humidity inside an incubator are very critical for a good percentage of hatching
live chicks. Because of the two-day weekends, many times eggs are lost due to the
loss of humidity as the incubator is unmonitored on those days.
Lots of other factors play an important part of a successful classroom hatch.
One factor is to make sure opening the incubator is limited. Kids are excited about
the prospect of baby chicks and naturally will want to open the lid to check on them,
especially as the hatch time nears. Small windows on the lid of the incubator make
seeing the eggs difficult, but raising the lid for anything other than adding water
should be extremely limited.
Another factor for a successful hatch rate is to be sure the room outside the
incubator remains at a constant temperature. Temperature changes in the surrounding
room can affect the temperature of the inside of the incubator. Temperatures of less
than 70 degrees can make it difficult to keep the inside of the incubator warm enough
for the embryos to develop.
Also of importance is to not handle the eggs with bare hands. Even if hands
are washed, oils from a person’s hands will remain on the outer shell of the egg,
causing the porous shell to not absorb the humidity properly. Although it is best
not to handle the eggs, when it is necessary gloves should be worn.
The 4-H’ers monitoring the incubation process at the Hot Springs Schools 4-H
Club worked together to make sure all the variables that could harm their project
were addressed. First of all, they placed the incubator in a place where students
would not bother the incubator. Signs were posted alerting the rest of the students
that “incubation was in progress and please do not disturb the chicks”. A schedule
was developed by the students themselves for monitoring the humidity constantly.
Protocol was developed and posted near the incubator as to what was to be done if
the humidity or temperature wavered beyond certain boundaries. “Google” was used
to log the temperature and humidity so that all the project members could access the
document telling what was happening at all times. Each member of the team had a specific
job. Weekend monitoring was important as someone was responsible for checking on
the process even on Saturdays and Sundays.
After a thrilling (but somewhat stressful) three weeks of incubation, 32 of the
36 eggs hatched in the classroom—a percentage rate that was remarkable for a classroom
incubation process! As the project was ongoing, the kids learned about responsibility
and teamwork. Hard work and dedication to this project really paid off for them.
Look for these chickens to be shown at the fair this fall!
By Linda Bates County Extension Agent - 4-HThe Cooperative Extension ServiceU of A System Division of Agriculture
Media Contact: Linda Bates County Extension Agent - 4-H
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
236 Woodbine Hot Springs AR 71901
The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal
access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to
participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension
office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.
The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible
persons regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national
origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information,
or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity