National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix
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Inside the Egg, Hatching Chicks (Grades 3-5)
3 - 5
1 - 2 hours
Students will learn about biology by studying embryo development in chicken eggs.
- Fertile eggs
- Information on sourcing fertile eggs can be found in the Hatching Science Center
- Modeling clay
- 1 high-intensity LED flashlight (e.g., 6" Mini Maglite)
- A Chick Hatches—Embryo Development Wheel activity sheet, 1 per student
- Crayons or colored pencils
- Large paper plates, 2 per student
- Metal craft brads, 1 per student
Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)
embryology: branch of biology that studies the development of gametes (sex cells), fertilization, and development of embryos
hen: a mature female chicken
rooster: a mature male chicken
Did you know? (Ag Facts)
- Eggs are the least expensive source of high-quality protein for our diets.
- Eggs have 6 grams of protein and only 70 calories.
- Most laying hens in the U.S. are Single-Comb White Leghorns.
- The U.S. produces about 75 billion eggs a year, which is 10% of the world supply.
- There are 7-17 thousand tiny pores on the egg shell surface.
- Some hen breeds can lay up to 300 eggs per year.
Background Agricultural Connections
Interest Approach – Engagement
- Use one of the four virtual field trips created by The American Egg Board and Discovery Education to introduce the topic and create student interest in the production of eggs.
Activity One: Candling an Egg
- If you have eggs with white shells, they can be candled around the fourth day of the incubation cycle. Dark-shelled eggs may be difficult to see through and will give better results after about a week. Dirt on the shells can be brushed away. Do not wash the eggs with water - washing destroys the protective coating that prevents bacteria from entering the shell.
- It is not necessary to purchase an expensive egg candler. An effective candler can be made using a high-intensity LED flashlight and modeling clay. Wrap the clay around the top of the flashlight to created a nest for the egg. The clay will seal between the flashlight and the egg and will focus the light through the egg.
- Carefully hold an egg's wide end in the center of the opening directly over the beam of light (so that the entire oval is illuminated). You may need to dim or turn off any outside lighting to candle the eggs. Remember to be extremely careful with the eggs; even small cracks can inhibit successful hatching.
- In a fertile egg, there will be a fine network of veins running out from a dark center. Eggs with no visible embryonic development are infertile, while an egg with a few small blood spots is a fertilized egg in which the embryo has died. For pictures of fertile eggs, viable eggs and bad eggs, visit the websites in the Essential Links section of this lesson.
- Discuss the changes that the embryo will go through and the nature of living things using the following questions:
- Which is the living thing-the eggshell or the embryo? Why is the embryo alive? What are the characteristics of a living thing?
- What does the egg need from the hen? Could the egg hatch on its own without the help of a hen or human (like in the incubator)? How is this similar to a child's reliance on their parents? Do plants require a parent to take care of them?
- How are plants and animals similar? How are they different? How do plants and animals differ from rocks and other non-living things?
- Ask the students to list things in a chart that will need to be done in order to hatch the chicks and/or take care of them after they hatch (put water in the incubator, watch the temperature in the incubator, rotate the eggs, provide clean water, provide food, keep them warm). Explain to the students that these are the things a hen would do to care for her eggs.
- Have the students list the needs of a baby or child? How does an adult know how to care for a baby or child? Explain to the students that people, animals, and plants are all living things that use energy to grow, develop, and reproduce.
Activity Two: Inside the Egg, Embryo Development Wheel
- Give each student a copy of the activity sheet A Chick Hatches—Embryo Development Wheel and two paper plates.
- Instruct them to color the activity sheet and cut along the dashed lines as indicated on the page.
- Next, students should glue the square titled “A Chick Hatches” with the picture of a fully developed chick in the center of one of the paper plate. Tell the students to write their names below the square. This will be the development wheel cover.
- Instruct the students to put the remaining stages of development in numerical order according to the day (indicated by the number in the egg on the upper left side). Then, paste the stages of development in order around the edge of the second paper plate.
- Have the students cut a three-sided window just below their name on the previous plate (the development wheel cover). Lay this plate over top of the one that has the development stages pasted around the outer edge. The cut-out window should be large enough that one development stage picture can be seen through it.
- Finally, place a metal brad through the center of both paper plates so that a rotating storyteller is formed. Divide the students into pairs and have them share their development story wheels.
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation
After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:
- Chickens are raised for the eggs hens produce as well as for meat.
- All chickens begin their life by developing inside an egg.
- A healthy chick grows inside an egg that is kept at the proper temperature and humidity. Developing chicks also need nourishment which they receive from the yolk inside the egg.
We welcome your feedback! Please take a minute to tell us how to make this lesson better or to give us a few gold stars!
Have your students take the Farm to Table Journey with Education Station to learn more about each stage of an egg's journey.
Visit the 4-H Embryology Project for more information. Contact your local Cooperative Extension Service or 4-H office in your county. They may provide you with the materials needed to hatch chicken eggs in your classroom.
Read the book Chicks and Chickens written by Gail Gibbons to your class.
Use the hands-on activities in the lesson plan From Chicken Little to Chicken Big to explore the production of chicken and eggs for food and teach students about the life cycle and genetics of chickens.
Suggested Companion Resources
- The Life Cycle of a Chicken (Activity)
- Chick Life Cycle (Book)
- Chicks & Chickens (Book)
- Daisy Comes Home (Book)
- Farm Animals: Chickens (Book)
- Hatching Chicks in Room 6 (Book)
- Inside An Egg (Book)
- One Egg (Book)
- One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference (Book)
- Sonya's Chickens (Book)
- The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County (Book)
- Tillie Lays an Egg (Book)
- Zinnia and Dot (Book)
- Chicken Genetics Matching Cards (Kit)
- Countdown to Hatch (Kit)
- Livestock Cards (Poster, Map, Infographic)
- Chick Embryology YouTube Playlist (Multimedia)
- Chicken Embryo Development (Multimedia)
- Eggs 101: A Video Project (Multimedia)
- Hatching Science: 21 Days of Discovery Video (Multimedia)
- Virtual Egg Farm Field Trips (Multimedia)
- Poultry Reader (Booklets & Readers)
- Hatching Classroom Projects (Teacher Reference)
- Embryology and Poultry Resources (Website)
- Hatching Science Center (Website)
Agricultural Literacy Outcomes
Plants and Animals for Food, Fiber & Energy
- Provide examples of specific ways farmers meet the needs of animals (T2.3-5.d)
Common Core Connections
Language: Anchor Standards
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.6Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering an unknown term important to comprehension or expression.
3-LS1: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
3-LS1-1Develop models to describe that organisms have unique and diverse life cycles but all have in common birth, growth, reproduction, and death.
4-LS1: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
4-LS1-1Construct an argument that plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction.