Modern Tips for Hatching Eggs for Kids in Classrooms
Working with New Security Protocols to Provide Hatching Eggs or Bedding for ChicksPromoted by Brinsea
The rules have changed.
When I was a kid, hatching eggs for kids in schools was as simple as bringing in eggs and an incubator. The eggs sat for 21 days, chicks hatched, and kindergarteners gathered in fascination. Then a farmer arrived to take the chicks home to their new coop.
In the years since I was a kid, and I raised my own children, I have watched laws, policies, and procedures tighten up.
So here are some things to consider if you’re a chicken owner or teacher considering hatching eggs for kids in a classroom.
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The Rules Have Changed
I’m in luck. Since I’ve never committed a felony, all I must do to enter a classroom during school hours is to fill out an application to volunteer, then get fingerprinted at the Sheriff’s Department, wait for the prints to come back, then receive authorization from school administration. I press a button outside the school door, smile at the security camera, wait to be buzzed in, then sign in at the office before proceeding to the classroom with my fertilized chicken eggs.
Your local schools may be different, depending on the size of your school, town or city, and the rate of local crime. That’s just the way it is these days.
If you do have to follow this protocol each time you enter the classroom to set up an incubator, turn and check on eggs, and provide bedding for baby chicks, it may become tiresome. It may be worth it…or the teacher might just ask if they can set and monitor the eggs themselves.
While setting and incubating chicken eggs may be easy, then comes the portion where caring for chicks requires a heat lamp, food and water, pine shavings for chickens, etc. Does the school have a specific fire code that bans certain heat lamps or setups, where it didn’t when we were children? Is the classroom unmonitored during certain hours?
Keeping Kids and Chicks Safe
The point is … we care about our kids. We care about our chicks. And the goal when hatching eggs for kids is a fun, fascinating learning experience. No parent or teacher wants to deal with little tragedies that happen during hatching, especially if they are preventable.
Six years ago, a friend of mine who taught kindergarten asked if I was hatching or buying chicks that year, so she could bring them to her classroom for a week and let the kids watch them. I panicked for a second. Did she know how to raise baby chicks? What to feed baby chicks and how long chicks need a heat lamp? And how will she ensure little human hands won’t delve into the brooder to hurt little chick bodies?
I could not enter her classroom to set up the brooder due to my work schedule and the school’s security protocols. So, I gathered every piece of food and equipment she would need … and handed it all off. I am happy to say everything went well, and I received the chicks back soon enough that I successfully placed them in the care of a broody hen.
A Teacher’s Hand Stretches So Far
One question to ask, when determining whether to provide hatching eggs for kids in a classroom, is about the teacher’s knowledge and resources. Many classes are overfilled, with one teacher for over 30 kids. A teacher’s responsibilities may include watching special needs kids or those with high-risk behavioral issues. Depending on the needs of the classroom, will the teacher be able to devote attention to humidity, temperature, and turning the eggs?
Maybe they can; maybe it’s a daunting task. Maybe they have an aide to help out, or farm experience to guide them so they don’t have to devote time to learning about hatching and how to care for baby chicks.
If the teacher is unable to commit 100 percent to the project, and requires your help, learn security protocols and make adjustments depending on how and when you are allowed in the classroom.
But it can be done!
Technology to The Rescue!
Hatching eggs in classrooms requires finding those hatching eggs for kids, setting them in the incubator, monitoring humidity and temperature, turning the eggs, then initiating “lockdown” procedures during those last several days. Cheap incubators just keep eggs warm while the operator must add water, open the unit to turn eggs by hand, etc.
If you are a teacher planning on hatching eggs for kids on a regular basis, or a farmer hoping to provide these projects often, it pays to invest in an automatic incubator that does most of these tasks. This allows a “set it and forget it” operation where a volunteer can set the eggs during allowable hours, or the teacher can start incubation before kids enter the classroom, and the incubator requires much less attention.
Then comes the issue of the heat lamp. They’re dangerous, they may be against fire code, and may be knocked aside by rowdy kids or turned off by a janitor that doesn’t know how crucial it is for the chicks. So many issues can happen, and you don’t want the moment of hatch to be when you learn that your only available source of chick heat cannot enter the classroom.
Sanitation can be a third concern, where rules may require that the brooder is covered so dust and bedding cannot fly up…and little hands cannot reach in. If you have a heat lamp, it is more difficult to find a lid or screen that won’t melt or increase fire hazards.
Heat plates, also called “chick brooders,” are small units that sit within the brooder pen and radiate just enough heat to warm chicks beneath it. They don’t light up, are safe if knocked over, and won’t get knocked off a shelf by a backpack swinging over a child’s shoulder. Chicks soon learn to run under the plates when cold, then out to eat and drink when warmed up, much like they do when raised by a mother hen. Be sure you match heat plate size to the number of eggs you set, since they come in sizes to warm 15 to 40 babies. You don’t want to hatch 20 eggs if your heater only warms 15. Though the units adjust higher as chicks grow, classroom chicks are usually rehomed before this is necessary.
The Right Time and Place
Okay, so you have the incubators, brooder heat, food and water, and security clearance figured out. What next?
If you don’t want those eggs to hatch on a weekend, where kids can’t see it occur, set the eggs on a Tuesday or Wednesday. Then set up a candling schedule: check day five or seven to see if veins have developed, then at least once per week to ensure eggs are growing and haven’t died in the shell. Mark out “lockdown” on the calendar so the teacher knows the incubator cannot be touched during that time. (A weekend would be a great period for lockdown.)
Arrange to care for the chick’s immediate needs, such as food and water, or instruct the teacher how to do this. Explain to the teacher about pasting on baby chicks, why grit is important, etc. Be sure heat is always available to the chicks.
If the teacher has no previous experience with hatching eggs for kids, advise them not to pull away pieces of shell and assist in hatching. Remind them that not all chicks survive, so they can plan what to say or do if this happens. Since I was a kid, I have found that more parents are not okay with teachers explaining that life cycle, or allowing children to witness a small animal’s death, and the parents want to handle that themselves.
Though modern rules and protocols can be frustrating, they are in place for a reason. Working with changing rules allows the kids to keep learning as well as they did when you were a child. Back when hatching eggs for kids in classrooms was much simpler.