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Hatching Chicks in the Classroom

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The ultimate goal of this project is to hatch chicks! Remember that not all eggs will hatch, and prepare your students for this. Don’t name the eggs or even assign students to a specific egg, because it may not hatch. I have hatched out over a thousand eggs and never had a 100% hatch rate. That being said, once some eggs hatch, your students will forget about the other eggs due to the excitement.

Let’s Talk about Lockdown

What is the lockdown period during incubation? Days 18-21 are called ‘lockdown’ because you pull the egg turner out of the incubator, increase the humidity, and don’t open anything up until the hatch is over. Three days before hatching, a hen will sit on her eggs and not move until they all hatch.

The egg turner is taken out and the eggs are left still for three days. This allows the chick to be able to orient itself correctly in order to hatch.

Do not open the incubator during lockdown!  Any drop in humidity can be a disaster for a hatch. The humidity is high during the lockdown in order to keep the membranes inside the egg moist and ready for the hatch.

How do Chicks Hatch?

It can take up to 24 hours for a chick to fully hatch from the egg.  It is critical that you not help any chick out of its egg during the hatch. Chicks absorb their blood vessels just prior to exiting the egg, so if you help a chick out of an egg, you could create a situation where they bleed out and die.

The general rule of thumb is that if a chick can not get out of the egg on their own, they are not healthy enough to make it outside the egg.

Chicks begin hatching by ‘pipping.’  You will see a small place on the egg where they have made a move from the egg to come out. Pipping allows the chick to be able to breathe during the process.

Here is a video from a hatch I did in June of 2021 where many eggs have pipped:

Next, chicks will start to ‘zip’ out of the egg. ‘Zipping’ is where they begin to break out of the egg by opening the egg as though there was a zipper around the egg. Below is a photo of a chick that has already hatched next to an egg that is ‘zipping.’  This is from a hatch I did in March 2023.

A chick in an incubator with a hatching egg.

Once a chick hatches, they are wet and need to fluff up. They also sleep a lot the first day of their lives, it takes a lot of work to break out of an egg and they are tired. So it may look like your chicks are dead, but they are just sleeping — trust me! Do not open the incubator until after the entire hatch is over!

Chicks can stay in the incubator for 24 hours without food or water. They absorb the remainder of the yolk right before hatch to give them energy and nutrients. This gives everyone time to safely hatch and dry off!

Here is a photo from a hatch in March 2023 of a newly hatched chick:

A newly born chick in an incubator.

Here is a video from NC State Extension with a livestream of hatching chicks:

Written By

Sally Dixon, N.C. Cooperative ExtensionSally DixonCounty Extension Director & Extension Agent, Agriculture / Community Development Call Sally Email Sally N.C. Cooperative Extension, Haywood County Center
Page Last Updated: 10 months ago
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