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Lessons from the miracle of life

April 25, 2008|By LISA PREJEAN

We have some cute chicks in third grade.

They're all fluffy and soft, and they really like to chirp, especially when the teacher asks a question.

There are little chickens in a brooder at the back of our classroom, the result of the embryology project we started April 1.

Each day we recorded the temperature, made sure there was enough water in the incubator and checked to see if the egg turner was still working.

We waited and watched for 21 days, and our patience finally paid off.

Last Friday we took 24 eggs out of the automatic turner and placed them on wire mesh inside the incubator.

That's where they stayed, all nice and warm and cozy over the weekend.

I stopped in to check on them Sunday afternoon, and so did one of my colleagues, but we didn't notice any activity.


Perhaps the chicks were saving that for the kids.

Little chirping sounds coming from a small hole in one of the eggs greeted us when we entered the classroom Monday morning.

It truly was a wonderful thing to experience. I never imagined that a chicken would start chirping before it was completely hatched. Here was a little creature pecking away at her shell, all the while chirping her entrance into the world.

We were all captivated when the first chicken came out of its shell Monday afternoon. It was all wet and sickly looking. We wondered if she would make it. Then we wondered how such a big chick fit into such a small egg.

Later that night I stopped in to find another chick had hatched. We called those two our preemies because they were born a day early.

From Monday night to Tuesday morning, four more chicks hatched. When the seventh one hatched Tuesday as school was getting ready to begin, it was very interesting to observe the behavior of the chickens.

The ones who had hatched early seemed to be poking and pecking and chirping at the eggs that hadn't hatched yet.

Beth A. Bubacz, extension educator for 4-H Youth Development, told me to tell my students that those chickens were calling to their unhatched friends, encouraging them to come out and join the hatched ones.

When the first chicks that had hatched seemed dry enough on Tuesday afternoon, we transferred them from the incubator to the brooder, a heated shelter for raising young fowl. Our brooder is an empty fish aquarium with a clip-on reading light.

After the eighth chick hatched Tuesday afternoon, the older ones seemed to be picking on the younger one, nudging, pecking and prodding him to get up and move. (It wasn't enough that he had hatched. Now his friends wanted him to be active, as well.) My students didn't like to see the bigger ones picking on the smaller one, but I explained that they were just trying to help. Chickens are tired and wet when they are born, but if they move around a bit, it helps them to dry off.

We'll certainly miss these little guys when they each go to a good home next week, but we are thankful to have had this opportunity to see a miracle of life unfold before our eyes.

These adorable creatures were made possible through the Embryology in the Classroom program offered by Maryland Cooperative Extension Service for grades two through eight.

Teachers can express an interest by completing a form. The training cost is $5, which includes the usage fee for the incubator, feeder, waterer, curriculum, poster, receiving eggs and starter feed.

For more information about the program, call Bubacz at 301-791-1404 or e-mail her at

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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