Students at Harlan County Christian School and all other schools across the county are being given the opportunity to have hands-on lessons in animal science thanks to Harlan County Extension Agent for 4-H and Youth Development Raymond Cox, who has conducted this project for the past nine years.
“Every school in the county is being furnished with an incubator and two dozen eggs,” said Cox. “The University of Kentucky furnishes the eggs, however, if we run short we do have farmers in the area who will donate eggs to us for this project.
Cox said once the students place the eggs in the incubator, the teacher assists the children to make sure the temperature is kept at 100 degrees Fahrenheit. He said water is placed in the bottom of the incubator, which provides a relative humidity of 60 percent for the first 18 days.
“The last three days they have to add more water to bring the relative humidity to 75 or 80 percent,” said Cox. “This helps keep the baby chicks from sticking to the insides of the shell and hatch properly. After the chicks hatch I have several people in the community who raise chickens whom I distribute them to.”
Cox said in a “good hatching” you will get a 75 percent success rate. He said last year the percentage rate was low because he felt they used a “meatier type” chicken egg.
“This year we’re using white-legging chickens, which are really good layers,” said Cox. “They seem to hatch better and go on to lay eggs all year long.”
Harlan County Christian School fifth-graders Caleb Ashley and Jared Turner both agreed “it’s fun to watch the eggs and the little chickens develop before hatching.”
“It’s a learning experience,” said Turner. “It’s like the miracle of birth — only different. I like when we get to look inside the egg and see the chicken actually forming.”
Cox said the three main components students learn from this experience are the life cycle of fowl, responsibility and leadership.
“The students learn the science of how a chicken develops from an embryo to birth,” said Cox. “We will candle the eggs later on and they’ll be able to see the progress each day. We also want the students to learn how to care for animals and fowl. It teaches them leadership, by taking on one of the jobs themselves during the 21-day experience which helps enable the egg to hatch, such as providing the water for the incubator or watching the temperature gauge to make sure the heat is consistent.”
Cox said the incubator has a “turner” inside, which rotates the eggs two to three times a day. He said this mimics the mother hen who actually does turn her eggs twice a day when she is sitting to hatch.
“We’ll be bringing the students recipes they can use to make meals using eggs,” said Cox. “We want them to know the importance of eating eggs and the nutrients they provide.”
Fifth grade student Katelyn Crider said she “can’t wait to see and hold the little chicks when they are born.”
Reach Nola Sizemore at 606-573-4510 or at firstname.lastname@example.org