K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

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Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • Learn how to use an incubator to allow fertilized eggs to develop and hatch.
  • Study the parts of the egg, stages of development, and the needs of the developing embryo.
  • Observe the development of the chick by candling the eggs and will predict how many eggs they think will hatch.
  • Classify which animals are oviparous and which are not.
  • Provide for the needs of the newborn chicks.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

4 weeks


  • 4-H Embryology Leader’s Curriculum Guide and Member’s Manual (Available through North Carolina Agricultural Extension Service)
  • incubator
  • fertilized eggs (approximately one dozen)
  • light source for candling such as a projector
  • reference materials (encyclopedias, nonfiction books bibliography)
  • Fiction books
  • embryology booklet for each child to record information
  • brooder box with light source for heat, chicken feed, kitty litter, water bottle

Technology resources

A word processing program and internet access


  • Students clean the incubator and place water in the troughs for humidity. Temperature is adjusted to 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit for twenty-four hours prior to putting eggs in incubator.
  • Rules and procedures for using the incubator, handling the eggs, and safety precautions due to burner in incubator are discussed.
  • Students are assigned dates and times that they are responsible for turning the eggs, documenting temperature, and controlling humidity.
  • Students decorate cover of their embryology booklets.
  • Students predict how many eggs will actually hatch. Teacher and students discuss the possibility that some or even all may not hatch. Students will need to be prepared for this.


  1. Eggs will be placed in the incubator after the temperature has been calibrated for twenty-four hours at 99.5 degree Fahrenheit
  2. Eggs will be numbered using a pencil. Circle the number. Mark the other side with an X. This helps to determine which eggs you have turned. The eggs may be given names. (My class enjoys naming the eggs.)
  3. On the first day and the last three days you do not turn the eggs.
  4. Every other day eggs should be turned three times per day. On weekends, turn the eggs one time per day. Students should note humidity, temperature, and time of each turning, documenting each. Water should be added to the troughs.
  5. After the third day, you may wish to candle the eggs. Instructions are in the materials from 4-H. We use a projector with a bright light. Do not candle after the eighteenth day. This is an exciting part of the activity. You can see the chicks move, see blood vessels, note heartbeat, etc. It can also be a trying time, if there appears to be nothing inside.
  6. Throughout the activity, students record observations and predictions of hatch in their individual books, especially following candling.
  7. We read a multitude of fiction books and poems about chickens, chicks, eggs, birds, etc. during the unit. I include poems in their booklets.
  8. Students choose a book to read individually. They write a summary of the book and make a poster illustrating their book. We then read our books to the class and share our posters. Students enjoy this.
  9. Students label and color the parts of an egg and the parts of a hen in their booklets. We discuss the function of each part.
  10. After reading Chickens Aren’t the Only Ones by Ruth Heller, students research other oviparous animals using nonfiction books and other reference materials, including use of the internet. Reading Rainbow also has an excellent video of Chickens Aren’t the Only Ones.
  11. Using the internet, students research poultry farms in North Carolina. They type their final paper using a word processor program.
  12. Students are given several pictures of birds to identify. They may use the Internet or any other reference materials to identify these birds. They must find the name of the bird, its habitat, and at least one interesting fact about the bird.
  13. We make pop-up books, put on plays of Chicken Little or Henny Penny, and The Little Red Hen, write poems using the computer to publish, and complete art activities integrating our unit. We read Rechenka’s Eggs by Patricia Polacco and decorate eggs we have drawn or blow eggs and decorate the eggshells.
  14. We collect favorite chicken and/or egg recipes to create a cookbook.
  15. In math, in addition to using a thermometer, we weigh the eggs, use graph paper and find the area of the eggs. (I usually bring eggs from home for all activities in case of accidents.)
  16. Throughout the unit, students follow the stages of development. The 4-H material includes an excellent chart. We post the current and previous stages as we proceed through the unit.
  17. Chicks should begin to hatch on or about the twenty-first day. The brooder box with a light source for heat, chicken feed, water jar, and kitty liter should be in place for this event.
  18. Discuss the needs of the baby chicks, such as food, water, a clean, safe and warm environment.
  19. At the end of the unit students record a summary of the experiment and results in their booklets.
  20. Be sure somebody has been designated to pick up the chicks about three days after hatching. Students may not keep a chick as a pet.


Teacher observation is an important part of the assessment in this unit. I also assess their research assignments and individual booklets.

Supplemental information

  • Chickens Aren’t the Only Ones by Ruth Heller
  • Chickens Aren’t the Only Ones video published by Reading Rainbow
  • Henny Penny by Paul Galdone
  • The Most Wonderful Egg in the World by Helme Heine
  • Little Red Hen by Janina Domanska
  • Rosie’s Walk by Pat Hutchins
  • The Pinkish, Purplish, Bluish Egg by Bill Peet
  • Scholastic’s The Egg by Gallimard Jeunesse and Pascale de Bourgoing
  • The Wolf’s Chicken Stew by Keiko Kasza
  • Chanticleer and the Fox by Barbara Cooney
  • Chicken Little by Steven Kellogg
  • The Talking Eggs by Robert D. San Souci
  • Chicken Soup with Rice by Maurice Sendak
  • A Chick Hatches by Joanna Cole and Jerome Wexler
  • Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss
  • Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
  • Rechenka’s Eggs by Patricia Polacco
  • The Enormous Egg by Oliver Butterworth
  • The Egg Tree by Katherine Milhous


This lesson is easily adapted for use with other grade levels. I use it with K–5 children. This is only a small sample of the activities you can do with this unit. Use your imagination!

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Science (2010)
      • Grade 1

        • 1.L.1 Understand characteristics of various environments and behaviors of humans that enable plants and animals to survive. 1.L.1.1 Recognize that plants and animals need air, water, light (plants only), space, food and shelter and that these may be found...
      • Grade 2

        • 2.L.1 Understand animal life cycles. 2.L.1.1 Summarize the life cycle of animals: Birth Developing into an adult Reproducing Aging and death 2.L.1.2 Compare life cycles of different animals such as, but not limited to, mealworms, ladybugs, crickets, guppies...
      • Grade 4

        • 4.L.1 Understand the effects of environmental changes, adaptations and behaviors that enable animals (including humans) to survive in changing habitats. 4.L.1.1 Give examples of changes in an organism’s environment that are beneficial to it and some that...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Science (2005)

Grade 4

  • Goal 1: The learner will make observations and conduct investigations to build an understanding of animal behavior and adaptation.
    • Objective 1.03: Observe and discuss how behaviors and body structures help animals survive in a particular habitat.
    • Objective 1.04: Explain and discuss how humans and other animals can adapt their behavior to live in changing habitats.