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4-H Chick Incubation

By Raymond Cox

Harlan Co. Extension Office

Last year, more than one thousand 4-H Cloverbud, School Enrichment, Special Interest and 4-H Club members from Harlan Elementary and Middle Schools, Rosspoint, Cumberland, Evarts, Green Hill, Black Mountain, Cawood, James A Cawood, Harlan County Christian, Sunshine Preschool, Wallins School, Mr. Lewis’ Science Class at Harlan County High School and a college class at the Cumberland Hope Center participated in the 4-H Chick Incubation Project during March.

This year, we anticipate about the same number as last year to participate in the 4-H Chick Incubation Project. This project fulfills the 4-H Project Curriculum requirements for Animal Science and is also designed for correlation to the U.S. National Science Education Standards. “Embryology: The Study of Life” is designed to provide classroom teachers background information and exciting activities for hands on activities provided by the Harlan County 4-H Chick Incubation Project.

Children have a natural sense of curiosity about living things in the world around them. Building on this curiosity, students can develop an understanding of biology concepts through the direct experience with baby chicks, their life cycles and their development. 4-H believes that students learn best through their experiences and interactions with the world. 4-H Club members learn by listening, observing, experiencing and applying their knowledge to real-world situations. Each activity in the 4-H Animal Science curriculum follows these steps in the experiential learning model.

An additional goal of this curriculum is to help students develop life skills. Life skills are abilities that help an individual live a productive and satisfying life. Within this curriculum 4-H Club members will have an opportunity to develop life skills related to science processes, teamwork, keeping records, and planning and organizing.

Before each classroom 4-H Club Leader receives eggs, incubators, and brooders, they will learn what happens from egg to chick. Students will learn definitions relating to poultry incubation and the importance of chickens and eggs in the economy. Students will discuss consumer concerns about eggs and cholesterol. In addition, students will learn the structure of the egg, and actually take a look inside the egg as the embryo develops with the use of a Candler. Students will use the candler to determine whether the incubated eggs are fertile, and if fertile, to check on the growth and development of the embryo. Students will learn the timing of major embryonic development of the chicks: fertilization, division and growth of living cells, and segregation of cells into groups of special function. On Day 21 students will observe the actual hatching process of the chicks.

Prior to starting this 4-H Incubation and Embryology project, a specific plan for the chicks will be worked out. The chicks will then be given to someone who has proper brooding facilities, successful brooding experience, and the interest to properly care for and raise the chicks. No chicks will be given to children for pets.

A young child’s enthusiasm often results in unintentional cruelty. Improper handling can produce broken legs and wings as well as emotional stress for the birds. If a bird dies or is injured, it is not only a traumatic experience for the bird, but for the youngster as well. In addition, a child’s initial enthusiasm fades, and he or she will likely grow tired of the chick as it becomes an adult. Few people realize how quickly the fluffy yellow down of chicks is replaced by feathers. If one of these chicks survives, it is often abandoned or becomes a burden to the parents of the child. Or, lack of care leads to unintentional abuse or neglect, thus unintentional cruelty results.

Fifty dozen eggs for the project are scheduled to be picked up by the 4-H Agent on March 2. These eggs will be donated by the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture Poultry Department. Incubators with automatic turners have been delivered to all school mentioned above who participated last year and including the Cumberland Hope Center. Eggs will be delivered and set in Incubators on March 3 and eggs are expected to hatch approximately 21 days later. Each school will have approximately two and one half dozen eggs to incubate.

Students who are planning to participate in this year’s 4-H Communications Day need to contact the Extension Office if you have any questions or need any help. Communications Day will be held March 12, with registration beginning at 4:45 pm at Southeast Community College, Harlan Campus. It will consist of speeches, demonstrations and variety show acts. There will be t-shirts and a participation ribbon to all who participate and their participation will count as a completed 4-H Project. All first place winners will be awarded a 4-H Medallion and will advance to participate in the Area 4-H Communication Day held in Knox County in April or May.

Those winning first place at the Area Level in Speech or Demonstration will move on to participate at the State Level in June at the University of Kentucky. If you have any questions about the Chick Incubation Project or 4-H Communications Day contact Raymond Cox 4-H Agent at 273-0835 or 573-4464 or email me at rcox@uky.edu or message me on Facebook.

Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability or national origin.