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hatched chicks eating

Chicks: Coming to a Classroom Near You!

Each year Nassau County reaches over 1,200 youth through our Embryology School Program.

The goal of this program is to spread the excitement of science and the wonder of life throughout our schools by hatching chicken eggs in the classroom setting. This is an annual spring program and is available to county schools from February to May. So what is so special about this program? Many families will be granted access to proven 4-H curriculum and philosophies as well as experiencing the joy of rearing life at a young age. It teaches core skills such as responsibility, record keeping, science literacy, and teamwork. The fact that this program is a ton of fun is a bonus.

Embryology is the study of how embryos (such as chickens, plants, cows, etc ) grow and develop. Youth have first-hand experiences discovering embryology using the chicken model through 4-H interactive flip charts, activities, curriculum, and agent/volunteer led lessons. These lessons include instruction on how to use an incubator, parameters for development, the reality that not all eggs will hatch, and so on.

One of the youth’s favorite days is candling day. During this lesson agents and volunteers will use a light to illuminate the development inside the egg. Youth look for an eye spot, vascular growth, and movement. Until this point the students have been caring for what visually seems like a normal egg, and after this experience the actualization of life behind the shell transforms their understanding. By the completion of this program participating youth will learn new vocabulary, anatomy, breeds of chickens, and all the challenges associated with bringing life into the world.

For the embryology program, a variety of breeds are used which allows youth to discover the variants of size and color in the egg world.

As you can imagine, one 4-H Agent alone cannot reach these many youth without help. It is with great thanks that this year we were granted with 6 new embryology dedicated volunteers as well as a returning program champion! Volunteers are trained and enthusiastic about the joys and importance of this program.

The other major component to a successful embryology program is obtaining fertile eggs. This year alone 55 dozen fertile eggs were donated to the program. With that in mind and a reasonable hatching rate of 50%, this amounts to over 300 chicks being hatched out before Nassau County student eyes.

This year it is estimated that over 1,500 youth will be impacted by this program.


At the conclusion of the program the County Extension Office will collect hatched chicks and host them on-site in our office coop. Over the weekend the youth who have taken an interest in obtaining and raising chicks can adopt. After adopting chicks these families will go home with resources on care and 4-H related materials if they desire to begin the poultry project. These chicks are eligible to show in the county fair. Adoption fees serve to support the embryology program and go towards upgrading incubators for classrooms for continued success.

The Nassau County chicken coop.