Embryology: From Egg To Chick


Ben Butler Jr.

Laura Ward

410 N. Monticello Ave.


(773) 534-6440




1.) This lesson will teach students the value of living animals.

2.) This lesson is for first grade students.

3.) This lesson will build student knowledge of basic biology, especially embryology and anatomy.

4.) This lesson illustrates similarities of biological functions in all animals.                                      

5.) This lesson will increase awareness of the value of laboratory animals to science.




We will use one incubator with hydrometer, thermometer, distilled water, Chlorox  bleach or rubbing alcohol (for cleaning the incubator), chicken feed, lamp with a  fifteen  watt bulb, one dozen fertilized eggs (obtain them from a distributor), one dozen of regular store bought eggs, transparent plates or saucers, flat wooden sticks or Popsicle sticks to probe the unfertilized eggs, freezer bags (one gallon size) for disposal of raw egg waste, vinegar and transparent disposable cups (16 oz. size).




We want to get the fertilized eggs to hatch by putting them in an incubator for twenty-one days with an average temperature of 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit and maintaining an average humidity of about 51%.  Secondly, we want to examine an egg on the inside and outside to help identify the parts of an egg. This can be done on regular store bought eggs. Examine an egg in a saucer or plate. Identify the important visible parts of the egg by breaking it open and physically inspect these parts with a Popsicle stick. Use another egg to investigate the shell components by putting eggs in transparent cups with vinegar. Use just enough vinegar to submerge the whole egg. Students will inspect and draw what happens over the next few days. On the fifth day students may inspect and observe the egg with the shell dissolved away (the acetic acid in the vinegar dissolves the calcium carbonate of which the shell is made). We will inspect the egg embryos by candling the eggs. A candler can easily be made with a flashlight and an empty box. We will use an empty Huggies baby wipes box. You can inspect the eggs with the candler to predict the number of eggs that will hatch. Cut a hole in the bottom of the Huggies box. The hole should be about half the diameter of an egg. Place an egg on the hole and illuminate it from below with the flashlight.  Inspect the eggs every day or every few days (up to the eighteenth day) to see the stages of development. 


As the eggs are incubating it will be necessary for the students to go through some daily lessons. The Cooperative extension Service of The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign College of Agriculture along with the 4-H Club has issued a workbook to help inculcate the objectives of this lesson. Since I have a mobile unit that goes from classroom to classroom I concentrate on the more salient lessons and the homeroom teacher works with the daily lessons. These lessons include:


“I is for incubator. We set the eggs in an incubator. The incubator is the mother hen for the eggs. Today we set the incubator. We will have chicks in 21 days. Count with me.” Use diagrams of the developmental stages of the chick to help the children see what is happening inside the eggs each day.


“T is for thermometer. If the temperature in the incubator goes higher than 103 degrees F., the eggs will not hatch. If the temperature is below 99 degrees F., the eggs may not hatch on time.”


“E is for egg. My shell is usually white or brown. Eggs are rich in protein, minerals and vitamins. Eggs are good at all meals and as snacks. Color my shell. When you open me what do you find? Draw what is inside me. Draw the inside of the egg.”


“Where am I?” labels the parts of the egg. “Identify the air cell- I am at the large end of the egg. Thin white—I am near the shell. Thick white—I am nearest the yolk. Yolk—I am yellow and feed the embryo. Chalaza – I look like a rope and hold the yolk. Shell – I am hard. Outer shell membrane – I am closest to the shell. Inner shell membrane – I am next to the white. Germ Spot – I am where the chick begins to develop. Vitellin Membrane – I am between the yolk and white.”


“H is for hen. A hen is an adult female chicken. I lay eggs. Before I am one I am called a pullet.”


“R is for rooster. A rooster is a male chicken. A male chicken under one is called a cockerel.”


“C is for chick. A young female chick is called a pullet. A young male chick is called a cockerel.”


“A chicken is a bird. I have a comb on my head. My comb is red. How many legs do I have? Find my bill. My bill is yellow.”


Performance Assessment:


Students will be able to answer these questions with 80% accuracy. 

1.     We put the eggs in an _______________.

2.     The chicks hatched in _______________ days.

3.     The chicks were placed in the ____________.

4.     The female chick is called a _____________.

5.     The male chicken is called a _____________.

6.     The baby chicken is called a _____________.

7.     How many parts of an egg can you name? ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

8.     How many parts of a chick can you name? ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

9.     We feed our chicks ________ and ________.




This exercise will introduce students to the process of reproduction in animals emphasizing the parts of animal eggs (and the function of each) as well as the stages in development from fertilized egg to baby.




4-H, A Member’s Manual for the Study of Incubation and Embryonic Development (available from the Illinois Cooperative Extension Service).


You may also call Sandra  Lignell at 708-352-0109 or Tim Kristakos at The Museum Of Science and Industry in Chicago at 312-684-1414 for further information about this topic.