Can you hatch an egg bought from the store?

4-H lessons teach students about embryology.

Can you buy an egg from the store and hatch it under your pillow? If you answered yes, the youth at the beginning of the recent Michigan State University Extension embryology class would have agreed. Unfortunately, the only thing that would emerge from an egg under your pillow would be an interesting smell.

It is typically not possible to hatch a chick from an egg purchased at the grocery store. For a chicken to develop from an egg, it must be fertilized. Most eggs sold commercially in the grocery store are from poultry farms and have not been fertilized. In fact, laying hens at most commercial farms have never even seen a rooster. Given the right nutrients, hens will lay eggs with or without having been in the presence of a rooster. For an egg to become fertilized, a hen and rooster must mate prior to the formation and laying of the egg.

Second and third graders in Iosco County explored the embryonic development of chickens. Youth used modified versions of the embryology lessons from the Beginning of Life, Virginia 4-H School Enrichment Curriculum. They explored the parts of an egg and learned how to utilize an incubator, the stages of an egg’s development, how to candle an egg and use an otoscope to assess growth, and they observed newly hatched chicks. You can help youth explore more about the embryonic development of chickens using the Beginning of Life 4-H embryology curriculum.  

For more ways to share science with youth in your life, explore Michigan State University Extension’s Science and Engineering webpage. For more information about 4-H learning opportunities and other 4-H programs, contact your local MSU Extension office.

MSU Extension and the Michigan 4-H Youth Development program help to create a community excited about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). 4-H STEM programming seeks to increase science literacy, introducing youth to the experiential learning process that helps them to build problem-solving, critical-thinking and decision-making skills. Youth who participate in 4-H STEM are better equipped with critical life skills necessary for future success. To learn more about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth in STEM literacy programs, read our 2015 Impact Report: “Building Science Literacy and Future STEM Professionals.”

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