Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hatching Eggs: Incubation

This is one of my favorite living green/homeschooling projects we've done yet. 

 It's...just...so...amazing. We are watching the life cycle first hand, and so are our children- learning, growing, understanding... it's incredible.

We decided to try a couple of new chicken breeds this year, so we had to purchase some eggs. We chose six, and they came in the mail. (Yes, we got a kind of alarmed phone call from the post office early one morning saying we'd better come pick up the *live* eggs... but not so upset as when we got our last package of bees.)

Since the incubator has room for seven eggs, we also grabbed one of our own. We'll do a second hatch after this attempt with more of our own eggs, but this is where we are for now.

First, we had to sterilize the incubator. 
 This is done by adding a scoop of food-grade sanitizer to a one-gallon bucket (follow the instructions on your sanitizer as it may be different than ours).
 Add water to the powder to create a cleaning solution.
 Then we had to take the incubator apart to carefully clean and sanitize each piece.


 Then we could unpack the eggs.

They were sent with a warming pack...
 ...and packed in a foam case.

Different breeds have different egg colors. These eggs are Golden Laced Wyandottes (lighter) and Black Copper Marans (darker).

Don't worry about the apparent scratches on one of the Maran eggs. It's a coating, like paint, that all eggs have until they dry (at which point the egg is permanently colored). This one must have just been bumped a bit (or stepped on by a hen) before the coating dried.
Here's our rooster defending the one egg we took from our hens. He's not terribly thrilled.

We took the lightest colored egg in this photo, and it's an Australorp egg. Since our rooster is a Silver Laced Wyandotte, this chick will be a mutt. That's OK with us- we're very accepting.

Then we placed the first eggs into the incubator.




 Then we set the incubator for 21 days- the average time it will take a chick to hatch.

On Day 21 we'll be spending a lot of time in the kitchen, waiting to see this amazing event.
We know that many of the eggs won't hatch. In fact, we'll be lucky if 4 of the 7 do. But in some sense that's part of the learning process.

In the next two weeks we will bear witness to a very small life cycle, but a life cycle none-the-less. Our family will welcome a number of new little lives into our home and our children will help to raise them, feeding and protecting their little charges. And the education they will receive in the process will be priceless.

Have you done any fun natural living or homeschooling projects lately?

103 comments:

  1. Oh wow, this is great! I can't wait to see day 21. How amazing! Thanks for sharing. I'll be following your blog to watch for this!
    Mandy

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    1. Thanks, Mandy! We are really hoping to catch the whole affair on video to share. Stay tuned...

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  2. aw.....this is great. I have a friend in our little suburban town who raising egg-laying hens, and discovered one day while walking the dog that we have a neighbor who does as well. I remember watching our hatchling ducks in third grade for a weekend. Nobody in the house got any sleep but me! What an exciting learning experience for your little ones.
    Peace and good.

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    1. I hope that this experience proves to be as memorable as your childhood experience. Chickens are becoming rather popular, no?

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  3. Recently a pegion layed an egg in my house and then didnt return ... do you have any advice?

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    1. Sorry, my expertise taps out at chickens. Sit on it?? :)

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  4. Wow, I can't wait to see how this turns out. I have a few projects left to complete with my kids for this homeschool year. This may be too involved for us but who knows?

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    1. Lisa, it hasn't been terribly involved for us yet- at least, not in a negative sense. Such a great homeschool project. How old are your children?

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  5. How great is this. I am laughing over the post office. can't wait to see them hatch!!

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  6. Connie, you and I are laughing but I'm just waiting for the call to tell us that we're no longer allowed to use the US postal service. :)

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  7. We did this when I was in grade 4 and it was so amazing.

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  8. Wow, can't wait to see what hatches!! Hope you post pics when they hatch!

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    1. Deanna, I will post pics, but I hope to get it on video as well.

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  9. I would never have thought of this. What a lovely lesson for your children.

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  10. Ok, so I'm reading this blog at 5:30 in the morning and I get to: "this chick will be a mutt. That's OK with us- we're very accepting." and I start giggling

    Such a neat idea to document, I'm excited to come back and get an update. I remember when I was younger and lived at home, one of my aunts had given us a couple of baby chickens, or "diddles" as they called them. We only had them for a couple days though. My brother had gotten a new puppy that got loose, and got to the diddles :/

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    1. Giggling is good, dogs who get diddles, well- not so much. *smile*

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  11. This is really cool! It seems like a really fun project for the kiddos! I have to admit, you piqued my interest with your side note about the bees at the post office. I can't wait to see how many little chicks get added to your family!

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  12. Awesome! I've never seen an incubator like that. I remember watching eggs hatch in kindergarten (or was it preschool?). It was awesome!
    My kids would LOVE something like this (my daughter is always begging to have chickens . . .but we can't in our neighborhood).
    Maybe one day.
    Thanks for sharing!

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  13. This is amazing! I never knew you could buy fertilized eggs. Cant wait to see those new chicks!

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  14. That is so awesome! Nothing better then real life experience to teach our kids! I grew up on a farm and always saw things hatching, birthing, etc. A world of learning right there! So exciting for children to see this process. Can't wait to see the little babies hatch out!

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  15. A couple years back I bought an incubator and a turner at Rural King and decided to hatch eggs. We wanted to try Turkey's first, which was not the best idea... after buying about 20 online we found out that Turkeys are extremely HARD to hatch yourselves... who knew. Needless to say NONE of our turkey eggs hatched, which was a bummer. I had bought some chicks that we raises and once they were laying eggs we decided to use some of their eggs. We got about 5 out of 40 the first time we tried. I think it had to do with the temperature and humidity. Our incubator didn't have the digital read out like yours, which I think is WICKED cool! I also had ducks, so after the chickens we experimented with ducks. I only put about 7 duck eggs in just to see if they would work and all but one hatched. Evidently ducks aren't as sensitive to temperature flux, lol, they were really easy to hatch. That was a couple years ago and we are down to one turkey, one goose, and a peacock. We are in the process of moving and when we get settled I hope to have chickens and ducks again and I look forward to the hatching process as well!! Thanks for the article, I can't wait to come back to see how many of yours hatched! Good luck!

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    1. So you know that there is some sort of strange addiction that comes with raising livestock... something in the soul that stirs and says, "yes, you are doing right by the planet... and yes, your omelets will taste infinitely better..."

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  16. Awesome! I often take forgranted the fact that I grew up on a farm for most of my childhood. I was able to witness many different types of birth/life cycles. I'm raising my children in a small town setting but I forgot about the simple enjoyments and learning experiences like these. I think this spring we'll have to visit some local farms! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Ashley, I grew up in the city (or the closest thing to a city that Maine has to offer) and so my experience has been the reverse: I'm discovering all these new and wonderful adventures right along with my children. Such an amazing thing, really.

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  17. Oh my gosh, this is something my kids would love to do. I better not let them see this page or I'll never hear the end of it.

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  18. Very interesting. I'm sure you have an interesting homeschool!

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  19. I homeschooled for 4 years...you are ambitious with your projects! I think it's awesome!

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    1. So you know then that homeschooling is a challenge in many respects, but is also very rewarding. I love doing these types of projects with the kids that we both get to learn from.

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  20. How fun! I would've loved watching this when I was a kid. Heck, I'd love watching them hatch now!

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    1. Dawn, that's the plan. I hope to post a video in a couple weeks. If not, at least some great pictures.

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  21. This is something I considered doing with my children but just haven't. We did tap our five maple trees though. We hope to get laying hens as baby chicks and a puppy soon so many things to do to get ready for them!

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  22. Oh fun! We lack the maple trees at our house or I would be all. Over. That. Have a teaspoon for me!

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  23. Wow! Thanks, for sharing. Someday, we would love to move out into the country and have our own chickens. :) Our dream.

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  24. I've recently been interested in getting chickens. Not sure if the county will allow it where I live though, so I may have to wait until we move. I'll be back to see the pics of the chicks though! What a great learning experience, I'm looking forward to teaching my son through life experiences.

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    1. It was my husband who first brought up the chickens idea, but I must confess that I am in love with having them. I hope you get the chance as well!

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  25. My fiance and I were just talking about wanting to get chickens last night! I would love to have the kids experience the life cycle ... how exciting! I can't wait to see the following posts :)

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    1. Oh, you should! It is no more work to have chickens than a dog or cat, and honestly, there are more tangible benefits... like eggs! No disrespect to our dog and cat, of course. Chickens are slightly less snuggly....

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  26. We got to watch chickens hatch in a incubator in Jr. High science. It was so fun and exciting. What a great project for kids. I've been tempted to get a chicken or two but right now I can't because of our HOA. When we move it will taken into consideration whether I can have chickens or not. Can't wait to see how your project turns out!

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  27. Looking forward to see the new additions to your family when they arrive. My son would love this kit!

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  28. What a great home school project! I remember in second grade our class had an incubator with some eggs, and it was so cool to watch the little chicks peck out of their shells! Hooray!

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    1. I wish my school had done something like that when I was young. As it is I'll be experiencing my first hatch right along with my kids. Maybe it's better that way. *smile*

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  29. One of our homeschool projects was watching caterpillars grow into butterflies. It was great to release them into the world.

    Now that we're out in farm country, we have thought about getting chickens and this would be a fantastic learning opportunity to celebrate the arrival of our chickens.

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    1. A fellow homeschooler! Welcome. Is it strange that I am hatching chickens before I do the caterpillar thing? Seems a bit like running before I walk now that I think about it. Glad to hear that your experience was positive.

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  30. I remember doing this in 6th grade. It's an interesting project and fun as well. At least until you have to clean up after the chickens. lol

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    1. Um, yes. Clean up is never fun. :)

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  31. Aww I was hoping to see day 21 pictures at the end. I'll be coming back to see the outcome!

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  32. I'm always amazed at such ideas. It's really great you know. This is an experience the kids will not forget easily.

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  33. I subscribed to your blog and can't wait to see when they hatch! We are homeschoolers, and I look forward to gleaning some great ideas from you!

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    1. Thanks for subscribing- I'm headed over to your blog as well. We can share ideas with one another!

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  34. Love this out post! We have been contemplating chickens for several years in town, and now have moved away, just when we got brave enough! Hopefully someday soon we will be able to add this to our homeschool repetoire! Can't wait to hear how it turns out!

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  35. This is so cool. I will have to follow your blog with my 3 boys to see the progress. I joke that I need to raise chickens because they love eggs so much. We rent and don't really have that possibility right now but it will be fun to watch your eggs.

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  36. We have chickens . . . and we homeschool, but we haven't hatched our own eggs yet. It looks like with your incubator you have to turn the eggs by hand. How did that work out for you? I'm not sure I could remember or keep up with it. Also once they hatch baby chicks are very delicate. They have to have their humidity and temperature just so. Have you had luck with that?

    I loved your comment about the alarm at the post office when you got your bees in the mail. My sister, also a homeschooler, raises bees in the middle of their suburban neighborhood. I'm not quite that brave.

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    1. Our incubator is actually automated so it controls heat, humidity and it turns the eggs for us. You're right- doing that by hand would be difficult to remember. We've done day-old chicks many times before so we're used to the delicacy at first- somehow that makes it more special, I think. Maybe not.

      You should try bees- they aren't nearly as frightening as one would think! I was initially afraid to keep them in the yard for fear of the children being stung, but now our kids tend the hives right alongside my husband and it works out quite nicely.

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  37. What a cool thing to do. I will be back to see how this all turns out!

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  38. I hatched chicks for the first time last year with my GT students. It was amazing! I had no idea what to expect, but I sat for an entire day staring at the little pip holes waiting for the babies to come!!! I must say it cracked me up how naughty they are so quickly!!!!

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    1. Isn't it amazing how each one really does have it's own personality??

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  39. This is so cool! I'd love to be able to do this with my little boy one day. I would have never thought to do it myself though.

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  40. WOW I didn't even realize it was possible to do this kind of egg hatching in the house - now I want to do this too (and my hubby is laughing at me, b/c I just said that out loud "I want to hatch eggs on my kitchen counter!" LOL). This is SUCH an amazing homeschool activity. I am definitely talking hubby into this! Where did you get your egg hatcher/incubator!? :)

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    1. We get our stuff mostly from Brinsea (http://www.brinsea.com/) and have been really pleased with the products. You need an incubator and eggs to start, then you need a brooder to keep the chicks warm while they're still young. When ours are big enough we transition them to a dog crate outside during the day and bring them into the basement at night. After that, they get the crate in the coop and once they are big enough to fend for themselves reasonably well, they get integrated into the coop and they work out the new pecking order. It's really amazing- go for it!

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  41. I am inspired! I am going to see if we can have chickens in our neighborhood and then do this myself! What a great lesson for the kids!

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    1. Hooray! It's the best. And when the neighbors start to complain about the rooster making noise you can just blame the crazy lady's blog you read one day... !

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  42. That is really cool! I am a fellow homeschooler and would love to be able to do this! I have a friend who keeps a few chickens and she loves it. It seems pretty easy to do from what I've seen. Unfortunately, we don't live out in the country so we can't have chickens but I would totally do this if we could! I can't wait to see when they hatch!

    Christy
    www.alivinghomeschool.com

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    1. Too bad you can't do it in your area, but definitely come back for the hatch! 9 days to go!

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  43. How fun!!! We did a butterfly garden once and that was so fun... The kids would love doing something like this. What a wonderful way to teach your kids! Thanks for sharing! xoxo -Rachel

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  44. I've been looking around your blog and find it very interesting and plan to come back to visit and read more! And now I'm off to read the previous post to this one. The title caught my attention because I am currently on a 31 day challenge for healthy eating and more exercise! Thanks for sharing your tips and experiences here. :)

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    1. Good for you for eating healthy! It's funny- once you start down the road to health it just sort of opens up before you, don't you think? First you try to eat more veggies, then you want them organic, then you want them local, then you want them from your own backyard, then you need chickens and worms for free compost... :)Thanks for visiting!

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  45. So cool! My daughter's kindergarten class did this and she still talks about it. My hubby really wants chickens but our neighborhood vetoed it!

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    1. That's too bad. I have a couple of friends who split the cost of feed/bedding and split the eggs as well. The friend whose neighborhood allows it just keeps the birds at her house. Maybe that's an option?

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  46. I know this is going to be a lot of fun for your family. We have done this a few times, and even hatched some with our hens. One time a "crazy" chicken we had, laid one egg on a shelf next to our back door. She sat one that egg, and wouldn't hardly let any one in or out of our door. One day I saw egg shells, and thought, "oh, no. Crazy Chicken's egg got broken". Then a head popped out from under her! I yelled, "Crazy chicken has a baby!" My whole family ran to see. I've never seen a prouded Mama!

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    1. What a great story! They do sort of become part of the family, don't they?

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  47. Amazing! We've never done this. Can't wait to see the pictures of the chicks hatched!

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  48. Oh wow! I remember when I was in the third grade, we had this as an in-class project and we took turns monitoring the incubator. We were all so excited when the eggs hatched and we took care of our beautiful chicks!

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  49. What a neat experience for your kids! I am really hoping that I can learn to be more self sufficient... I plan to start by having a small garden this year and hopefully, in the future I can move on to bigger adventures like raising chickens!

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    1. It all starts with one tiny garden... *smile*

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  50. sounds exciting! I know you will all love this and have a great time.

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  51. That is too cool! I can't wait to see your pics/video!

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  52. Oh how I wish we'd gotten chickens when we moved out here!! We thought we were only going to be staying for a few months and ended up for YEARS. We're definitely moving back to town now, but BOO! I love farm fresh eggs and loved having chickens as a child. I wish my kids could have this wonderful learning experience too! And how COOL with all the different eggs!! I didn't even realize you could order eggs, though:) We always bought the chickens/eggs at our local co-op!

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  53. We incubate eggs every 2 years!! It's so much fun!!

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  54. My Husband would love to do this, we are not fenced in yet though so cannot have chickens at this time.

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  55. I was waiting anxiously to see if they will really hatch in the end. Guess it was worth a shot!

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    1. Come back in nine days, Susan. I'll post video or photos!

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  56. What a fun project-I wish we lived somewhere where we could have chickens. What an amazing experience you are able to give your kids-they'll learn more through those things than they ever could from within the four walls of an institution (can you tell my homeschool bias ;)). Have fun!

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  57. We homeschool and I know several homeschoolers who raise chickens. I think it's a great idea (hatching eggs), but then I'm stuck with chickens to raise. :/

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    1. True... or to eat. Either way. :)

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  58. How cool!! My girls would love this!!! Maybe a future endeavor when the time is right. I just don't have the space for any little chickens right now in my yard!! And have my own little chicken "hatching" in April :) Aww can't wait to see them hatch though! I will follow along and see how it all turns out!

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  59. This is so cool. We did something very similar in my preschool classroom. Such an awesome lesson.

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  60. This is a great lesson. I was homeschooled and we did this. I LOVED it! Great pictures. I hope your kids enjoy watching the process as much as I did!

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  61. Wow! that is great, and a wonderful experience to share with the family.

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  62. That is so cool! I wish I was brave enough to do this, but then our chicks would need to find homes as we cannot have chickens here in town!

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  63. You get the eggs in the mail? that seems odd... Well thanks for the post!

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  64. I didn't know you could order eggs through the mail...nor did I know about the bees. I did chuckle when I read that part!

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  65. What a comprehensive tutorial and illustrated so well. I've homeschooled for 17 years, but we've never tried this.

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  66. This looks so interesting, it would be a great project for kids with learning to nurture, and respect the life cycle.

    Stephanie
    http://www.royalmajestea.com

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  67. Wow It would be great to witness those eggs hatch!

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  68. I'm visiting from 100 comment event.
    This is a fascinating post...what a wonderful miracle for children to witness. :)
    Best of luck with the chicks!
    Hope you will stop by: www.viviankirkfield.wordpress.com

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  69. How cool! That should be such a cool experience once they hatch!


    Nicole @ MamaNYC
    www.mamanyc.net

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