Checking Out Chicks At School

English: eggs

We just had the white ones, without the fancy nest. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I remember back in elementary school when my teacher brought in some eggs and an incubator. Eggs led to chickens. I knew that. Probably most of the kids in my class did.

In fact, the only thing most of us had seen come from an egg was on a plate, next to a bowl of cereal on a commercial when they would always say “part of this complete breakfast”. Looking back, I think the teacher understood that about us. That’s why she brought in the incubator.

We watched and watched. Nothing happened, until it did. When the eggs started cracking, things really started happening. We all gathered around the incubator and watched. Soon, we had baby chickens in the classroom.

Not That Remarkable

Pretty routine story, isn’t it? Of course it is. Because it isn’t mine, at least not exclusively. Most people who’ve grown up in the United States in the last fifty years have some version of that story.

There is one version of the story that I’ve never heard. It goes like this:

My teacher brought an incubator and some eggs to class. We watched and watched, but nothing happened. When we returned to school on Monday, we found that the eggs hatched over the weekend.

I don’t know anyone who has an egg incubator story that does not end with seeing the chickens hatch. Everyone witnessed the chicks breaking through, then out of, their shells. I’m certain someone will speak up and say their chickens hatched over the weekend…but most folks were in the class room when the big event happened.

Let’s do some math.

Time (Without Morris Day*)

There are 168 hours in a week. 120 of those hours happen Monday through Friday. Students at the elementary school closest to my house attend school for 7 hours per day, or 35 hours per week.

English: an animated clock

Time waits for no chicken(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, assuming that my neighborhood school is somewhat close to average and chickens are only born on weekdays, kids should have a dismal 1 in 3 chance of seeing chickens born during a school day. There are 17 non school hours on every school day. Despite those odds, most classroom incubator stories end with births during school.

Suppose we take a more realistic approach. Let’s say that chickens are also born on weekends. The odds of seeing a chicken born during school hours fall to nearly 1 in 5. How is it that, with about a 20% chance of chicks hatching during school hours, so many of us have these tales of seeing chicks born during class?

I don’t know. It doesn’t make sense. Even if the teacher knows an egg produced on a given date should hatch by another given date, the odds of having a bird hatch during class are not good.

Obviously this is some trick that is taught as part of the elementary education degree. In fact, I’d go so far that it isn’t even taught until graduation day, to ensure that non-teachers are not accidentally taught the trick.

I’m open to other theories. Discuss.

* Back in the '80's I saw Purple Rain with a girl I was dating. I thought 
it was totally implausible. Morris Day and The Time were better than 
Prince and his band. It wasn't even close.

34 Comments on “Checking Out Chicks At School”

  1. Laura says:

    I never had a teacher bring in eggs to hatch. What happened to the baby chicks afterwards?

    I wonder whether they’re more likely to start breaking out of their shells when the temperature is warmer, and the teachers keep the the incubator warmer during school hours?

    • omawarisan says:

      I like the warmer incubator theory and am sad that you missed out on the class hatching scene.

      I’ll come over, set up an incubator in your living room and make you practice properly writing upper case cursive Q until the eggs hatch.

  2. Pre-comment disclaimer: I am certified to teach at the secondary level, having dropped elementary ed after one semester, during which I took the required course in music and my group absolutely could not get its act together to practice “You’re a Grand Ole Flag” for the final exam. Only my friend Penny and I showed up for practice and I might add that the auto-harp and keyboard were performed par excellence, but . . .well, the rest of ’em were just sad predictors of the future of public education. I mention all of this to say that I really don’t know what I’m talking about vis-à-vis elementary education and I didn’t get far enough to learn the scoop on chicken-hatching, but I’m going to comment anyway and make it sound like I do. . .

    When I taught middle school, my science teacher friend bought crickets to feed the class gila monster from a special supply business that catered to teachers. Maybe they sell special classroom chicken eggs.

    • omawarisan says:

      Was there a zither and a recorder? If so, you’d have had the trifecta of instruments that don’t exist after 5th grade.

      If I taught, I would like a class Komodo dragon.

      • That might be what he was. His name was Friendly. Everyone agreed with that, except of course, the crickets.

        There was a recorder and a triangle and, on percussion, maracas. Divas, all of ’em.

  3. Anonymous says:


  4. My son’s teacher had it figured out to the day. Turns out, the hen that laid the eggs was broody and sat on them for a day before they were collected. Three of the eggs hatched while they were on a field trip. Fortunately, they did get to see one of them hatch.

    We hatched eggs in kindergarten. I’m not sure how they didn’t all die of having their guts squeezed out of them!

  5. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    It doesn’t take all that futzing with statistics (how did you know that’s my bugaboo!) to figure out that teachers make a quick stop at the local pet store to buy live chicks. No big deal. Now, it would be a big deal if the kids returned the following day to find a couple of nice, deliciously juicy, rotisserie chickens sitting there in the incubator. Along with a few cans of jellied cranberry sauce.


    You did impress me with the stats, btw.

    • omawarisan says:

      A few years ago I found my notebook from the required stats class I took in college. All that was in there were names of the calculations and little drawings of which calculator buttons to push in which order to get that. I couldn’t do the standard deviation of teachers or chickens.

  6. We Found Him Captain! says:

    I don’t think any of my teachers would have induced labor by injecting the eggs before we got to the classroom. I went to OUR LADY OF GRACE parochial school, where the nuns did not
    “try to fool mother nature”.

  7. planetross says:

    I don’t think the egg hatching thing happened in the school I attended, but many schemes were hatched … usually unsuccessfully.

  8. “Part of a complete breakfast” Even as a kid that terrified me. Cereal, toast, orange juice AND milk. Horrific. I think I missed out on the chick-hatching part of my education, but I will tell you THIS: I didn’t dissect a frog until I believe I was a junior in high school, along with squid (which we fried up and ate-Yay!). Noah just dissected both of those plus a pig’s eye and he’s in 7th grade. He too missed the chick hatching. There’s something wrong with our little society.

  9. It’s magic. A miracle. Just believe. That fact that it happens in science class is inconsequential.

  10. I feel like I missed out. We never had chickens or eggs in my classrooms. I did see baby ducks being born in my backyard though. Mama duck set up her nest behind the air conditioning compressor which seems like not a very cozy place to come into the world.

    • omawarisan says:

      A/C compressors do not make for restful nights. I slept on a chick-fil-a roof 3 different times for a fundraiser. The best place for my tent was next to an a/c unit.

      At least I wasn’t sleeping on my offspring.

      That’s probably the last time I’ll write that sentence.

  11. I was also deprived of the egg hatching miracle. For that matter I don’t remember any live creatures being in my classroom. How on earth did I learn anything?

  12. “Eggs led to chickens.”—And chickens are bird. ::shudder::

  13. stevebetz says:

    Jungle Love — O-E-O-E-O! SO SO SO much better than Prince in that movie.

    • omawarisan says:

      Thank you. I remember watching and thinking, does no one else here see this guy killing Prince right in front of them? No one did. Fortunately, I figured out my date didn’t see it before I voiced my opinion.

      In this case, I’m certain our opinion is not only opinion, it is fact.

  14. spencercourt says:

    Since I went to high school in the Philippines, I did not have the hatching eggs experience. Possibly, part of the reason is that I was in school only 5 hours a day – from 7:30 AM to 12:30 PM. So the probability of us being in school during the birth was significantly reduced.

    However, I did partake in the frog dissection exercise, which is probably no longer allowed in this more enlightened era when computer animation can simulate the experience without killing any frogs, who might be licked by the usual suspects trying to get a buzz….

  15. Ha. This is totally weird. I’m sad I don’t have a story to contribute. We didn’t have eggs. We did have caterpillars. I can’t remember when mine came out of its cocoon. But I think once we all had butterflies, we released them. Hmm, it must have come out of its cocoon over night, or I would’ve remembered that, right?

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