Counting Chickens: An Update on the Culpeper 4H Embryology Program
By: Carl C. Stafford
Senior Extension Agent
Readers remember my article from earlier this month describing an annual rite of spring with the setting of chicken eggs at Culpeper schools. The Culpeper 4H embryology program set 300 chicken eggs on April 10, across 14 classrooms in five Culpeper County Elementary schools. Today marks the end of the second week of incubation and time to check on the chicken embryo’s progress.
Candling is the term used to describe this visual test, coming from the original use of a candle providing enough light to illuminate the contents of incubating egg. Signs of life are the presence of blood vessels noted as lines scattered across the egg, or a dark shape at one end of the egg that can represent an embryo and if you are lucky and can wait, it will move inside the egg. A perfectly clear egg has no signs of life.
Today and since the advent of electricity, special lights “candle” the eggs. A flash light can also work or a directed light from an incandescent bulb. Candling uncovers one of the mysteries of life – are the eggs going to hatch? Laurie Hughes, 4H volunteer and Joanna Kilby 4H program assistant candled the first eggs of the season in Mrs. McFarland’s class at A.G. Richardson Elementary.
The 4H embryology program began under the leadership of retired 4H agent, Mason Hutcheson and continues today with 4H agent Cristy Mosley leading our youth programs. An effective method of teaching is to learn by doing, 4H embryology does this. Children are excited about and interested in the incubator in their classroom, they turn eggs, watch the temperature, maintaining humidity, and candling charts incubation progress.
Hatching is next on May 1 and we know not every egg will be a success, so remember, don’t count your chicks until they hatch. Contact information available at: https://culpeper.ext.vt.edu/