Target Grade Level / Age Range:

Kindergarten – 2 nd grade              


30 minutes        


Students will observe the life cycle of a chicken, and will notice the similarities and differences of a baby chicken and an adult chicken.


Suggested Companion Resources:

  • The Life Cycle of a Chicken by Colleen Sexton; Bellwether Media 2011
  • Life Cycle of a Chicken by Angela Royston; Heinemann Library 1998
  • Watch Them Grow – Chickens by Judy Wearing; Weigl Publishers 2011
  • Food from Farmers – EGGS! Life on a Chicken Farm by Ruth Owen; Windmill Books 2012
  • Watch Them Grow by Linda Martin; Dorling Kindersley Book 1994
  • Hatching Chickens by Michele Dufresne; Pioneer Valley Books 2007
  • Chicken Life Cycle Exploration Set


  • Life cycle – the stages of life of an animal; the stages of a chicken’s life cycle are egg, chick, and adult
  • Hatches – breaks out of an egg
  • Beak – hard covering of a bird’s mouth
  • Down – small, soft feathers that cover the bird’s body
  • Yolk – the yellow part of an egg that is food for a chick while it is growing inside an egg
  • Hen – a female chicken
  • Rooster – a male chicken
  • Incubator – a heated container used for keeping eggs warm

Background – Agricultural Connections:

  • It takes 21 days for a chick to hatch.
  • Hens form an egg every 23-27 hours
    • Egg size is based largely on the age of the hen. Young hens lay smaller eggs.
    • The number of days in a row that a hen lays an egg is called “clutch size.”
    • Hens will lay eggs with or without a rooster present. Unlike milk production, pregnancy is not required in egg laying.
    • Egg color is dependent on the breed of chicken, and holds no nutritional difference.
      • Brown eggs come from chickens with brown earlobes. White eggs come from chickens with white earlobes.
      • Coincidentally, breeds that lay brown eggs tend to be less feed efficient. That is the main reason behind the price difference at the grocery store.
      • The color of the yolk is dependent on what the chicken ate. For instance, corn and alfalfa diets tend to yield a darker yellow colored yolk, whereas a wheat-based diet will yield a lighter yellow yolk.
  • Some farms produce eggs, not chickens, so roosters are not needed.
    • Chickens raised to lay eggs are called layers.
    • Chickens raised for meat are called broilers.
    • Chickens, like many other animals, eat a mixture of corn and soybeans. The feed is processed so it’s easy for chickens to eat.
    • Iowa is the leading egg producing state in the U.S.
  • There are two types of barns used to raise laying hens
    • Floor houses
      • These types of buildings tend to be more common in birds raised for meat, but can be used for laying hens
      • Simply put, they are large metal barns with automatic feeders and waterers. Often times they have some kind of temperature control. In these barns, the birds are free to wander wherever they wish within the barn.
    • Cage houses
      • Cage houses tend to be more common in egg production, as it is much easier to assure safety of eggs and collect them efficiently.
      • These barns will also have some kind of temperature control and automatic feed and water systems. These birds will live in cages with slatted floors. This helps keep it cleaner, more comfortable, and more sanitary for the birds.
      • The floors of the bird’s pens will be slightly slanted, so the eggs will roll gently out of the pen and into a padded trough. The eggs may then be carried elsewhere to be cleaned and checked for quality.
  • Biosecurity is very important in raising poultry.
    • Most birds are raised indoors to protect them from extreme weather, predators, and outside disease. Therefore, farmers have many practices to help keep the diseases outside when people go inside the barn. Different farms may have different protocols, but most will generally adopt a few key protocols.
      • Some common biosecurity practices include:
        • Not visiting multiple farms within a set amount of days (could be from 2-7, or more).
        • Changing shoes before entering the barn
        • Washing shoes before entering
        • “Shower in, shower out” (showering before entering barn and after leaving barn)
        • Wearing designated coveralls only inside the barn
        • Wearing plastic booties over shoes
        • Wearing hairnets
        • Wearing gloves
  • When the farms need new hens, they buy female chicks from a hatchery.

Interest Approach or Motivator:

Ask the students if any of them has seen a baby chick. In less than a month, they all will! Tell the class they will be hatching chicks in class.


  1. Display one of the attached diagrams of chicken development. Tell students that they are going to be studying how chickens grow!
  2. Tell students to start a KWL chart. Separately, and then together as a class, have students fill in some things they know about chickens’ life cycles. Repeat with what they would like to know about them.
  3. Instruct students to keep track of their KWL chart. They will be using it again later.
  4. Look at the pictures of the chicks and the adult chickens and note the similarities and the differences.
    1. Talk about texture of feathers, size, and other physical characteristics. Ask students if baby humans look like adult humans. They act a lot differently, too. Chickens are the same way.
  5. Read The Life Cycle of a Chicken by Colleen Sexton to the students, looking at the pictures and noting the vocabulary words.
    1. If this book is not available, other books relating to chicken life cycles are available through IALF’s Lending Library. Options could be From Egg to Chicken, Chicks and Chickens, or Chickens Have Chicks.
  6. Discuss with the class what they read about in the book. What surprised them? What did they already know?
  7. Instruct the students to fill in some topics in the “L” column of their KWL chart if they learned something. Fill in the class KWL chart as well.
  8. Then, show the class the fertilized eggs and explain that the class will watch them hatch in the incubator.
    1. Talk to students about the importance of the incubator. Explain what temperature it is kept at, why that is important, etc.
      1. The incubator should be kept between 99 and 102 degrees Fahrenheit. It is important so that the embryos can develop properly.
    2. Tell students that it will be important to be gentle to and around these eggs. We want them to stay safe and hatch well.
  9. Ask students if they wonder what the baby chickens look like inside of their eggs. Tell them they can find out without cracking them open!
  10. Explain that they will be able to track the progress of the chicks each day by “cracking open” one of the plastic eggs in the Chicken Life Cycle Exploration Set.
    1. Ask students what they think will happen over time. What day to they think they’ll grow feathers? What day will they grow a beak?
    2. Have students write down predictions in a science journal or on a separate sheet of paper.
  11. Short follow ups for the next 20 days will be necessary to show students the inside of the plastic egg corresponding to the same day as the live chicks.
    1. Give students the opportunity to write follow up journal entries about what they are learning, what is happening in the life cycle, and what is surprising.

Essential Files:

Did you know? (Ag facts):

  • Chickens come in many colors and sizes.
  • The chick grows inside the egg for 21 days.
  • A chick has soft, fluffy feathers but will grow longer feathers in a few weeks.
  • A hen can lay about two eggs every three days.
  • Eggs can be white, brown, or bluish-green but they all have the same nutritional value.
  • Egg shell color is determined by the color of the hen’s earlobe!

Extension Activities:

  • Students can count down 21 days by making a paper chain and cutting off a link each day.
  • Students (with Mom or Dad’s help) can look at the store to see if there are any brown eggs.
  • Students can make a book by cutting out pictures of food that are made from eggs or contain eggs.
  • Students can go to the website  to see the different farm animals and their different stages.



Mary Jayne Mousel

Organization Affiliation:

Holy Cross School

National Agriculture Literacy Outcomes:

  • Theme 2 Plants and Animals for Food, Fiber, and Energy Outcomes
    • A. Explain how farmers/ranchers work with the life cycle of plants and animals (planting/breeding) to harvest a crop.
    • B. Identify animals involved in agricultural production and their uses (work, meat, dairy, eggs).

Iowa Core Standards:

  • Science:
    • K-LS1-1: Use observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals (including humans) need to survive.
    • 1-LS3-1: Make observations to construct an evidence-based account that young plants and animals are like, but not exactly like, their parents.
    • 2-LS4-1: Make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of live in different habitats.

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