Can you hatch an egg bought from the store?

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4-H lessons teach students about embryology.

Boy holding chick
Photo by Cecilia Spears, Alcona County 4-H member

Can you buy an egg from the store and hatch it under your pillow? If your answer is yes, the youth preparing for the Michigan State University Extension embryology class might agree. However, it is generally not possible to hatch a chick from an egg purchased from a grocery store.

Each year, youth from across Michigan explore the embryonic development of chickens. Youth use modified versions of the embryology lessons from the Beginning of Life, Virginia 4-H School Enrichment Curriculum. They explore the parts of an egg and learn 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 observe newly hatched chicks. You can help youth explore more about the embryonic development of chickens by using the Beginning of Life 4-H embryology curriculum.

Chick being held
Photo by Cecilia Spears, Alcona County 4-H member

During their exploration of chicken embryology, youth learn that 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.

While the MSU Extension science team encourages youth to ask questions and discover answers, this is one experiment we suggest you only read about instead. Because, unfortunately, the only thing that would emerge from an egg under your pillow would be an unpleasant smell.

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

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