Reading Time: 5 minutes
A school project to teach homesteading skills such as incubating quail eggs.
STORY AND PHOTOS BY ANN ACCETTA-SCOTT
I’ve been homesteading for about 10 years. Each spring, our incubator was loaded with fertilized eggs in hope that chicks, ducklings, goslings, keets, and even turkey poults would soon grace the property.
However, after several years, the joy (and fun) of incubating eggs dissipated, and we switched to utilizing a broody hen to hatch our eggs. The broodies did an excellent job of sitting on whichever species of eggs we tucked under them, but we soon learned that a hen can’t be forced to become broody; instead, we had to be patient and flexible according to their biological schedules. Because this wasn’t always convenient, we opted to use broody hens and incubators to get the best results. I also decided to bring an incubator into the school where I now teach.
Project One-Room Schoolhouse
I recently took a position with a special middle Tennessee school. This school is much different than a public school or a homesteading co-op. The Hardison Mill Homestead school in Columbia, TN, educates 10 children between second and sixth grades. My role in the school is to teach an “unschool” homesteading curriculum.
The thought process of unschooling children simply means the child or children learn necessary life skills, in this case, homesteading, by naturally incorporating reading, math, science, and problem-solving without a guided curriculum to follow. Some may state that a test should be taken to see how much information is obtained. However, unschooling determines retention based on whether the child can execute life skills or by completing projects similar to this one.
For example, I’ll know if the students have successfully read the instructions to set up the incubator, and if it’s in working order. Science occurs when the quail eggs are candled to see if the embryo grows. We will passively ensure their motor skills meet their age requirement when the child processes the quail and prepares it for a meal.
For this unschooling homesteading lesson, the children must work together to complete the job.
As a homesteading teacher, I teach the necessary skills to live a more traditional and sustainable life. This includes allowing the students to move forward independently with all tasks with little help and reminders. The homesteading life is one of community, problem-solving, and communication. What better way to start the school year than to jump in and begin working as a team to put our new Hatching Time incubator (the CT 60 SH) to work?
Once the incubator arrived, the children flocked to it excitedly, anticipating what was to come. The children worked together to assemble it with very little direction from me. I don’t need to tell you how proud I am of them and their ability to work together to complete the task at hand.
As the incubator ran through the appropriate testing period to ensure the humidity and temperature would hold, they added the quail egg inserts to the rotating egg trays. Each student took turns adding the fertilized quail eggs to the appropriate egg slots.
The final step for the day was to revert to the manual and note on the calendar when the quail eggs would need to be moved from the small-egg inserts to the hatching baskets in anticipation of hatch day.
We talked with the kids a lot about what an incubator does: Rotate eggs, control temperature and humidity, and sound an alarm if anything goes wrong. For the project, we used a Hatching Time incubator, not only for this project, but also to give it a trial run for future hatchings of ducklings or quail to sell as meat birds.
To test the CT60 Indubator, we did use 50 quail eggs. The 10 incredible children were responsible for setting up the incubator, loading the eggs, monitoring the system, and ensuring that the eggs hatched. I got to watch over everything and marvel at their savvy.
The technology offered by Hatching Time is quite advanced. My schedule is hectic, so a fully automated incubator takes the workload off me and allows me not to worry about the precious cargo it carries.
Active periodic cooling — Poultry leaves the nest daily to eat, drink, and drop waste. During this time, the eggs naturally cool and release moisture. The Hatching Time incubator created an incubator that mimics the natural behavior of a brooder bird, increasing the hatching rate of what was set within.
Egg turner — Most incubators come equipped with the ability to rotate eggs. However, most incubators aren’t smooth and tend to jostle the eggs during the process. Fortunately, the Hatching Time incubators come equipped with vibration-free egg turners. Is this important? It most certainly is, increasing the hatching rate of what was set.
Humidity Control — Humidity was always an issue with other incubators I’ve utilized. Humidity control isn’t an issue with this brand. Once set, the internal temperature and humidity remain once the incubator has been set. The HumisonicTM system provides humidity to the incubator when it is necessary.
Two alarms — The incubator will alarm when the temperature and humidity drop below what it has been set for. In addition to this, it’s also equipped to monitor the humidity and temperature within the room.
Fully insulated cabinet incubator — Helps ensure the humidity and temperature don’t escape, maintaining the setting throughout the incubation period.
Front and back entrance — This option allows easy cleaning, egg candling, and removing newly hatched poultry.
From Hatch to Brooder
In preparation for hatch day, the children adjusted the humidity level and gently moved the quail eggs to the hatching baskets. The school has hatched chicks in the past; however, they’ve never hatched quail chicks. The lunch area was full of proud smiles from everyone in the building.
Aside from a great hatch rate, there was one more task. The quail brooder, the brooder starter kit from HatchingTime.com, must be put together. Of course, the chicks would remain under heat until they were fully feathered, but we have a busy homesteading curriculum coming up, which makes it necessary to stay ahead of tasks.
ANN ACCETTA-SCOTT homesteads on two acres in Washington State, raising poultry, goats, and rabbits. She is an educator and encourager of all
who are seeking to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Ann is also the face behind the website A Farm Girl in the Making and author of The Farm Girl’s Guide to Preserving the Harvest.