Previously I wrote about an attempt on our part to hatch eggs ( in “A lesson on facing loss and acknowledging failure…”). We decided to try again. It didn’t go well. This is an understatement. We were watching the incubator carefully, and every so often it would fluctuate from 97-101. This is a real problem, as it needs to stay right around 99. One day PJ called me (on my way home from work) and told me it was “102″. I asked his sister to try to turn it down “just the tiniest bit”. She didn’t want to. She felt responsible for the previous failure (more than was warranted) and didn’t want to be responsible for the life of these eggs. I explained that failing to act when they needed her would be the same as choosing to let them die. She made a slight adjustment. I called back later, still on my way home, and asked them what the temperature was (they hadn’t been back to recheck)…. it was 120f. I’m not kidding. I was sick at heart. “Remove the covers and shut if off!”. I arrived home about 30 minutes later to find it still at 112f. They were cooked. I left it just like that and walked outside. I was really upset. I did let the daughter know that I was disappointed in her. Not because she turned it the wrong way, or because she turned it more than a tiny bit (well, maybe a little upset with that) but because she failed to keep an eye on them when they were in danger. I know she was upset too. It wasn’t her fault that the incubator was fluctuating, but I want my children to understand that (like or not) we have a responsibility to these helpless creatures.
About an hour later, Grumpy told a friend of his (who lives in Nebraska, where he has a farm) about our unfortunate egg bake. His friend told him that we shouldn’t give up. Grumpy encouraged me to keep on incubating. I didn’t want to be the one to burst his bubble. I went back to the eggs; they had now cooled to 80f. Equally lethal. Still, if it made him happy…so I plugged it back in.
I continued to watch these baked eggs, carefully monitoring the temperature but not turning them as often as I should. I worked long hours and the kids were no longer willing to face turning them. I understood, it seemed wrong somehow to keep turning those poor dead birds. Finally, on day 27, I wanted to put this to an end. I picked up the eggs, candling them to be absolutely certain there was no sign of life before removing them.
When I saw movement in that first egg I almost dropped it! We have here, in these photos, a testament to the mysteries of survival in the animal kingdom. These birds survived when they “couldn’t possibly”. Over the course of the day 3 eggs hatched on their own. There were another 2 birds that started the process, then seemed to grow progressively weaker. After about 8-10 hours of watching them I noticed that the membranes were hardening around the birds in their shells. I finally removed the eggs and pulled away their restrictive membranes. These birds seem extremely weak. I’m not sure they will survive. The 3 birds who hatched on their own were another story.
This is that first bird ( whom Avery named “Cheeko”). He was so feisty that we had to remove him as soon as his feathers dried. He was bombing around the incubator, walking all over the other birds, drinking and eating with enthusiasm. Now he’s in the nesting box, happy with his 2 strong siblings. We’re keeping the other sickly ones in the incubator still, but hoping they’ll soon grow strong. In the meantime we’re enjoying watching the antics of these feisty “half-baked” birds!
UPDATE on Half Baked Hatchlings…
Was I surprised when I got home from work?!!
Those two weak babies, the ones who were totally unable to use their legs for the first few hours of life outside the shell? While I was at work they grew strong. They are both able to walk, hop, eat and drink when they desire. The two on the bottom were the weaklings. There’s a little grey “pearl” guinea in the middle. They are in a warm box, but are loving the (warmer) rice sock we keep in the nest. I’ve had to remove those weaklings from the incubator and place them into the brood box with the 3 stronger babies because……….
There’s a new baby in town! That’s right…when I got home there was another tyke trying to get out. It’s almost dry now, and she’s already learned to drink from the dish. That’s not all…there is one more egg that seems to have a little tiny bit of activity inside. We are so happy to have 6 birds all alive and well. I’ll keep watching that last egg…