Picture this. Today is Thursday morning, June 16th, and all is good in the box by the window. But let’s go back to Sunday, four days ago. That’s when I say to Geoff over dinner: tomorrow is hatching day.
We have been turning the eggs 4 to 5 times/day for the last 20 days. I had a clock on my phone with an alarm every few hours to remind me.
In my mum’s room, in the little incubator, 9 of our hens’ eggs, all different in size and colour, lay side by side. The expectation to have a new flock of little Alison Louises, Queenies, Cinders and Nadettes is high.
We loved our girls. Unfortunately, so did the fox.
The temperature in there is 37.6. We add a few drops of water in the humidity cup every time we turn the eggs. A cross on the shell and a date on the opposite side. Easy.
Two days before hatching day we stop turning them. The chicks need to position themselves in the shells ready for the big day. They need to break through the widder end of the egg. We also double the humidity level to soften the shells.
Late on Sunday night before going to bed I check the eggs: there is a crack on one of the eggs and a little black beak is pocking through. Exiting.
On Monday morning, the little crack is no bigger but another chick in another egg is starting too.
By the evening of the same day two chicks have managed to break through and struggling to free themselves from the shells.
In the incubator instructions one can read: do not open the incubator once the chicks have started to hatch and leave them in there for 24h. They do not need food or drink but they need to dry out and rest.
The first chick is still at the same stage, with its beak pocking through and calling out but nothing more is happening.
On Tuesday morning it’s pretty obvious something is wrong with the first chick. It had started to break through the wrong end of the egg and is stuck with congealed stuff all over its face. I feel dreadful but I follow the manufacturer instructions and resist the temptation to open the incubator.
By lunch time I step in to get the first 2 dried chicks out of the incubator. They are struggling with the empty shells and lack of space in there. They go in Solo’s box where there is a light bulb set up at the right temperature.
I also get that first chick out to see if I can do something to help it. Instructions or not, I cannot, not do something. It’s not a pretty sight. Where do I start? As I pull gently a bit of the sell out of its face blood comes spurting out! Oh my god I have just pulled out some skin out of its skull!!!
I am now feeling guilty as hell and put the egg back in the incubator knowing the chick will be dead soon.
By the evening, 2 more chicks are out. We now have 4 little guys in the box sleeping under the lamp.
I have left the incubator on as we are still waiting for another 4 eggs to hatch as well as that first chick still calling out: pew! Pew!
It will be dead by the morning. I feel very bad.
On Wednesday morning it is still calling out and this time, dead for dead I am going to tempt something. I take him out and under warm water in the bathroom, up side down and protecting its beak and airways, I start breaking the shell from under its feet. Pop! Comes one leg like a rocket! And the other!
Under the warm water a very lively little body gets washed and freed form the remnants of its shell. Halleluiah! It’s absolutely fine and gets wrapped in my T-shirt to dry and keep warm.
It has spent 3 days calling. In fact, it has never stopped calling.
It’s weak but it’s alive. The blood I witnessed was from the egg and not from him…
It gets to rest back in the incubator for a while and then joins the others.
Nothing from the remnant’s four eggs. Not a sound. Not a sign of life. I turn the incubator off.
It has been a stressful few days and I am knackered but I am also relieved beyond belief.
This morning pipping over the box, they are all asleep. That little one being alive and well makes me so happy.
Geoff called it Gloria,
Gloria Gaynor, I will survive!