I think I was in a deep sleep when I woke with a start, sat bolt upright and had a myriad of thoughts going through my head. I checked the clock, it was 02.25. I sat on the edge of the bed sorting the thoughts bouncing all over the place in my head, into some semblance of order.
The phone had not rung, so no known family emergency, the house and garden were quiet so unlikely to be a fox after the chicks or a burglar in the house. Oh my goodness it must be the chicks peeping.
I swiftly left the bedroom and hurried to our den with adrenalin trying to rush through my protesting body. I looked into the incubator, hoping, although not expecting to see a crack in one or more eggs, as this was Day21, the due hatch day.
There it was, Egg # 5 with a definite crack. I peeped and tapped on the side to say ‘Well done’ and further motivate the chick to hatch. Both Duane and I had said ‘Goodnight’ and other words of encouragement as well as made peeping noises at the eggs less than 90 minutes previously. Duane definitely does better chick peeps and chicken talk than me. Egg # 5 is at the one furthest away in the corner, and the crack is near where it is nearly touching the adjacent egg
I then had to make a decision, do I wake Duane at the early point of potential hatch, or let him sleep and wake him when the chick has manged to break through the shell completely. It was a quick decision, the hard bit for me was waking him up gently rather than dashing back in whooping with joy that Egg # 5 had started to peep. I managed to wake Duane as sensitively as I could given the circumstances. I explained that it was only a small crack and that I would take some photos, keep him updated and wake him when the shell had been cracked most of the way. He gave a smile and wished them luck.
I am sitting here pondering the wondrous of birth whilst I wait for the chick to take some rest and then hopefully continue the job of trying to be born. Like any birth, be it a bulb breaking through the earth to bloom, or a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, it is a complex process. With the chicks, they grow within the egg and develop key structures at different stages. I won’t bore you with the details as they are much the same for any creature. However with the chicken, if the humidity and heat are right, by day 18 onwards its embryo should have filled three quarters of its shell. It also would have developed an egg tooth, yes you heard it right, they have an egg tooth for the prime purpose of breaking open the shell.
The clever chick positions itself at a peculiar angle and jerks its body to break through the membrane and into the the air sac. This is when it takes a rest and its body adjusts to breathing. If the incubator is to humid, the chick ( s it has breathed it can be called a chick) is likely to drown in its own fluids, if it is to dry the embryo or chick sticks to shell and dies. Once it is through the air sac and has rested, it starts the mammoth task of chipping away at its shell to join the world. I guess you could liken this to the first and second stage stage of human labour. The process can happen very quickly or take hours.
I have just added some body temperature water to ensure # 5 Chickie has optimum humidity and chance of survival and have taken some photos. E-mails have been sent to share my excitement and make use of my waiting time. As expected, Barry (son) was still up and responded with enthusiasm, he predicts the chick will be a boy. I think you can tell with Silkies by sexing the feathers on the first day only. So I will be looking at the pin feathers, if they are all one length then it will likely be a rooster, if they are two different lengths then it is likely to be a pullet. (Do not google feather sexing Silkies) I am counting the hours until I can ring the Grandchildren up and tell them that # 5 has started to peep.
I am wondering if animals have the same tendency to die in the early hours of the morning much the same as humans. My mind is thinking that would be a great piece of research to read or for somebody to do, if the reasons can be identified. The low staffing issues in hospital is giving as a prime reason, and although that is plausible it does not account for the natural deaths within the same given time scale. Life and death are so extrinsically linked, and is the one certainty we have. I am starting to ramble now so I will sign of, as it is now 04.15 and will keep you all posted.
I spoke to soon, I have just checked the Chicks/eggs and Egg # 3 is now pipping. I love my Chickens :o)