Out of the dozen eggs we placed in our incubator, 11 hatched!!!!! I am pretty proud of ourselves, I have to say.
I attribute our major success this time through to will-power. Liv and I adore candling the eggs (candling is a term for holding an egg up to a bright light to see the contents - hopefully a squirming chick) and we do manage to find a plethora of excuses for 'checking on the eggs' most of the time. This hatch, we managed to contain ourselves enough to only check at one week and two weeks to ensure that we weren't keeping any infertile or rotten eggs within the 'sacred chamber' that is our incubator.
Unfortunately for five of the wee chicks, our hygrometer (an thermometer like thing that measures humidity) seems to have become inaccurate at the end of the hatch. The poor little ones were stuck, cheeping madly, within the tiny confines of their partially open eggs for two days. Although you are NOT supposed to ever 'help' a chick hatch (because they can bleed to death if their umbilicus to the yolk sac has not completely closed over), I felt compelled to do just that. I washed my hands twice, sterilized my hands and the tweezers with rubbing alcohol and went to work quickly chipping off the shell. I found it tense yet exhilarating having to work fast enough that the chick didn't get chilled. The feeling of their tiny, damp bodies pressing intermittenly against the shell in an attempt to break free reminded me of giving birth to my little ones. I felt very.....motherly to these little ones and rejoiced when they managed to squirm from their egg-shaped prison (by rejoice, I mean jump up and down in staccato and quietly, so not to wake the kids, made "Yeah! Yeah!" noises while pumping one arm as I have seen athletes do at sporting events...)
Anyhow, the extended stay within the shell caused three of the tiny birds to have crooked toes ranging in severity. They can walk but....well, it looks awful and uncomfortable. In an attempt to find an answer, I turned to the trusty, yet sometimes questionable, information that the internet provides. I came across a site where some
Speaking lovingly and comfortingly to the little guy, I slowly lowered him/her back into the brooder box and gently placed him/her with his/her fellow 'peeps'. Without missing a beat, the others lunged at him/her. Incessantly pecking at the 'shoes' they rolled the strangely footed one on his/her back and were having their way with his/her orthotics.
Panicing, I hastily removed him/her from the box and attempted to slip the footware from his/her feet as smoothly as possible....But medical tape is meant to STAY ON!!! I was terrified of ripping off the chick's toes, but worried that if I took too long the chick would get chilled, be completely freaked out (like me) and have a heartattack (something I hear can happen in poultry) and die in my hands so soon after feeling it be birthed from its' shell-encrusted 'womb'.
I managed to remove the tape, sans chicken toes, after a few chaotic moments filled with horrific swearing, silent crying and loud cheeping that seemed to resembl pleading, and have decided that crooked toes are LOVELY. This malformation allows diversity within my flock and thus also enables me to tell one fluffy black chick from another by the severity of its' crooked feet.
Oh, Mother Nature, you are so wise. I promise, I will try to remember! Leave well enough alone!!! You know what you're doing!!