Tuesday, April 22, 2014

If an egg is broken by an outside force--- Incubating chicks and power tools.

So a little over 21 days ago, I watched this video of a chick's development in an egg.

After watching it, and after seeing so many cute chicks for sale at our local hardware stores, I decided I was going to hatch my own brood of chicks.

Only problem was, I didn't have an incubator.
An incubator couldn't be that hard to build, right?
I sifted through YouTube videos and blog posts until I found a model that looked pretty simple.
I would have to modify it of course to fit my own materials, but I could do it.
I spent a good part of an evening building what I thought, was a pretty stinkin awesome incubator.
I used an old wooden tool box for the basic frame and some foamy packing stuff, (I can't think of what it's called)  to insulate it.

Then I got a castoff wooden board, and drilled a hole for a light bulb, and then I used my sister's  little power jigsaw, to carve the wood to fit the top of the toolbox.
And there you have it. I had an incubator, complete in only a few hours.

I was pretty excited with my creation. Not to mention the fact that my sister's power tools are so awesome. I think every woman should have excess to power tools. Just think how empowered the average woman would be with a simple power saw----(I think I'm calling it the wrong name, but it's so cool) oh and a drill, that's so handy, and a staple gun, and other such accessories. I love them. I feel like mighty woman running them.

I also think dads are seriously missing the boat by not gifting some of these tools to their children, and showing them how to safely  use them. You know how many black and blue bruised thumbs, scrapes, slivers, and endless hours would have been saved? How many hours of frustration, turned into feelings of empowerment, with just a drill, some screws, and a few pieces of new wood?
Seriously, when I think of all the huts I built, with just a hammer and some nails, all the rabbit pens I fixed up with twine and old wires---the endless hammering nails into wood, when a drill and some screws, or a staple gun would have done the trick?

Men, wake up! You want to bond with your woman. Okay. You're tired of her nagging you. Then do something smart.
Help educate and empower the children and women in your life. Power tools were not invented only for your use. You know how many women would cease nagging you, if only they were equipped with some simple life-changing power-tool skills, if you took the time, and taught her with patience.

Oh yes. I'm a power tool advocate.

Seriously. I'm going to protest or something. I guess something happened when I first learned how to use a drill, and run a automatic saw. Life was ever so much more easy. Yes, I know, I've lived on a farm my whole life, and I should know these things. But I didn't. I knew how to do a bunch of other stuff. But power tools weren't among my skills...until just recently. 

Okay, now I've got sidetracked. I was talking about incubating eggs not power tools. 

After I completed building my incubator, my sister who lives just a few miles down the road, found out about my little project, and said I could borrow her incubator and electronic thermometer as well.

Now I was getting excited. I had two incubators, and I would try them both out to see which had the higher yield of chicks.
I used some of our own chicken eggs, and some of my sister's chicken eggs and started the experiment.

My sister's incubator was easy to run. But getting the temperature even was a little tricky. However its temperatures were not nearly as fluctuating as my own homemade incubator.

In the beginning, I had worried that my incubator I built was going to be too cold. But on the contrary, it was too hot. I kept on having to babysit it, and open the lid up, and then turn the eggs, and then fill the water container because all the water had evaporated. I had two dozen eggs in my incubator and about three dozen in my sister's incubator.

What I had previously thought was an amazing accomplishment, my homemade incubator turned into a big flop. Seriously. For chicks to hatch you the incubator to be  about 99 degrees, and 40 percent humidity. I was constantly was having to adjust the temperature. It got blazing hot, then I'd open the lid, then it got too cold. 

 I fretted over that incubator way too many days to count. Suffice it to say, that after a sufficient amount of time I candlelight all the eggs inside it and found no progress. Thus I proceeded with project, incubate take down. I cracked open every one of those eggs, and found only one possible egg that looked like it had started to grow blood veins.

What a horrible disappointment. Next time, if there is a next time, I think I'll need to do a little bit more planning, and have a fan or something to keep the temperatures even so the light doesn't cook the eggs. I should post a picture of my incubator flop. It looked pretty legit, and nifty. But I'm not in the mood.
Gearing the incubator for the hatching eggs

On a happier note, on day 18 of the incubation process, I opened the other incubator, and found cheeping eggs. I was so excited! I was beginning to think that all my efforts had been for nothing.
 It was hard watching, and waiting for them to hatch. The first two eggs that started to hatch had major problems. I guess the babies were a bit premature, due to the fact I guess I needed the humidity adjusted, or I had the heat slightly lower than I should have. It's freaky how just a little glitch in humidity, and a few degrees in temperature can make the chicks forming in the egg deformed, or hatch too early or not develop right.

It kind of scares me. And amazes me that life can exist at all if it's such a precise process.  I guess that's why nature only intended chicken's to hatch chicks, not humans.

Anyway, the first two eggs that started hatching had some serious issues. They were hatching forever, and peeping like crazy.  Part of the inner skin inside the shell looked really dry, so I upped the humidity, and hydrated the egg with a spray bottle.

A few hours later---still the same problem. The chicks looked stuck. I called my sister who has hatched a lot of chicks, and she I surmised that it would be okay at this point  to give a little help to the hatching chicks.

Oh boy I was wrong. 
The little reddish chick still in its shell in the background is the one that was stuck forever.
I clipped the skin that was sticking to the chick's feathers, and peeled back a few bits of shell, and blood started oozing out. That had me really worried. I knew I hadn't jabbed it. But it didn't look normal. Then, my sister dropped by, and I asked her what she thought I should do. She looked worried and said that she thought I better leave the eggs alone. She said there was too much blood to be normal. A normal egg doesn't have that blood stuff inside. She said they looked like they were premature, and if they did hatch they would still have part of the yolk attached to them.

I was beginning to feel like a failure.  I had been watching these eggs for three weeks! I had a sinking feeling they were all going to die, or not hatch.

I felt bad. My stomach felt nauseated. If you've ever hatched eggs, you've got to admit here's nothing quite as grotesquely painful as watching a premature chicky hatch. Suffice it to say, one of the chicks tried to hatch early on, and died. Afterward, I peeled back a layer of shell and can now confirm that he was very not ready to hatch.

The other chick stayed partially hatched, amid his pink juices. I felt very sorry for him. I wanted him to either die or live. Not suffer. Every so often I gave him a drink of water through a straw, and then I oiled his dry feathers and head that were poking out. On the second evening, of waiting for this poor chick to hatch, he began thrashing around in his shell, and I decided I better help him, preemie or not. I couldn't stand watching him suffer any longer. 
It was now or never. 
I stayed up late helping him hatch. I held my breath as the last bit of shell fell away, and to my surprise, he was fully formed. 
No weird juices, or underdeveloped parts. He was really small. And he was very loud, and noisy. His peep, peep, peeping was what kept him alive. 

Because he was covered in oil from me trying to keep him hydrated, I had to give him a bath. His tense little body relaxed, and I fell in love with the little bugger. I dried him off and went to bed, rejoicing that he was finally free of his shell.

Then my other eggs started hatching! My feelings of failure vanished. Chicks popped out of their shells like magic, black, yellow, white, orange.  All of them beautiful, fully formed, and strong, except for one who had a splayed leg. They all hatched just in time for Easter, though I had not planned it at all. It was just a coincidence.

16 eggs hatched, three died, including the small preemie chick that took forever to hatch. He seemed just fine at first, and then just died.

All in all I have 13 little chicks, and I love them. I love how they fall asleep in my arms. They're so fun to watch.

Yesterday, I decided sum up some courage and pull the plug on the unhatched eggs left in the incubator and call it quits. 
Because I was curious, and also because I wanted to know if there were any signs of life in the unhatched eggs, I got the pile of eggs, and cracked each one open, one at at time.

Uggg. Stink. Gross, and gore. Seriously. It was not a nice task. One experience I will not look on with fondness. 

A lot of the eggs had something living inside them at one point, but for reasons unknown to me, a lot of them looked like the chicks inside had stopped devolving at probably two weeks. I'm not sure why. Maybe a sudden temperature drop.  I have no idea. I'll have to consult google, and my sister about that sad fact. 

So the saying goes, don't count your chicks until they've hatched.
And even after they've hatched, you still shouldn't count them. Just love what you've got, however long you've got.
All in all, I'm amazed at the miracle of life. 
That in less than just 21 days a little, orange yolk can form. A brain, a heart, feet, a beak a head, and everything else to support a body. And that little body knows how to hatch out of that egg. 
 And once it's hatched, it's this little ball of fluff that keeps growing and growing.
It's incredible. 
This whole egg post has put me into a reflective mood. I'm reminded of a quote that really rings true for me on so many levels. 

“If an egg is broken by outside force, life ends. If broken by inside force, life begins. Great things always begin from inside.”

– Jim Kwik

So saying, I truly believe this. The chicks I tried to help from the outside, died.  So too, we can take a lesson from this in life. We may look at our brothers struggling to get out of their "shells" whatever those "shells" might be. We may want to help chip away at the things holding them back. We may tell them that it's time for them to breathe, time for them to live, time for them to be whatever it is we think they need to be. 

But we cannot change them.We can not make them develop faster than they are ready to. In our efforts to help them, we actually keep them inside their shell. In our efforts to bring them out, we keep them trapped inside. We kill the relationship we might have had with them. We may think that sufficient time has passed, and that we, being on the outside, looking in, know that the time is now for them to break forth.

But how little we know of our brothers inside struggle. How little we even know of ourselves. If we took time to look inward we would see that we have so much we ourselves need to develop, that our time would be better spent on working own our own developing "embryo," whatever that may be at the time.

We must all work from the inside out, from the darkness to light, from invisible to visible, from spiritual to temporal. For in the darkness, I think that's where God is, working his magic in the souls of others we cannot see. 

From imagination to reality, from an idea to actuality, life is born. Each little "egg" is different, each needs its own special set of circumstances for life to begin. Each needs a different temperature, humidity, and incubation time.  We all must respect this law, the law of the harvest, the law of creation, of the seed buried underground, and know that for it to grow, it needs the water of encouragement, the soil of safety, room for its creative roots to grow and form, the solitude of darkness---and the warmth of hope to bring it from dark to light. 

So from the creative cocoon of darkness, God speaks to us, and calls us forth from our own unique shells, transforming us from the worm we are, to the butterfly we are meant to be. 

So respect the eggs, the shells and cocoons of others. Respect your own. We are not on a race. But a journey. Don't disturb the nest to see what's developing. You will kill whatever is forming. You may think that whatever is inside looks very strange, very unlike the chick it was supposed to be.

Let the eggs sit quietly. Be patient and wait. If you must be there, only provide enough warmth for life, and encouragement, and you will become an instrument in creation, not a hindrance.

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