Eggs for Poppy, 2013 – the hatch!
January 3, 2014 § Leave a comment
It didn’t start entirely well. We heard some distinct tapping from the eggs on the morning of the 27th (Day 20), and by 4.30 that afternoon, egg #6 was pipping. By the time we shut Poppy in for the night, a second egg (#2) had also started to pip, and Poppy’s little purring noises had become a bit louder and more focused. We went to bed feeling quite excited. But when we checked the eggs the following morning (the 28th – Day 21), we found that #6 had almost managed to hatch, but had been – and again, there’s no easy way to put this – squashed. I don’t know why it happened, or what we can do to prevent it happening again. Maybe Poppy’s getting clumsier as she gets older? Maybe we need to scale back the number of eggs she sits on? Or maybe it’s just one of those things that happens, and the fact of it being two years in a row is just a coincidence. Either way, we had a dead chick on our hands. We removed the body and as many bits of shell as we could find, and turned our attention to egg #2.
This little one had managed to unzip (break the shell all the way around, so the top was free from the bottom), but hadn’t managed to completely sever the shell and emerge. This was not good. And there was quite a lot of bleeding too – another thing that is very much not good. We could see that the membrane where the chick had first pipped was quite dry, so we decided that s/he needed our help. It took about fifteen minutes, carefully moistening the membranes and gently picking off bits of shell until the chick was free of the egg. The bleeding hadn’t continued, but to be sure, we left the membranes and remaining bit of yolk still attached to the chick and tucked him/her very carefully under Poppy. Three other eggs were pipping – two of Poppy’s and Lily’s #13 – so we crossed our fingers and tried to leave them alone for a while. (And did I mention it was bucketing down with rain? All day? It was.)
We checked them again at 11 am, and our little rescued chick had absorbed all the yolk and kicked free from the membranes, and was peeping fairly strongly to Poppy. Eggs #1 and #5 were pipping, and egg #4 peeped quite loudly at me when I moved it. (No hole in the shell yet.) I didn’t want to disturb them too much, so didn’t continue the search for #13.
By 7.30 pm we had two chicks out – #1 was dry and quite vigorous, and we also had our first Dorking chick – #8, who looks like a little girl! – out and drying off. #2 was a bit worrying – dry, but still lying down in a slightly curled position, rather than trying to stand. But s/he was peeping as loudly as ever, so we still had hope. Egg #5 was still making its way through the unzipping phase, and we could hear peeping from the other eggs too. We went to bed feeling quite mixed emotions – pleased about #1 and #8, but slightly expecting #2 to not be alive in the morning.
Sunday 29th dawned with yet more rain tipping down. We had rigged a market umbrella over the broody coop so that we could check Poppy without also drowning her. And it was good – all of Poppy’s eggs were now hatched, and we couldn’t tell which was our little rescuee any more! Yay! The final Rhodie egg – #3 – had just finished unzipping and had kicked the bottom shell away. Quite a funny sight really, lying with his/her head in the top of the shell, for all the world like someone in a space helmet. We still only had the one Dorking out (#8), but #13 was in the process of unzipping. No signs of pipping from eggs #9, 10, 11 or 12. And #13 was out, drying under mum and peeping happily (or possibly grumpily, given that we kept opening the lid and looking in) by the middle of the day. Seven chicks! Seven little Poppettes!
To cut a long story short – we gave the remaining four eggs another 24 hours, but when there was still no sign of anything on the afternoon of the 30th (which would have been Day 23), we did the Float Test to confirm that there was no life within (if they hang horizontally, the airsack is unruptured and therefore no live chick; if it hangs more horizontal, then there has been pipping; if it bobs or moves, you have a hatching in progress) and then autopsied the eggs. The photos may be distressing to some, so have been hidden. If you want to see them, clicking on the text link will bring up the relevant autopsy photo. And if you’d rather not read about what we found, it might be a good idea to skip over the next paragraph, and go straight to the happy ending.
From what we could tell, all three of Lily’s eggs (#9, 10 & 11) had developed normally, but hadn’t made it past Day 17 or 18. No idea why. All three still had entire yolk-sacs, but were otherwise well developed. (#9 slightly less so than the others.) 11 would probably have been in trouble though – the head should at this stage be tucked under the wing, ready to pip into the airsack. This poor little bub had his/her head twisted around, so would have missed the airsack completely. Egg #12 – Gabby’s egg – looks like it stopped developing at around Day 7. How we missed that while candling I do not know. Maybe something to do with how long her eggs are, so we never quite rotated it into the right position to see? Or maybe we were always looking at the eyes of the embryo, and so thought we were seeing more darkness than was actually there? Don’t know. Whatever the reason, it’s sad that these four didn’t make it. But on the positive side: all of Poppy’s and Lily’s eggs were viable, despite their advanced years (both girls now over six years old). And Lola and Patrick have definitely been doing their jobs. So while it’s sad we only got two Dorking bubs, there’s no reason to think we couldn’t hatch out a few more, later on in the season, if someone else goes broody.
So there you have it. Seven gorgeous little chicks. Both Dorkings look like girls, and have names – #8 is Freya (named for her Aunty, Frida), and #13 is Remy. (If you watched House, you should get where that name comes from!) Having chicks hatch never gets old, but this time feels extra special – our first babies from our own breeding. We’ve closed the circle. Awwwww!