In our last hatch of 2011,
all of the chicks were very vigorous and didn't need help, except for
two eggs in which the chick had developed backwards. Rather than
having its head at the large end of the egg, where the chick had plenty
of room (well, relatively speaking) to maneuver around, both of these
troubled chicks tried to peck out of the pointed end of the egg.
Thirteen hours after the
first troubled chick pipped, I decided to go ahead and help it
out. I'd read that a chick who pips at the narrow end of the egg
has a death sentence unless you
help it, and I
wanted to see if this chick could survive. So I heated up some
warm water, dampened a cloth, and started to peel away eggshell.
As I tore into the membrane, blood pooled under my fingers, and I knew
I had jumped the gun. Apologizing profusely, I cleaned up the egg
and put it back in the incubator, where I worried myself sick about the
chick for another nine hours.
At 24 hours post pip,
the chick began to struggle furiously, but made no headway on
hatching. Once again, I took the egg out of the incubator, this
time discovering that the morning's blood had dried onto the chick's
feathers and glued them to the membrane. More warm water, a bit
more picking at the shell and membrane (which no longer bled), and the
chick was free.
Meanwhile, a second egg's shell
had been penetrated by a backwards chick, but I was leery of helping
too soon due to my bleeding membrane experience. Instead, I left
the egg in the incubator, and 22 hours later, the chick hatched
completely on its own. I guess pipping on the narrow end of the
egg isn't a death sentence! Unfortunately, the chick's valiant
struggles injured one of its feet so that the toes
curled under and the
chick was unable to walk straight. I'll post more about our
reponse to that problem once I know for sure how it turned out.
The chick from the egg I
helped (even though I mangled the operation the first time) is just as
strong and healthy as the chicks that pipped at the blunt end of the
egg, while the chick I didn't help is going to need some TLC and will
probably never be perfectly cured. My experience from previous
hatches lines up with these results --- chicks that need help but don't
get it tend to injure themselves getting out of the egg. I plan
to be even more vigilant about aiding chicks in the future.
Our chicks took to their chicken waterer on their second morning and
have flocked around it ever since.
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