One more crack at incubating eggs

I swore I?d never do it again. I mean, twice is enough, right? The constant checkups to make sure development is proceeding properly, the checking off calendar days till the due date, the sleepless nights spent achieving the perfect temperature and proper position…and the breathless anticipation of impending new life. It?s just so stressful. So I did it again.

I incubated eggs.

I?ve been running low on guineas since last year. What with them wandering away and predators (both four-footed and four-wheeled) picking them off one by one, my little flock had dwindled to two.

So how could I say no when a friend of mine offered me some free guinea eggs? Easy. N.O. After all, I didn?t even have an incubator?I?d had to borrow hers last time.

Then one of the kids came in with a tick and I knew I just had to have more guineas. Annoying? Yes. Ugly? And how. But they?re the best tick control you ever laid eyes on.

The next day found me walking out of the farm supply store with my lovely brand spanking new incubator. Who needed the forced air add-on kit or the automatic egg turner? Not me.

I knew I?d made the right choice when I noticed that some of her guineas were the color I wanted last year. Now I was cooking with Crisco.

Unfortunately, the incubator manufacturer didn?t seem to want me to be. The instructions were annoyingly vague, and when I checked online, I got massively different temperature ranges and humidity ranges the little darlings were going to need to hatch.

Just when I thought I had the ranges figured out, I happened to leave the fool machine alone overnight (or maybe I crossed my eyes wrong) and it went haywire.

As it turned out, my week spent fiddling with the cursed machine had given my friend time to locate two more guinea nests, which just happened to have a few chicken eggs in them for good measure.

We had no idea how long they?d lain there, but I figured out in for a penny, in for a pound, and took them home to my finally cooperating incubator. I set all 40-some eggs in there to let them develop for a few days. What?s this? A few inches of empty space? I threw in a couple of my own chicken eggs.

No broody hen ever hovered more than I did. Adjusting the temperature knob a gnat?s whisker at a time, adding just a few more drops of lukewarm water, turning the eggs twice a day, and candling every so often (because I have a horror of a rotten egg exploding in there) really cuts into your personal time, including sleep cycles.

I think I might possibly be the only person ever to have half a dozen colored markers and a sophisticated cycle of candling and marking good development or questionable fertility. Got a question mark on your shell? Sorry buddy, but if I don?t see improvement in three days, out you come.

Oh, and did I mention that the only good place in the house to put the incubator to protect it from prying hands and paws was on top of the piano? Yep, I got to do all of this by climbing up and down from a chair. Oh thrill, oh joy.

The chicken eggs were looking good approaching hatch day. The little eggs were peeping and rocking as the little chicks fought their way out.

I promptly forgot why I swore I?d never do this again. One by one, the little wet chicks flopped into the world, wobbled around on unused legs, and generally let their general displeasure with the current situation be known to everyone in earshot. They bumbled into the guinea eggs, tumbled over the hygrometer, and won my heart all over again.

With the chicks safely in the brooder, I?m waiting on the guinea keets to hatch later this week. Their shells are so hard, it?s a wonder the little ones get out at all. Someone once mentioned that if they were driving down my road, they wouldn?t bother to slow down for any guineas.

I sure hope that people who drive by might keep in mind that these dumb, ugly, noisy birds did take a lot of work to raise and really provide a great service for us. I?m told their eggs are really tasty too, but usually by the time I find a nest, they?re most likely past their eat-by date.

I suppose I should really learn to stop saying never. Out here, if at first you don?t succeed, try again and do it right this time. There are always ways to improve?and for me, that means getting a forced air kit and a brick to hold the top on the incubator. Enough of this chair business.

And even though it?s late, Happy Mother?s Day to our mother hens. Thanks for bringing us out of our shells, helping us up on our feet, and giving us wings to fly.