A few blogs ago I wrote about our guinea fowl and their lack of parenting skills. Their skills lacking so much, in fact, that we were forced to purchase an incubator in order to replenish our flock. Nothing screams classy quite like an incubator sitting in the kitchen. I don’t even like the looks of a microwave on the counter. I tried to veto having a big, ugly Styrofoam mechanical humming box occupying space there, but Steve won out.
Prior to deciding to give incubation a try, we were collecting the eggs for our own consumption because they are delicious. Once guineas begin to lay eggs in one spot they will continue as long as there are a couple in the pile. I marked a few in a deep purple color as decoys so they would continue to lay and we would be guaranteed fresh eggs. Once we were committed to hatching I stopped collecting and let the pile grow. When the incubator arrived I noted that there was room for 40 eggs. I only had 37 “newer” eggs, so I had to include some funky purple ones too. Oops.
Before introducing the eggs, we set the timer on the incubator for 28 days. The eggs are placed in a removable cup tray that slowly rocks the eggs, mimicking the way a mother would in the wild. Three days before the expected hatch date, the egg turner must be turned off and the eggs placed on the wire bottom of the incubator in order for the chicks to position themselves properly prior to pecking their way to freedom.
In hindsight, the countertop placement was logical; part of our morning routine has been checking the humidity level and add water if it goes below 60%. We have tended to them like any doting parent. Most mornings we have added a touch of water to ensure the eggshells stay soft enough for the chick to peck out when the time comes.
On the seventh day after taking up residence on my kitchen counter, we had to “candle” the eggs to check for viability. The coolest part of this was that our grandchildren were here to help. We waited until after dark, turned off the lights in the kitchen and then carefully picked up each egg to hold up to the lighted instrument. If a dark blotch was evident, the embryo was forming. We had several that were questionable, but most looked great.
One week later, we candled again for the last time. If no dark blotch was present, those eggs were not viable and had to be removed to prevent bacteria from growing and killing the remaining thriving embryos. We ended up with 27 viable eggs after candling. The ones that were not developing were put into the compost pile and will nurture the planting fields as fertilizer next year. Now it was back to checking, watering and waiting.
With their due date looming in five or six days, we discussed the upcoming week at the dinner table on Sunday and made a to-do list of what we needed to do in order to be ready for the new arrivals. We are very busy with summer planting so scheduling in tasks like this is important or they won’t get completed. The plan was: remove the turning mechanism on Tuesday, clean out their outdoor brooder on Wednesday and then keep a close eye for signs of their hatching by Thursday-Saturday. I felt like we were ahead of the game for once!
Feeling confident about our scheduling was certainly a big mistake. Just like every morning, the first thing Steve did on Monday was to stop at the incubator to check the humidity level. Imagine his shock when he came eye to eye with a newborn guinea chick. Those big eyes seemed to be asking “are you my mother?” Our kitchen went from gestation to labor and delivery in an instant. Toss the schedule out and make a new one……stat.