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“Don’t try this at home!”

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Peeping and scuttling noises are the background music this morning as I type the tale of the latest ‘rescue chick.’  Since late Thursday evening, the hatching has begun here and by this morning’s count there are 30 out of 42 chicks in various stages of dry & fluffy in the brooder box next to me.  I think that by Tuesday we will know the final count and then the incubator will be cleaned up for the next batch of eggs, the chicks all established in a properly outfitted brooder to keep them warm and comfortable for the next several weeks.

Every now and then we have a ‘chick with a story’ here at the farm.  When a chick has pipped and attempts to hatch out, all of the books advise you not to interfere.  Chances are that if there is low to no progress, there are reasons for it that mean she may be weak or malformed and therefore it will be nature’s way for success or not.  However, my kids and I have actually played God and by involving ourselves in helping the struggling, we’ve been blessed with “Marshmallow”, “Sticky” and now “Gummy.”  From what we can tell, after the pipping begins, air enters the egg and if a chick is unable to finish the hatching in a reasonable amount of time, the shell dries onto the chick which intensifies the struggle.  That means a chick will be stuck to the inside of its shell and resists removal.

So here is a photo demonstration of the method we’ve devised of interference.  A little chick-c-section, if you will:

at the sink, I remove the shell that is loose, revealing the weak and stuck chick
A wet paintbrush helps us to put a bit of water on the dried and stuck membrane encasing her.
With nail trimmers, I carefully break the shell a fraction at a time to loosen, but careful not to tear her skin or feathers.
She's able to push free when we start lifting the softened membrane and shell off.
Cleaning the final membrane off of her feathers.
Free, free, free at last!
On her towel bed, she rests and dries out in the brooder.
Christened "Gummy" by a visiting 4-year-old, she is quite ready to join the rest of the flock!

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