After much anticipation, we candled the Muscovy eggs last night (it’s easiest to do when it’s dark – there’s more contrast) and were pleasantly surprised to find development in 5 of the 7. The egg with the crack was clear, so likely was infertile. Another egg that we left in was “iffy” – while not clear, it also didn’t show the same kind of vein development the others did. It could just be a bit slower to develop, so we’ll give it another week and recheck.
Given the very cold temperatures, the circuitous route they traveled, and the unknowns of how they were handled along the way, it’s amazing that any survived the trip at all. The saying “don’t count your chickens until they hatch” (and ducks!) makes a lot of sense: eggs can stop developing for a number of reasons pretty much at any point in their incubation, so until that live chick is out of the egg, fluffy, and eating/drinking normally, a wise person wouldn’t “count” it.
The duck eggs take roughly 35 days to hatch, so they still have a long way to go. You’ll recall that chicken eggs only take about 21 days to hatch – the development moves along much faster, so it’s easier to identify a growing chick at 7 days in a chicken egg than a duckling in a Muscovy egg (and mallard-derived duck breed eggs take about 28 days to hatch). Batch 2 of the second generation chicks will be hatching tomorrow, so it’ll be an exciting and nerve-wracking day. The most difficult part is deciding whether (and when) to intervene to assist a chick to hatch. Under ideal conditions, it wouldn’t be necessary to assist any chicks, and some people who hatch chicks refuse to do so under any circumstances, citing natural selection. If this was a truly natural situation, we might feel differently, but there are a number of problems caused by incubation (e.g., humidity too high or too low) that are due to human (incubation) error. Accordingly, we will assist a chick if it appears to have suffered from a humidity-related issue like shrinkwrapping (humidity too low during hatch, possibly from opening incubator to remove chicks) or being stuck in “goo” (humidity too high). The one gooey chick we helped last hatch didn’t survive, but it still feels like we did the right thing by trying to give it a chance. Another slightly gooey chick we assisted is now indistinguishable from its brethren. Worth it? Definitely.
A farmer deals with life and death, whether s/he wants to or not – it’s our reality. We take responsibility for our actions, including how we care for and dispatch our animals, and don’t delegate that to people we don’t know in some factory environment so we can plead ignorance when shocking cruelty is exposed. Real farmers care for and respect their animals because their livelihoods depend on it, and many just genuinely like animals. Animals aren’t objects – they are thinking, feeling creatures who have a right to dignity, safety, and having their basic needs met. People who can’t or won’t honor those rights shouldn’t raise animals.
Updates on the next hatch to come tomorrow. Hopefully, all 15 hatch unassisted and are healthy! We’ll have our “emergency assistance” tools – tweezers, paper towels, a bowl for warm water – ready just in case, though.