Friday, 23 May 2014

Exploding Eggs

Ordinary common plantain. I just like the look of them.
You will recall that we have long since reached the end of our broody Buff Orpington's planned sitting time and are also at the end for the original twelve eggs which were being sat upon by both our sister geese, Black Feather and Smudge. These things can not be allowed to go on and on unchecked as the birds concerned quickly get out of condition due to the lack of food and exercise, and can get sick. The Buff had sat her full 21 days ending 8th May by which time she'd broken or rejected most of the eggs.

Broody Buff gets (un)comfortable
on the mesh 'deck'.
We gave her another 7 days for good measure after which we cleared the nest and cracked open the eggs to see what might have been what. One exploded so spectacularly on being tapped that a piece whizzed past my ear and I was glad I was aiming the opening away from me. Since then we have hoofed Buffers off the nest three times a day or so to try to break the broody habit. Nothing doing. She'd have a quick mooch round, eat a bit of what was available and straight back onto the nest. Anne tells us that in these circumstances you need a 'broody cage', a wire mesh floored cage where the chicken cannot get comfy and can always feel the breeze blowing round her nethers. Hang the bird in a tree for 24 hours, allegedly and 'Bingo' no more 'clocker'. The girl goes back free-range. I have no such cage but my version of this, which might work was to build a wire mesh false-floor to get Buffers up off the warm hay and breezily uncomfortable. We'll let you know if it works.

Ash bark-beetle tunnels in some firewood.
Back at the geese we had to recover the old date coded eggs (some going back to 4th April!) from under the pair of ladies  and leave them with just the newer eggs if they wanted to stay sitting. This was going to be fun as geese are not always that submissive or co-operative. Also one egg had obviously exploded overnight and hit the wall of the goose house in an impressive 'paintball' splat. I'll forgive you for laughing at my expense, but you should have seen me 'going in' with chainsaw gloves on my hands and my chainsaw helmet with mesh visor protecting my face from any attacks. I needn't have worried. There was plenty of honking and hissing but the geese both panicked off the nest and out of the door at the sight of me looming over them.

Liz was waiting behind the door to close it while we worked. Anne had advised that we candle the eggs just in case they were good and hold each to our ear to listen for the faintest heart beat or sound of a little beak trying to 'pip' the egg (break out through membrane and shell, which can take 4 days). Well, these (4) eggs were silent and candled as fully opaque. We took them to the compost heap and gave each an exploratory crack with a piece of slate. One contained a full size but very dead embryo, the remaining three exploded in soft yellow, smelly mess, addled and a bit 'ripe' after 40 days under the geese. There were originally 12. We can now account for 6 - one hatched, one exploded overnight, 4 recovered. We assume the other 6 have also broken or gone pop and are buried in the debris under the nest. Well, there were also 8 'new' eggs, so we made up a couple of nests of 4 each and retreated. letting the geese back in (and George go with them as he had been a bit upset by our rude assault on the ladies). As of this morning (Friday) Smudge has now claimed all 8 and is still sitting but Black Feather has cried a definite 'Enough!' and followed George out to the orchard in a determined manner this morning, her job done as far as she was concerned. We are assuming all the new 8 are from Smudge, mated by George while Black Feather was already sitting. If she is doing her standard egg every other day, than that will have taken her at least 16 days so the eggs have now been incubated by the sitter for between 2 and 16 days. They might therefore hatch (probably widely spaced) any time from the 4th, right through to the 23rd June. It is not likely to end well. Once the geese have one baby needing to get off the nest to get food and water, they tend to abandon the remainder of the eggs.

Sorry about the rubbish photo - I was trying to juggle egg
and light in one hand, camera in the other. I couldn't use
flash or you'd not see the transparency of the egg.
Finally a more pleasant task, to candle the 16 Guinea Fowl eggs in the incubator, now at day 13. Well, we are very much beginners at this but to our untutored eyes, all 16 seemed to be fertile containing growing embryos. All have healthy sized air sacs and as you twirl them in the 'candler' light you can see a definite opaque side and a transparent side, a sign that the 'germ' disc is spreading its fan of blood vessels out from the embryo around the yolk. These guys are due on about the 6th of June.

It's all go! - oh and we had some fun yesterday as we returned from shopping to find the lawn running with escaped baby rabbits. We had to round them up and shore up the gap where the straight bottom of the run meets the not-particularly-flat lawn.

1 comment:

Anne Wilson said...

Yes, that egg looks viable, now I know why I prefer to use an incubator rather than a broody, far more control over what you are trying to achieve. A broody is great to look after what you have hatched, large broodies tend to be heavy on the eggs but good at mothering, small broodies good at hatching but not so good at the mothering part.