Tuesday 3 June 2014

Breaking News

First keet gets his 'lid' off, 
You do not often get posts on here in 'Real Time' but today we have HUGE excitement as the Guinea Fowl keets have started to hatch. As I type this we have 5 out so far (from 16 eggs) and more eggs 'pipping' (starting to crack open as flakes of shell are punched off from within). The exit from an egg can take the baby chick more than 24 hours. They have a little sharp blip on top of their beak (the "egg tooth") which they use to punch upwards by throwing their head back, slowly chiseling their way through two tough egg membranes and then the shell. Egg shell has a very special structure - hard to break into from outside but easier to shatter from inside out.

No 1 still wet from the egg. 
We had a visit from the Silverwoods yesterday who were on the way home from dropping No 1 daughter into darkest Connemara for her 3 weeks living in the Irish language speaking area, the 'Gaeltacht'. Students can go on these 'training courses' to improve their Irish, but our niece (of whom we are inordinately proud) won hers as a scholarship for being Student of the Year. Go Em-J!

Nearly dry - much cuter than the parent birds!
Anyway, the gang had come, eaten, taken tea and departed in a homeward direction and Liz and I had adjourned to the Living Room for a sit down. We were both reading books when we heard a small whistling noise. At first we thought it was a strange snore from Towser (dog) or maybe a blackbird singing in the dusk outside but it slowly dawned on us that it was not a whistling but a cheeping coming from the incubator in the corner of the room; the keets had started hatching! One had broken a small hole in 'his' eggshell and been able to breathe the air and therefore to start cheeping. The dogs all realised that this was a new noise and potential prey animal, so we had to restrain them in a bit of a hurry as they started working out ways to get up to the incubator on the coffee table.

15 hours later and we have 5 out with more pipping.
That was at 11 pm or so. We kept peeking in (we know now, you shouldn't because the humidity in the 'incy' will drop and the chicks may struggle to break through the membranes as they dry out and toughen up) and saw the little guy gradually work a bigger hole and then eventually push off the 'lid' and tumble out onto the floor of the incubator. Other eggs were starting to break too, with the broken flakes of shell visibly pulsing upwards, nudged by egg-teeth.

Bob and Cody having a run around.
This is old hat to a lot of our experienced small-holder chums but this is our first ever 'go' with an incubator and our first batch of eggs, never mind that these are guinea fowl eggs from our own Min and the late (and formerly obviously very fecund) Henry. We are as excited as kids at Christmas. Ah well, I said this was real time. As I type this at 3 pm on the Tuesday we have 5 keets out and more eggs pipping. On the advice of internet experts and Charlotte of the mini-horses we have moved the dividers from the 'incy' floor and taken out discarded shells. The pipping eggs roll about a bit with all the drama going on inside and can fall into an empty half-shell and trap the chick fatally within 2 shell thicknesses. I'll give you a final score in the next post.

Meanwhile we had a complete change  of scene and distraction from keets and pipping, with a visit from Paddy the Dutch Farrier (I kid you not). The mini horses had come round due for their periodic manicure and pedicure; these guys are never shod as they do very little tarmac work, but they do need their 'toenails' cutting. Our friends Charlotte and Carolyn (of the mini horses) currently have one of the boys (Romeo) down at their place but the other two (Bob and  Cody) are in our East Field, so Paddy was happy to go to them rather than have them brought to a central point. He did not mind at all me fussing around taking pictures and asking (probably silly) questions as he worked away quietly and efficiently, the horses well aware that he was the boss and not to be messed with; they were on their best behaviour.

The clippings are like huge toe-nail clippings.You wouldn't want to find them round the rim of the bath if you were nipping round with your de-scaler and J-cloth! Charlotte told us that some dogs go mad for them as a chew treat, so I tried these three on our dogs. The pups, Towser and Poppy, piled in enthusiastically but I wished I had had my camera there to record Deefer's look of total disgust. Do you expect me to eat THAT! It's like a bit of old toe nail. The pups polished hers off - she stalked off in high dudgeon. Sorry, Deefs!

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