It had been a long day. It began at 1a.m. with the sound of a new baby - a lone, first baby in the incubator. You know, that particular cry that seems to say, "I'm wet, I'm tired! I want my mamma!!!!" It's such a heartbreaking sight to watch that first little hatchling wander around the incubator, looking for comfort! So, I was awake; chatting with the little fellow through the window, and then, finally, watching subsequent hatches take place all day. No matter how many hatches I've seen, I never tire of the process. It's incredible and beautiful.
Ah, but I did finally, and quite humanly, get tired. By 10 p.m., I was barely holding my eyes open. Nothing much was happening on the hatching front, so I finally dragged myself off to bed.
My sleep was fitful - and by 4 a.m., I was startled awake - not by any sound, but just a sinking feeling that something was not right. I hurried into the kitchen and switched on the overhead light. With eyes not quite adjusted, I peered into the bator. A fully zipped egg sat completely motionless in its cut out cardboard egg cup - not a terribly alarming sight - but then I saw the humidity gauge. 35%. What? How had it gone from the ridiculously high hatching humidities of the day to such a shockingly low number! I looked again at the little zipped egg. Nothing. No movement, no sound.
I quickly heated a moist paper towel and removed the egg. It felt stiff and sticky as I attempted to clear away some of the shell and membrane. Depressingly, it appeared I was in for a necropsy as I continued to chip, chip, chip...
Cheep, cheep cheep - so quiet, I almost missed it. Cheep, cheep - louder this time! There was no mistaking the sound - the beautiful sound of life!!
I quickly ran it over to my brooder heat lamp and continued to gently peel away the shells, dropping them on the bewildered little hours-old chicks below. My hands shook as I talked to the tiny fighter inside. "You're going to be okay, I'm going to get you out of there." Finally she uncraned her long neck and blinked her little Bielefelder eyes at me as I moved her back to the incubator to allow her to finish the final push.
I wasn't sure if I should be happy, or keep worrying. I'm fairly certain I did both until, gradually, the worry turned to joy as she began her wobbly march around the incubator! "Welcome, tiny Gretta, welcome to your new home! I'm sorry you had such a rough beginning!"
I found out later that my husband had watched her zip around 11p.m., just before he went to bed. She had been in that sticky shell for 5 hours. She's our little miracle!