Warning: vegans and some squeamish vegetarians may want to skip this post. Farmers and sciencey folks will be happy.
So I toy back and forth with the idea of eating my laying birds in the fall and buying new layers in the spring. With a tiny flock like mine, financially it works out to be about the same- $35 to feed the girls through the winter, or about the same to pick up 3 ready to lay birds in the spring... and I wouldnt have to spend time fighting a losing battle with ice and snow to keep them happy.
Two things hold me back, Cheepers is way more pet than potential food... the second reason is related, if I'm standing on principle that the birds are pets not livestock for the bylaw changes, I probably shouldn't eat the rest of my "pets" (until the changes to the bylaw happen.... )
Anyway, last week I decided to try hatching some eggs under my broody Cheepers. I got some fertilized eggs from the Mack's farm and marked them with a pencil before putting them under her.
That was Wednesday night.
I was clear that I took too many eggs early on. When one of the other girls would lay an egg, Cheepers would scoop it up too... pushing out one of the fertilized eggs from under her to make room. I took away one of the eggs the first day. Ruebendog ate it.
Sunday night I went out to the coop to get the eggs that had been layed that day, when I reached in the nest box I found that Cheepers had managed to scoop all three new eggs, and one of the hatching eggs was pushed aside. Cold.
No sense in leaving a now dead egg in the nest... it would just stink if I left it too long, so I brought it inside for Rueben, figuring it would have a gross red spot in it, but he wouldn't care.
I failed to realize how quickly eggs develop.
I mean. Eggs are amazing.
They get layed, and if they are fertilized they stop developing if the temperature drops below 80... and they just sit in stasis until the temperature goes back up. This means mamma hen can lay an egg every day for a few days, then get broody and sit on those eggs... And they'll all hatch on the same day!!!
So. My eggs were layed on Wednesday by a number of different birds, they were sat on Wednesday night... Sunday night...
4 days in (5 if you count that they were laid that morning and didn't really drop too far in temperature)
The first thing I noticed when I cracked the cold dead egg was that the white had changed consistency. It was really runny. Like water. When it dropped into the dog dish I realized two other things.... I had no idea how long it took for a chick to develop... there in the dish was a tiny chick shaped blob about two millimeters in size... with a giant eyeball, and two bright red veins that reached well out into the white of the egg...
So of course I poked at it.
About a second later I realized that a cold egg doesn't mean it's a dead egg.
At 5 days it had a heart.
A light fluttering heart making those tiny veins pulse.
I freaked out and fed it to the dog.
Be still beating heart.
The worst part is... I want to break open all the eggs one by one now to see how far they've developed each day.