Monday, April 25, 2011

...Before They're Hatched

After we got home from Easter dinner at my cousin's house, with its conversation about the Iowan baby eagles, my parents started talking about their childhood experiences with chicks and ducklings.

Both of them grew up (at least partly) on farms that raised chickens and ducks.  Mom's family also raised geese and turkeys.  To this day she has a deep-seated disdain for the mental capacity of the domestic turkey that dates back to an incident in which several young turkeys drowned while staring cluelessly upward at a torrential downpour with their beaks open.  Both Mom and Dad were promoted to Chief Egg Wrangler when old enough for the responsibility.  One year Dad made enough money from his ducklings to buy himself a sheepskin coat for the winter.  Mom's best year enabled her to purchase her own bicycle.

Both families employed incubators that were heated by kerosene lanterns instead of allowing the eggs to be hatched by their mothers.  On one occasion, the lanterns in the incubator owned by Dad's family malfunctioned and the internal temperature of the incubator soared before the problem was discovered.  Grandma was so sure that all the poor little chicks had been roasted in their shells that she burst into tears, but my grandfather told her not to give up so easily.  They removed the eggs from the incubator, cooled everything down, and put the eggs back in.  The very next day all the eggs hatched at the same time, fuzzy little chicken heads popping up so fast that Dad says it looked like popcorn popping.

That makes perfect sense to me.  I have a clear mental image of all those chicks waking from their snug pre-natal slumber thinking, "Holy crap!  It's like an oven in here!  I need AIR!" and jackhammering away at the shell with twice the speed and vigor of a normal baby chicken.

“We can see a thousand miracles around us every day. What is more supernatural than an egg yolk turning into a chicken?” ~ S. Parkes Cadman



  1. I'm glad that I'm getting a chance to hear these stories while my parents are still around to tell them. I'm trying to write them down while I remember them - although this one would be pretty hard to forget!