Saturday, June 11, 2011

There and Gone - Empty Nest Syndrome

I first met Tony a couple of years ago when he stopped to buy eggs and we have been cultivating a friendship ever since.  This elderly man with a quick smile, twinkling eyes and heavy middle European accent reminded me of my Great Uncle Joe and I somehow knew we were going to be friends.

He lives about a mile and a quarter down the road from me on a few acres that can best be described as a whole in the pine woods.  Until just a couple of years ago when he installed a mailbox and cleared some trees,  it was a home I hadn't known existed.

Tony escaped communist Romania when he was in his early 20's.  He made his way to America and spent most of his life in the Detroit area.  Years ago he purchased this home as his future retirement residence while visiting friends in the area and has been working on it ever since.  A few years ago he did retire and now lives here while his wife continues to work in Detroit and comes up on the weekends.

Tony has raised quite a managerie of animals, mostly birds, and I love to visit him and learn from him.
One day he mentioned that he had this incubator that wasn't working at his house in Detroit (he said his dog had chewed the wires on it) and I told him that if he ever brought it up here I would see if I could repair it for him. Then one day he shows up with it in the back of his pick-up and says here it is, but I don't have room for it so it is yours until I build a new house and shed to put it in. (about 2 years from now).

Then he told me if I needed parts for it he would buy them and to get it working and we would go into the chick selling business together ( I would hatch them and he would sell them). Well I could see right away that there were parts missing even though I knew nothing about incubators. Luckily I found the manufacturer on-line and he sent for the missing parts. Then he told me he had bought some pheasant eggs to hatch. Well now I had to scramble to learn how this machine operated and then he had to order more parts. By the time I got it up and running the eggs were about to the end of their time for use as hatching. In the mean time he had placed 3 dozen of the eggs under a couple of chickens who were sitting on their own eggs which he thought were bad and tossed them. So I put the remaining dozen in the incubator along with 40 of my chickens eggs. And the waiting and worrying began.  Was I doing this right??
A week later he asked if I still had room as a friend of is had some eggs he wanted hatched. I said sure, the following week he brought his friend and the eggs over, an assortment of turkey, guinea, and chicken eggs (most were Banteys). What a mess, the eggs were muddy and dung covered. NOT what you want to try incubating. But I took them and cleaned them up anyway (something you are NOT supposed to do) and loadede them into the incubator.
He also brought me some of his other pheasant eggs because the hen stopped sitting on them and he had no idea if they were still good or not, but I tossed them in too.

Note the very tiny hole.
Those are the ones hatching right now.
The first six hatched with no problem but the next two required my intervention.  After many hours of attempting to peck out of the extremely tough eggs I felt I had to help them.  The rubbery inner membrane was just too tough for them and fluids in the egg had dried and hardened around their esxcape holes and glued the chick to the membrane. So very carefully I removed  some pieces of shell with a pair of forceps and then tore the membrane and peeled it from the chick.  Shortly after releasing their heads, the chicks escaped from their shells and exhaustedly waited to dry.


Tony came today and took last nights hatch of five, making a total of ten Chinese Ringnecked Pheasants that have hatched so far. He is placing them under the hen that also hatched eight of the eggs.  He hopes to domesticate them more by raising them with the chickens. 
I am missing them already, especially the two that I "delivered".  But I am also excited to see how the rest of the eggs turn out.
So in the next 2 weeks I should have quite a lot of experience in incubating and hatching.


Stace D. Farrow MEd, LPC said...

Oh my son LOVED this! We just got chickens and he can't understand why the grown chicken's eggs don't have "babies in them". Not ready to give the rooster and hen speech just yet!

GreyWolf said...

Stace: The rooster and hen speech at his age may be easier than trying to explain to him in his teen years why we eat eggs in the first place.
I remember my brother refusing to eat "fertile" hens eggs after learning about the birds and bees.

warren said...

Awesome! I love pheasants and there never seem to be enough in the woods...raise some for pets but maybe release some too?!

GreyWolf said...

Warren: I agree with you. I love to see pheasants in the wild. After shooting my first pheasant I decided not to hunt them again. It was too pretty of a bird and too scarce to shoot for food. Oh it tasted good, and it was a big, easy target, but I prefered hunting partridge.