Sunday, June 26, 2011

Gardening with Guineas - Part 2

UC Davis Egg Breakout Poster
 It's been 22 days since putting the eggs in the incubator (Today is Sunday, June 26th). Their incubation period is 28 days, so now is the time to stop turning the eggs, put cheesecloth down to cover the wire floor of the incubator, increase the humidity, and increase air circulation.  The cheesecloth is used to help keep the incubator clean, and to protect the hatchlings from getting their feet caught in the wire floor.  I added more water to the trays in the bottom, and opened the red plug at the top to increase the fresh air supply.  All this is from the 4-H instructions that Barbara gave me that she uses with her Embryology classes.

The picture at the top is a candled chicken egg showing the developing embryo. Candling is the process of holding the egg up to a bright light that is focused on and behind the egg shell to see what's happening inside.

The University of Nebraska, Lincoln, has an excellent set of fact sheets, pictures, and video documenting the 4-H embryology program.  Start here and follow the links.

The guinea egg shells are thicker and don't show much (at least the pictures of the ones I tried to take don't). I've been assured that as long as there is space at the top, wide part of the egg, something is growing there. The top of the wide end is where the air bubble formed. The baby guinea will use what's called a beak tooth, or egg tooth, to peck out from there.

The process is called pipping.

From the book, Gardening with Guineas:
At first a very tiny pinhole will be noticed, sometimes on the center of what appears to be a light colored circular thin spot on the shell. Then a tiny piece of the shell will fall off. Soon the beak tooth will be seen pipping at the shell. Eventually, a somewhat jagged yet nearly straight line will lbe pipped around the shell, always toward the large end of the egg. Sometimes chirping can be heard from within the egg even before pipping is seen.
I'm getting kinda anxious and excited all at the same time. I haven't heard any chirping, yet. If all goes well, we'll have baby guineas by Wednesday or Thursday this week.

Brooder box ready to go. It's just a large cardboard box lined with newspaper and paper towels with a 60 watt light bulb for heat.  I still need to get their high protein starter feed, and appropriate watering and feeding trays. After hatching and drying off, the baby guineas will be moved here - their temporary home for a few weeks. The lamp is used to keep temperatures at 95 degrees or so for their first few weeks.

Baby guineas are not called chicks, they're called keets. To my mischievous mind, that opens up tons of naming possibilities riffing on the works of the poet John Keats. So far, I've come up with the obvious Truth and Beauty, and I've reserved Urn-y for the first male I can identify (not an easy thing to do, apparently, having to wait until they vocalize to tell the sexes apart). Indulge your English Lit fancies and suggest some others in the comments box.

For inspiration, here's Keats' famous work: Ode on a Grecian Urn.

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