tenacious_snail has a couple of button quail. The having of them has been an adventure. She bought a set of fertile eggs, and an incubator and we tried to hatch them. We failed. It's not as if I don't know about incubating eggs. I've helped hatch out at least five sets of chicken eggs from incubators. The problem was that design of incubator.
So she got a hovabator and we had a successful hatch. The cats ate one, and then a raccoon got the rest. So we hatched out three more. One of them flew out of the coop when being fer, which left two. A male and a female. tenacious_snail saved up a bunch of eggs. She let the hen lay until she was certain she wasn't going to brood them (A hen being the best incubator), and then collected about two dozen, and set up the incubator and we were off.
She took some vacation time last week and I tended them. It's pretty easy, turn them twice a day and don't let the humidity get too low. I hadn't looked to see what the required humidity was, and the water had evaporated away when I started. When I spoke to her I asked about it, and she (not knowing it had run dry), told me to use my best judgement. I added water and fretted.
I didn't know there had ever been water. A lot of the eggs seemed to be, "end heavy", which implies they were either infertile, or had failed. It's harder to tell with an eggs that's less than an inch across, and has about a teaspoon for volume.
Yesterday morning she called out, "Terry... I need some help." In that tone of voice which wakes me right up (it's the same tone Maia would use when there was a varmint going after the chickens). So I was up and moving in pretty short order.
There were qail. Half a dozen identical birdlets. Old enough to be dry and fluffy. We set up the brooder, and I was tasked with checking to see if any more might hatch.
About 0930 I heard cheeps in the incubator. About 1030 I could tell which egg it was, because the 'cheeper" had pecked it 5/7ths around. I talked to it. I rolled it some. I put it back in it's warm cocoon of air. I repeated this every couple of hours until about 1530. About 1600 I went to take some photos of birds. I found a geocache. I came home about 1730.
Still no chick. In fact the egg seemed to have been opened no more than it had been.
This, is a problem. A chick has to force it's way out of the egg. If you open the egg for it, it dies. Something in their lungs needs the struggle. This one wasn't making it. I decided to see if having the sound of other chicks would help (they start to "talk" the day before they hatch. In the nest the eggs are in contact with each other. It's a pretty good bet that the sound of the other chicks tapping the shells helps to co-ordinate the opening of all the eggs in the very short time they tend to open). It didn't seem to be.
Looking at the egg I could see the chick had broken the shell, but the membrane was virgo intacto I had become attached. I wanted this chick to hatch.
I decided to help. I took my thumb and I pried the cap up, just a little. Enough to make a tear in the membrane, and I kept the egg in my hand.
After a few minutes, it looked as if there was some separation. After a few more minutes I started to take pictures.
Here's a wider shot, for some scale (yes, I was actually thinking of that while the whole thing was going on)
That's when the cap was plainly starting to separate. I was begging to have a trepidatious hope.
Ten minutes later it looked like this.
And finally, after couple more minutes of trembling awe, and frustration:
It was looking pretty good.
And I was actually more afraid. The chick was taking it's own sweet time to make the last bits of effort. There was nothing more I was going to do. Pretty much nothing more I could do. I was afraid I'd done too much already.
The chick kicked the shell away, and lay in my hand:
So I held it a bit, and put it into the incubator to dry off.
It is a bit splay-legged, which is a not-uncommon fault in the hips of birds which struggle to hatch. It's too small to hobble, and so I put some shelf-liner in the brooder, and went to work. When I got home it was looking much better. The shelf liner keeps the feet from slipping out from under, and allows the adductor muscles to strengthen. This aligns the legs. It's what hobbling does. It's not as certain as hobbles, but I suspect it actually makes for a stronger bird. Odds are in three days there won't be any sign this one was any different from the others at hatching.
Well... except for this being the only one which has only one color of feathers.
If you want to see the larger series, I have about 18 images on my flickrstream