The apartment complex that I live at allows us to have an incubator on the back porch. Inside this incubator are doezens of eggs, each housing a chick, in various stages of development, waiting to hatch and be sent to the farm. Bobby, the man who runs the farm, stresses the importance of these little ones having a diet that is purely organic and free of soy.
One of the cats that lives with us is marble colored, and she bolts over to the patio door every time I go outside to check on the chicks. She views this incubator as a sort of fridge, hungrily monitoring my work with eyes like an owl, hoping that I give her something to sink her teeth into. Ever the hopeful opportunist, she is.
I see the point of it all when I open the incubator door to check on the eggs, checking to see how many have hatched. I see an egg that catches my eye, and not in a good way – the membrane of the egg has started to tighten up against the chick inside. Naturally, it’s an egg of a guinea fowl – for some odd reason, only guinea fowl are affected by this issue when Bobby and I have been monitoring them. This wasn’t the first time that this had happened, and it certainly wouldn’t be the last.
As carefully as I possibly could,like I’d done dozens of times beforehand, I started breaking the egg apart piece by piece, careful not to disturb the membrane, careful to keep the precious cargo inside safe. Once I removed the outer shell, I begin peeling the membrane away from it. The membrane was dry and skintight against the chick, and as I took it off bit by bit, it felt more like paper than anything else.
Finally, after a few painstaking minutes of delicate work, my objective lies in the palm of my hand, understandably stressed but otherwise unharmed. With every breath, the tiny guinea emits a squeaky chirp. It will take at least a day or so for this little one to get the legs under it and learn how to walk. It will take the bird at least three days to start eating and drinking by itself.
As I place the little guinea onto a lower shelf, I take a look at the bottom of the incubator. Here, an open half-box spanning the entire bottom of the incubator and six inches tall contain at least two dozen chicks to be sent over to the farm the next day.These have their legs under them, and have been eating and drinking for a few days. Some are impatient – these impatient ones, the oldest ones, perch on the top of the box when it’s open, not caring about the outside world, so long as they’re not inside the incubator.
It’s there that I realize what makes it all worthwhile – each of these birds represent my ability to care for them, to nurture them, to make sure they can safely get back to the barn to build the new organic flock that will represent the future of the farm. As I make sure that none of the birds slipped out as a I close the incubator, I find myself thankful for being given a direction to see what I can truly accomplish.
So until next time, this is Tim from Autistic Farmers of America.