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Surfari: Hatching

By Rogi Riverstone
(April 22, 2001)

It's a beautiful, spring day. I've been out in my garden frying skin cells. Things are sprouting. It's paradise.

Over the fence, in the neighbors' yard, four hens and a rooster follow my movements up and down the fence. I'm The Food Lady. Stale bread, bits of casseroles, trimmings from an over-grown vine, handfuls of dog kibble and other delights fly at random intervals into their yard. They adore me.

In fact, I've been honored with the greatest compliment a chicken could give me (besides perching on my shoulder and grooming my teeth, which I've also experienced). Everyday, one red hen scales the fence, falls into my yard, crawls under my garden shed and lays an egg. Soon, she'll be setting them.

I haven't told my neighbor she's doing this. They have another hen who's laying under their shed, for one thing. For another thing, once a chicken has made up its mind to do something, there's no talking them out of it. And, just between the reader and me, I plan to adopt a couple of the chicks. I'll toss the others back into their yard, once they're old enough.

On the back wall of my apartment building, there's a circuit box mounted. Whoever installed it must have first punched out the wrong hole for the conduit, cuz grackles have made a nest inside. Grackles are smallish, ratty-looking, black-bird-like things with elaborately comical calls (they always sound like they're tuning up, rather than singing). The grackles fly onto the top of the box and dive in head first. I worry about a building fire. I worry about a black out. I worry about electrocuted grackles. But I don't tell anybody about the nest, because, every time I turn on the water spigot below the circuit breaker box, I hear babies chirping. I watch the parents return with disgusting, wiggly stuff in their beaks to dive, head first, into the chirping electrical box. Once the babies learn to fly and leave, I'll climb a ladder and stuff a wad of steel wool in the hole. And probably electrocute myself.

Then there's the Sparrow Condominium. It's a very tall Chinese elm, maybe four stories. All winter, through vicious winds and torrential rains or snows, I'd watch the nests. All the way up the tree, in almost every branch crotch, basketball-sized bundles of twigs, cellophane, feathers, string, dog hair and Heaven only knows what else bobbed and shuddered in the winter storms. The nests are all reconstructed now. The tree is covered in fussing, fighting, fluttering sparrow parents. I think there must be close to a hundred adult birds in that tree. Every old nest is occupied. And I think they've added some new ones. The constant chorus of chirps and twitters sounds like falling water.

So, in honor of these creatures--who crow at 3am to wake me, who eat my garden seeds, who scandalize my cats and peck through the fence at dog noses, who poop on my sun-drying laundry and threaten to burn my building down, I dedicate this Surfari on hatching. There's no point to it, other than that. I typed, "hatching," into a search engine. This is the result.

When most people discuss hatching, they're generally talking about hatching chicken eggs. It's a fun project. I even build my own incubators from Styrofoam coolers with a low-watt light bulb and thermometer. Personally, I think every kid on the planet ought to hatch chicks at least once in a lifetime.

Here's a site with chix pix. The yellow puff-balls on toothpix are the chix.

One class of second graders got a lot fancier than humble chickens, though. They got to incubate critters that would grow to be as big as they are, or bigger. Here's the story of these kids' Emu Project.

For the grow-one's-own pet enthusiast, here's a funny page of a hatching caique. While there, be sure to look at the caique gallery. Caiques are not cute when they're little. Oh, a caique is a "parrotlet": bigger than a parakeet, but smaller than a parrot. When they're very new, they have no feathers. Their skin is gray and wrinkled. Their eyes are enormous. And their parrot beaks make them look like they're grinning idiotically. They look like drunken extraterrestrials.

Or, look at hatching budgies. A budgie is otherwise known as a parakeet. It's not quite as ugly as a caique; it's skin is pink, at least.

On the wild side of hatching news, there's the issue of hatching asynchrony in great tits. Great tits are birds. They live in the wild. The babies in each nest don't all hatch at the same time. This article explains why that's beneficial to the survival of their species. The author is a science major. The author is not an English major, and seems unfamiliar with the concept of the paragraph. I can only imagine the disappointed looks on certain people's faces when they type "great tits" into their search engine and find this page. Perhaps the scientist didn't really want to study wild birds, at all, when he signed up for this research project.

Even wilder: "Because bald eagles cannot be killed for research or other purposes, scientists must learn what they can from eaglets in the nest and eggs that have never hatched. A dead egg is a gold mine of contaminant data, so much so that word of one spreads quickly among those who study bald eagles. They are a relatively rare find lately in the wake of the eagle's new breeding success, the reverse of the 1970s and '80s when dead eggs made up the bulk of eagle research material." From Green Bay Press-Gazette.

Lots of things hatch. And they don't necessarily have feathers, either. In India, scientists are crossing their fingers. An almost-extinct marine creature seems to be making a strong come back this spring. It seems the Olive Ridley sea turtles are hatching in healthy numbers this year.

If one wants to see what a hatching leatherback sea turtle looks like, has a picture. Poor thing looks plumb tuckered out.

"The short life-span of annual fish is probably their biggest disadvantage, if you don't breed them, you soon won't have them! On the plus side the dry period the eggs go through allows their easy transportation around the world, and means (to a limited extent) you can hatch them when you want." From Hatching African Annual Fish.

For us loyal Trivia followers at Chat4TV, here's an expert's advice on hatching brine shrimp. Apparently, fish breeders feed them to their own hatchlings. I had goldfish who ate them like popcorn. I also like to raise them just for the fun of watching them cartwheel and loop the loop. They're also known as sea monkeys. hatches brine shrimp to feed to his seahorses. He hatches them in iced tea jars. Be very careful when pouring a beverage at Geekydweeb's house. Ick. He knows lots of stuff about seahorses.

Under the eeeiiiuuuwww, eeeiiiuuuwww, eeeiiiuuuwww! category--which reminds me: other things are hatching in my neighborhood, too--we have such delights as the European corn borer hatching. Maybe one prefers the ever-popular hatching alfalfa weevil. And check out What's Hatching On The Delaware River.

But why limit ourselves to hatching critters? Why, we could hatch vegetables. Hah! Vegetables? Yes, my friend. Vegetable hatching is becoming quite a rage. Let's start out by hatching eggplant.

Once we've mastered the art of hatching vegetables, we can advance our studies. Here's a recipe for Crash's Vegetarian Spicy Alien Hatching Calzone.

Apparantly, one can even hatch nonexistent things. Like dragons. It stands to reason that one would want to keep dragon hatching records. And one would keep a detailed journal entry of one's hatching dragon tattoo.

My mother taught me to always open a carton of eggs in the supermarket before taking them. I think she was checking for cracks. I don't think The Hatching of Haskell was what she had in mind, but that's what they get for not checking the eggs.

Ever experience something so weird, illogical and "huh?" that it made you doubt your own perceptions of reality? Well, I found one: the cockatrice egg. It quotes a scriptural passage from the "book" of Isa. There isn't a book of Isa in either the Torah nor the Old & New Testaments, I don't think. They say a cockatrice egg, laid by a cock, hatches a serpent. Cocks are boys; they don't lay eggs. And snakes can't hatch from another species eggs. And....oh, heck, I need an aspirin and a nap.

Of course, the terminally-immature, who want everybody to hate them, can order prank hatching rattlesnake eggs. If it exists, it's on the internet. [Ed. Note: and our intrepid author will find it!]

Would you like to keep an eye on some nesting wild birds? Here are a few live cams you might enjoy.

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