We Will Soldier On

Our baby chicks have hatched and oh what a miracle to watch. My children absolutely love and adore this study unit at the end of the school year. They patiently wait, pleading and begging with me to "get" the eggs for hatching. This year we stepped up our game a bit and took on 30 eggs. We purchased a bigger incubator and I attempted to remember to turn these eggs every eight hours. Some days I was great and a couple of days I would forget.

After one week we candled the eggs to see  who had started to form. Right away we could see a number of baby chicks starting to form and there were a number of duds as well. There were also a number of eggs whose shells were so dark we simply couldn't see anything. My job suddenly became a bit easier as I didn't have as many eggs to turn {or forget to turn}.

Day 21 arrived and the children were perched at the sides of the incubator waiting for signs of life. We saw a great number of holes beginning to show. Lots of excitement in our home. One baby chick hatched and then another and then another and then another and then about three more. We suddenly had nine baby chicks who looks so adorable and fluffy. The children were in chick glory.

One egg had a hole in it and I could see a beak peeking out and gasping for breathe. I could see gooey bubbles and knew something was wrong. I cracked the egg a bit to give the little guy some help and still he just couldn't seem to break out of his shell. After two days he was still just sitting there gasping for breathe, trying to break free of his shell. My children were so distraught and begging and crying for me to help the chick out. 

I assisted the chick as much as I could and he was finally able to break free of his shell. However, some of the egg membrane was stuck to his back. I attempted to soak this egg membrane off his back the best I could, but some still remained, permanently glued to his fur. He did not look well at all and could barely move. I explained to the children that he would not likely survive through the night. We left him in the incubator to fluff up and waited until morning.

The next morning to the children's delight, he was very much alive and walking around. He never fluffed up though and the egg membrane was still stuck to his back. He was able to walk around and keep his eyes open. This particular chick was my little one's egg and she had named him Goona. However, her siblings convinced her to rename him Soldier, which seemed very appropriate.

We moved Soldier in the storage tub with all the other chicks. We now had a total of 12 chicks. We started with 30 eggs and only 12 chicks hatched. We had one more egg that had begun to hatch and never finished either. It was not a good year and I think we shall go back to our small incubator. Less work, less drama.

All the chicks seemed to be getting along together and the children were fascinated and constantly attending to their needs. They were coddling over the baby chicks and loving on them every spare moment. That evening they noticed that a few of the chicks were getting bullied by the stronger chicks. 

We removed the chicks that were getting bullied and discovered that we had two lame chicks and Soldier. These three were put in a separate box and seemed to become fast friends. We made little food paddles for the lame chicks and they got along famously. Soldier even began to seem to dominate the two lame chicks peeking at them a bit. They persevered and are making it work. One chick is completely healed and the other has been renamed High Five because his lame foot is always in a high five position.

The next morning we woke up and Soldier was just sleeping in a corner. He perked up a tiny bit for the children and then we were off for the day. When we returned later in the afternoon, Soldier was still in the same corner we had left him, not moving. I seriously thought he had passed, but saw slow breathing. He did not look well at all. He couldn't open his eyes and didn't move when you touched him.

My son was the most upset. He refused to moved from Soldier's side. He took him out and gave him a bit of a bath and wrapped him up in a small cloth and spoke to him kindly and softly. My tender hearted son sat there silently crying and praying for little Soldier to survive. Soldier did pass and my son was very upset and inconsolable.

We hosted a funeral in our back yard and the girls played their violins for Soldier. My son took his pirate treasure chest and turned it into a casket for the wee chick. My husband crafted a cross together and dug a hole in our back yard. My son said an amazing eulogy for this amazing little chick that moved me to tears.

It actually turned into a life lesson. We will treasure the moments and learn that these things happen to animals as well as people. This made for great family talks and good lap cuddles as we comforted and taught our children.