Jennifer’s New Adventure May 15, 2015

A month or so ago when dad thought that Quack had been eaten by an eagle, I looked into buying him a replacement “swan.” I soon discovered, there was no way I could afford to get my dad a swan. A few weeks later, dad asked if I would be willing to pick up some swan eggs for him and hatch them for him. A woman, Leslie, 20 minutes from me had swan eggs for sale. I have fond memories of our neighbor hatching chicken eggs and playing with the baby chicks, so I told him I was ready for the challenge. Adam, on the other hand, was not excited about the prospect of raising water fowl in our office, and refused to have anything to do with the eggs. He did not in fact see the eggs, until almost 2 weeks after they arrived when he went into the office to try to study. He declared they stink and he promptly decided to study in the basement instead.

The adventure began with lots of research on hatching swans… guess what… there isn’t any! Apparently, swan eggs are very hard to come by and there is almost no information about them. So instead we learned about goose eggs. Dad ordered the incubator and turner, then I set up a date to pick up the eggs.

Our first issue arrived, when the incubator, which was guaranteed delivery for Wednesday, April 29, failed to arrive. We already scheduled the swan egg pick up time, and I was busy the next day, so we had to hope that it would arrive on Thursday. USPS said it was in Columbus, so we took our chances. Ideally, I would have run the incubator for 24 hours prior to putting in the eggs, but that wasn’t going to happen now.

Picking up swan eggs was interesting to say the least. I had baby Caleb with me and we scheduled to meet Leslie in the Home Depot parking lot on Thursday, April 30 at 11 am. When I first pulled into the parking lot, there was a police car sitting there. I was worried he would think it was a drug deal and was relieved when he left. Caleb, as usual, was starving, so we sat in the car nursing while we waited for her to arrive. Here I am in the Home Depot parking lot, walking around nursing and buying swan eggs, just your typical Thursday morning J Leslie was incredibly nice and put the eggs in the car for me. She wished us luck, as she had no advice because she had never incubated swan eggs, thousands of other eggs of many types, but never a swan egg. Her swan usually hatched them for her. She even threw in an extra egg, bringing us a total of 5 swan eggs, little did we know that the 5th egg was going to be more trouble than it was worth.

Swan eggs are huge! When I carried the box inside the house, I thought she had a lot of packing material, nope, the eggs are just that big and heavy! I had to unwrap them right away so they could breathe.

Once I got the eggs home and had to wait for the incubator to arrive. Late that afternoon the incubator and Adam’s entire family arrived. You have to turn swan eggs every for hours ¼ turn unless, you have an egg turner. Because my dad loves me, he ordered an egg turner so I could leave the house during the next month. The egg turner was set up for chicken eggs, swan eggs are significantly bigger, so he also got goose egg racks. Gary, Adam’s dad, helped me figure out the best way to configure the racks and set up the incubator.

Once we got the eggs, they had to be named. Mom, Dad, Kimbrell, and I all worked together to find 5 perfect egg names. One egg was especially dirty, his name is Pig Pen. One was named Whitey , I don’t remember whose idea that was, but it is the cleanest egg. We decided the remaining names should have names from the Game of Thrones books. Therefore, the smallest egg is Tyrion, the largest is the Mountain, and the one with a golden straw on it is Daenerys.

Eggs lose weight as they are developing. So I have been carefully tracking the weights of the eggs. All weights are in ounces.

  4/30 5/4 5/12 5/16
Tyrion 12.4 12.1 11.7 11.6
Whitey 12.5 12.3 11.9 11.7
Daenerys 12.3 12.1 11.8 11.7
Pig Pen 12.5 12.3 11.9 11.9
Mountain 12.9 12.7 12.4 12.3

 

Daily, I have to make sure that the temperature stays at 100 degrees and the humidity is at least 60%. I have to add water every few days to maintain the humidity and have had to make adjustments to how much water is in the incubator, there are four different tracks of varying lengths that you can put water in. Eventually, I figured out that I needed water in track 1 and 4, the longest and shortest to keep the humidity at 60%. The incubator is a styrofoam box with a plexiglass lid that has a heating unit, fan, and electronic humidity and temperature gauge. The turning racks turn the eggs 30 degrees every hour. To understand how the turner works, you can watch this video and the explanation is at 3 minutes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1QyoJpWGlMM

 

Our first real issue occurred on Wednesday night, May 13th. I had weighed the eggs on Tuesday and noticed that one rack was turned to the left, when I checked again on Wednesday it was still turned the same direction. Because it takes 4 hours to turn 30 degrees, you can’t tell if the turner is working and it is possible that you just catch the turner at the same time of day. Wednesday night I was having nightmares about the swan eggs. I woke up and had to check on them. When I looked, they still were turned the same direction and I realized something was wrong. The rack had bent due to the weight of 3 eggs (the other rack just has 2) and the mesh got caught on the rack next to it. I unstuck the mesh and put one of the eggs on the rack with just 2 eggs. At point I wasn’t certain how long it had been that they hadn’t been turning but it was probably 24 hours.

The next day they appeared to be turning. But Saturday morning, I realized they were still having issues. I opened everything up and found that the two racks had broken and were not turning at all. I switched out the racks and weighed all the eggs. The last weight check had been Tuesday and all had lost weight but one, Pig Pen. I realized that our turner couldn’t support 5 eggs and Dad and I decided that since Pig Pen was likely already gone, he would be sacrificed for the greater good. Now comes the hard part, Mom, a biology minor, wanted to see how much Pig Pen had developed. She made me crack the egg. It was disgusting and very sad, but the good news is there was obvious development. Our set up could support life and, hopefully, at least one of the remaining eggs will survive. If not, we know that next year we have a set up that can work, but only for 4 eggs.

INSERT PIC OF PIG PEN IF YOU THINK PEOPLE WANT TO SEE

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