I know you are waiting for the other shoe to drop, (poultry-wise) so here’s the end of the peacock adventure.
The day we went to Florida happened also to be the official hatching due date for my peacock egg’s. My one white Peacock, Early, (who was originally carried around in my dogs mouth the day it arrived) was now alive and well and two weeks old. Nothing happened with the other eggs since then, so I had some strong doubt about their potential. Still, it was not as if I wasn’t going to give those eggs a chance. Therefore, on top of feeding all the animals, Denver was left with the task of checking my incubator everyday in my absence. I also set up a cozy little cage with food, shavings and a heat lamp “just in case”.
Everyday I’d call home and ask how our animals were doing.
The forth day, Denver said, “Bad news.”
I imagined peacocks exploding.
“Something ate your seven baby chicks and killed the mother. Why does this always happen on my watch? You are going to think I am irresponsible. Please, don’t be mad.”
I explained it wasn’t her fault. Something always seems to die when we leave, and it has nothing to do with our being gone or her being in charge. It’s because our DOGS are gone. (We put them in a kennel). When we are home, they scout the land all day and often in the night and chase away all those pesky creatures that dine on chickens and ducks etc… When the dogs are gone, it’s a wilderness free for all.
“Did you check the peacock eggs?” I asked everyday.
“They are not going to hatch Mom. Accept it.”
“It stinks in there, Mom.”
“It’s your imagination.”
When we got home eight days later, and the eggs were still lying in the incubator, I admitted defeat. I started wondering what happened and began cataloguing all the things I might have done wrong to kill those potential peacocks. Suddenly, Early took on epic precious standing. He is not just my only pretty peacock, but tangible proof that I am not a complete idiot in the incubation arena.
Neva was devastated by the death of her little, homegrown chicks and cried bitterly at the news. She had named them all, and the mom was her favorite chicken. Now, I had to tell her I was going to throw away the peacock eggs too.
She sighed and agreed it was time.
“We have to open them first,” she said matter-of-factly.
“Oh Honey, I can’t. I don’t want to see half-formed peacocks. What if there are birds inside that were almost ready to hatch? It will be too sad.”
“We HAVE to open them,” she insisted. “That’s what the book said. It’s the only way to determine where a mistake was made so you learn from it. Without knowing, we might do the same wrong thing and we won’t be successful next time either.”
I argued that it would be too gross.
Mark pointed out that dead, rotten eggs would stink to high heaven and whatever we did, we better do it far away from the house. (Always a sensitive man regarding the issue of poultry life and death.)
In the end, Neva was so insistent that I caved. We would open the eggs. . . far away from the house. However, I wouldn’t promise to open my eyes.
I can’t tell you how much I was dreading this. Neva was skipping along beside me as if this was a grand adventure. She was totally excited to see what was inside. I was sick at the thought.
We brought a small garden shovel and first dug a grave for a communal bird burial. I thought this would be appropriate in case we found dead baby peacocks, but also, it would cover up the smell.
We crouched beside the hole and I picked up an egg (one of the blue peacocks), still warm from the incubator.
“Are you sure? We could just burry the eggs whole.”
“No way, Mom. Crack it open.”
Therefore, I did. Kind of like when you are cooking, only the egg was firmer.
Out slipped a gooey yoke that looked like any egg you might open from the supermarket.
Neva frowned. “It must not have been fertilized.” She bent for a closer look and dug into the goo with a stick. There isn’t even a vein of blood. This egg never had a chance. Try another one.”
Swallowing, I picked up a black shoulder peacock egg and cracked it open. Again, we found nothing but goo.
“Bummer.” Neva said.
I thought so too, but not because we were cheated out of discovering interesting bird embryos inside. I was thinking someone sold me the Brooklyn Bird Bridge, cause these eggs never even started forming. EBay. What do you expect.
We opened the last three eggs. In two of them, the insides were thicker, like a dab of pudding was plopped in the middle, but that might have been just because the yoke was getting so old. There were no signs of those eggs ever beginning to form beyond a day or two. Moreover, no blood, which is your proof of fertilization.
Apparently, I spent 39 days turning those puppies four times a day for nothing. Well, it was for Early, I guess, but still, it was a disappointment to think they never really had a chance.
I was pleased to discover that their failing was not due to my inadequacy. I thanked Neva for making me open the eggs. Knowing is better than not knowing and/or feeling guilty or losing confidence – things which might deter me from trying again. She gave me a “told ya so” grin.
Anyway, we are now a one-peacock family.
You may ask what a person does with a lone peacock.
Well, you buy them a chicken, of course.
Early was so lonely (they are flock creatures, you know) that I asked the feed storeowner what to do. She suggested I buy a chicken the same age and size so they could grow up together.
“What will happen when the peacock gets big and magnificent and the chicken is just a little chicken?”
“Wherever the peacock goes, the chicken is sure to follow,” she said. “They will be best friends.”
I kinda liked the idea of a peacock hanging around with a lowly chicken. It would be like the big star, Batman, and lowly Robin, the comic sidekick. Amusing.
So, I bought Early a pal.
But when I put the baby chicken in the cage, it attacked him – kept pecking him and being aggressive. Early clearly has been robbed of a chance to develop relationship skills, I admit, so it may be partly his fault. He cowered in the corner. I felt like a bad peacock parent for sure.
Our housekeeper was there that day and she pointed out how cute the chick was. I said, “Glad you think so,” and made it a part of her tip.
I went back to the feed store and explained what happened. “Don’t you have a nicer chick?” I asked.
Linda suggested another breed, so I brought home another chick pal. This one was a fancy chick with a strange puff on his head. Maybe because he was slightly exotic, they were better matched. This time, the two birds just stared at each other. Bingo. A day later, they were best friends.
So, now I have this graceful young bird, already feathering out with elongated, crystal white feathers and a puffy, scruffy chicken with strange hair. They are inseparable.
Even though they are happy, I still will want a second peacock so I can raise eggs of my own. I’ve already made arrangements with our fence man to come build me a large peacock aerial pen for safety. I will allow the birds roam the land in the day, just as our chickens do, but at night or when we are gone, I want them all tucked in a safe fortress. I must confess, I adore Early. He is delicate and personal and very, very special. His protection is a high priority.
I don’t know if I will try the peacock-hatching thing again. I have to wait until I return from Boston to consider anything that demands ongoing attention. Perhaps I will just buy a baby peacock for 50 bucks when the opportunity presents itself. That would guarantee success and in the end, it would be cheaper than buying five bargain eggs if they turn out to be duds. But then again, I did hatch one out of six and my self-hatched bird is so special, maybe I should try my luck again.
I can also just buy adult peacocks for a bit more and then know if I’m getting a boy or girl. Whatever Early is, I can buy the other for a matched set. And do I want another white peacock so the offspring are pure, or should I go with a blue peafowl, and see what interesting babies come from a bi-bird-racial union?
E-gad. So much to think about.
But today, all I can think about is my MFA seminar. I am putting it all together and preparing notes for the class. Can’t wait to get this off my plate.
By the way, my master’s cap and gown came. I can’t figure out how that weird cloak thing goes on, because it has this strange square piece sticking to the side, like it is designed for a cone-head to wear or something. This is nothing like my last graduation outfit. So much for feeling smart as I don my higher-learning dress.
Just goes to show, nothing is as easy as you think it should be.