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Slice of Life – Like an old mother hen

With hatching eggs winging their way towards me through the postal service I dug out my ancient incubator and set it up in a spare bedroom and soon had it clucking along at a perfect 38 degrees Celsius.

With hatching eggs winging their way towards me through the postal service I dug out my ancient incubator and set it up in a spare bedroom and soon had it clucking along at a perfect 38 degrees Celsius.

A friend had a question about the hatching eggs. "How do they ship them? In an insulated crate with a battery operated brood lamp? Or is there a hen on them?" Visions of a stalwart hen anchored in a nesting crate being trucked and tumbled through the post office system while grimly trying to keep her eggs in place flashed to mind.

The truth of the matter was that the eggs were merely packed with a prayer, surrounded by lots of shredded newspaper and sent on their way. The incubation part doesn't start until after they arrive. So long as they don't freeze or get over 40 degrees Celsius or get too shook up or are more than 10 days old, they should still hatch out just fine. I was trying not to question the intelligence behind the whole enterprise. When you've made up your mind to try and live the simple life sometimes you're better off to just do it rather than over think it.

Two days later the eggs had arrived. The bad news was that a total of nine eggs had broken along the way. The good news was they had sent extras so I still ended up with 34 eggs. More unsettling was the question of how the shaky shipping would affect the fertility. But there was no use worrying about that now.

I gave the eggs 24 hours to settle and then popped them into the incubator around 5 p.m. By 7 p.m. they were still three degrees shy of where they needed to be. By 9 p.m. they had finally reached the perfect temperature and I breathed a great sigh of relief. At 10 p.m. I decided to give them one last check before calling it a night. I hurried through the living room, past Darcy who was busy shouting out helpful instructions to his beloved Canucks and on up the stairs. "Checking the eggs," I told him as I went by. "There are too many men on the ice," Darcy replied.

To my great horror the temperature had continued to climb and was now sitting dangerously high. The thermometer on the incubator is incredibly sensitive. Moving it just a fraction of a turn causes huge fluctuations. For the rest of the night I hovered over the incubator like a, well, like an old mother hen. Can you imagine what a real mother hen would have thought? I can just picture her telling the other hens about it.

"So you know the house where the humans live? The one they're always taking our eggs into? Well I looked in the window last night and you'll never guess what I saw."

"Tell us Clucky, tell us."

"I'm trying to Henrietta. Now just sit tight on that roost and listen up, 'cause you're never going to believe it. The lady had a bunch of our eggs in a box and she was trying to heat the box up so she could get the eggs to hatch only she couldn't seem to do it. She kept saying things like, "It's too hot!" or "It's too cold! I thought I'd die to see it."

"Why didn't she just sit on the eggs?"

"Think about it Henrietta. That big clumsy thing? She'd smash the poor eggs to bits."

"That's true Clucky. I never thought it through."

"Well next time think before you cluck. You know what? I always knew humans secretly wished they could be chickens and this just proves it. They're always yammering about why we cross the road and which came first. Now she's pretending to be a mother hen. Around 3 a.m. she even started clucking."

Good grief. I wish it wasn't true, but I'm afraid Clucky is right. As I bent over the eggs checking the thermometer I couldn't stop myself from letting out a few reassuring clucks. You have to remember apart from catching a few winks on the spare bed, I hadn't slept and was extremely stressed. Darcy was a bit worried as well. He had spent the night trying to figure out what had been said as I sped past him in the living room to make me mad enough to sleep in the spare room.

Shannon McKinnon is a humour columnist from the Peace River country. You can reach her at