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The Story of Pip

Okay, last one, I promise.

Just before an egg hatches, the chick turns itself around to a very particular position so it can chip away at the shell. Once it’s in place, it makes one small hole to breathe through. This is called a pip. It’s also a verb, to pip.

It’s very hard work for the little beast, and the chick rests afterwards – sometimes as long as 24 hours – before continuing to crack the end off the egg and emerge, wet and exhausted. It’s the most dangerous time in a chicken’s life and a considerable number come right up to the end and don’t make it.

I put four fertile eggs under Jenny. And finally, after staring at her on coopcam for over a month (thanks to the first six dud eggs), one pipped. I saw it when Jenny got up for a bite to eat and a poop. I was beyond excited.

A day passed and Mo hatched. Then Sam and Mollie. Forty eight hours and no more out of the first egg to pip. I picked it up and peered in the hole, fearing the worst, and out came a tiny pink beak. I almost dropped it! Back under mama and, not all that long afterwards, out comes Pip.

It was obvious what happened: she had a bald patch on her back. That means it wasn’t humid enough during the hatch and she stuck to the inside of the egg. Had to tear her way out, poor little beastie. She was otherwise a beautiful little chick, noticeably smaller than the others, a yellow fuzzball with a gray blaze across her right eye. Goodness knows what color she would have been (or whether she would have been a girl, to be fair, but I had a feeling about her).

A couple of weeks in, I was supervising an outing on the grass and I hadn’t noticed Jack the cat coming around the corner. He went for them like lightning. I scooped him up before he quite reached them (goodness knows what he would have done), but the babies had panicked and gone everywhere.

I managed to collect them all, except Pip. She was nowhere. I knew Jack hadn’t had her, so she had to be in the hedge somewhere, I just had to find her before a villain did. I settled in and listened and sure enough, two hours later, a frantic peeping. She’d worked her way back to the henhouse, but somehow got stuck between two layers of chicken wire.

Pip triumphant.

And then she really vanished. One morning, she just wasn’t there. I reviewed the video footage. She tumbled out of the nest with the others and hopped into the run. An hour later when I went out to feed them, she was gone. Not a trace, other chickens perfectly calm. I couldn’t believe it. I searched for days.

The only thing I could think was that she’d squeezed out of the run and something got her. There were a couple of tiny gaps under the edges (mice busily dig them overnight to get to any dropped bits of chicken food). I didn’t think she could get through them. I truly didn’t. But she was very small and little animals can do amazing things. No, I’m not convinced, but what else?

I was disproportionately upset. I’m still salty about it. I had spun this whole saga of “plucky chick surviving against the odds” right up until she didn’t. Once again, reality didn’t give a shit about my narrative.

Eh, enough of that. It’s the weekend! Wait, why does that matter again?

May 22, 2020 — 7:59 pm
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