Yes, Ray and I rigged up an emergency incubator using a styrofoam cooler, clamp light, 40-watt bulb and several dishtowels. Yes, we are incubating 5 peacock eggs. Yes, we will turn the eggs 3-5 times a day, keep the temp at 100-103 degrees, and provide at least 60% humidity. And no, we have no idea what what we’ll do if they hatch.
It isn’t really my fault. Due to a genetic anomaly (see http://uncanneryrow.blogspot.com/search?q=HHN), I cannot leave the wise & gracious Universe to her own devices. So after a particularly brutal season for our peafowl flock, my heart broken, I stepped in.
The brutality started in early spring, when we lost several peacocks to various predators—at least one to a raptor, a couple to what appeared to be mink or weasel, and several more to something much larger, large enough to rip apart an adult peahen, drag it around, and leave chunks of it lying about. I figured word had finally gotten out that the Row was a veritable peacock buffet.
But this past week, the brutality escalated beyond our comprehension when, in a single day, 8 adult peas (2 males and 6 hens) went MIA. We have walked the property, and there is nary a fluff of down, no sign of what happened or where they went. I have theories, some of which involve human predators, adding to my post-Aurora, CO stupification at the human capacity for cruelty.
(Weird side note: Got a text from my son the morning the peas went missing, before I knew they were gone, asking if the peas were okay. He said he’d dreamed the peas were hanging on a neighbor’s barn. He fought with the neighbor to get them back, somehow tore off the neighbor’s face, and discovered the neighbor had an iPhone brain. I texted back that he should avoid burritos at bedtime. Still, spooky prophetic, and I did cruise the neighborhood once I discovered the peas were AWOL.)
I called the Big City zoo to tell them to keep an eye out for folks wanting to sell peacocks. I left a message with the county game warden. I warned our neighbors to be on the lookout for hooligans with guns, and to gauge their reaction, like some crazy Criminal Minds investigator. I figured I’d done about everything I could do. And then, when I called yesterday to alert the only other folks in the region I know have peacocks, they told me they were about to throw out a clutch of eggs their hen had just laid – they don’t want any more peacocks – and did I want the eggs? Every fiber of my being pushed me, slapped me, jabbed me to say no thank you. So of course, I said, “Absolutely.”
Here’s the trick: Peafowl are not like chickens. Peachicks do not come out of the egg knowing how to eat & drink & roost. Peachicks must be taught. They spend the first 2-3 weeks of their lives sleeping 15 feet off the ground, tucked up under their mother’s wings. For a couple of months or more, they follow their mother everywhere, watching her peck at the ground and listening for her back-of-the-throat cluck that means, “This is okay to eat.” Those are some enormous 4-toed shoes to fill.
Yes, I should have said no. But my heart was broken. I’d been pretty stoic until Day 3, when it finally hit me that our peas weren’t coming back (one of our two white peahens, Ike, had been with us a long time and was named for my son’s friend who’d committed suicide—both white hens are gone). I was attached to those peabrains, dammit.
So, thanks to my aching heart and my hereditary HHN-i, I said yes. And I am enormously grateful for Saint Ray, who knows, loves, and fears me enough not to get in the way of my Panic Mothering. If by some miracle these eggs hatch, I will figure this thing out. And I have at least 18 days to grow some feathers…