Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Birth

The Goepoliticus Child Watching the Birth of the New Man (1943) - Salvador Dali
This time of year signifies "the hatch" and this painting, The Geopoliticus Child Watching the Birth of the New Man (1943), is a fascinating Dali that represents a hatch. 

According to the Dali Museum's website: "The man breaking from the egg emerges out of the "new" nation, America, signaling a global transformation. Africa and South America are both enlarged, representing the growing importance of the Third World, while Europe is being crushed by the man's hand, indicating its diminishing importance as an international power. The draped cloth above and below the egg represents the 'placenta' of the new nation, which, as Dali shows with a drop of blood, can only be born through much pain and suffering. An androgynous older figure stands in the foreground and points to the emerging man, acknowledging the birth of this global transformation. The cowering child with its long shadow- the 'Geopoliticus Child' of the title-represents this new age." 

Salvador Dali (1904-1989), a Spanish Catalin surrealist painter, was known for his eccentric ways and his paintings dripping with bizarre images. His artistic repertoire included film, photography, and sculpture. He collaborated with Walt Disney and Alfred Hitchcock. His wife, Gala, acted as his business manager and they were together for over 50 years. 

It was my youngest brother who first introduced me to Dali's work when he showed meThe Persistence of Memory. I was in junior high and remember being both disgusted and fascinated by Dali. Who was this painter who rendered such deep meaning through such extraordinary images?

When I recently came across "The Geopoliticus Child..." painting, I was awestruck by Dali's "hatch". In Dali's painting, man emerges from the shell hand first, head still locked inside, feet pushing against the interior of the shell, struggling to break free. 

Isn't that how life goes? As we being to morph into better beings, our minds are still grasping onto what is familiar, unwilling to let go -- of memories, of moments, of fears built from past experiences.  We convince ourselves that we are "safer" in the darkness of our shells.

Yet, there is something inside of us that knows we can do better or be better. So, the hatch begins. First, we chirp inside our shells to let our family and friends know we need to be different. Then, we rock back-and-forth, creating a small earthquake of sorts, to see who is coming along with us.  Once we're in position with supportive family and friends, we begin tapping at our shell, at first weak, then stronger, until a tiny shaft of gentle light breaks through. The light intensifies as our shell begins to crack away. At last, we stand free, on wobbly feet, facing our new being.

"Hatching" hurts. It requires stamina, fortitude, patience, and faith. It shakes up everything we have known and pretended to be. It demands that we create a strong belief in ourselves and conviction to our newly-discovered authenticity. 

If you're considering a "hatch" but keep falling back into that place of fear, ask yourself which is scarier: The darkness of your shell or the light of a new beginning?

An Olive Egger Hatches                  copyright Shobe Biz Communications

Monday, March 25, 2013

Cracking Some Fun Facts About Eggs

Cracking the Eggs Facts Wide Open
There are a whole lot of facts about eggs that we don't know but are fun to learn.
For instance, did you know that the egg white contains 57% of the total egg's protein content and contains Vitamin B3, Vitamin B2, chlorine, magnesium, potassium, sodium and sulfur?

Elizabeth Woods, a doctor, has a few more fun facts about eggs in her article, Amazing Facts About Eggs.

The Hatch Has Begun

The Hatch                           copyright: Shobe Biz Communications
The Hatch has begun. I was walking through the family room and I heard some chirping coming from the incubator. Sure enough, I looked inside and there was an egg cracked from the pecking of a hatching chick. I upped the humidity in the incubator to the recommended 65% by pouring a bit more water in. I'm not sure how long it is going to take for the chick to break through.

Since the chick is hatching at the time when most Europeans are awakening from an evening slumber, I think it's only appropriate that this chick be named a French name. Any ideas?

(An interesting fact about newly-hatched chicks from Backyard ChickensDo not be in a hurry to take chicks out of the incubator. Gallinaceous birds, such as chickens, quail, and pheasants survive up to 3 days without feed or water. The yolk of the egg is drawn through the navel into the stomach of the baby bird before it hatches. That provided enough nourishment for the transitional period from the time the bird hatches, fluffs out, gains strength and becomes active enough to go out and seek food. Chicks continue to grow and develop in the incubator, before they receive food. Of course, they do not gain weight, but they do gain in stature, activity and use of their faculties.
They will instinctively be interested in drops of water, each other's toes, and other objects of possible experimentation. Do not assume from these evidences of interest that the chicks are hungry. It is simply nature's way of experimentation, exploration, and learning of the young. In general chicks are taken from the incubator after 24 hours. No harm is done if they are not taken out for 48 hours after they hatch.)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Brad Pitt Brings Home The Chickens...

An article written by Shobhit Kaira in Parda Phash said that Brad Pitt not only brings home the bacon, he also brought home chickens, geese, ducks, goats, llamas, emus and rabbits to his French Chateau Mirava house that he shares with his fiancee Angelina Jolie's and their brood of six children. They now have quite a farm and Brad has to be one of the finer looking "Old MacDonald's"!

Here's an older blog on Celebrity Chicks with Chicks.

The Chicken Trainer - Bob Bailey

My English Doodle, Mango, needs a bit of training. For a one-year old, things could be worse, but let's just say that her habit of shredding every bit of paper or stuffed animal that she sees along with jumping up on any guests who walk through the door doesn't make for the best dog in the world. She's made some progress since her Puppy Academy days (which she nearly flunked), but not much.

So, I started asking around for trainers and Sheila recommended Sarah Browne, a trainer who formerly worked with animals at Sea World. A trainer from Sea World? Perfect. If Sarah can handle a ton of blubber, she can handle little medium-sized Mango.

So, I called Sarah and she asked me to meet her at the local mall, which I did. The training commenced.  Sarah was so wonderful that people were stopping and asking her for her phone number. I swear Mango would have invited her out for margaritas if she could have.

During training, I casually mentioned to Sarah, "I also raise chickens. Perhaps you can come to my house and work with Mango so she doesn't chase the chickens."

Sarah looked at me with that wide-eyed trainer look and said, "Sure. But, in order to train the dogs, you also need to train the chickens."

Train the chickens? Gulp!

I asked her how exactly I was expected to do that. She said that the chickens would need to be desensitized to Mango so that they didn't fly when they saw her. "It's the flying that really makes a dog run after them," she said.

I started to count the required training time in my head. Fifteen chickens times ten hours a chicken (at least). One hundred and fifty hours? Yeah, right! Sweat started to trickle down the side of my face.

"But, I'm a working girl," I professed.

Sarah offered up the name Bob Bailey. He trains chickens to teach people how to train dogs, she said. I, of course, had never heard of Bob but Sarah assured me he's one of the top trainers in the U.S., and I trust Sarah.

So, here's a video of Bob training chickens.

Anyone have any luck with training their chicken? We'd love to hear your stories!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Mamika and Her Chicken, Bob

Mamika and Her Chicken, Bob         copyright Sacha Goldberger

Prominent French photographer Sacha Goldberger shot this photo essay of his grandma, Mamika, and her chicken, Bob. Check out more photos on Incredible Things by Brittany High.

According to an article in Huffington Post (2010), Goldberger wanted to cheer up his 91-year old Hungarian grandmother, Fredericka, so he decided to dress her up in costumes and create a photo series. The end result: a photo book entitled Mamika.

Here's a link to the Mamika Super Hero series. And, another link to purchase Goldberger's book: Mamika; My Mighty Little Grandmother. 

copyright Sacha Goldberger

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Embryonic Cycle of a Chicken - Day #4

Which Came First?                           Copyright Caitlin Johnston

It's Day #4 of the twelve-egg incubation. Phew, this is hard work...just kidding.

Things are progressing well. The heat in the incubator is reading a steady 99.1 degrees and the humidity stays around 56%. About once a day, I add just a smidgen more water so that humidity doesn't ever fall below 55%. I did what was suggested by the incubator reviews on Amazon. I ordered a separate digital thermometer to put inside the incubator. It's much easier to read then the one provided, thus giving me more accurate readings. (In other words, no reading glasses are needed.)

The incubator sits on my kitchen island, plugged in, quietly humming along. The only competing sound is the drone of the refrigerator and the occasional turning on-and-off of the house heater. If only human birth was this easy!

So, far, my cat, Sequoia, couldn't care a less what's inside that medium-sized box with the funny dials on top. I suspect, though, when the chicks hatch, her nose will be twitching and her tail will be swishing as she leans over the box. Sequoia will be spending a lot of time outdoors at that point!

This morning on their Facebook site, Our Little Coop posted this marvelous scientific illustration from Caitlin Johnston. According to Caitlin's blog, she is a graduate student studying Biomedical Visualization at UIC and lives in the Windy City aka Chicago. This illustration offers an excellent visual of the embryonic progression of a chicken.

Right now, on Day #4, my little chicks hearts are beginning to beat!

I must admit that this birthing process makes me sentimental. It evokes memories of the many babies I've witnessed being born: kittens while I was in college (I even held the mother cat in my lap while she was birthing her first kittenl); goats in the backyard of my friend Rebecca's, house; a humpback whale in Kauai...but, most importantly, the birth of my beautiful daughter and, then, my beautiful granddaughter. There is something so beautiful, so precious, so hopeful, so optimistic about birth.

Older posts about birth:
The First Egg
The Birth of Backyard Kids
Venus in Transit

Friday, March 8, 2013

Working on a Dino-Hatch Day #3-The Evolution of Chickens from Dinosaurs

Family Reunion                      Illustration by Mary Williams

While working on Day #3 of my dino-hatch, I discovered this illustration by Paleo-artist and illustrator Mary Williams. According to her blog on Tumblr, she is just finishing grad school. I find her work fascinating, especially this one. She is making artistic commentary on the fact that researchers believe the chicken is the closest living relative to the dinosaur. They may be on to something. Just look at the claws of the chickens (compare my photo below with the illustration of Mary's above.) Tell me those little clawed wonders don't remind you of the Jurassic Period?

Here's a former blog post I wrote, The Distinction of Extinction: Did T-Rex Become A Chicken?

Photo by Shobe Biz Communications

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Day #1 of the Hatch

The Incubator                    copyright Shobe Biz Communications

I've never hatched an egg before. (Why does Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss keep popping up in my mind?) After having raised three rounds of day-old chicks over the past year-and-a-half,  I decided to venture out and try something different--incubating fertilized eggs.

First things first, I hatched a plan. I desired a flock that would lay a variety of multicolored eggs--eggs that were olive, and blue, and chocolate--eggs that would make great photos. I, then, began to research purveyors of fertilized eggs.

When I typed in olive eggers--a cross between the Black Copper Maran and Ameracauna, and fertilized eggs on my Google search, I was directed to Chicken Scratch Poultry, a online site that sells fertilized eggs or day-old chicks.

I emailed Angie, the very friendly owner at Chicken Scratch Poultry, and placed an order for twelve varied chicks: 4 Olive Eggers, 2 Welsummers, 2 blue egg Ameracaunas, 2 French Black Copper Marans, and 2 French Blue Copper Marans. Angie was very helpful and communicative and told me specifically when the package of fertilized eggs would arrive. And, that date was today, March 7.

To see a box with the words "fragile" inscribed on it at my front doorstep excited me to no end. Carefully packed inside the box was a split egg carton, with six wrapped and marked eggs on each side. 

I unwrapped the eggs from the carton and gently placed them into my Farm Innovators Pro 4200 Incubator that was on the island in my kitchen. The night before, after a delicious dinner at a Korean barbecue restaurant, I had come home and set up the incubator. In about three hours, the temperature was within the suggested 99 to 100 degrees F and the humidity was within the suggested 55-60% (after adding a little bit of water into the bottom of the tray).

The soft hum of the incubator suggested that my baby chicks were beginning to "bake". I noticed that as my house cooled in the evening, the incubator needed a slight adjustment to maintain its temperature. What I didn't expect was an incubator sensitivity to any slight turn of its top dial. With a slight twist, the temperature quickly rose to 101 degrees. I took the top off for a few minutes to let the  temperature drop. By turning dial to the left just a bit, the temperature fell back into range.

I now have 12 potential fertilized eggs going through the process of being potential chicks. Research shows there is a 50-80% hatch rate and then, there is a 50% chance that the chick can be a rooster. So, if you're searching for hens who are good layers, you may have better luck purchasing day old chicks. Unfortunately, I am the adventurous kind and believe in testing my scientific luck.

I'll keep you posted as the days progress!