Thursday, April 26, 2018

What to Expect when You’re Expecting Owlets

by Trina

One week before hatch, the female will suddenly get restless. She’ll no longer sleep soundly for hours between food deliveries, nor will she stay asleep for most of the day. She’ll start tending to the eggs in a new way, almost constantly fussing with them. Then, six hours before the first chicks hatch, your neighbors' swamp cooler will start to squeak.

In this video, Boyle makes a delivery, DH chatters while eating, and once she quiets down, you can hear the new chirp-squeak sound:

We first heard that new chirp-squeak on April 23 at 8:24pm. Naturally, I assumed it was newly hatched owlets, and got just a tiny bit excited, but two minutes later, when DH left the nest briefly (for seven minutes), she revealed five still-whole eggs:

No chirping chicks. Sooooo, who or what is making this chirping sound? Checking the video record, I see (hear) that the chirping has been nearly constant for six hours. At times it really does sound like it’s coming from inside the nest box, but it also sounds kind of like a rotary squeak of some sort. Fast forward through cluelessness, confusion and wonder, past the speculation that it must be the neighbors' swamp cooler motor needing a bit of oil – they did have a squeaky motor last summer, and I don’t think it ever got oiled… do they have their swamp cooler hooked up already?! -- to a farm-and-ranch blog where someone posted:

"My baby chikens are chirpin inside the eggs. Are they stuk? What shud I dew?" [sic]

This was the answer:

"The chick will first "pip internally", i.e. into the air sac, so it can breathe. From there it will pip through the shell and eventually start "zipping" the shell open and complete the hatch. Most chicks will pip through the shell before they are ready to come out of the egg. They pip so they can get fresh air and get used to breathing properly. After pipping they will take a break and absorb the remaining yolk in the egg and the blood in the vessels in the membrane around them. This process can take up to 24 hours and some even longer..."

If pip means peep -- it sort of sounds like it could mean to poke a hole? -- and this applies to owls as well, that explains why we heard chirping for many hours before the first two owlets hatched in the wee hours of the morning on April 24:

The third and fourth eggs had hatched by 8:19 that evening:

As of 6am on April 26, we're still awaiting the hatch of the fifth egg.

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