It's impossible for me not to love something from the moment of its birth. I'm a natural mother - just not to my own species. Peanut insisted on hatching yesterday, though I suspect (s)he was a day or two early. The hatch went normally, I only assisted by keeping the membrane moist (a problem with all our eggs). Peanut did not dive into life like the others. We had one duckling that had to be helped and was touch and go its first night. Peanut is smaller than that duck, and crested.
Crested breeds are the result of a genetic defect, a gap in the skull that is covered by fatty tissue and feathers. Peanut's mother had a small crest. The only way to perpetuate crested breeds without giving rise to neurological disorders is to breed a homozygous carrier to a heterozygous carrier. The resulting hatch will have 50% crests, 25% non-crested carriers, and 25% non-crested non carriers.
Peanut's slow start may be due to an early hatch or may be related to the crest. Whatever the cause, I spent yesterday with a tiny duckling curled up against my chest. Sometimes I think babies need a break from the struggle. Birth is exhausting work, they need a rest, they need someone to take over while they gather their reserves and adjust to the outside world. There's a point at which we must let go. They're either going to make it or they won't. They have to choose to live. With a kiss on the tiny head, I placed Peanut into a small box under the heat lamp and went to bed. This morning I found the quartet of healthy ducklings snuggled up to Peanut's box. Inside, a much happier, fluffier duckling peered up at me.
According to Mary, Eggspert on All Things Chick, they have three or four days to decide whether or not life is a lemon. If you can get them past 72 hours, chances are they'll make it. Peanut has been alive for 22 hours, has managed to get dry, fluffed, and largely self-regulated, is able to stand and take a few steps, and hold its own with its larger siblings. We need to get the eating/drinking thing down before that clock runs out, because 72 hours also marks the end of the precious reserves the chick absorbed from its shell.
I try to be pragmatic. Realistically not everything can live - duckling #6 died in its shell because it pipped the wrong end, drowned in its yolk instead of reaching the air bubble. But I watched Peanut struggle for over 24 hours to successfully enter the world. I cradled it next to me for another eight hours. That counts for something, feeling a baby's breath against your heartbeat. Welcome to Ballyhoo, Peanut. I won't give up if you don't give up.