There are now three more chicks out in the garage, a slightly disappointing result from twenty eggs put in the incubator three weeks ago, but perhaps not all that surprising considering how close to mid-winter it is now. When I candled the eggs (looked through them with the help of a bright light in a dark room) a week ago, sixteen were infertile & ended up as pig food (annoyingly I'd been carefully turning them three times a day for two weeks at that point). One chick hatched on its own but the other three needed help - the shells were very hard so they would never have managed it on their own. One was very weak and unfortunately didn't survive many minutes. At this time of year when the days are so short, the hens go 'off-lay' & eggs appear only sporadically. Sometimes there's a complete break for three-four weeks until the days begin lengthening again. The hens have all been moulting which makes them miserable too.
I've just been out to the garage to check on the babies & it's bitingly cold out there (they are snug in a lined box with a heat lamp above). Since we have no light pollution here, the stars are quite astounding. It seemed fitting to take a good look as we'd watched the first of Stephen Hawking's programmes on the universe & the possibility of alien life last night. I don't buy this notion of life having come to earth on meteorites/ comets etc. If life was going to originate anywhere, it was just as likely to appear here as elsewhere. Plus, I'm inclined to think there is a bias towards the creation of life if the ingredients & conditions are in place, ie that it's more likely than not to appear. There are too many weird & wonderful creatures that have evolved to live in even the most remote and seemingly inhospitable places on earth for that not to be true: next to hot sulphuric volcanic vents on the bottom of the sea, in saline lakes, hidden in the earth's crust, in dark damp subterranean passages and in the ice of the Antarctic for example. I've just heard that some new form of microscopic pond-life has been identified, something akin to a fungus but that has animalistic traits.