When I wandered into the Poultry and Rabbit Building on the first day of the Indiana State Fair, I was only looking to find a story for the “Faces of the Fair” project we were doing.
I didn’t expect to become obsessed with seeing and taking a time-lapse video of a baby chick hatching.
I needed to find a profile that day, so I told myself I could come back tomorrow and spend some time with the incubator and eggs.
So Saturday morning, I headed out to the barn at 9:30 a.m., ready to spend some time with the eggs. I was thinking I would spend about an hour there, max, and be able to get my time-lapse and see an egg fully hatch.
Boy, was I wrong.
I was there for four hours, and in that time the egg hadn’t made any progress. At times it would rock and roll, teasing me to think something would happen, but the small hole in the egg didn’t get any bigger.
After hour one, visitors saw me standing by the incubator, looked at my press pass (ignoring the press part, I’m assuming) and started asking me questions about chicks.
Keep in mind I’m from an urban city in Michigan and have never been to a state fair before, let alone seen a baby chick in person. I knew no more about the chicks than they did.
So I had to disappoint them and tell them I didn’t work there—and I didn’t know the answer to their question.
That was when I started Googling things, hoping to find out how long I was going to be there. I was not happy to find that eggs can take anywhere from one to 18 hours to hatch once the chick start poking its beak through the egg.
But I still waited, hoping one of the eggs with a hole in it was close to the 18-hour point.
By the time 1:30 p.m. rolled around, I was not in a good mood at all. I had just spent four hours staring at an incubator and getting weird looks from people around the barn.
So I left, telling myself I would check back the next day to see.
I went back Sunday morning—still nothing.
But Monday I struck gold. I went into the barn first thing when I got to the fair and saw two eggs had pretty big cracks in them, probably about a quarter of an inch each. I figured I had a better bet of seeing those hatch than I did the ones with a small hole.
So I started the time-lapse, setting it on top of the incubator so it would stay still.
An hour later, the chick came out of the egg, wet and slimy, but very much alive and hatched (not so cute, that would come later when he dried off). I was so excited I finally got my time-lapse of the egg hatching, and I immediately rushed back to our trailer to show everyone.
It was amazing how everyone oohed and ahhed over the video. It’s something that happens every day in the farming world, but ordinary city folk like myself (or most anyone else with BSU at the Fair) don’t ever get to see it in person.
The fair is a place to see amazing things, including the miracle of life. There isn’t any place I would rather have seen my first animal birthing.
Kara Berg is a writer for BSU Journalism at the Fair, a group of 30 students telling Indiana’s stories from a trailer somewhere between the cheese sculpture and the state’s biggest sow. This Ball State University immersive-learning project works for elephant ears.