National Geographic : 1992 Nov
ABRUSH before mealtime helps a newborn chick (facing page) retain body heat by fluffing its fine down. In the wild a chick's rubbing against siblings and parents has the same effect. Hatched 30 minutes earlier, the chick was cut from egg membranes (right) and placed between a hot-water pad and a towel to dry. The day before, the hatchling had used the tiny egg tooth atop its beak to peck an air hole in its shell and begin its ordeal. Nearly all chicks hatch unassisted, but this bird needed help. To prevent it from drying out in the warm air of the hatcher, the staff applied Tega derm, a covering used on human burn victims. Eight hours after hatching, chicks receive their first meal- bits of lean quail raised on the premises. "The idea is to hold it loosely and let them grab it," says assistant Marcus Koenen (below), noting that eagles don't eat quail in the wild. He uses a puppet to feed a day-old chick, so that it imprints on eagles, not humans, as a food source. When the chick can see bet ter-at one week-it will gradu ate to the chick lab and be fed fish, quail, and other meat via a wall chute. For the next two months the staff thinks of little else but feeding eagles: Each chick consumes the equivalent of 800 quail before it leaves.