Today is World Egg Day. A good day to go meatless, if you are so inclined, reduce your carbon footprint, and sit in awe of the marvel that is the Egg.
Those of you who are old hands at Dragonkeeping know this very well. For those of you new to the art, I offer a few basics courtesy of Dragons for Beginners.
An egg found in the wild is as rare as an orchid in Antarctica. Should you stumble across one—or a whole clutch—chances are you’re looking at a scenario in which a solitary Queen, bereft of enchantment or weyr, has been driven away from her brood or even killed. [Note: There have been reports of lone Sires tending clutches, though these are extraordinary circumstances. A Sire who loses his mate usually gets so morose that nesting is the last thing on his mind. He is more likely to fly off on his own for a decade or two.] That said, don’t rush to judgment. A Dragon on her own cannot watch over her eggs non-stop for eighteen months; she has to eat and drink which necessitates leaving her eggs unattended for brief periods of time. So, if you find eggs, unless there is clear evidence of foul play or abandonment, be patient and monitor them for the next 24-48 hours. If mom doesn’t return by then, contact WAFDE and take the eggs into custody.
In the absence of a Queen, it falls to the Dragon keeper to take her place and provide the two essentials of incubation: heat and song. Depending on the age of the egg, you will have to keep it between 98˚ and 120˚ F. Though Dragons regulate egg temperature with remarkable precision, human efforts require thermostatically controlled nesting areas. Long-term heating bills can be exorbitant, leading keepers to use as much solar and wind power as possible, and also tie the nesting chamber to the rest of their estate, circulating excess BTUs to house, barn, conservatory, etc.
Because our tolerance of extreme heat is limited, and because daily contact with the egg—talk, song, music—is essential to a Dragonlet’s development, set up an air-conditioned anteroom for non-Dragon visitors. In their natural habitat, a Queen’s extended family will sing and “talk” to her clutch daily. This establishes a prenatal connection which turns to enchantment imprinting ex crusta. So, invite friends for reading marathons and, at night or when you can’t be there in person, pipe in music; all is good and appreciated. Listen for hums and rocking from inside the shell, this will give you an idea of your egglet’s musical proclivities.
With approximately two weeks to go before the blessed event, the shell loses its leathery quality and gets hard as stone. It is time for hatching fire, the intense blast of flames Queen and Sire produce to give their little ones a final draconic push towards the sun. Aside from annealing the infant within, it crackles the shell so it’s easier for her to break free. Unless you have a couple of grown Dragons on hand to help, you will need a hatching kiln—a brick dome with forced-air burners which can lick the egg with fierce but even heat. Crank it up to 2000˚ – 2200˚ F, then cool quickly. Crackles are guaranteed.
Compared to hatching fire, replicating the birthing anthem is a snap—and much cheaper. Thanks to intrepid researchers at sanctuaries around the globe (and a generous grant from WAFDE), keepers have free access to an extensive library of natal-song recordings from over fifty distinct breeds. Even if you are not 100% sure if your egg holds a Cariboo Mountain snub-nose or an Athabascan gold, chances are you’ll find an anthem fit for the Dragons indigenous for your general locale. You provide the sound system and the ear plugs, and you’re good to go.
Sixty-eight hours out of the hatching fire, begin playing the song, starting at a whisper then rising to an ear-splitting 120 decibels. After half an hour of this, cut to silence and wait. In no time, the egg will start to roll back and forth, then, chip by chip, its occupant will use her egg tooth and crack herself free. Scrub off any shell-membrane residue, feed her immediately. Remember, first impressions not only count but can color the entirety of a relationship. To that end, a warm (not cooked) mixture of 2 pounds ground meat, 2 pounds chopped greens, a couple of ostrich eggs, and a pound of honey makes for an excellent first meal. Consider it your initial offering, in loco parentis.
Now celebrate. You have officially joined the ranks of Dragon keepers!
[from Dragons for Beginners, Llewellyn Worldwide, 2012]