Thursday, August 07, 2008

Cowbirds and egg hatching. Or, a fine example of why it's all for the best that tomorrow is Friday.

This is totally random, and if you wonder what kind of crazy I am peddling, this might give you some idea. If you didn't know already.

So, this very bold little bird strutted across my path the other day. I've seen birds get aggressive when defending nests, and this made me start thinking about baby birds. And nesting. And eggs.

And then I started thinking, you know, it might be better if we hatched out of eggs, rather than being born. I am sure this idea currently appeals to me as I have more and more friends who are pregnant or have recently had a baby, and are sharing a multitude of graphic, painful, and alarming tidbits.

But beyond my own fear of pain and stretching and tearing and such, this hatching from eggs could solve a lot of problems, I think. I don't mean like being all genetically engineered and decanted and brainwashed, all Brave New Worldishly. I mean this.

I haven't worked out the details. But broadly, my thinking is along these lines. If we hatched out of eggs, then only the people who really, really wanted to have kids, and were willing and able to be vigilant and to nurture their egg would have them.

If people hatched, there wouldn't be babies with fetal alcohol syndrome, or babies born to mothers with serious drug problems, or to really young teens who stick them in the trash in a junior high school bathroom. Foe example. Someone would have to take responsibility for the egg till it hatched, or it just wouldn't hatch.

The teenagers who accidentally got pregnant would likely leave their eggs under the bleachers in the football stadium. Women without the ability to care for a kid, for whatever reason - alcohol, drugs, whatever - who got knocked up might leave their eggs in some random corner. And these eggs just wouldn't hatch.

If you got pregnant but didn't want the baby, you could give your egg to someone who really wanted a kid to take care of until it hatched. It would be a huge and obvious commitment, and one would have to take constant care of it to make sure that it would hatch into a healthy kid. One couldn't, for example, take it on a roller coaster at an amusement park. Scrambled egg? Not hatching.

I arrived at work with this idea in my head, and ran into Marta. She said, after rolling her eyes and laughing, sure, maybe, unless there were lots of people who behaved like cowbirds. Cowbirds?

She'd just been reading about cowbirds, which she'd heard described as the "lazy sluts of the bird world" - or something like that. (The technical term, it turns out, is "brood parasite.")

She sent me this cowbird information from Audobon. Basically, rather than making their own nests and hatching their own eggs, they stick their eggs in other nests and trick other birds into incubating their eggs and raising their chicks. Which works if you're a bird. You're just trying to propagate your species, no?

Obviously this wouldn't work with humans; if you really wanted your child, you couldn't just stick your egg in someone else's care and expect to get your kid back. You could, however, pay someone for pre-natal babysitting.

I suppose you'd have to find a way to mark your egg as yours, to prevent someone nefariously swapping eggs with you, or having your supermarket cart with your egg in it getting accidentally switched with that of another shopper. Maybe you'd have a very distinctive egg cozy. Or you could color on it with crayons or something. I definitely wouldn't dye it like an Easter egg - hot water and dye would probably not be good for it.

So, I don't know if you ever find yourself thinking about something, and then decide to write it down, just because, and then you kind of get into it. And then you realize that you've gotten to the point of suggesting that, really, for safety's sake, you probably shouldn't dye your pre-hatched progeny.

Seriously? What?

Happy Thursday, everyone.


  1. Interesting. The politics/social implication of abandoning an unhatched egg are a little unclear but, interesting.

    I've always thought it would be fantastic if humans had tails. Like horses or pups. In my mind, it's not weird.

  2. Well, yah, you are right, totally unclear. I'm in favor of unwanted eggs not hatching, but I'm not sure what to do about that. As for tails - interesting, but why?

  3. Ha! This reminds me of the conversations Jill and I used to have when we were stoned.

  4. Well, for one thing, it would bring some equality to the parental identity issue - nobody would know who the "real" parents were on either side.

    By the way, this is much more, erm, humane, than my own propagation of the species platform, which involves a test for common sense and an irradiated doorway for those who fail.

    Probably a good thing nobody's going to elect me Intergalactic Dictator, hmmm?

  5. i'm not sure what my favorite part of this post is...
    - the first thought i had of "yah, those girls should keep the dirty details to themselves. i prefer to go into these kinds of things TOTALLY oblivious to what i'm signing up for
    -the visual that i had while reading, of a drunk bird falling off it's own egg
    -the feeling that it's a really good theory and i agree
    -the pain i could imagine of actually squeezing out an EGG rather than a soft squishy baby
    -or the realization that for mourning doves the males sit on the egg to hatch it. that's totally awesome! men would finally get to do something rather than just run out to get the ice cream and french fries we're craving!

    i'll support this research and funding... just tell me where to mail the check

  6. Maybe I haven't taken my meds today, but this sounds like an intresting proposition.

  7. Unlike your idea, humans having tails offers no real function or benefit. Purely a physical attribute.

    A tail would provide warmth, creating a problem for Texans like myself who live in sweltering heat. And add to one's beauty.

  8. Can we also throw them out of the nest while they are still young? If so, sign me up!

  9. Maiden Metallurgist - Ha! And formulating all of this, I was stone cold sober.

    Dagny - As always, I love you sooo much. And would definitely elect you Intergalactic Dictator. No question.

    notsojenny - Hahaha - I hadn't really visualized a drunk bird falling off the egg, but that's great. Also, I hadn't thought about the issue of squeezing out a big old egg. This gives me pause.

    Restaurant Refugee - Thank you.

    KHW - I like the idea of adding some attribute you like, purely because you like how it looks. It would make Texans like you warmer, but one the up-side, you could use it to brush away flies.

    FreckledK - Hmm. I feel like once they're hatched, then they're actual humans, and yours to keep.

  10. oh to be inside your mind for a day.

  11. This is genius. As long as my stomach doesn't stretch, I am all for it.

    I would decorate my egg with silver glitter (using non toxic adhesive, natch) and pink feathers. OF COURSE that one would be mine.

  12. Slightly Disorganized - Come on in. The water's fine. :)

    Lemmonex - Oh! I didn't even think of how FUN they could be to decorate! Glitter! Rhinestones! Bedazzling!

  13. I thought the same thing as Sarah after reading this.

    But I truly look forward to reading your new posts every day - because they always make me laugh (usually ridiculously a good way!) just when I need to.

  14. 2 things:

    One: I agree with HKW and totally thought tails would be the coolest things ever. (My mom used to say that the reason i left doors open all the time as a kid was because I had a tail).

    And Two: I read a sci fi book once upon a time that didn't have eggs but they had in-vitro babies full term. All you had to do was have sex and make the embryo and the scientists would take out the embryo and mature the baby to full term for you. No pregnancy, no stretch marks, no icky birth! Not quite an egg, but similar concept.

  15. Oh my - I liked this idea very much. Not to do - no no no - but to think about. A great lark.

    1. The anal retentive would do the BEST job of keeping their eggs, resulting in evolution selecting for that trait. We would get more and more obsessive compulsive as a species... Oh wait, maybe we're already doing that...

    2. I've always wondered something about cowbirds. If they grow up in a warbler's nest, how do they find their way to one of those little promiscuous cowbird flocks later? And how do they know to lay an egg and abandon it? They certainly didn't see that behavior modeled. Really, genetic program at it's finest (or worst).

    3. I'm with HKW on the tails. I also thought it would be cool to have one, when I was a kid. Better yet, to be able to choose yours, to match your personality (or your situation, like Texas - no fur on that tail). It would be as expressive as our hands - maybe even harder to control. People would have to be poker tailed as well as poker faced in order to pull off a swindle.

  16. "Maybe you'd have a very distinctive egg cozy."

    Hahaha!!! You are funny lady.


  17. I'm imagining my prenatal yoga class filled up with women sitting cross legged with their eggs.
    Has anyone else mentioned how big a human egg would have to be? It would be beachball sized if the baby's going to end up 7lbs- It would have to be as big as the finished product unless it was some kind of expandable egg. At least it would be quiet while you were at work, maybe a little cushiony table for it- with a blanky or heat lamp (unless we were sitting on it- which might require a "special chair").
    Also to lay an egg with enough nutrients to last the egg the whole developmental cycle would STILL require some expansion and some busting out- probably over a shorter time, but unless there was a way to give it nutrients once you've laid it... clearly I'm overthinking this.
    Anyway I'd love to hand an egg over to Dan and say "I'm going out for a couple of glasses of wine, sushi, and some raw cheeses and coldcuts" And then I'd go waterskiing. And admire my non-puffy ankles and buff arms (from carrying the egg around)

  18. ohh notsoJenny covered the squeezing out the egg thing:)

  19. Brown Eyed Girlie - Thanks! I'm glad to hear that! :)

    Jo - Tails had never occurred to me, but it's really interesting to think about. And I think I would be OK with that sci-fi approach as well. Not wedded to eggs at all.

    Steve - If 1 were the case, I'd be in huge trouble. Nick would do a great job, though, so you are probably right. As for 2 - yah, genetic programming, I think. And 3, the more I think about this tail, the more I think I'd want to have one like our old dog Gloria. She was tail waggy and happy all the time.

    A.S. - Thank you, my sweet! :)

    Mary - I LOVE this prenatal yoga class visual. As for calculating the size, ohhhhhh, did that make me cringe. I really had given no thought to practical specifics, and that sounds really and truly terrible. Every solution I am coming up with - a very soft egg that firms up - is icky and makes no sense. Not that this all makes sense in the first place. But the idea of being all, "bye, honey, have a nice day with the egg while I go out and have fun!" would be fantastic!

  20. My mind went straight to bedazzling as well. Amen to the theory overall... I'm a HUGE fan of any Darwin-esque that involves weeding out those that, ahem, contribute less to society.

  21. Oh my good lord. HILARIOUS.


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