• E.V.A.

Just Plain Fancy

Updated: Jul 14, 2020

Down a rabbit trail four hours into the backwoods of Texas, we found it, far past the reaches of GPS signal. “Mommy, I think you’re lost!” pronounced my three-year old, Zara, peering into the trees from the back seat.

But we were not (at least, not most of the time). We had made a peacock-seeking pilgrimage, and came out with seven large, cream colored, pointy-ended hatching eggs: green, blue, and cameo. 

It took me back to when I was a little girl sitting at my dining room table, drawing and reading with my great-aunt Jane, a cheerful lady with a crown of white curls, who that day gave me a book about two Amish girls that accidentally hatch a peacock egg along with their chicken eggs. It’s called “Just Plain Fancy,” by Patricia Polacco. There’s a sense of wonderment I felt as a child seeing this exotic egg and the lavish creature contained inside, especially against the stark backdrop of a purposefully plain community.

Years later, I thought, maybe I would see the illustrated imagery in this book come to life as my own “Fancys” hatched. 

My friend Susan and I split the clutch, with her taking three and me taking the rest. We set our incubators and prepared for the long 28 days of turning eggs and waiting. Meanwhile, I also set some chicken eggs: white Ameracaunas, not too unlike Ruth and Naomi’s plain white chicks in Just Plain Fancy.

Halfway through, I candled my peacock eggs and found two had not developed an embryo at all, and one seemed less developed than the others. All of Susan’s were doing well, though. I was nervous about the outcome of my hatch, but all I could do was wait.

The Ameracauna chicks did great and popped out ahead of schedule! 

Susan’s peacock eggs all started hatching one day, when mine had still not shown any sign of life, and I braced myself for the stark reality that they might not make it after all. But late that night, Emika and I were chatting in the pink chairs when we heard a weak whistling sound - and it was coming from the incubator! One of my eggs, the green one, was alive after all, and had made a little hole in its egg.

The next morning, it hatched: my one peachick that would make it from the whole group. 

Luckily, Susan’s all did well and all three of hers made it!

Here’s my little one, below:

I was surprised by the big-eyed beauty of my baby peachick. Their lengthy incubation period allows them to emerge with feathers already filled in on their wings. They have swan-like necks and enormous eyes. I could swear mine has eyelashes, and as they grow up, a little tiara of curled feathers springs up on top of their heads.

Emerald, I thought, would be an elegant and fitting name for our fancy green peacock. But when I had the kids try to repeat the unfamiliar name after me (which at least one of them is perfectly capable of doing), instead, what came out of Zara’s mouth was “no, POODY-TEE!” with a big giggle afterwards. Judah, who can barely talk, repeated it perfectly (mind you, he can’t say most words correctly). Eyes alight with their own genius, the two of them ran around the house in circles for about five minutes, giggling and shrieking “Poody-tee!”

I will be the first to admit that Zara, generally speaking, is an inspired bird-namer. Milky the Silkie, Rocky-the-Same, Rainby, Rainbow, and Mimi, all owe their fitting and unique monikers to her. She has an immediate certainty about what their name IS, as if no other name is even worth consideration. And in this case, she was convinced it was Poody-Tee.

When it was time to put Emerald/Poody Tee in the brooder with the other chicks, it met the older and more worldly batch of babies. The first day, it sat around by itself and just stayed still and gazed waveringly at us, trying to hold up its head on that long neck, when we came nearby or petted it.

Today, it’s decided it’s one of the chickens and scrambles after the cool Seramas when they scurry and flutter around the box.

I may not have had a good hatch rate and probably should not overcrowd my incubator next time I’m hatching an exotic species, but I’m still charmed by my one peachick. And, although the hatch didn’t go to plan, we now have our one lone peachick being raised with a group of chicks, just like in the storybook I read as a little girl, and it has not one name, but two, which I think is Just Plain Fancy.

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