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Germany

German Students Play Chicken

Three German university students are in a race with a hen to see who can hatch an egg first.

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Who can hatch this first? The hen's got the natural advantage

The three twenty-somethings are dividing up round-the-clock, eight-hour shifts for an estimated three weeks to become proud parents of a little chick. Nicole Hackbart, 25, Tina Pioszczyk, 26 and Alexander Wenta, 27, are nurturing the egg in their charge 24 hours a day.

Since they lack the feathers of their experienced competitor, Agnes the hen, who has hatched some 270 eggs herself, the students are keeping the egg in a special bag against their skin. It helps keep the temperature (37.8) and humidity level (between 55 and 65 percent) constant, necessary if the chicken embryo is to survive.

But they can't just strap on the egg bag and go about their business, they must carefully rotate the egg three times a day and be careful not to shake it or, for goodness sake, drop it.

While hens seem to pull it off without a thought, hatching an egg is, in fact, a complicated business. If the temperature is more two-tenths of a degree off the ideal, or the humidity too high or too low, the chick will die.

Werner Katzengruber, a psychologist who is overseeing the project, says he expects his two-legged egg-warmers will form a bond with their little ovoid charge. "I doubt they'll be eating many eggs for breakfast after the experiment," he told Der Spiegel magazine.

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