Nikki, our “chicken whisperer” got a call from a neighbor yesterday who said their chickens were being wiped out by an unidentified predator. They had lost most of their hens and 7 young chicks and they wondered if we would take the survivors because they were afraid it was the only way they could ensure their safety. So, we rescued some chickens; two hens and one chick came to PEACE Ranch to escape the perils of a murderous beast.
When they got here, the hens look pathetic. Clearly traumatized, most of the feathers had been torn from their backs in one of the last raids and they nervously hid in our hen house. The chick was very frightened and wanted to stay hidden in the corner of the cardboard box she came in.
I was concerned for the chick because it was quite young and needed the safety and guidance of it’s mother. The mother hen gathers the chicks under her wings for warmth and safety. If any danger lurks, she gathers them quickly under her and puffs up, pecking frantically to protect her little ones. Mother hen also keeps the babies on track so they don’t get lost or wander. They learn how to eat, where to drink, roost, everything from mom.
This little one really needed that kind of care and guidance and I knew that even if we could keep her alive for a few day, realistically, she couldn’t live without a mom. I pondered what to do and as the evening shadows fell and the night began to cool, Nikki and I went to close up the hen house. All of our chickens were safely roosting, ready to have their coop door closed to keep out the lurking night time predators. One of the new hens had wandered off, perhaps it hid under the barn. The other was in the yard and she let Nikki catch her to put her in the hen house. The chick in the box was still tucked in the corner.
One of our of our hens was in a laying box with her two chicks. She had hatched 3 but one had met an untimely death when it was just a few days old and so there were two. I wondered out loud if there was any chance that this hen could except a baby that was not hers. It was a long shot but we decided it was worth a try so Nikki got the chick from the box and held it in her hand over the laying box waiting for it to hop out. The mother hen puffed up at Nikki and her intruding hand so with the other hand, Nikki tried to ward off her pecking. We waited. There was so much fuss on the part of mother hen I began to doubt the wisdom of our plan when all of a sudden the chick hopped out of Nikki’s hand and into the box. The chick and mother hen studied each other. Nikki and I held our breath. After what seemed like a long time, the chick scuttled under the hens lifted wings. Nikki and I had felt we had witnessed a miracle. A small, helpless creature, having lost it’s mother at a very early age due to the perils in it’s home had found a safe place with a new mom, under her wings.
Life, in its’ cyclical nature has a way of reinforcing important things through everyday miracles. Tomorrow is Nikki’s birthday and I can’t help remember that 16 years ago, she was the small, helpless creature, in perilous circumstances for whom I lifted my wings.