“He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge” –Psalm 92:4
In my last post I shared about searching for eggs in the hay, discovering a hen with a nest, and deciding to let her try and hatch her eggs. The next day, I peeked under her feathers and found the black eyes of a fluffy, yellow chick peering back at me! How exciting! They were actually hatching! The thought of it made me walk around with a smile on my face all day. Later in the day Caleb and Molly joined me to help me move the hen into the safety of the barn. Due to her choice of nesting spots, the chicks wouldn’t be able to get out, and would probably fall down through a hole in the hay and be lost.
Molly carried the mama and Caleb and I transferred the eggs. We nestled the 6 cracking eggs and a still wet chick into the nest we had prepared between some hay bales in one of the coops in the barn. Thankfully, Mama settled right back on them. We returned to the nest to make sure we didn’t miss any. Except for broken shells, the nest was empty, but we could hear peeping. However, the chicks were nowhere in sight. They must have fallen through the hay, as we had feared!
Caleb went outside the machine shed and by lying on the grass, could peer under the metal wall and under the hay bales, which were stacked to the ceiling on pallets. The space between the ground and the pallets made a series of tunnels a few inches high. He dug around a bit with his hands and reached through a hole to find a damp, cold chick. We hurried it to the barn and tucked it into the warmth of Mama Hen’s feathers. Hopefully it would survive.
Back to the barn again, we heard more peeping. We searched and searched, but could not find the chicks! Caleb left for work, but Molly and I didn’t like to imagine the lost chicks slowly dying of cold and hunger, so we kept looking. I even stretched my hand deep into some holes in the hay, having flashbacks to my mom’s stories of snakes in the hay. Lying on our bellies as Caleb had done, we finally spotted a touch of yellow in a hole between the pallets and the wooden wall. Back in the barn, we began to dig and soon I reached my hand in to pull out 2 more chicks. These were fluffy and healthy looking, so we carried them to Mama as well.
Turning back to the machine shed we went to clean up the dirt, but once more, we heard peeping! Goodness, how many chicks were there?! After much searching, reaching, and digging, we pulled out 2 more fluff balls. That was 5 we had rescued! I had no idea the hen had laid so many eggs! We added them to their nest mates under the soft feathers and left them alone to rest and hatch.
Over the next days, Mama Hen rolled out the eggs that didn’t hatch. She was left with 7 darling, little fluff balls to care for. As we watched, a tiny, yellow face would peek out from among her feathers, and then the entire chick would appear and begin to run around. Others would join, zipping in sporadic bursts of energy. Then back under Mama to be warm. She had so much space beneath her soft feathers, it was like a big, warm bed to play under.
As the chicks got strong, Mama would leave the nest with her brood close behind. She would scratch in the dirt, and they would scratch. She would peck, and they would peck. When she found food, she would sound a special cluck and everyone would come running. (On a sad note, one of the chicks had a hurt leg, probably from the fall from the hay, and died a few days later, leaving 6.)
What fun this was! Mama Hen was much more suited to raise chicks than me–better than when we ordered them from the post office. I didn’t have to check that they were warm enough or clean dried pooh off their butts like I usually had to.
That night as I lay in bed, I couldn’t help but thank God for His workmanship in forming adorable chicks from an egg and instilling in Mama Hen the instincts to care for her babies. It is always exciting to watch new life, and this was a special treat. Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow!