Several years ago our family was buzzing with excitement when 7 out of 10 eggs from our backyard hen’s hatched into super cute chicks. An 8th chick hatched a few days later which unfortunately gives the earlier siblings a head start on growth and soon it became obvious that amidst heavy competition for mom’s attention, number 8 was failing to thrive. The longer she went without feeding the weaker she grew, and eventually the others began to act out the cruel laws of the jungle pecking the limp featherless weakling until she was bloodied and dying.
It was distressing to watch.
Having failed to induce any recovery by our hapless feeding attempts (how do you feed a limp blind 5cm long creature with a beak?) I was forced to face the inevitable truth. With the kids gone to school, I took the withered little thing, gasping intermittently for air, away into the grass and retrieved a shovel figuring this was the most painless way to end her suffering.
Having barely moved in the nest since hatching, save for the odd attempt at waddling towards her mom, I couldn’t believe it when she suddenly lifted her head fully off the grass and looked square at me with her blind eyes. Did she have some primal sense that the reaper was coming to visit, or was it a desperate attempt to look for mom amidst a heightened degree of separation anxiety?
I’ll never know, but it was a surreal moment that imprinted itself on me in a way I still find hard to explain. The best I can offer about my experience is that we shared an undeniable moment of communication or even bonding. I ‘felt’ her voice in my heart saying – “I want to live”.
It melted me, and a minute later she was back in the nest.
For reasons I’ll never understand, the other chicks never pecked her again and she thrived into a healthy hen who lived in our garden generously donating eggs to us for the next five years. Did her brush with death activate something in her…a sense of purpose or the will to fight? I don’t know.
She did meet her end one spring night at the hands of a local fox feeding her growing cubs, but at least it was a natural ending!
That moment reinforced in me the idea that if you have the courage to fight or to ask for help in the face of overwhelming odds, life often finds a way. No matter how desperate the situation or how bleak the outlook may feel, no matter how lost you might imagine yourself to be, there is always a way home – so long as you don’t give up!