The Chicken With (9) Lives

The first time I met Hedy, the little spring chick was in a cardboard box the postmaster gave to my mom at six in the morning down at the local Post Office. With a few other fluffy chicks bravely “Beep-beep-beeping” their way into that first week of their lives, Mom had purchased a straight run of fancies from a supplier in Ohio.

I couldn’t tell you which one Hedy was then, honestly. She probably had a tiny tuft of feathers atop her little head, as a good Polish should. They were all soft, warm, and, literally, stinking adorable. And they were alive, surviving the trip from the Midwest all the way to Colorado.

We came home and carefully placed them in a large metal washtub filled with bedding with a heat lamp off to one side. The low bowl of chicken starter and a watering container, although always starting pristine, was a mess within minutes.

Hedy. (Note the fabulous coif.)

Fast forward to late fall. Dear Hedy and her box mates are growing and have been accepted into a much larger flock of 30. She survives this transition and is becoming the beautiful young chicken she was born to be.

She was residing with my family in Colorado when we were driving in for Thanksgiving from Illinois. My mom called and asked if we would consider taking home some chickens. After consulting my husband, we jumped at the chance! Driving five chickens, two kids, two parents and a teacup poodle over four state lines in fifteen hours, we made it home before midnight.

No matter where we travel, God never loses track of us. We can try to travel as far away from Him as we can, but He is always right there with us. 

Backyard chickens are just beginning to catch on in our area. Most people have never seen the exotics and are fascinated by our flock. Hedy, being a very tame Buff Polish “with funny hair,” as many kids call her headdress, is always someone’s “First Hold” in Chickendom around here.

She is the lowest in the chicken pecking order but the highest in human attention-getting. Everyone loves Hedy and she has been featured in many photos and posts with her human friends.

Living beside the Mississippi River, we have an enormous variety of birds of prey, from bald eagles to prairie falcons and red-tail hawks. There are lots of old trees in our area, so owls love to call it home, too. Hedy, along with her sisters, has survived multiple attacks from the air.

How many times has God kept us safe from the enemy of our souls?

Tragedy Strikes

Winter that first year was snowy and icy across the midwest plains of America. Our backyard was no exception. But one warm, sunny morning, I leave the door to the coop open and my girls happily spill out into the snow. Watching carefully and monitoring the yard, satisfying myself that they are safe, I go about the day. I check back occasionally to make my regular chicken count. Afternoon comes and as I count my girls, there is one missing. It is Hedy.

I make a quick search of the yard, to no avail. Calling my son to help, we look everywhere. There is patio furniture set on its side to weather the winter easier and as we look, we see dear Hedy on her back on the frozen stones between tables and chairs.

Towel-warmed chicken.

With superhuman strength, my son pulls away the furniture and I gather Hedy into my arms. My son sobs, thinking she is dead; Hedy is his favorite girl, too. We have no idea how long she has been there. She is listless and cold. We bring her in and nurse her back to health with warm blankets and a water-filled dropper. Her tail feathers from then on are crooked, off to one side a little. But she is none the worse for wear. In fact, it gives her even more personality to go with her beauty.

Do our crooked tail feathers make us more adorable to God? Doesn’t He prize our character over our physical beauty?

A Bad Egg 

When a hen is off by herself and not socializing with the flock, you know something is wrong. They’re usually pretty plucky and they definitely love to hang out together, pecking order notwithstanding.

Once again, I find sweet Hedy, not with the rest of the girls. She is weak and non-responsive. I make a physical check and see that there is something strange in her vent (where the eggs come out). I come to realize she has broken an egg as she laid it and part of it has not come out.

It must be Monday. This ain’t my Friday’s hair!

Most vets and online resources will tell you this can be fatal. So after I looked up things online, I shut off my computer and decided to do whatever I could to help her. That included latex gloves and a warm bath to help try to remove the shell, yolk, and white that was partway in and partway out of her. Gross, ugly work.  But I loved her and wanted to save this girl’s life.

So I set to work. My husband comes home and asks loudly, “What are you DOING to her?” to which I curtly reply with a tight smile, “If you are not here to help, please leave!” I knew her life was hanging in the balance and time was of the essence.

Maybe in her winter accident, Hedy’s egg-laying parts were damaged. We wrap her up in warm towels, add the droppers full of water and wait. Somehow, her life is spared yet again.  I begin to wonder how she is still alive.

Jesus can save our lives, too, even at the point when everything is at its ugliest and no one wants to touch all the problems or issues. He can work miracles.

The New (Chicken) World Order

This spring we added three new ladies to our existing five. They have been a wonderful addition to our flock. But the pecking order has been turned upside down in the past few months. Hedy used to be somewhere in the middle with her old sisters; now she’s at the bottom with the addition of the new. #survivingthebottomrung

Feeling overlooked? God always sees you.

A Rough Molt

Molting time for my flock is awful. The ladies look pathetic, feathers drooping and falling off so much it looks like a down pillow exploded in my coop. They look like children who have taken scissors to their own hair without their momma knowing it. My girls get easily agitated with one another; I have read that it is a very painful process to regrow pin feathers.

Girls in the yard.

Hedy, with the majestic bouffant on her head, begins to lose her feathers. I guess it was a rough day in the coop or the run because I come out to find her with blood running down her beak and her eye sealed shut. Her pin feathers have been broken off and part of her beak has been pecked. The claw on her right foot has been dislodged and was also bleeding. We carefully nurse her back to health yet again.

Sweet Hedy is blinded now in her left eye. She relearns to walk, high stepping with her left foot in a somewhat comical way as she regains her balance and perspective.

No matter how we have been wounded by others outside or INSIDE the church, Jesus heals us if we will let Him. Whenever we have been marginalized or hurt,  remember how we have marginalized and hurt Christ by our sin, and how we can walk with our heads held high, knowing that we are forgiven when we confess and repent. We still have a purpose!

By now, you hopefully know my perspective: Jesus in Everything. Even chickens.

Watching Hedy step forth bravely in spite of all she’s lost gives me pause to think about my own life. Not only has she lost her original home and flock but also her position within ours. Physically, Hedy no longer has her straight tail feathers and eyesight, her toenail or even the ability to walk normally. She has a hard time laying eggs.

And yet she still walks about the yard, friendly especially to her human friends, her head held high. She knows that no matter what other chickens think of her, she is still her master’s favorite and always gets extra treats. (Shhh, don’t tell the other girls!)  To me, she is still the beautiful chicken she was born to be.

And, in spite of everything, I truly hope she lives this final of her nine lives fully. Come to think of it, I hope I do, too.

I love my girls. But Hedy holds a special place in my heart.