Baby chicks are used to living in clutches, so it was recommended that we keep our orphaned peep, Merlin, company by placing a mirror in his living quarters.
After observing him for days with his mirror, I couldn’t help but sense that he knew he was looking at himself. And that the experience was rather profound, this gazing upon himself in all of his chickenhood. A rare opportunity in the lifetime of a rooster.
We’ll never know for sure if he was fooled into thinking he was with other kin. One thing’s for sure, Merlin was no ordinary bird.
Just the Bohemian and I, driving at day’s end down our quiet country road. Half a mile from home.
It’s been exactly one week since we lost Merlin (the orphaned chick we adopted, and promptly fell in love with). We are not thinking of the day within this particular context, however, as a small brown spot of fluff appears within view.
As we travel at about 30 miles per hour, we pass a lone, baby chick in the grass, just a foot or two from the road.
“That looked just like Merlin,” the Bohemian says.
“I saw. Should I pull over?”
I ask and veer to the side of the road all at the same time.
Park. Turn off the ignition. “Could that be Merlin?”
The Bohemian is calm. “Maybe. Let’s take a walk.”
We leave the car and walk back along the road, eyeing the tiny chick ahead. There are no other animals around. It stands with its back to us, enough to show wings with golden brown feathers, so similar to Merlin’s. If it were to turn toward us and reveal a chest of white down, we would know for sure.
“Merlin…” the Bohemian tries his standard call as we approach.
The chick pivots to face us, and we know instantly it is not him.
Merlin or not, this little one is clearly orphaned. But before either of us can squat down low and say “ahhhh…” in its direction, the little peep has fled from our presence and scurried across the road.
Without hesitation, the Bohemian turns and moves toward the car. “That’s not our chicken.”
I know, and we are both walking back, side by side.
“He ran from us. He’s not ours.”
“Yeah, I know. It’s true.” I say.
It’s not that we don’t feel empathy for the orphaned chick we just came across. Hopefully, it will find its way. And if it doesn’t – at the risk of sounding cruel – we can trust that nature has a way of keeping some kind of balance in a booming population.
As we drive back home the Bohemian says, “Wouldn’t it have been crazy if that was Merlin? Just a short way from home. Standing by the side of the road, thinking: where are you guys? I’ve been waiting for you!”
Yes, that would have been a surprising twist to our Merlin the chicken saga.
But our hands are empty when we get home, and the house is quiet except for the sounds of song birds outside in the garden.
Looking back on that brief roadside moment with the maybe-Merlin chick, I’m struck with one lasting impression.
The chick looked so similar. About the same size, a similar chirp. But it did not at all feel like the bird we came to know as Merlin.
Merlin, he truly was a bird of a different feather.
With today’s “Daily Prompt” theme of Menagerie, I couldn’t help but feel right in step with the WordPress DP brainstormers. I’ve been steeped in animal kingdom as of late, and the Archive posts of this last week have reflected our family’s surrender to a chicken we’ve named Merlin.
In honor of today’s Daily Prompt, I hope it’s alright to offer up a collage of recent posts and photos chronicling the arrival of this little chicken in our lives.
I may be a mother but my newborn-baby-waking-through-the-night skills are less than honed.
So this morning I’m sleepy and my little writing routine a bit altered.
I’ll just say it plainly: I sit here typing with a chicken in my lap.
It’s a small chicken. A baby chick, to be exact. And it seems as though it has become the newest member of our family. With it, comes all of those care taking duties – feeding, holding, poop cleaning-uping. And, as with most little ones, getting up in the night when they cry. Which this one does about twice a night, so far.
To be honest, I’m slightly embarrassed to write this post and publicly admit that we’ve adopted a wild chicken. This was not planned. However, it appears as though my husband bears a streak of St. Francis and he continually finds himself crossing paths with strays.
Last June it was a turtle he discovered under the tree in our backyard (Zelva the Turtle stories here). This past Monday, it was a runty chick, which now chirps quietly within the folds of a towel, warmly nestled, here in my lap as I write.
I’m shy to proclaim our adoption just for the mere fact that our island is over-run with chickens. Every gardener’s nemesis, these pesky, feathered foes, dig up new sprouts, make a mess of freshly mulched trees, and the roosters sound their cocky crows at all hours of the night. My farmer friends have been known to lose all veggie peacefulness, suddenly becoming blood thirsty when faced with the threat of insidious chickens scratching near the garden fence. Needless to say, I have not yet uttered a peep to them about our chick.
Which we think is a rooster, by the way. My least favorite gender of the flock.
But the story goes that the Bohemian was planting trees one day, (surrounded by scavenging wild chickens, of course) when the chirp of one particular bird got his attention. There, all alone, was a small little fluff ball, so weak it could barely stand. Only enough energy to sound its little plea, non-stop. When he went to it, it quickly imprinted on to him. Following him around, trying to get on his pant leg. It even mustered enough strength to climb the three-foot pile of soil in an attempt to get closer to him- peeping all the way.
The Bohemian could see a mother hen with her new babies nearby. He tried to get this little one to go to her. But as he approached, she ran, her babies scattered, and the runt could not keep up.
With more work to do, the Bohemian left the pots and the chick, working in other areas of the farm. But by day’s end, as he and I made our way to home, we stopped by the soil pile one more time to see if the chick was still there. He was, indeed, in the same spot as before, still chirping and barely standing. He ambled to the Bohemian as soon as he came into sight.
At that point, it seemed apparent. Take him home and save his life, or leave him there to die.
I don’t know if I can convey the extent to which this land is invaded with chickens. I am not exaggerating when I say that it would not be uncommon to see a rooster simply walking down the sidewalk, downtown. From this perspective, many would suggest that to “save” a chicken is far from noble. Some would say it is a disservice to the community.
So make fun of us if you will. I’m laughing at myself. When at 3:37am this morning, our little friend is chirping the “I’m cold!” call. The one that repeats in a monotone, much like a mini-car alarm. He has the heating lamp and towels in his little cardboard box, but sometimes in the early morning chill it’s not enough. Besides, he’s a flock-by-nature kind of animal and sometimes wants a little company.
I’m not ready to wake. I was already up with him at midnight. So we wrap him up a little snugger, lower the lamp a bit closer, and the Bohemian suggests music. Maybe he’d feel more at ease with some low sounds.
There I am, in the dark, in bed. The little “I’m content” chirps are now sounding from the chicken box, while Hindustani sarod music plays softly from Bose speakers aimed in his direction.