The chicks that we picked up at the post office in December have grown from adorable little fluff balls into regular hens. They’re much smaller than our grown layers and aren’t producing eggs yet, but they have all their feathers and one of them is trying to crow.
This week, a few have been venturing outside for the first time. It clearly takes some courage for them to step out into a new world, and most aren’t interested. A few are willing to take the risk though, especially some Delawares, which are cream-colored with pretty black accent feathers.
Working near their coop this morning, I saw three bright young Delawares outside their door. They drew themselves up to their full height in their curiosity and looked thin and graceful as a chicken could ever hope to look. Every curve of them was made more alive with wonder, and I smiled to see them.
A cat, which was accompanying me, trotted ahead toward the coop, and when the chickens saw her, the magic of the moment was done. They shrunk a couple of inches and turned their heads back and forth, fluttering their wings nervously. All at once, it occurred to them that the cat was coming straight towards them and was not changing its course. Struck with the enormity of the situation, they flapped their wings wildly and retreated back into the safety of their coop.
This tiny gray cat, which has a policy of ignoring all poultry, continued past the coop with dignity. I think she was perfectly aware of the disturbance she caused, but she just played it cool because she has learned how to manage chickens. Last year, some rather feisty hens chased that cat’s great big son all around the yard, but they left her alone even though she was half his size.
All these characters remind me of my children. My two year old, like those little chicks, has grown from being an adorable ball of softness to being a fountain of wonder as he daily tries to make his world a little bigger. I watch my bigger kids try to master the art of standing their ground with grace, just like the cats, and I cringe when they confront the human equivalent of feisty, pecking hens.
As a mother, I’m probably doing exactly the same thing too, but with more exhaustion and less zeal. Along with the extra helping of exhaustion, I bring something else that I don’t see in my animals or my children. I bring an awareness that this will all come to an end. The young ones will all grow up. I’ll probably be around long after these particular chickens and cats are gone. The things I love today will be replaced by something different, and maybe by something beautiful. But this day, with these people, these animals, and this particular kind of wonder, will never come again.