Springtime means babies -
lambs, calves, kittens, and baby chicks.
"Lucky the Chick"
It was Phoebe’s chore to gather the eggs every day. She didn’t mind. It was a fun game to search in the corners of the hay mow and the grass around the barn for the hens’ favorite places.
“Maseppa, did you know that Sissy is brooding under the back step? I think she has at least eight eggs.”
“Yes, it is good that we will have more chickens.”
“How long does it take?”
“It will be about twenty days, but she has been sitting already for five days. I made lines on the wall of the barn.”
Sissy gave a low gravelly caw whenever Phoebe peeked under the step. She made sure there was plenty of grain and water nearby. When it rained, Phoebe draped an old blanket over the edge of the steps to protect the hen and her eggs.
Finally one morning, Phoebe noticed Sissy was very restless. She kept standing up and peeking under her feather skirt. One time when she stood up, Phoebe could see a yellow bit of fuzz. She sat nearby and waited. Once in a while a little head with beady eyes poked out between Sissy’s wings.
Soon Sissy couldn’t keep them contained any longer. She stepped out into the sunshine. Seven little pom-poms scurried here and there around and between her long skinny legs. Sissy gave a constant low chatter, keeping the babies close to her. She scratched the dirt and pecked. The little chicks ran to her and tasted the dirt. Once, she found a worm. Two chicks tugged on each end and broke it in half. They pecked at the wiggling string, not really sure how to eat it.
When Phoebe knew Sissy was far enough away, she crawled over to the step and peeked into the shadows. A jumble of empty shells was left in the nest. There was one more egg that didn’t hatch. Phoebe picked it up. It was already getting cooler. She held it to the bright light of the sun, then shook it gently and held it to her ear. She could hear a tiny peeping. It was still good!
She held it between her hands and thought of how she could keep it warm. She knew the sunshine would be warmer than under the steps. She wrapped it in her skirt and sat on the steps thinking. Sissy wandered back to her nesting spot. Picking up the broken shells with her beak, she scattered them in the dooryard and cleaned up the nest with a few scratches of her feet. Sometimes a little chick would get in the way and be knocked backwards by his mother’s foot.
Sissy cackled a call to the chicks and they settled under her wings for a nap. Phoebe gently poked the last egg under her warm breast feathers.
“Maseppa, will Sissy take care of that last chick? I’m afraid it won’t hatch.”
“Maybe it will hatch tomorrow.”
In the morning, Phoebe leaned over the end of the step to look at the egg. Sissy and her chicks were already out for their morning stroll, finding bugs and worms and bits of grass. She reached in and felt the egg – it was still warm. There was a tiny hole on one side. She could hear a tiny pecking.
She waited and watched. The hole got bigger, and soon a chunk of shell fell out. She could see the little beak.
Maseppa came out of the house. Phoebe lifted her head and whispered, “It’s hatching.” She leaned over the edge again and resumed her vigil. Maseppa crouched and looked underneath, too.
The little chick seemed tired. Its head leaned against the opening with its beak open and breathing hard.
“You should not touch him now. He needs to do it himself. It will make him strong.”
Phoebe felt so sorry for him. “Come on, little guy. You can do it.”
He seemed to find more energy and tackled the shell again. Finally, it broke into two pieces and he tumbled out. His skinny neck wobbled about. His gangly legs sprawled in different directions. His damp feathers were plastered on his scrawny neck. He lay in a heap breathing hard.
“Ahhh . . . he’s so beautiful! I’m going to name him Lucky.”
Maseppa looked at Phoebe. “I would not say he is beautiful right now, but he looks healthy. He will live.”
This is a preview of Going Home with Phoebe - avaible in June.
(Pre-orders $15 until June 1st.
Both books will be sold for $30 until June 1st.)