Lessons from a Mother Hen
One day Heather, as my daughter had named her, became very broody. She wanted to be at home in her nest. She didn't roam the yard as the other hens did gathering bugs and other items they could find for themselves. She wouldn't let us "steal" her eggs from her for our own use. She had a plan for them. Heather was preparing to spend the next twenty one days of her life in a nest indoors nurturing a beginning to as many chicks as we would allow her. She would forego her own pleasures and even her own needs.
Heather's broody desire spread to other hens. Two more hens followed suit and began to set their eggs. We excitedly marked calendars and anxiously awaited the new brood. These hens would only leave the nest occasionally for some food and water. They did not get to peck around all day as the others did. They had to hurry back to their nest to keep their eggs warm. I often wonder if the other two hens would have gone back without Heather's example.
After a couple of weeks the one hen gave up on her nest and never returned. I watched Heather get up and roll the abandoned eggs to her nest and continue setting. Six days later, one day away from the big day, the other hen in frustration jumped off her nest and ran out the door squawking never to return. Again, Heather got up and rolled those abandoned eggs to her nest and continued the final day of setting. A third hen came in out of jealousy and tried to pull Heather's collection away from her. Heather knew too much labor had gone into those eggs for them to be stolen now. She was not giving someone else the opportunity to see the fruit of that reward. We gave that hen some eggs of her own to set which she only kept for a couple of hours and left.
Finally, the day came. Eggs began to crack and little peeps were heard from soft yellow chicks. Heather had to set longer than twenty one days to be able to hatch the eggs from other hens and she did. She kept her brood close as she set another day or two for them all to hatch out. Only one chick was not strong enough to hatch. Beside that one chick, which was not a fault of neglect, Heather had been 100% successful in her duty.
With Heather's job of hatching out 13 chicks accomplished I expected her to lighten up and enjoy the outdoors again having her little brood tag along with her. However, she was more broody than ever. She would not let us around her chicks and she wouldn't take them outside yet. If we tried to pick one up she would lift her wings and call to them. They would come running and hide in the shelter of her wings. One curious chick wanted to stay out. A different call made him hurriedly join the others under her wing. His curiosity made him peek his head out. The little yellow head was pecked and he pulled it back in.
Since Heather would not lead her chicks out to the chicken yard to eat and drink where the other hens and rooster were I took food and water to them. I carried chick feed to the young ones and pellets to Heather. I fixed water in one container for Heather and a small container for the chicks.
By this time Heather had been in the house with just enough food and water to keep her alive for so long that her comb had turned from red to a peach color. She looked tired and weak, and now had the responsibility of a large brood of chicks. Heather was unrelenting despite her condition. I thought she would be glad for food and water close to her so she could regain her strength. How I was in awe at her response! She would not eat her pellets and drink her water! I had to throw it out after it sat there day after day. She made a special call to the chicks that was different from that of her other calls. They came running and watched her closely. Heather began to eat their chick feed and drink their water! They watched as she repeated the action, and then began to try it themselves. Everything Heather did she did to teach her chicks how to live in this big world!
The door to the chicken house was too tall for the chicks to get out. That is why Heather remained in the chicken house until her chicks were grown tall enough to step out the door. When they were tall enough she took them out and was even willing to fight the rooster if any of them bothered her chicks. Heather's chicks all survived. I believe she completely gave herself and would have given her life if need be to raise her chicks. My how she was proud to step out of that chicken house for the first time with such a nice brood following her!
First, I learned from this mother hen that you can be an example to help other mothers along the way. However, when everyone else is jumping ship, stick with it! Don't throw your family away! You have too much invested. They are too precious!
Second, I also learned that it all passes too fast. The sacrifices you make for your children are just a moment in time. The value of the reward will far exceed the sacrifice you made. III John 4: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”
Third, Heather's example taught me that motherhood is a selfless job. Mothers often forego their pleasures and desires, and sometimes even their needs; but not with regret.
Fourth, getting that baby here safely is only the beginning. It is our responsibility to raise them until they are grown. We need to show them how to live in this world. Most of the other hens were not mean to the chicks, but Heather was the one that taught them how to live. Proverbs 23:26
Fifth, "...a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame." Proverbs 29:15. Don't leave them to raise themselves. Finish the job! Heather finished unashamed!
Sixth, you may have to fight for their protection. Satan would love to destroy their little lives. I Peter 5:8: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:”
I don't deserve the title of "mother hen"; but if a chicken can do it, why can't we? Be a "mother hen"!
Raise a precious little brood that the Master could enjoy.
Abby Sightler Logan 4-5-13