Lessons From A Mother Hen

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“Henny Penny” and her little black chick.

So… big news!

About a week ago, our Rhode Island Red decided to hatch out a batch of chicks.

(And when I say “a week ago,” what I really mean is that she started to go broody about four weeks ago…)

(And when I say a “batch” of chicks, what I really mean is that she sat on two eggs — and only one of them hatched…) 😉

But whatever, right?!

The point is, we have another fluffy little chick running around the One Acre Lott, and it has been such a neat experience!

Sure, we hand-raised chicks from the feed store last year, and this year we hatched and raised a bunch of them out of a friend’s incubator (I even wrote an article about it) — but I’ve never actually seen a mother hen take the lead before.

Let me tell ya, it has been enlightening!

Do you remember when Jesus made his last trip into Jerusalem?

He rode in triumphantly, people were throwing palm branches down in front of him, he kicked the moneychangers out of the temple, and pretty much laid the smackdown on the hypocritical Pharisees — and then, with a heart full of compassion, he lamented:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem… how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!”
(Matt 23:37)

Now, I don’t know how many times I’ve read that scripture (and similar passages in The Book of Mormon and the book of Doctrine and Covenants), but I’ve never really thought too much about exactly how a hen “gathereth her chickens under her wings” — until now.

(That’s probably because I’d never actually seen a hen gather her chickens under her wings until now!)

But after watching that old girl for the past few days, I think I’ve learned a thing or two:

First of all, I didn’t realize how fierce a mother hen can be.

Normally our Rhode Island Red (a.k.a “Henny Penny”) is just as gentle as can be; a real sweetheart.

Lindsey’s parents gave her to us last summer — and since she was kind of a latecomer in the flock, she got picked on pretty bad at first.

She never was a troublemaker though. If anything, I’d say she was overly timid around the other birds.

I even had to go in there and protect her a time or two when the other hens were getting particularly brutal…

After that, she grew pretty attached to me.

She’s always coming up to me, just to see what I’m doing when I’m in the chicken yard — and she’s the only chicken we’ve got that’ll actually eat kitchen scraps out of my hand.

(That’s also why she’s the only one of our hens that actually has a name…) 😉

But ever since she hatched that little chick of hers, Henny Penny has become a real warrior!

If you get too close, boy, you’d better watch out!

I don’t know how many times I’ve gotten pecked while feeding ’em — and one day she even took after Ryu (who is no small pup) with a full-on ninja kick!

It may sound weird, but I think it’s really inspiring to see the way our timid little Henny Penny will go all fierce to protect her little brood — puffing up her feathers, swelling to nearly twice her regular size, and letting out the most menacing growl you’ve ever heard!

And, man, the look in her eye!

It’s enough to make anybody think twice before messing with her!

I never would have imagined that a silly little chicken could get that brave or that fierce — but it’s a really neat visual when you think of it in a scriptural context: Our Savior, Jesus Christ, the greatest of all, gathering us under his wings with all the wrath and fiery indignation of a mother hen…

Another interesting lesson that I learned from Henny Penny is that she doesn’t usually force her little fluff ball to go under her wings.

In fact, I’ve never seen her do it even once!

Instead, when she senses a threat, she just cups her wing and clucks gently. Then it’s up to the chick to come to her.

As long as the danger isn’t too close or too threatening, she just patiently sits there, clucking calmly until the chick decides on its own to come into the safety of her outstretched wing.

She’s there watching out for her chick, and she will go to battle for it if she needs to — but as long as the danger isn’t too pressing, it has to be the chick’s decision to come under her wing…

And y’know, isn’t that the way God cares for us?

Isn’t He always gently calling to us?

Aren’t His wings always outstretched, ready to take us into His safety?

But, just like that little chick, we have decide to come to Him!

That thought just totally warms my heart!

I could probably go on for quite awhile, talking about the life-lessons we’ve learned from our silly old chickens, but I’ll get off my little soapbox.

I just wanted to let y’all know that we’ve enjoyed this latest adventure immensely!

Keeping animals isn’t for everyone, but it sure has taught me some important stuff!



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