The plight of a spring chicken

By Helen Row Toews

May 25, 2017 12:00 AM

Spring is all about new life.
Whether it be young foals or calves kicking up their heels on a warm sunny day in the pasture, woolly lambs frolicking on a green hillside or a litter of pink piglets pushing and shoving one another for position at the milk bar (otherwise known as mom), we see birth everywhere.
One of the most exciting times on the farm, especially for kids, is picking up baby chicks, fresh from the hatchery.
Arriving in large cardboard boxes by the hundreds, they set up a fearful racket of cheeping; music to a youngsters ears.
When Bill and I were kids Dad would back the half-ton up to the loading area at the Co-op and, along with other folks lined up for the same purpose, our allotment was carefully placed in the truck and we’d motor off for home.
Their quarters back on the farm were warm and ready, since chicks require a draft-free space with a brooder lamp trained on them at all times to keep the temperature just right.
What a wonderful moment it was when we helped carry them into the chicken coop, flung aside the lid, and the tiny tufts of yellow fluff scampered out of their crate and entered a brave new world.
My own children were no different.
I recall one spring in particular when my oldest son Chris was about nine years old.
The chicks had arrived, and he and his two siblings gathered round for the momentous event with wide, shining eyes and eager little hands itching to hold the fragile morsels of life.
All but one hopped free of their confinement and scurried over to gather under the red glow of two heat lamps.
The trauma of such a journey was usually too much for a couple of them, and often they didn’t make it alive to their final destination.
However, this chick hadn’t expired, but was prevented from movement by what appeared to be a broken leg.
He sat quietly in the container awaiting his fate.
Soft-hearted Becky was near tears, “Oh no,” she whispered, looking up at me with glistening eyes.
Unfortunately, we didn’t know what to do other than set it carefully under the light with food and water close by.
Later that day, I straightened up from where I knelt in the garden, slapped the dirt from my knees and, holding a hand to shade my eyes against the hot afternoon sun, looked around for the kids.
Now where were they?
Suspiciously, with that mom kind of intuition, I trudged toward the house, calling their names.
No response.
Kicking off my rubber boots at the door I stepped inside where a wall of heat assailed me like a blast furnace!
“What’s going on in here?”
I hollered as I struggled to breathe in the hot heavy air and staggered down the hall toward the sound of guilty scuffling and hurried shushing.
“Nothing,” Chris assured me from his position in the middle of the living room floor.
He sat strangely erect, shoulder to shoulder with his brother and sister, and wore a deliberately nonchalant air as he gazed with studied interest out a nearby window.
The other two, although sweating in the blistering heat, followed his lead and assumed similar poses in a solid block across our orange shag carpeting.
Quite an admirable attempt at subterfuge but, doomed to failure since due to the warmth, all three were feigning innocence garbed in nothing but their underpants; a highly irregular situation.
Perspiration breaking out across my forehead, I turned to consult the thermostat—110 degrees!
I flipped it down, flung off my jacket and strode across the room. “What are you hiding,” I demanded, my voice cracking in the sweltering conditions.
Their carefully constructed human wall crumpled and they shuffled aside to reveal a mandarin orange box lined with an old baby blanket.
Inside, looking quite pleased, perched the fluffy little chicken. All four looked up at me with beseeching eyes.
Yes—even the bird.
“Please mom, we can’t let him die,” Justin spoke earnestly for the assembly.
I relented, and thanks to them it was a happy ending for all as extra measures were taken for the chick and he pulled through.
Of course, his ultimate destiny was a soup pot but we won’t go into that now.
All’s well that ends well as he turned out to be quite a resilient little fellow indeed.
We all know bones mend quickly when you’re a spring chicken.

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