28 April, 2010

First flights.

The robin-egg blue sky reminds me. Late last spring, I found a bird in the courtyard, wobbling and flailing across the stones. Already in the preceding days, I'd found three different baby birds who'd tumbled to their deaths from their nests; at least this one was still alive. (Bird mamas have a tough decision to make: high enough to keep the chicks from the predators--or low enough to avoid fatal crashes. It's fly from the get-go or die.) For some types of birds, there's at least an entertaining practice period, when they spend a few days alternating between unsteady swoops through the courtyard, and resting in a sort of discreet way, behind a flower pot or on a low rafter.
After a breathless call to my friend the local bird expert, I knew to calm this apparently uninjured bird by placing him under an overturned pot for some dark and quiet. After he'd rested, I caught the non-flying fellow. Following my bird-loving friend's succinct advice, I took the birdlet to the terrace, and, heart in mouth, I threw him into the sky. He flew. Every cell in my body was cheering him on, and I squinted after him until he was a speck in the blue, until finally there was nothing but the memory of the scissoring wings in my hands.
This was before I acquired chickens. These days I candle eggs. In the pitch black of night, you take a bright flashlight out to the chicken house, where the broody hen's in a sort of chicken daze, all but cross-eyed with weariness sitting night and day on her eggs because she is absolutely compelled to. You slip an egg out from under her warm breast, you cup your hand around the egg, and you hold it against the light.
Remember the red semi-translucent glow your fingers would make when you held them up in front of a candle or a flashlight? (Was I the only one who tried to see through her fingers?) Candling eggs is like that. All those pin-prick holes in the egg--the ones the chick-to-be uses to breathe--they shine like stars in a pink firmament. You're staring into a glowing universe, condensed to the size of your palm, only you aren't seeking constellations, but rather the faint webwork of blood veins, which confirm that life is under construction, that this particular egg has indeed been fertilized.
Life is busting out all over, beyond the chicken house too. The neighbor's lambs are freshly born and capering, there's a tan calf resting in the clover of a nearby field, the woodpecker must be feeding a family (judging by the all-day percussion), the cuckoo is back and cuckooing, the swallows are chortling, the bumblebees are careening drunkenly from one source of nectar to the next. The frog mating chorus is in full nightly swing, augmented by the periodic sleepy whoot of the owls, while the fuzzy bats (no bigger than a tablespoon each) that live behind my window shutters have forsaken hibernation to resume their circular dining cruises through the deep, cool air.


  1. Beautiful. Hope the bird made it.

  2. Rose, the key to her/his survival was that s/he was able to fly, which s/he did. It was truly exhilarating to see.

  3. I love the evocative descriptions you paint in this post. When I was little, my friends and I found an injured baby bird on the ground. We couldn't find its mother and didn't know what to do. So we wrapped it up warmly and made a little nest. Sadly, it didn't survive. Too sad to think of the ones who didn't make it.

    What happens to the unfertilized chicken eggs? Are those the ones you eat? What do you do with the fertilized ones? Just put them back underneath their mothers?

  4. Thanks WC, I love the feedback!

    I forgot to mention that I did feed the little guy sugar water, which may have been just the surge of energy it needed to go airborne.

    The kids and I just lost a baby hare we'd tried to save (its sibling was mangled under the tractor). We did everything that the vet suggested, but it's no easy matter trying to help the truly wild, and next time I'm leaving any 'orphan' hares and hoping the mama returns. Unlike rabbits, hares live above ground, so the babies just huddle and wait.

    On the chicken front, I normally just take eggs for cooking from the chickens who aren't broody. But if a chicken goes broody--it's a dramatic change in her habits-- then she tries to keep any and all eggs, and I let her. I need to candle the eggs, because if there is by chance a rotten egg, I want to get rid of it: it can explode, which stinks but also coats the other eggs, making it hard for the siblings to "breathe" properly.

    I just slip the 'good' eggs back under mama. The hens are sweet and let me do this with just a slightly disturbed cluck or two.

  5. I so enjoyed reading your post; c'etait un moment très poétique ! Les oiseaux c'est une merveille et si fragiles! merci de ce bon moment


Thanks for visiting my blog and joining in the conversation!

Related Posts with Thumbnails