Hope is the Thing With Feathers … and Scissor Beak

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“‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all …”
~Emily Dickinson

Last night I asked Jack to tell me again how he chose Fluffy when we were buying chicks at the farm store a few weeks ago. We had planned on buying 10 chicks that day (we ended up coming home with 18 …), but all he had eyes for was the brooder where what looked like hundreds of tiny Easter Egger chicks were hopping around. Last year he had especially fallen in love with an Easter Egger he named Fluffy. She was very fluffy and funny and quirky and was quickly a family favorite, but she had died in the fall. He wanted a new Fluffy.

He stood quietly beside the brooder, carefully studying all the hopping little balls of fluff. Then he said to me, “I want that one.” I quickly realized that it wasn’t going to be easy picking out and scooping up the exact ball of fluff that Jack had his eyes on, but I was determined to try. I kept pointing and asking.

“That one?”
“This one?”

Finally I asked for a little more detail. He replied, “I want that little one over there that all of the other chicks keep knocking over.”

Of course. My eyes welled up and my heart swelled with love for my soft-hearted, compassionate boy as I scooped up the right little chick into our box of peeping babies. We picked out a few other Easter Eggers that looked a bit like Fluffy, too, and I honestly thought they could all be little Fluffies.

But last weekend, when we were holding the chicks, I noticed that one had scissor beak.  Jack took one look at her and said, “That’s Fluffy.”

Last week I wrote about living in the tension of love for our animals and worry about their safety. I worry about our ducks who refuse to sleep in the coop. I worry about all of our chickens, but especially our little lame Rhode Island Red named Hoppy and now our tiny scissor-beaked Fluffy.

I spent some time last week staring down into the plastic bin and carefully watching Fluffy. Was she eating? Was she drinking? I saw her poke around a long, long time for food, but I had a hard time telling whether or not she was actually getting anything to eat, and I rarely, if ever, saw her dunk her beak into the waterer. I knew I needed to do some research on scissor beak, but quite frankly I was afraid. What if most chicks with scissor beak die? Even if most chicks with scissor beak don’t die, what if we lose my chick? I have this habit of falling in love with my chickens and then being heartbroken when they die. Losing chickens is an occupational hazard of having more than 40 of these birds poking around my yard, but my heart has not received – or has chosen to ignore – that memo. 

Thankfully, my research revealed that there’s a good chance that Fluffy is going to be OK. I piled some pine shavings in the bottom of a small plastic tub, and several times a day I pull her out of the brooder and let her eat some chick food that has been mixed with water. Some days she gets a little scrambled egg mixed in with her food. She is quite a bit smaller than the other chicks, but she is just as perky as the rest of them, so I am trying to calm my worries, take care of her, and enjoy her.

In the meantime, I have fallen head-over-heels in love with little Fluffy. She hops on top of the waterer when she sees me because she knows that I will scoop her up. When I put my hand down in the brooder and all of the other chicks are chirping loudly and flapping all over each other in order to avoid being abducted from their home, Fluffy hops right into my hand. Lately I have been spending a lot of time in the bathroom with her while she eats, and the bathroom floor has become my new “office.” 

She likes to help me work, too.

It’s dangerous falling in love with a chicken. I know that. I have loved all my chickens, but this is the first time a chicken has actually fallen in love with me, too.  

I don’t know what Fluffy’s future looks like. The thing is, I don’t know what my future looks like, either. I like to control minor little details like, well, like the health and well-being and happiness of myself and everyone I love, including my animals. But I can’t control any of that. Not really anyway. But I can spend my days lost in love and wonder and gratitude and the belief that if we can scoop up others when they are knocked down just like my son had me scoop up Fluffy, there is a lot of room for hope in this world. And today, I choose that hope.