When I went to feed the chickens two days ago, I found my favorite hen, Red, a mix of Rhode Island Red and who knows what else, paralyzed. She was lopsided, totally unable to move, her legs stretched behind her.
She’s dying, I thought. When birds are paralyzed, something is drastically wrong and they are dying. I cried. This was the chicken who came to me hungry and thirsty so I put her in the coop with the others and she thanked me by laying beautiful brown eggs. If it is possible to love a chicken, I loved this hen.
What should I do? Hasten the process of her dying, put her out of her misery? But I couldn’t do that. Could not see myself or anyone else chopping off her head. Instead, I put some straw in a wide, blue plastic bin and set her in it. She wobbled so I propped her up with a handful of straw and there she sat. I put the bin in shade on the back porch and went inside.
Two of my grandchildren are visiting for Grandma camp. “Grandma, what is that by your eye?”
“It’s a tear. The red chicken is dying,” I said. “She can’t move. I’m sad.” Then I went to the stove and with back to my family, made pancakes.
Jimmy, 11, said the blessing. “And Heavenly Father, bless the little red hen that she will get well.” Oh, I thought, how can I tell him when the chicken dies?
An hour later I went to check on Red. I picked her up. She didn’t cluck. She didn’t struggle. But two of her long toes curled and clutched at air. “Hmmm,” I told her. “I must have missed this when I put you in the bucket.”
Another hour passed and I went outside to check on her. This time she clucked when I approached and she was sitting straight, like a nesting chicken. I tried to stand her up. Her legs went down instead of out behind her, but she wobbled so I settled her back into the straw.
I had an errand so I was gone for a couple of hours. When I came back, the bucket was empty and there was one brown egg in the clay pot where she laid her eggs. She was out of the coop scratching for bugs with the other chickens.
What happened? Jimmy’s prayers? A little boy’s faith? So simple.
I wonder if Red was stung by a scorpion. We have a lot of them where I live. It’s possible and could explain what happened.
I had my own prayers to say. “Thank you for saving Red and for answering Jimmy’s prayer.”
What happened to this chicken was a large part of my day. It reminds me of a poem by Willian Carlos Williams, The Red Wheelbarrow.
so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
A red wheelbarrow, rain water, white chickens—a picturesque scene of common, ordinary things, that in a way, become a portrait of a person’s soul, of things that matter to him, to her.
Our small miracle happened two mornings ago. Yesterday, I ran outside and sure enough, there was Red, waiting for her breakfast. I picked a few extra cherry tomatoes for her and a couple of leaves of chard. “Hello, chickie, chickies . . .”