What I want to write about today may seem silly to some folks, yet animal lovers will understand. I am missing a little baby banty chicken, which I only mothered for a matter of days.
Daughter Patty set some banty eggs in an incubator, and only one little fellow survived. Whether it was a male or female, no one knows. She brought him (?) up for me to care for, and the maternal love that we mothers possess immediately reached out to take him in.
For folks who are not acquainted with chickens, a bantam (banty) is a very small chicken. They are only about one-fourth to one-fifth the size of a standard chicken, and their eggs are only one-half to one-third the size of a regular egg. Their lifespan is shorter too, yet I can affirm that they make good pets. They can be trained to follow your footsteps, and can be picked up and petted.
There are several breeds, from the black rose-combed variety to the colorful Seabrights. There are black and white Silkies, whose feathers are more like down than feathery. I had a white Silky at one time named Dorothy, and I loved her. You could pick her up any time and hold her, and that was her undoing. My little granddaughters picked her up and baptized her too many times, and she went on to Hen Heaven.
It was no problem to me to mother this wee banty. He wasn’t much bigger than a fifty-cent piece. We fixed a box with an overhead bulb to keep him warm, and supplied water and chick feed for him. He ate the food and seemed to be doing good for days. He would chirp loudly, and when I picked him up and held him, he would utter soft, contented peeps as I cuddled him.
Then Sunday morning, he seemed listless and didn’t eat his food. I could tell he was going downhill, and that evening, I held him close to my heart. He gave one little “peep” and then was gone. He tried so hard to live, but I couldn’t take the place of his feathered mother. Criss thought I was silly to grieve over a little chicken and said, “He’s just a little banty and doesn’t have a soul.”
That may be so, but I read in the Bible of how our Heavenly Father cares for the birds. “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows” (St. Matthew 10:29-31). It is so comforting to know how God cares for us.
We have raised a lot of our feathered friends. One of the kids brought us a tiny baby robin that had fallen out of the nest. It wasn’t even feathered out. We put him in a box on the back porch that was screened in, and dug earthworms (we call them fishing worms) and fed him. He grew and soon learned to fly. We turned him out into the wide world, but he didn’t leave. Each morning, I would hear him screeching from where he perched on a limb on the chestnut tree, and I would have to go out and dig worms and feed him.
We named him “Henry” but later discovered he was more a “Henrietta.” He would follow us to the garden and pick up worms when we plowed. We had a grape arbor in the back yard, and soon realized that Henrietta had built a nest there. She hung around for several years, and built a nest there each spring. Of course, she is gone now, but she made us more aware of our songbirds.
We also raised a red-tailed hawk, which became a close-feathered friend. I can’t remember how we obtained him — perhaps we hatched him from an egg. We never caged any of our birds, but kept them in an open box until they were big enough to fly. We caught minnows and would call him, and he would swoop down out of the sky and receive the offering.
He was pretty much of a clown. He loved to fly low over my kitten and scare her. The first time I saw him do this, I told Criss, “He’s trying to catch my kitten!” He wasn’t — he was playing a game. We had Matthew’s ‘coon dog tied to his doghouse, and the hawk knew exactly how long the rope was. He would stand just out of reach, and stomp his feet until the dog got so riled up that he would go into a fit of barking. You could almost see the hawk laughing.
When we lived in Jackson County, my brother Ronnie brought us a young pair of squirrels tied with his shoestrings. Criss built them a cage in a window with a hollow log where they could hide. We named them Sally and Sammy, and before too long, we turned them loose in the house. They were a comical pair, and entertained us all the time. When Criss would stretch out on the bed, Sammy loved to climb up and bite him on his big toe! They used a big straw hat to do their gymnastics, and would jump and do flips in it.
At Christmastime, they played havoc with our tree. It was hard to keep bulbs on it, and they even attacked the string of lights. One morning we got up to find Sammy had passed away in the night, so we turned Sally loose. She hung around the house for days, and stayed up in the attic. Finally, she disappeared, and I like to think that some of her descendants are still scattered around the old Jackson County farm.
I am so thankful that when God created the world, He made a variety of animals, and included the winged fowl, and He saw that it was good. The only purpose that I can see for our little song birds is to cheer us and make us happy with their beautiful melodies. As I watch the brilliant cardinals throng our bird feeder, I am thankful all over again for what God has created.