However…. please let me tell you what I have learned through all of this. As we enjoyed each and every part of this, there was something else. Something nagging at me. Something unselfish and sad. You see, in each of these instances there was something missing. We loved our chicks, we gave them the best care, we had a special brooder with a warm light, good food, fresh water and we loved and snuggled them. But, there was still something missing. Their mother.
A couple times we allowed a mother hen to hatch and raise her own chicks and the guineas do this on their own every year. This is truly a beautiful thing. A hen will choose a perfect spot for her nest; a protected area hidden from predators and usually tucked away safe and cozy. She will prepare the nest and begin laying eggs, about one a day or every other day until she has a nice clutch of eggs in her nest. She moves the eggs into a perfect grouping and then she will sit on those eggs dedicatedly for twenty one days. She will only leave for a short time to eat. Through rain, storms, heat, cold and fear she will sit on her eggs and keep them the perfect temperature, turn them and love them until they hatch. The day of the hatch is full of joy! Just like when a human child arrives. The mother is proud, beaming, exhausted and so, so happy to have her little ones under her wings. If you have never seen a mother hen with her children you are missing something of pure love and beauty. She keeps them warm and safe under her downy body and soft wings. They feel her love, warmth and heartbeat. She leads them in a little line or a little flock trailing behind her, teaches them how to scratch for food, find water, eventually roost in the evening, find their place in the flock and always, always protects them. A mother hen will risk her life protecting her chicks. If a hawk flies over the hen will quickly gather them up under her body and wings to protect them. It is truly precious to see a little head peek out from under a mama hen. As the chicks grow, they become part of the community. They find their place in the flock. In a natural flock, chickens move around all day, scratching, eating seeds and bugs, dust bathing, and enjoying the sun and fresh air. There is a balance of hens and roosters and the circle of life carries on.
The process is not a whole lot different hatching our own in incubators. Born on a wire grate, dried under a heat lamp and never ever having a mother to love, nurture and protect. It is a smaller scale, but no less sad.
I hear that you love your chicks and that you take the best care of them. I did too. But this is a selfish love. The best care is given by their mother. Each time you purchase chicks from a store or a hatchery you are paying for this to happen. You are supporting the industry. Each time we keep a chicken for our purpose we are taking away their own natural purpose and place in the universal web and intelligence. They are not ours. Nor are they here for our purposes. The eggs they lay are intended only to be their young. Just like humans, they have their own purpose, desire, emotion and place on this Earth. I loved them too, but it was a selfish love. Now I see and love them even more.