We recently bought new ISA pullets (baby girl chickens) at our local farm supply store. They were sent home in what looked a lot like a Happy Meal box, which could be either disturbingly ironic or charming.
Anyhow, the little yellow fluff balls of six weeks ago are now in their awkward adolescence, terracotta colored adult feathers growing in, miniature combs creating an unflattering center part on top of their heads.
A couple of days ago, we introduced them to the hens and bantam rooster we’ve had for a couple of years now. Apparently, the term hen-pecked came about in just this situation, as with lots of charging, wing-flapping, and nipping, it was made clear that the teenagers were not welcome in the chicken run. We were prepared for this, however, and we separated the two groups so that they were visible to each other but unable to interact. They’ll get used to each other soon enough.
That evening at sunset, the hens and rooster made their way up the ramp to the safety of the hen house as usual. But even when we opened the door and did our best to shoo the newbies inside as well, they would not go. They clustered together in a feathery pile, afraid to move forward or backward. They just didn’t know what was best for them, what predators might await them should they spend the night outside. So, my son herded them gently with outstretched hands while my daughter picked up each little lady and set her in the coop, until all were tucked in for the night.
The scene reminded me of a verse in Matthew in which Jesus compares himself to a hen who longs to shelter her chicks under her wings, but the chicks turn away.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” Matthew 23:27
It’s a beautiful metaphor: while God often reveals himself as our Father, here he takes on the image of a hen with an instinctive, protective, maternal love. Though in that passage Jesus was referring to the Jews who rejected him, I identify with it myself, having refused his offered shelter many times. How often have I taken on a problem without praying about it? How many times have I worried over an issue instead of turning it over to God–and leaving it with him?
Far too often, I’m like those silly little chicks. I stay out in the cold, fretting and fearful, trying to figure out a solution on my own, when God has said that He is right there, wings spread, offering comfort and protection. I just have to run to him, and rest under his wings.