I've never forgotten hatching chicken eggs under heat lamps in the corner of our kindergarten room, right next to the easels. After 30 years of remembering it fondly, I decided I could not let my children grow up without knowing the same sense of excitment and wonder I felt the day I came in with my backpack and saw their fluffy bodies where once there were only hard shells.
Since I don't own a farm, I've been stumped how to make this happen. This summer I began a search for a farmer who would let me hatch his chicks, care for his chicks and return his chicks when they weren't chicks. And after a dodgy google search where I foolishly entered "I want to rent a chick" I did come up with Hatch the Chicken. It would cost me hundreds of dollars, but a woman would bring me an incubator, a cage and seven eggs and let me keep the hatched chicks for one month.
After racing to my husbands office to ask "persmission" and after getting an amused smile that said "you're crazy and I find it entertaining" I handed over my credit card numbers and announced to my children, "We are hatching chickens!"
We picked out our favorite eggs from the batch the farmer had, put them in the incubator and started doing this
For about four weeks.
We had a special light to watch them grow and we would peer in wonder, whispering words of encouragement. In our very hands, beneath a translucent shell, a new life was growing and becoming. It was startling.
And after twenty six days there was this!!!
And our entire family squished into a two foot space between my daughter's wall and bed (she insisted the eggs stay in her room at all times) and waited for hours. That is not an exaggeration. We got sore and tired, but the battle waging in front of us was stunning! The tiny bird would cry out and rock its egg and we would talk back, promising we were there and ready to love it. Sometimes the eggs would call to each other, their tiny peeps whispered in their dark, crowded eggs. Every single one of our seven eggs was twitching and preparing for life.
What would they think of light? And human touch and the feel of grass beneath their feet? What made them so brave to try? How did they know what to do?
Buster came first, our little trailblazer. The first touch was thrilling. To put our own fingers on a brand new life. To be the first faces he saw and the first voices he heard.
and then some more:
When the hatching was finished two days later we had five busy chicks and two silent eggs. While they all grew and developed in the eggs, there were two, at the very last hour that never emerged. I sat next to the incubator, and found myself pondering over the still eggs. Had they been too tired? Too frightened to try? Had they lost faith that the next peck or scratch or wiggle would be the one to free them? Should I have helped them? The mysterious answers stayed hidden inside those unbroken eggs. But when I looked at our five chicks I felt new admiration for their faith and courage. It wasn't easy to break into this world and make a go of it. Their siblings died trying. But they fought on.
They started to explore:
They even made their way to sweet husband's office:
They got bigger and stronger:
And made us happy!
(This is me getting ridiculously attached to chickens! I would sit in the yard with them for an hour at a time, just watching their antics. We all did.)
And then they grew their combs and it was time to say goodbye.
But they taught every lesson I hoped they would. They filled us with wonder for the miracle of life- even the tiniest lives. They filled us with hope. And they taught me about faith. The faith to struggle. The faith we have to have when we think we are entirely alone and in the dark. The faith it takes to realize that beyond our fragile shell God waits and watches and encourages, and knows what we are about to become because of our struggles.
Now when I am afraid, I wonder if I can have the faith of a chicken.
The faith of a chicken is believing in tomorrow. It is believing in something beyond and better than ourselves. It is trusting that we are part of a plan that is perfect and miraculous in its details.
So Mrs. Cushman, wherever you are, thank you for hatching those chickens in our kindergarten classroom. I probably had snot-stained shirt cuffs. I probably talked when I shouldn't. I probably cried when I got my feelings hurt. I probably interrupted a good lesson with a pointless fact. But you taught me anyway and are now the reason I am teaching my children the same lesson.
You knew, didn't you? About the faith of a chicken?