As you know, by the morning of 14 December, we had three fluffy little chicks, but Susie continued to sit on the remaining three eggs for a day more.
As the nesting box was at a higher level, things got a bit tricky. Susie needed to go down every once in a way but I had to ensure that the chicks didn’t attempt to follow her and fall out.
Moreover, although I was providing the chicks with starter feed, they needed to go down and explore and learn chicken lessons from Susie.
But Susie was not done with the remaining eggs just yet. So we waited.
On the morning of the 15th, nothing had changed, but around noon, something was different. Susie had snapped out of her broody phase. She had lost interest in the eggs and was ready to begin the next chapter. What happened?
I noticed that there were only two eggs left. And then I saw it. A chick lay wet, cold, and still. It had bled a little and was covered all over by the grass clippings that lined the nesting box. It was not a pretty sight.
The chick was cold to the touch but still breathing faintly. The same Susie who had kept the first three chicks warm had no interest in this chick. Although I knew that the chick being left to die was part of the natural course, I could not just let Bethlehem die that way.
Prisy named it Bethlehem because of how it was the picture of lowliness and rejection —with no form or comliness that we should desire it. If it survived we could shorten Bethlehem to Lem or Beth depending on whether it turned out to be a rooster or not. But for now, I will refer to Bethlehem as a ‘he.’
So I placed the poor thing in a hanky-hammock and pinned it to the inside of my shirt. Without an incubator, I could not think of any other way to warm him. After an hour or so, I started to hear him cheeping weakly.
Over the rest of the 15th, he grew stronger. But we found many things wrong with him. He did not open his eyes. He also seemed to have some thing sticking out of his tummy, perhaps a part of his intestines or was it a kidney.
By nightfall, he was cheeping away and much stronger, probably because of the yolk-water and sugar-water we were feeding him. He tried to get up but kept falling over. With some ideas from YouTube we even made small ‘splints’ for him, which seemed to work a little, but he tired easily.
It wasn’t advisable to go to bed with a baby bird on your person. So we made holes in a container and left the container in the bathroom and safe from Mia the cat.
Bethlehem was still alive on Sunday morning, but cold. Prisy got an oil heater going in the bathroom to keep him warm while we went to church. We gave him a little bit of water to drink. He was doing poorly when we left.
After we returned, he was still alive, but barely. I put him back in the ‘hanky hammock’ and dosed off for a bit with him. At some point, he cheeped loudly and then grew quiet. When I awoke an hour later, Bethlehem was dead. I buried him near a rose plant.
For the first time, I looked at Susie and her chicks with undivided attention. She had settled for the night with her babies peeking out from under her. What a sight! Distilled sweetness.
What a beautiful world we have been given. And yet, we have a huge problem. Poor injured Bethlehem was a reminder that our beautiful world is under the curse of sin; death is part of that package.
The Bible tells us that we cannot get ourselves out of this predicament. No amount of good works or penances can redeem us. The situation is way too dire for that. If the Bible is to be believed, God Himself made a way by sending us a Child 2000 years ago to be born in Bethlehem. That Child, the historical Jesus, would trace the path from cradle to cross to make a way for us to follow Him out to safety.