I lifted one of the chicks and plopped it down into the brown hands of the little boy.
He gasped. "Oh!" Took in a breath. Stilled. Said again, "Oh."
This ten-year-old had been following me around for half an hour, filled with questions that he barely heard the answers to, curious but cautious, and roving non-stop.
I was showing him our new baby chicks.
During this spring and summer, while COVID-19 ravaged the world, our flock went from eighteen chickens to six. Coyotes or foxes had taken a daily toll. This is the price we pay for letting the chickens range freely around our yard and grounds: they become prey to the local food chain.
Our six chickens were only laying two or three eggs a day, barely enough for us, much less our Airbnb guests. Our reliable, standard food resource was threatened, adding to my fears of apocalyptic disaster.
Finally, my partner ordered six chickens from a mail order catalogue. They arrived in a cardboard box with wire-covered holes and small plastic cups inside for food and water – watched over by the post office employees! The next week, we learned that a local farm store had day-old chicks, so Partner went shopping and returned with twelve very tiny, fluffy, cute chicken babies.
One of these chicks is what I handed to the little boy.
"Put your hand under its feet so it doesn't fall," I told him. "And cup your thumbs around it to help it feel safe."
His head was tilted down so his black cap hid his dark eyes. He held completely still, staring at the tiny, fluffy, peeping life in his hands. That moment stretched out as we stood, toe to toe, silently studying a baby chick.
Having chicks again reminds me that life continues. That despite the invisible pandemic monster outside the door, we can bring healthy little babies inside our hearts.
Fluffy, peeping chicks and awe-struck little boys remind me to hope.