Once upon a time there was a farm, with all the typical barnyard fare, except there was no rooster. There was no need of one, as there was only the need of unfertilized eggs for the farmer and his wife to eat, so there was only one hen as well. She was a beautiful hen, with fluffy golden feathers. The ducks and the geese and the swallows and the owl could never be as beautiful as she.
Every day she would lay an egg, and every day she would sit on it, waiting for it to hatch. And every day it wouldn’t hatch, for there was no rooster. She knew that she didn’t need a rooster, for the there was no bull and yet the heifer gave milk, there was no dog and yet the bitch had pups. So why shouldn’t she have a chick without a rooster around?
She spent her days sitting on her nest and empty eggs, angrily pecking at any of the other animals that came by. Soon the other animals left her alone in her corner of the barn. She was alone, but she didn’t care, she knew that one day she would get her chick.
And one day, it did happen. She was sitting on an egg that looked no different than any other. She had the same anticipation that it would become an empty shell with a fluffy chick flopping out. There was a faint cracking sound, and she looked down her breast. Something was trying to hatch out of the egg!
She stepped off her nest, and the egg was rocking so slightly, whatever was inside was trying to get out. The hen had no idea what was supposed to happen between this and the hatching. Her squawking and screeching attracted the other animals, and the mother duck knew that the chick was in trouble, that it was too weak to break out on its own.
The duck tried telling the hen that they had to intervene, that she had to do the same for her own children, and the hen only laughed at her. Those ducklings weren’t as good as her own chick, they needed a drake to be born. The hen sat and watched the egg, waiting for it to hatch.
A day later, the chick finally broke through the shell and collapsed in the nest. The hen was amazed, she finally had a chick, but it was so ugly. It had grey, bumpy skin and was covered in slime and goo. Where were the beautiful golden feathers? The hen kicked the sickly chick out of her nest and got to work on making another egg.
The chick had no perception of what her mother was, since she was already forsaken from the nest. All she knew is that she was tired and cold. As the mother hen napped in her nest, the owl brought the chick up to its own home in the rafters. The owl had had its own chicks that had grown up and left to make their own nests, and she couldn’t leave a chick to die alone. The swallow parents brought the chick food, as the owl soon discovered that chickens don’t eat mice.
The grey, slimy chick slowly grew stronger, and once she opened her eyes, she was just as fluffy and pretty as any other chick. Once she learned how to walk, she played with the swallow chicks in the rafters. She never bothered checking on her mother in her nest below, as the owl was the mother for all she knew.
The hen had another egg that bore a chick, and this chick hatched out perfectly, it came out fuzzy and yellow and calling for its mother’s attention. She spent all her time taking care of the chick, though she rarely left the nest, as she still hoped that she would be graced with a third, roosterless chick. She let her chick play by itself in the barn, but always close enough so she could watch without having to leave her nest.
When the first chick noticed that her swallow friends were starting to fly, she asked her owl mother why she wasn’t flying. Give it time, the owl told her. She asked why she grew faster and was already much bigger than the swallow chicks. We’re all different, even though we’re all birds, the owl said.
The chick tried to fly with her swallow friends, but she didn’t have the feathers that they did. They were a shiny steely blue, while she was still very yellow and fluffy. You’ll get your feathers soon, the swallow parents always told her. Some chicks just take a little longer to grow.
She soon did, though she had big, wide feathers on big, wide wings. Her friends were all small and sleek and could flit around the rafters of the barn. Their size difference was apparent, as she was becoming as big as her owl mother, who already towered over the swallows. When she finally learned to fly, the chick was very clumsy. She felt terrible, she would never be as good as her friends.
We can do things besides fly, the other swallow chicks told her. They still chased each other around, looked for bugs hiding in the hay bales, looking out at the rest of the farm from the window, pestering the bats while they slept.
One day, the swallow parents felt that their chicks were all old enough and strong enough fliers to leave the barn on their own. The yellow chick, who had grown up to be a big, golden hen, wanted to go as well, despite not being as good at flying. The owl still let her go, she would be close enough to get help, and her friends would be with her.
All the chicks flew down to the floor of the barn. They played in the air, looking at the horses and sheep and the heifer up close. The golden chick ran after them, making short flights to get up as high as the swallows, though she could run as fast as they could fly.
The mother hen squawked. Who are you, she demanded. The chick explained that she was the chick raised by the owl up in the rafters. The hen wasn’t very happy. How is there another hen, the only ones are my daughter and I! Another hen stepped forwards from behind her mother, wings tiredly hanging from her sides. This chick, the second chick that the hen had hatched, had dull brown feathers and looked quite dull.
Hey, she looks a bit like you, one of the swallows said. She should play with us, another said. The golden chick asked if the brown chick could play, and the mother hen regarded this new chicken carefully. She told her daughter that she could play, just to stay within view of the nest.
The gold chick and the swallows played like they normally did, and the brown chick struggled to keep up with them. She could barely jump, and she couldn’t even fly. The gold chick asked why she couldn’t, and the brown chick snapped that real chickens don’t need to fly. The brown chick puffed out its chest and walked back to its nest that sat next to her mothers.
The gold chick wondered about the brown chick for the rest of the time that she and the swallows played in the lower level of the barn. When they returned to the rafters at the end of the day, she asked the mother owl about who these other two chickens were. The owl told her about how the hen had laid the chick’s egg, but rejected the chick since she was hatched sickly. The owl had brought her up to the rafters to raise her, since her egg-mother refused to acknowledge her.
The brown chick said that I’m not a real chicken, the gold chick said sadly. Chickens lay eggs and raise their chicks to be good chickens, the owl told her. She laid you and that other chick, but did she raise you? And did she raise the brown chick to be a good chicken?
The gold chick thought about this as she sat in the nest and the sun was setting. She thought about this as she slept, and thought about it as she dreamed. She was woken up the next morning by the young swallows asking her to go play with them. With the owl’s blessing, she flew out of the barn door with her friends, to explore what the rest of the farm had in store for her.