The youngest member of our farm family, a chick named Doodle, came very close to perishing today when she got separated from her mother by a whole, entire two and a half feet. Okay, maybe she wasn’t exactly close to perishing, but you would never have convinced Doodle of that.

Doodle is basically a golf-ball-sized dot of feathers with inch-long legs. We normally don’t name our chickens, but Doodle distinquished herself by hatching on the Fourth of July. Her mother is a young speckled hen who, herself, was born on the farm. Whether the speckled is Doodle’s actual mother or not is anyone’s guess. The speckled and her coop mates all share the same laying box, despite the fact there are any number of boxes available to lay eggs. She was sitting on eighteen eggs. Of the eighteen eggs, two produced chicks. One of them was Doodle.

When Doodle hatched there was a fingernail-sized piece of shell stuck to her back. This concerned my wife, Marianne, greatly. She toyed with the notion of picking it off Doodle, but she was afraid of hurting her. It took me a bit of talking, but I convinced her to let things sort themselves out. The shell stayed on her for several hours, then off it fell.

For two weeks now Doodle and her sister (if they are indeed girls) have been happily following their mother around the barnyard pecking and scratching with reckless abandon. None of our other critters bother them. Our cat, Alphonso, is the Saddam Hussein of the skink, snake, squirrel and rabbit world, but he ignores the chickens. A turkey wandered by once to inspect Doodle and her sister when they helped themselves to some grain he was eating. I got a little concerned, but he only eyeballed them a few seconds like turkeys do, then wandered off to another patch of grain. A goat noticed them once. She stared and stared. She stomped her foot and snorted. Then she, too, wandered off.

Doodle’s life seemed free of complications, then ‘the great separation’ as it will undoubtedly be remembered for years to come happened today. I did not witness the tragic events that lead up to the separation. I can only speculate that Doodle and her mother were passing by the door of one of our smaller coops when, for reasons known only to Doodle, she ran through the door. Her mother and sister went past the door and around to the opposite side of the coop.

Doodle is not a Rhodes Scholar by any stretch of the imagination. She could see her mother beyond the coop fence, but she could not figure out how to get to her. The open door was behind her. Her mother, who Doodle inherited her brains from, was in front of her, just outside the coop calling for her.

Doodle was going completely out of her mind. She called and called for her mother. She ran back and forth along the coop fence. All seemed lost.

That’s when the Wallace Family Small Chick Rescue Team (me) deployed. I am a big guy. I don’t fit in small chicken coops, but I managed to squeeze most of me inside. Right as I reached for her, Doodle ran through the door. Hurray, I thought – fool that I am – problem solved.

I unfolded myself through the coop door. Doodle ran back inside again.

I said some words that no young chicken should hear. I squeezed back into the coop. Doodle was hollering for momma and zipping around the coop again. I tried to get my hands on her without hurting her. It wasn’t easy. Einstein said nothing travels faster than the speed of light. That is because Einstein never tried to catch a terrified baby chicken.

After a few tries, Doodle zigged when she should have zagged and I got her.

She hollered even louder for her mother now that the monster had caught her. Her mother responded by hollering at me. I don’t speak chicken but I am guessing what she was saying was “Put my baby down you…”

I finally managed to get myself free of the coop. I let Doodle go next to her mother.

“You are welcome, Doodle,” I told her, but by then she was off chasing a fly.