After touring the barn and the orchard beyond, the two men started back toward the house when the ranger noticed the hen house and chicken coop built against the back of the barn. He couldn’t help but smile at the way several dozen baby chicks were scratching and pecking in the dirt right along with their mothers. There was also a rooster and a couple of half-grown turkeys. Just as he was about to look away and follow the farmer back toward the house, his eye caught the movement of a huge bird just emerging from the shadows alongside the chicken house. At first, the ranger mistook it for a full grown turkey due to its size, but then he all but gasped as he recognized what kind of bird he was looking at. It was a huge bald eagle, one of the biggest and most beautiful bald eagles he had ever seen in all his years in the mountains!
Seemingly oblivious to everything around him, the eagle was turning his majestic white head from side to side, peering at the ground, first with one eye and then with the other. Every now and then he would stop his awkward gait and scratch in the dirt like a giant chicken, even though his giant talons dug deep grooves in the earth instead of just scratching the surface like the hens around him.
“Wha . . . what? It’s an eagle!” he stuttered as the farmer chuckled at his shock.
“Yep. Found him in the mountains a couple of years ago, just a chick. Apparently his mother had been killed and the other chick died. We barely saved him, but he pulled through. We brought him home and put him in with the chickens and he’s been living with them ever since.”
The ranger watched in amazement as one of the hens got upset at the eagle for getting too close to her chicks and flew at him in defense. The giant bird ducked his head and ran awkwardly away from the hen.
“Do you keep his flight feathers clipped to keep him from flying away?” the ranger asked.
“Goodness, no,” answered the farmer. “No need to. He’s been with the chickens so long he doesn’t know he can get off the ground any farther than they can. Sometimes he’ll start to spread his wings and all the chickens get frightened and start making such a fuss that he tucks them right back in again. I think it scares him to have them react like that. We’ve never had to worry for a minute about him taking off.”
“But . . . but . . . what about his instincts, his ancestry, his heritage! He’s an eagle, not a chicken!” the ranger blurted.
Once again the farmer smiled as he started to turn away. “Well you know he’s an eagle and I know he’s an eagle, but the deal is . . . he doesn’t know he’s an eagle.”
Are you like this Eagle - you've been scratching with the chickens so long you've forgotten how to fly?
When you start to fly and the other chickens raise a fuss do you pull back your wings?
Do you really believe you are a chicken even when all the signs say you're not?