Life really is such a wonder.

As I welcome each new grandchild into my arms or discover the first seeds of spring unfurling into tender shoots, I am totally amazed and awestruck.

New life is so precious and special, even the lives of our just-hatched, ever so ugly homing pigeons.

If I were a pigeon mother, it would certainly never occur to me to lay eggs during the coldest time of the year, but I am obviously not a pigeon. It seems that once again, just after the first of the new year, I found two eggs neatly laid in one of the pigeon palace nest boxes.

I watched as a fluffed up, fat pigeon father sat patiently on the eggs during the following three bitterly cold weeks, and then, right on schedule, on a single-digit temperature day in late January, two little naked birds broke out of their fragile shells.

The weather thankfully seemed to warm a bit, but the nights still dropped to nose-crinkling cold. At first, it was an easy task for the father bird to cover his progeny with his warm feathered belly.

The hatchlings were no bigger than marbles, and the father bird simply sat on top of them and kept their naked pinkness quite warm. He only left the nest for brief excursions, flying off to get food and water.

But baby pigeons grow at an alarming rate, and within a week his offspring were nearly half his size, though still featherless and covered with a prickly down.

The nighttime temperatures continued to dip well below freezing, and when the groundhog predicted six more weeks of bitterly cold winter, I grew concerned. The little birds had by now grown too big to fit under their father. He seemed to struggle to get comfortable and still keep his young’uns warm, and from my maternal perspective, it looked as though he had an impossible task.

Whenever I would enter the pigeon palace, my flock of white birds would peer down at me from their high perches. The father pigeon would awkwardly adjust his position, trying to hide his young from me, so that perhaps I would not notice they were there. He looked me steadily in the eye, but he did not fool me in the least.

This morning, I decided to take off one of my gloves and reach out under the father bird’s belly. He stayed right there, still trying to cover his large offspring, and did not leave his nest to fly higher up in the coop and join the rest of the flock.

I stroked the oddly giant baby pigeons with my outstretched hand and was pleased to find that they were now completely covered with prickly down, the color of a bright yellow egg yolk. Feather-like spikes were just starting to poke randomly out across their
backs.

Without a doubt, these baby birds were far from being soft, snuggly little creatures, but they settled gently under my touch. Even though their lives seemed so very fragile, I realized that their father knew exactly what he was doing.

No feathered coats to keep them warm, but I could tell that their three heartbeats combined together to generate an amazing heat that radiated throughout the nest.

I stepped back, the father bird once again awkwardly covering his young. I was no longer quite so worried. I could still see various baby pigeon parts poking out from under his big feathered belly, but I smiled, thankful for his perseverance.

As I closed the door to the pigeon palace, I dreamed of warmer days ahead when I would once again start to fly my growing flock.

Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in Ohio. Visit them on the web at straightcreekvalleyfarm.com.