Sun Li lived at the edge of the
woods. Each morning after she did her chores, she’d go for a long walk.
Sometimes she’d see a fox running through a hollow tree that had fallen to
the ground. Other times she’d see squirrels gathering nuts, or
nightingales sitting on a branch, singing their beautiful songs. There
were always pretty butterflies fluttering about, and bees buzzing by as
they flew around the peonies and chrysanthemums.
One day Sun Li saw a bird nest lying
on the ground. It had four white eggs in it. She sat quietly and watched
for a while, but no mother bird ever came back to take care of them. She
picked up the nest and carried it home. "Mama, look what I found?" She
showed her mama the nest. "The mama bird must have been killed by a wild
animal. I want to take care of the eggs and let them hatch. May I, Mama?"
Sun Li pleaded.
"That’s a big job for such a young
girl. You need to keep them warm and after they hatch, you need to feed
them and watch out for them. But the hardest part is that you will learn
to love them and then you must let them go. Birds should be free to fly
where they please. Can you do that, Sun Li?" her mama asked.
"Oh yes, Mama. I want to take care
of them," she replied.
Every day Sun Li made sure the eggs
stayed warm. She left them inside the nest of twigs. She let the sun shine
on them during the day and put a blanket over them at night. One day she
noticed a crack in one of them. "Mama, I think the eggs are going to
hatch," she giggled.
Her mama came to see. "You’re right,
Sun Li. They are ready. Watch carefully but do not touch and do not help
them. It makes them strong to fight their way out of the egg. If you help
them, they will be weak and die," she warned.
Though it was difficult to do, Sun
Li sat patiently and let the chicks struggle to come out of the shell.
Soon the nest was filled with four fluffy chicks. At first they were wet
and brown looking but when their feathers dried, they were yellow and
soft. CHIRP! CHIRP! CHIRP!
After a few hours they had gained
enough strength to climb out of the nest. "You must take them outside and
show them how to find seed. Sprinkle some on the ground and let them
search for it themselves. Do not put the seeds right in front of them.
Make them work for it. It will make them stronger," Mama cautioned.
Sun Li did as she was told. She took
the fluffy, yellow chicks outside into the back garden and put them down
among the grass and tiny white daisies. She tossed seed all over the grass
and sat back and let them find it. At first the chicks ran about, unable
to find anything. Sun Li wanted to show them where it was, but she
remembered what her mama had said. Soon all four chicks found something to
eat. PECK! PECK! PECK!
Each day they grew a little bigger
and started eating more and more. Sun Li had to take a whole bucket of
seed out to feed them with. Sometimes the chicks would find a fat, juicy
worm to eat. Sun Li laughed as she watched a chick trying to gobble one
Mama came outside to watch. "Soon
the chicks will start flapping their wings and will want to fly. You must
allow them to, even if they fall or bump into a stone. Do you understand
Sun Li? It will make them strong. One day they will have to live in the
woods and must know how to take care of themselves."
"I understand, Mama," Sun Li said.
One day two bright orange
butterflies came fluttering by. One of the chicks tried to run after them.
Sun Li giggled as it chased the butterflies from flower to flower. She was
surprised when it started flapping its wings. "Mama! Come outside. The
chick is trying to fly," she called.
Mama came outside to watch. "They
aren’t babies anymore, Sun Li. Look at them. They are turning into birds.
Soon they will fly off into the woods."
Sun Li didn’t want them to leave.
She loved her baby birds, but knew what her mama said was true. A few more
days passed and all four chicks were flapping their wings, trying to fly.
They could fly a few feet and would fall. Sun Li left them alone and let
them spread their wings.
A week later, Sun Li went outside to
feed them. Days before she had made a special house for them. "Come here,
little ones," she called. She was carrying a bucket of seed and put it on
the ground. She looked in the little house. The chicks weren’t there.
"Where are you?" she called. She looked all over for them but they were
nowhere to be found. "They’re gone," she sighed, feeling very sad. "I
didn’t get to say goodbye." She sat down in the grass and started to cry.
Just then she heard some chirping
sounds. CHIRP! CHIRP! CHIRP! Her four birds came flying from a tree branch
and landed on a large rock. Sun Li hadn’t noticed how big they were
getting. Their feathers were brown and white and they were beautiful birds
now. CHIRP! CHIRP! CHIRP! They sang a pretty song for Sun Li and then flew
into the woods.
"Goodbye, my babies. You are free to
fly as you please. Be safe," she called out. She stood watching them
flutter from branch to branch. "Spread your wings and fly," she shouted,
wiping the tears from her eyes.
Her mama watched from the window. A
tear ran down her cheek. She knew Sun Li would be sad and miss them, but
was proud of her daughter for caring for the chicks and allowing them to
be free when they were ready.