This is the tragic tale of Gusgus, an affectionate chick who deserved better. Gusgus was born one of eight. A sleepy, fluffy and chubby little guy, with white feathers, a brown speck on his head and a couple of black specks on his wings. His brothers and sisters resemble a regiment of miniature penguins, scurrying after their mother with eager beaks pecking at worms, with little regard for their own comfort or safety. Alongside his siblings Gusgus stands out like a flamingo amongst swans. His mother is a fierce looking Mama Morton, with jet black feathers and a tendency to puff up like a Turkey sensing Christmas, when a human approaches; a strange thing when one considers the luxury of her existence. But it is not for her defensive nature that she has earned my displeasure.
No sooner had Gusgus emerged from his egg that his own mother attacked him with beak and claw to finally leave him alone and abandoned in the dirt and rain. It was there that I discovered him, hanging on to life by a feather, his tiny wings hanging by his side, his head sitting on his chest, despairing at the cruelty of his fate.
I scooped him up at once, took him to my room and the warm comfort of my duvet. There I held him for hours cupped in my hands to keep him warm and to breath life back into his tiny body. Slowly but surely Gusgus gave signs of life. I made him drink aloe-water and eat a little. That night he stayed with me and I slept fitfully for fear that I might crush him. In the morning I was woken up by a weak sounding series of “cheep… cheep..cheeps” as Gusgus attempted to stand. He wobbled fearfully and rarely opened his eyes but it was certainly and improvement.
That day he tentatively began to eat. Peck, peck, sleep. Or should I say sleep, sleep, peck. He slept so much we came to believe that maybe Gusgus was narcoleptic, a thought that, I confess, amused us greatly. But, as the day went on Gusgus got stronger. That night he slept close to me once more. I had little alternative to keep him warm. This is Africa and where I am there are no heat lamps.
The following morning it was clear to see that Gusgus was close to making a full recovery, amazing considering his ordeal. We decided to see whether one of our other hens might want to adopt. He wasn’t having it. When I took him back to the chicken yards he refused to run after the other hens like his siblings did so eagerly. Instead he stayed at my feet refusing to move. When I moved he ran after me. When I moved further away, he closed his eyes and dropped his head as if to say “abandoned again…” Needless to say, I couldn’t leave him there, so I scooped him up to a chorus of “cheeps!!” and we headed off to find another solution.
It was clear that Gusgus couldn’t grow up thinking that he was going to turn in to a featherless giant with a hairy face. No, we had to find Gusgus a mother of a more avian disposition. So it was that a friend of mine suggested we slip him under one of her broody hens. It seemed desperate but then, we were desperate, so we gave it a shot. Imagine our surprise when my friend’s nervous looking hen eagerly adopted this little newcomer. She took him under her wing and kept him warm and Gusgus reveled in the coziness of it all!
What a great end this would make to Gusgus’ story. Alas, mother nature had other plans. So it was that as Gusgus ran out into the sunlight for the first time with his foster hen, a crow, well known agents of death, swooped down and abruptly ended his short and tumultuous life. Nature has a cruel and dark sense of humour.