When I was growing up, my grandmother received the gift of a chicken from an old friend. The chicken laid eggs which hatched into about seven or eight chicks (I do not remember exactly how many). It was a very exciting time and we all wondered if all the chicks would survive into adulthood.
For some reason, my family is very reluctant to eat animals that have been gifted to them. There is a story of a Mr George who gifted my grandfather a chicken (named Mr George) when my mum and her siblings were growing up. They fed this chicken, took care of it and it became nice and plumb. My grandfather refused to kill the chicken for a family feast. This was Mr George, after all. Then one night, my aunt said they heard the chicken in distress but they could not go out to check on it. The following day, they went outside to find out that Mr George had made a very delicious meal for a snake the previous night.
There is another animal story, which I witnessed. My late aunt received the gift of a rabbit from a friend of her late husband’s. While we were all looking forward to some special rabbit dish (if anyone would know what to do with a rabbit, it was this aunt). My aunt refused to kill it. She said that she could not bring herself to do so. Granted, it was a beautiful looking rabbit with white fur on the body and pink fur on the inside ears. You could call it a show rabbit. So, my aunt got someone to build a cage and paid for grass every day to feed the rabbit. This went on for a few weeks and we marvelled at how well the rabbit was doing. Then one morning we went down to find the cage had been broken into and the rabbit was gone. Another gifted animal gone to those who wanted them more than we did.
Back to my grandmother’s mother hen. There were seven or eight chicks, as I said, and they freely roamed the compound and the backyard where we had trees, spices and herbs and unfortunately, a shallow gutter that divided the backyard in two. This would prove to be tragic for one of the chicks. The mother hen took her chicks to the backyard as usual, but when she eventually emerged we found her with one less chick. Eventually, I found the missing young chick in the gutter, unable struggling to make it out. It seems the mother had tried but had abandoned the chick after a while. I rescued the chick who was at death’s door and re-introduced it to the mother hen. The mother hen almost pecked the chick to death. The chick was laying there, struggling for its like and I thought that if I could revive it, the mother hen would accept it back into her fold. My grandmother suggested that I cover the chick with a bucket and use sticks to beat on the bucket for a while (apparently, this trick used to work for them as children). I did. It was not a full revival; the chick was suffering the effects of being almost drowned. But every time I tried to reintroduce the chick to it mother, she would almost peck it to death until my grandmother asked me to leave the mother hen alone. If the other chicks could cross that gutter and make it to the other side, then this chick was weak and would be a liability. I eventually put the chick somewhere I thought safe and took care of it till it died. Until it eventually died, within a day or so, the mother hen went on about her business with the other chicks without a care for or glance at the dying chick.
I have seen an episode of National Geographic where a lion cub was injured by its father and eventually killed by the father. This was a cub still under the protection of its mother. Why? The lion was jealous of the attention that the cub was getting from its mother. He attacked the cub until he eventually killed it. That is not the normal way of things with Lions but this Lion was sufficiently aggrieved.
Most animals, including humans, have to search for food and sometimes that means vicious fights between relations and rivals. When a lion attacks a water buffalo and is overpowered by the buffalo, it retreats to find another prey or rally a supporting team to take the buffalo down and they share the spoils. The strongest lion gets the lion share, the others take what is left and the vultures and hyenas wait for what is left on the bone.
In the animal kingdom as well as the human kingdom, it is all about survival of the fittest. Sometimes you must retreat to return stronger. When the task is great, it is advisable to seek help/partners. When a member of the group is not bringing any value to the group, that member will be dispensed with very quickly (family or not). Make sure that you are not entering into a partnership for friendship or family alone. You must be bringing something of value to the table to avoid being expendable. There is a hierarchy in every organisation. Take your time to understand its dynamics. In Port Harcourt they say that when a fowl is introduced to a new environment it does not immediately stand on its two legs. It tests the ground with one leg until it has the confidence to bring down the other leg.
Luckily for us in the human kingdom, we have legal instruments to prevent of from losing out completely. In the animal kingdom, there is no drafting of agreements, no courts and no arbitration panels. The animal is either killed or must retreat to re-strategise.
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