“Mama, I’m having a bad day,” sad words to my ears yesterday morning. A mother’s heart never likes to hear these words. She wants to protect her children from all the wrongs of the world… to keep them dry in the storm. I remember when this same daughter at five years old came running through the yard, crying, “Molly doesn’t want to play with me today; she has another best friend.” No longer can I scoop my children up and put a band-aid on a hurt.
I’ve been thinking about this as I’ve recently learned about a ‘brood patch’.
I almost stepped on these two eggs last week.
Wonder why they were on the ground? I hurried to set up a warm place for their survival; I was going to save these babies. After I anchored a night light over a small used nest, the birthing room in the garage was ready.
Well, not really…
I had no clue how intricate and complex this could be. Did you know mama birds turn their eggs every 50 minutes or twice an hour in some cases… so they don’t get too warm or too cold on either side; this insures the embryo in each egg gets just enough nutrients to develop properly. (You’ve seen those tiny clocks in the nests, I’m sure). Then Google informed me I didn’t have a ‘brood patch’.
This is a featherless skin patch on the underbelly of female birds… this patch develops during nesting season. Feathers are normally an insulator for the bird and serves to keep her own body warm, but once she and her mate decide to begin a family, her feathers loosen on her tummy and shed automatically. They just fall out. She has just lost her warm sweater under her outer jacket! This patch has multiple blood vessels that easily transfer heat to her eggs. The patch also provides warmth and protection… skin to skin, very near her heart… to the newly hatched babies.
This information is fascinating. Daddy birds do not develop this patch except in the species where he is the one responsible for incubating the eggs. In some birds, as the eagle, both parents help in the birth process and both develop a brood patch. In the duck family, the one incubating the eggs literally plucks these feathers out and uses them to line the nest. But normally, in all song birds, it is the female, and only when it is time, does she lose her feathers in this intimate place of her underbelly… how awesome is this?
Brood patch… I’ve been brooding over this while welcoming multiple newborns at our feeders. The heart of Jesus lamenting over Jerusalem as a hen covering her chicks with its feathers has taken on a sweet meaning.
Luke 13:34 and Matthew 23:37 both express Jesus’ heart for the world: “How often I have desired and yearned to gather your children together around Me as a hen gathers her young (chicks) under her wings…”
The truth of God’s protective, devoted love and mercy is expressed in hundreds of verses in the Old and New Testament: He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield… Psalm 91:4. How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of Your wings. Psalm 36:7. Hide me in the shelter of Your wings… Psalm 17:8b. Deuteronomy 32:11 mentions God’s care as an eagle stirring up its nest and hovering over its young, spreading its wings to catch and carry them on the journey.
For some reason the brood patch of all the mama birds in my yard this week has given me a greater sense of God’s marvelous unfailing love. He longs to love and protect each one of us.
Just think… what a privilege in being hidden in His wings, taking shelter in the storms. Unconditional tenderness… devotion, faithful love in action are gifts. His willingness to shed his ‘feathers’ to give me life… His presence…heart to heart.
I love this sentence… Pressed against the parent’s brood patch, the single egg weathers brief storms. Natural History, November 1990 (re eagle)