Skip to content


ShallowDeep > Parables > Chick

‘The Chick’

The grey sky frowned down on the dark mountains, and a breeze picked up over the waters of the loch. Thud! The Chick hit the path so hard that he bounced. Stunned, he sat looking around trying to make sense of his surroundings. Even before the tears had a chance to well up in his eyes, a large duck with an orange bill and brown dappled feathers rushed over to him.
         “Don’t be sitting there on your own little one. Come over here with the others by the water’s edge,” fussed the mallard.
And just like that the Chick was part of a family. There were maybe ten soft, fluffy, yellow and brown siblings all milling around excitedly, but yet careful to stay close to each other and to Mother Duck. It felt great to the Chick to belong, to be part of a family, to be part of something more than just himself. But this lovely cosy feeling wouldn’t last long.

As the other ducklings followed Mother onto the water of the loch the Chick suddenly felt out of his depth. The others were so small and light that they seemed to almost blow across the surface, whereas he sank quickly down to his neck. He struggled to keep his beak above water, and his fluffy down quickly became waterlogged. He also began to realise that he was a little bigger than the others, and it was a difference that would only become more obvious as time went on.

At first he seemed to be able to blend in with the other ducklings, but he didn’t have webbed feet like them and so struggled to swim. Gradually, he found himself spending more of his time on the bank, anxiously tracking with the others as they swam along the fringes of the loch. He hated the distance that would develop and that set him apart as “different”. Mother Duck showed him as much love as she did his brothers and sisters, but they seemed to be able to do all that she asked of them, whereas he felt like he could not do anything that would please her. The other ducks were not as generous towards him.
         “What’s wrong with its feet?” commented one green-headed mallard (and not in a quiet voice). “They are all hooked over. They have no webbing at all.”
         “It’s a deformity, I’m afraid,” concluded another.
The Chick looked down at his pointy talons and felt ashamed. This deformity was why he struggled to swim.
         “And his eyes are too close together,” said the second duck. “I don’t trust him.”
It was true. All the ducklings, the adult ducks and the other wildfowl had one eye on each side of their head, but the Chick had two eyes close together and facing forwards. It was yet another thing to feel self-conscious about. And then there was his bill, “an apology for a bill” as the other mallards put it, not flat and even, like the other ducks had, but hooked with a wavy bite, really not suited to pulling up weed from the loch bed.

Now the loch was wide and deep and so the ducks would stay close to the shore, as this was where the weed grew in the sunlit shallows. As the ducklings grew they learned to gather the weed by holding their breath and tipping their tails in the air so that they could reach the tasty plants below them. The Chick was growing too and, although he was fledging into similar greys as the ducklings, inside he was feeling even less like his siblings. He struggled to get down to the weed and when he lunged at it he would shear strands off with his sharp beak rather than pull the weed out by the roots. But, worse still, he found the taste of it disgusting. He struggled to swallow it without gagging. It made his tummy hurt and he would often withdraw on his own to sick it up without the others seeing.
         “He’s such a fussy eater,” complained the Mother Duck.
Even his own mother was criticising him now. Instead of eating the weed he would pick out the small creatures from amongst it and, whilst he was diving, he would eat as many of the shellfish which he found as he could.

One day, as the ducklings dived for food, and whilst the Fledgling Chick paddled awkwardly at the water’s edge, there was a noisy gulp within a sudden splash further out from shore. All the heads turned, but there was nothing left to see, just ripples spreading from a few yards further out. The mother duck swam back and forth and around where the splash had come from, frantically looking, looking, looking for her missing child. The ducklings looked at each other, bills agape, slowly realising that they were now one less. Some of them looked towards the Fledgling too. But there was nothing that could be done. It was too late. The duckling had gone and was not coming back. Perhaps in some way the Fledgling was to blame. After all, he was the only one who seemed to be getting everything wrong.

As the ducklings grew they became skilled at all they did, at swimming, at diving, at feeding. But the Fledgling showed no such improvements.
         “He clearly has learning difficulties,” the other ducks finally concluded. “Maybe he’s on some kind of spectrum.”
The wind blew and ruffled some of the Fledgling’s breast feathers. In the breeze the Fledgling wasn’t sure if he heard a whisper of a voice:
         “One day, they’ll see just what you can do; one day.”
But that clearly wasn’t true and so the Fledgling took no notice and the words were carried away in the wind.

As you will know ducks, above all other birds, have a sense of humour. They really enjoy a good laugh. One will make a quiet comment or even just roll an eye at something ridiculous and all the ducks around them will burst out laughing. It’s great fun, good humoured, and something to join in with. It’s very enjoyable if you are in on the joke. But if you are on the outside it can feel quite different. If you don’t know what the joke is about then it’s easy to fill in the gaps with your own assumptions. And, when you think others don’t like you, you jump to the conclusion that the joke is at your expense. So it was for the Fledgling. It seemed to him that none of the ducks had ever said anything nice to him. Maybe they were not intentionally nasty, but he had come to believe that he was less than worthless, unlovable. So when the other ducks erupted into laughter he was convinced they were laughing at him, mocking him. He would overhear the other ducks laughing about a bird with “speckled knees” but mishear it as ‘special needs’ and just know they were laughing at him, because he was stupid. He would do his best to shrug it off and try to join in with the laughter. But what came out of his beak was a shrill squawk. The other ducks would be startled by the noise and stop. Only to then burst again into even harder laughter. The Fledgling learned to keep quiet and endure the humiliation as best he could but burned with embarrassment and shame.

Then, one day, the Fledgling found reason for encouragement. It was the day of the first flying lesson. Mother Duck showed the youngsters how it was done. From her sitting position on the water she spread her wings wide, made one strong beat down onto the water and kept on flapping hard, paddling along the water for the first second; and then she was airborne. She kept flapping, glided for a bit, and then skied over the water with her big webbed feet until she slowed enough to sink back to the floating position again. It was clearly a lot of work but she made it look easy, shaking her tail with pride. The ducklings followed her lead with enthusiasm. Some made it into the air but some just paddled without ever quite breaking free of the water. Once they spread them out all of the ducklings had surprisingly large wings. But none spread as wide as the Fledgling’s. The Fledgling thrashed and struggled to pull clear of the water, his great wings repeatedly catching the surface, but then, when he got clear… wow! He powered up into the air with unexpected ease, and so much higher than all the other ducklings.
         “Look at me!” he called down in triumph.
         “Stop showing off,” snapped back Mother Duck. “Come down here at once.”
Even when he did something right it still seemed like he was doing something wrong. He glided back down obediently and, as he did, another whisper blew past him.
         “They just don’t see you yet.”
He tried to ski to a stop like the others, but without webbed feet his talons caught in the water and tipped him onto his face. All the ducks laughed long and hard. He dismissed the voice as foolishness and it was forgotten again.
         Why do I bother trying?” He thought to himself, humiliated.

The Fledgling started to wonder if he had been born into the wrong family. He was so different from them. Maybe there had been a mistake. He started to look at the geese and the great white swans with their long elegant necks that were nothing like his, and they had webbed feet too, just like the ducks. He looked at the coots and moorhens and wondered. But they were so small and even though their feet weren’t webbed their long oversized toes meant they could walk over the top of the lilies and flowering water plants. He could never do that. And anyway, none of these waterfowl were fussy eaters like he was. He never even looked up as far as the white-tailed eagles wheeling high in the sky above.

He felt so unacceptable now that he spent less and less time with the rest of the family, and the distance between them got greater. He would fly off on his own. He found the feeling of rising up into the sky without needing to flap exhilarating. He was indeed very good at flying, but what use is that when you are a duck? For ducks flying is merely functional, just a way to get from A to B. They take no pride or enjoyment in it. No one was impressed by the Fledgling’s flying skills.

From high up he could spot animals in the loch-side undergrowth, however small. He had extraordinarily good eyesight, although the Fledgling considered this normal and assumed everyone could see what he could. Any time he saw a dead mouse or vole he would swoop down to inspect it. Picking at the carcass with his beak, he found the meat surprisingly tasty and much more satisfying than the weed from the loch. He knew the other ducks didn’t eat this kind of food so he didn’t tell them. Such feasting became his guilty secret.

Sometimes one of the ducks would fly up and stand on one of the broad branches that overhung the fringe of the loch. There was no particular reason for this and no apparent advantage, but ducks can be wacky and such absurdities appeal to their sense of humour. On one occasion the Fledgling flew up there too. He found that it was actually more comfortable sitting with his curly talons wrapped around a branch than it was with them digging into the mud of the water’s edge. He liked the view from up there too. He could see right across the loch and everything that was going on below him.

One day the ducks were swimming and diving and laughing together whilst the Fledgling sat on his branch. As he looked out he saw a long dark shadow in the water drifting towards one of his duckling brothers. He sensed there was danger and a shudder of alarm turned in his stomach. Was no one else seeing this?
         “This is your moment,” came the whisper on the breeze.
But his panic grew and the voice was lost in the wind.
         Why isn’t anyone doing anything?”
There was a large splash and, as water rained down, the duckling was gone. The shadow too had melted into the deep of the loch. It was too late. All the ducks fussed about in distress, but the Fledgling was paralysed and helpless. He had seen the full horror of the moment with his own eyes.

The Fledgling looked out over the other ducks and his remaining siblings, trying to shake the awful image from his mind. But it was burned into the back of his eyes just like it did when he looked at the sun. He saw shadows in the water everywhere. But then one of these shadows curved and turned. This was no left over image in his mind; this was a new threat!
         “Now, spread your wings, now!” whispered the breeze urgently.
It was soon enough after the last voice that he still remembered that this indeed was his moment. He spread his wings wide and beat them strongly. Pushing off he swooped down over the water, gliding above the other ducks. As the shadow of the Fledgling passed over them, they saw that he was flying directly towards another lone duckling on the edge of the deep water.
         “Stop!” they quacked in alarm. “The freak is attacking that duckling. Stop him!”
The word’s wounded the Fledgling but this was not about him anymore. This duckling was helpless and he was the only one who could do something. The ducks had moved from shock to anger now and were taking to the air after him. Then, just as he arrived at the duckling, he instinctively threw his open talons forward and plucked the fish out of the water just beyond it. As he powered up into the air the pike could do nothing and hung, disarmed and limp, between his talons.

The ducks surfed in to land around the rescued youngster and watched with their bills open as the Fledgling flew above them.
         “He’s an eagle,” gasped one. “The freak is no duckling. He’s a sea eagle. How did we not see it?” And they laughed loud and long.
Many of the adult ducks had seen white-tailed eagles taking fish out of the loch in previous seasons and, even though he did not yet have his white tail, it was immediately clear to them who the Fledgling really was. They had called him different names before, but for the Fledgling, at last, ‘Eagle’ was a name that would fit.

The Eagle circled back around to his favourite branch and started to feast on the meat of the now dead pike. As he did, a white-tailed eagle from high in the sky spiralled down to land next to him on his branch. It had seen the drama unfold below and wanted to share in the feast. The Eagle was happy to share and even happier to see another bird who looked like him. They may have even been related. His identity was now confirmed.

He forgave the ducks and was quite happy for the branch, that overlooked them, to remain his own. And, because he fished in that part of the loch, no more ducklings were lost to pike.

The Eagle knew who he was now. Everything about him made sense. His eyes, his beak, his wings, his talons, his size, his lack of quack, were all as they should be. He finally knew that there was nothing wrong with him. The voice in the wind had called out who he really was and the old names, and the shame that had come with them, now rolled off him just as the beads of water rolled off his fledgling feathers, much like water off a duck’s back. The voice blew his way again.
         “Know that I delight in you, in your failures, in your obstinacy, in your good intentions, in your successes. You are as I made you to be and I delight in you just as you are.”

Because it was so kind and loving he learned to trust the still, small voice above any other, knowing that it would always lead him further into truth.

Sometimes now, when he is perched in the tree above them, his distinctive shrill call makes the ducks jump. And then they will all burst out laughing at themselves to think how they had ever made the mistake of thinking that this mighty Eagle was one of them. But now the Eagle is assured in his heart that they are not laughing at him.

© M Day 01-May-2022

Other stories are available on Kindle and Audible.
Use the links to buy from Amazon.


The issues of performance, shame and identity.


You can read the whole of the ‘The Chick’ parable here.


Buy ‘The Animal Parables’ in Paperback, Kindle or Audiobook
Go to
Go to
Go to
Go to
(,,,,,,,,, &


The chick is welcomed into his family but doesn’t fit in. Nothing he does matches up to the performance of his siblings. Even what he can do well has no value within family. But then one day all his attributes come into play and he is able to do something extraordinary … for a duck. At last he discovered who he really is.


Download 'The Wasp' in pdf format ‘The Chick’ in pdf format (on request only)

Download 'Questions for Reflection' in pdf format Questions for Reflection
This is a resource to help you think through the issue raised in each of the other stories. You can use the questions for group discussion or to reflect on by yourself.


Word count : 2,829
Est. read aloud time: 19 mins