Do We Have to Send Away the Mother Bird?

In Memory of Reva Margolin on her 21st Yahrzrit

In Parshat Ki Tetze, Dvarim 22:6-7 we read: “If you should chance upon a bird’s nest before you on the road in any tree or on the ground with fledglings or eggs, and the mother is sitting on the fledglings or on the eggs; do not take the mother with her offspring. You must surely send away the mother and the offspring take for yourself, so that you will benefit and you will live long.”


Does this mean that we are obligated to send away the mother bird even if we don’t need the fledglings or the eggs?


According to the Rambam (Guide 3:48): “The eggs which the bird sits on and the young that are in need of their mother, are generally unfit for food…in most cases this command will cause man to leave the nest untouched.”


Chatam Sofer and Chazon Ish are of the opinion that the mitzvah of sending the mother bird away is not an obligatory mitzvah , it only needs to be done if one should “chance upon a nest” and wants to take the fledglings or the eggs. Therefore, one does not need to search far and wide to find a nest in order to perform the mitzvah and even if one sees a nest, they only need to send the mother bird away if they plan to eat the fledglings or the eggs.


The formula of how to send the mother bird away is given to instruct those who want to take the fledglings or the eggs so that no anguish is caused to the mother bird. If one has no use for the fledglings or the eggs it is best not to disturb them.


Some may be zealous in trying to perform this mitzvah as the reward for performing it is long life. However, there are plenty of other mitzvot with rewards. Another mitzvah that promises long life is honoring your parents.


The mitzvah of sending away the mother bird is to protect the mother so that she doesn’t suffer from seeing her babies taken away from her. Surely if one doesn’t need the babies there is no reason to separate her from her young.


We can learn from here that if God wants us to be so careful about how we treat birds, how much more so should we be careful with how we treat other human beings.