The next day, early in the morning, Hazel and his group are at silflay when Bigwig and Silver spot a creature with a white back in the grass. They bravely approach the figure, and discover that it is a large, wounded black-headed gull. The bird hisses and squawks at them, and they turn and run back to the burrow to report the sighting to Hazel. Hazel bravely volunteers to go take a look at the bird, and begins talking to it, but realizes it does not speak Lapine very well. As the bird pecks in the dirt, Hazel realizes it needs some food, and he orders the others to search for insects for it to eat.
The hospitality Hazel showed to the mouse in the earlier chapter, and the fealty the mouse offered him in return, foreshadowed the arrival of another ally whose feeding and sheltering might be repaid by a favor to the warren—now, Hazel has found a really useful animal that could greatly help their group.
Hazel brings the bird its food. After it eats, it says it wants to leave, but Hazel urges it to stay and rest, warning it of the many elil surrounding the hill. Silver expresses doubts that their group will ever be able to make a friend of the bird, but Hazel is determined—he knows how valuable the bird’s help in scouting for elil could be to them. Hazel tells the bird that their group will help keep him safe while he recovers—the bird admits that his wing is “no good,” and Hazel helps him slowly walk back towards the burrow.
Hazel is up for any challenge—he has overcome so much already that befriending a bird and finding a way to get it to serve him and his friends seems well within his capability.
When Hazel arrives back at the warren with the bird, the other rabbits are skeptical and even cross with Hazel—but he stands his ground and asks them all to help gather up some insects to feed their new companion. By nightfall, the rabbits have scratched out a little shelter for the bird, and they fall asleep as it keeps watch over their hollow. The following day, Bigwig spends some time with the bird, and they converse all day long. Bigwig learns that the bird was injured by a cat, and that he originally comes from an enormous flock who lives where the “earth stops” at a “vast place of water.” The bird’s name, Bigwig says, is Kehaar—the noise the water makes—and he longs to rejoin his flock as soon as he’s healed.
The bird is not just a tool to the rabbits—he is quickly becoming their friend. Bigwig in particular is charmed and entranced by the bird’s stories of the wide world beyond the fields and admires his bravery and worldliness. The rabbits also empathize with Kehaar as he, too, is searching for his home.
Hazel is disappointed—he gathers Bigwig, Blackberry, Fiver, and Silver for a talk, and tells them that he had been hoping to restore Kehaar to health so that the bird could, one day soon, scout out some neighboring warrens that might have does. Their new warren on Watership Down is doing well so far—but it will never thrive without does. As Hazel’s words sink in, the others are quiet—they know he is right. Bigwig tells Hazel to leave everything to him—he will make sure that Hazel’s plan comes to fruition.
Though some doubted Hazel’s plan at first, when he reveals it to them all in earnest, they see the worth in it and decide to do all they can to make it a reality.
Over the next few days, the rabbits work extra-hard at catching insects to feed to Kehaar. One day, Bigwig approaches Hazel and tells him Kehaar would like to speak to him. Hazel goes to Kehaar’s scrape, and Kehaar, who seems to have “prepared a short speech,” says that though his wing is better and it will soon be time for him to go, he has heard of the rabbits’ need for “mudders” from “Mister Pigvig.” Kehaar announces that he has thought of a “peeg, fine plan.” He will go fly for the rabbits and find them “plenty mudders.” Hazel congratulates Kehaar on his splendid idea and promises that the rabbits will do all they can to help him.
Hazel’s plan has worked. He has extended hospitality to Kehaar, made him feel like a welcome and revered guest, and put no pressure on him to do anything for the rabbits right away. As a result, Kehaar has grown attached to the rabbits and his sense of indebtedness to them has grown. His splendid idea was Hazel’s plan all along—but Hazel has allowed Kehaar to devise the plan on his own.
Kehaar sets off in flight and is gone for several days. Hazel begins wondering if Kehaar is really going to come back, or whether he’s gone off to the Big Water. Fiver, though, says confidently that Kehaar will return. Indeed, late one afternoon a few days later, Bigwig announces that Kehaar has returned. Kehaar reveals that he has found a farm nearby where some rabbits “live in box; live vid men.” The only other place where there are rabbits is beyond the river and the “iron road,” or train tracks. Kehaar says that the warren is a two-days’ journey away.
The news Kehaar brings back is exciting to the rabbits—there are not one but two separate chances to secure does for the warren. Though it means setting out on another journey, several of them are restless for adventure anyway.
The next morning, Hazel tells the others that he does not want to leave this warren and join the faraway one Kehaar saw—rather, he wants to go there and bring some does back. Large warrens, he knows, are often overcrowded, and by taking away some does, they could even be doing this neighboring burrow a favor. All the rabbits agree that Hazel, as de facto Chief, should stay behind, and that Holly, Silver, Buckthorn, and Strawberry should go. At first light the next morning, the four start out on yet another journey, while Hazel and Bigwig look forward to the prospect of does and litters of rabbit kits.
Though the challenge of acquiring does threaten to vex Hazel and the others, Hazel comes up with a plan that will allow Watership Down to thrive while also forming alliances with neighboring warrens. As the group sets out on their journey, no one at Watership Down has the sense that anything could possibly go wrong.