It’s 8am and I’m listening to our youngest Twenty-Something child snoring in the den. I’m the only one awake as I sip coffee on the couch with Garfield. Two of our three kids are here this holiday week and the nest is full. And so, suddenly, is my throat with tears. I take another swig of coffee.
We are helping Kimber to wean her 16-week-old chicks by boarding up the laying nests, and I’m a bit weepy over the whole thing. It’s a pitiful sight, but it has to be done. The chicks are as big as Kimber now, and Tux is bigger. He crowed this morning when I opened the coop.
The chicks were still squabbling and flapping long after we closed the coop last night — looking for open spots in the roosting lines, trying to fly up with their clipped wings, missing the rung and crashing to the soft peat moss below. Over and over. There’s plenty of room. Theoretically. The problem is that they all want to make it up to the very top rung. The endless squabbles and crashes to the ground stem from this.
Our son is congested, so the snoring is pronounced. Great, shuddering gulps. I remember when he used to sit beside me every morning in my beanbag chair. We didn’t talk a lot then, either, just sat really close.
The chicks have resisted roosting, preferring to all pile into a single nest box until just this last week, when they spread out to three boxes. It’s becoming their norm. This is not so good for a couple of reasons.
First, chickens poop when they sleep, so the nest boxes get all mucked up and are parasite havens unless cleaned out frequently. Second, the nest boxes are for egg laying. They’re not beds at all. Kimber won’t start laying again until she weans these “babies,” who themselves could start laying eggs in four more weeks.
Because we keep no adult rooster around, they’re all stuck in “baby chick” mode. A rooster is what makes the momma hen wean the babes. Normal weaning has been disrupted by our gentleman farmer concerns over rooster noises disturbing the sleep of our neighbors with 3 small children.
Last night, when the Bearded One and I went to check on the chickens at about 8pm — I wanted to make sure they were okay — half of Kimber’s chicks roosted with The Five on the top two rungs, another group roosted with Kimber at the end of the nest box perch, and Marilyn and Stevie huddled together on the floor. Tonight we’ll pick them up and just put them on the roost.
This morning, all the chicks seemed rested. They hopped right down and rushed to the new feeder — sent by a friend and Farmlet reader in Texas. A few finished eating and chased each other out of the aviary, running like 7th grade boys playing front yard football and going out for the long bomb on every single play. “Hit me — I’m wide open!” We’ve taken to calling this behavior “Going out for a pass.”
Bantam hens are bred to be fervent and generous mothers, which is why we’re thinking we’ll keep Kimber and all her pullet weanlings. When we get some meat chicks this spring, I’m hoping these bantam hens will mother them. That’s the plan, anyway.
The roosters, Steve and Tux, can’t stay because they’ll try to breed with their mother and sisters, which isn’t healthy. Billy goats have to be changed out regularly, too, a fact of farm life I am just now understanding.
Suddenly, the den is silent. Our Twenty-Something has rolled over and will sleep ’til noon. Let him sleep. He’s young. Heck, he’s weaned.