Time for my babies to fly the nest

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My wee babies are all grown up. Those teeny, weeny, ickle chicks we slipped out into the run every few hours to watch hatch, and then fitted into the palm of our hand. Those teeny, weeny, ickle chicks that we anxiously watched take their first chick crumbs and their first ever sips of water. Which wobbled around the coop and then dived under mum when they got chilly.

And we were there when they took their first bumbling steps into the big, wide world, scuttling around the coop, copying mum, scratching in the dirt on their first ever trip into the run.

We tenderly fed them the crumbs, then growers’ pellets, then finally, they have progressed on to Big Chook Food – layers’ pellets.

We introduced them to mixed corn, and home-grown greens. We moved them into ever-bigger coops and runs as they blossomed and grew into big, healthy, hardy hens.

Now, sadly, this next week is our last one with the hatch of 2013. They are currently being wormed, then will be dusted for mites and, after they are advertised for sale, will disappear in twos and threes for their new homes, to lay their lovely brown, white and blue-ish eggs in new coops all over the Borders. And we will miss them.

Chicks are wondrous things. Within 24 hours, given a sunny day, they usually take their first steps out of the nest. As soon as mum starts scratching about, they copy. It’s amazing to see these wee balls of fluff acting like proper, grown-up chickens.

This year, we had Monster Chick (remember the he-yooo-ge chick which Tattoo, the evil broody, nurtured?). And as predicted, Monster Chick has turned into a boy. This is usually the fate of big chicks/early developers.

If they get a comb and wattle while the other chicks are have nothing but a wee pink flap under their beaks, they are probably a boy.

And if they have thick legs – we’re talking Nora Batty, rather than Jerry Hall, you understand – then they are definitely a boy.

And then there are the long neck and tail feathers which sprout early on, giving them a most un-ladylike appearance. Like teenagers starting to get facial hair.

If you raise a few cross-breed chicks at home like me, then you’ll know that feeling of despair when your ‘girls’ turn into boys. And your despair only deepens when they all start crowing. Badly at first, then full-on very quickly afterwards. I’m talking the type of ear-splitting crow you could record and use for cockerel sounds on The Archers. That good.

This year we have managed to raise three boys, which is not bad going.

But it is unlikely anyone will want them.

Not everyone who keeps chooks wants a cockerel, so sadly they will be surplus to requirements.

As our girls go to their new homes next week, our boys will be going on to finishers’ pellets, and once they reach a good weight, they will be going into the freezer.

Yum, yum.