Chick-wrangling on the hobby farm

New mom says handling five-month-old and livestock a real chore

My husband, son and I live on a small hobby farm.

I use the term hobby farm loosely because the majority of animals living on it are considered ornamental, they serve no purpose other than being adorable. When deciding which animals we would add to our funny farm I discovered my husband and I have differing opinions on the definition of “adorable animals.”

I chose a set of Pygmy goats, Newt and Toot, they are friendly, fun to watch and my son loves them. They are also hay-eating machines who scream at you when they feel they are not being given an acceptable amount of attention but overall they are pretty entertaining. My husband on the other hand chose chickens, loud, smelly, pecking, evil beasts with wings. I despise birds; well I don’t despise them as much as I am terrified of them but my husband loves his odd little flock.

Springtime on a little farm is the best time on a farm; this is when all the new babies are born and while adult chickens can send me running in fear I love their babies. Last spring, while I was still at home on maternity leave, our chickens had more babies than usual. We had such an abundance of chicks we had to expand our nursery enclosure. My husband spent his entire Saturday off on this task and created a mini chicken mansion for the new moms and babies. Throughout the weekend while my husband is home all is well in his new aviary.

Monday morning my son and I are sitting at the kitchen table having breakfast and all of a sudden the chickens started going berserk. I have a hard enough time working with birds but now I have to take a five-month-old baby with me into the centre of the murderous flock.

We run out to the pen and it becomes apparent some of the chicks have managed to escape their new confines. Not a big deal, I can catch a few little chicks. The scary adult murder birds are still on the opposite side of the fence from us so this should be painless. My son is having a wonderful time as I try to herd the chicks around the fence and through the gate. I have cracked the gate open for them but they just keep running around it and my son and I are literally running in circles around the pen. I don’t want to open the gate any wider because the very angry mother may get free and that would be the living embodiment of my worst nightmare.

I know I need something to act as a doorstop at the gate, something mostly stationary to block the path. I realize I have been holding a five-month-old mostly stationary boy for the past half hour. We run in the house and grab a big blanket, which I spread out and then situate my son at the gate. He’s pretty content to sit and watch me run around with all these little chicks, he’s clapping and giggling leading me to believe I’m the greatest chicken wrangler that ever was. It was much easier chasing chicks without a 20 lb wiggling weight in my arms.

It takes me almost 20 minutes to get all the chicks reunited with their mother, all the while I have one eye on my son making sure he’s still safe and sound on his blanket. Just when I think I am done I hear a chick peeping like its life depends on it. I look over and my five-month-old who has just learned to sit and usually has sloth like reflexes has managed to catch one of the babies. At this age everything is still very new, it is usually inspected and then promptly put in his mouth. I realize this chick is facing the same fate as Ozzy Osborne’s bat. I race to my son and at the last moment I rescue the baby chick and put him back in with his mother. My son is crying because I took his new toy away and in the back of my mind I hope this chick remembers I saved him and if I ever need saving from the terrifying full grown chickens he will have my back.

Christina Komives writes for the Pipestone Flyer and lives on a farm outside of Wetaskwin with her family.

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