When the last of our flock flew the coop this fall for college, these old birds faced an empty nest for the first time. We had heard all the tales of how empty the nest would seem and how the hours would stretch in our now quiet home. Even the chicks were sure we’d be clucking around the nest in misery, missing them and counting the days until they came to visit.
But a funny thing happened as we grew accustomed to the new space and freedom the empty nest provided. We stretched our wings and filled in all the places that had been taken up by PTA, school, sports and chick activities, with things we had put off. We took advantage of this opportunity to focus on each other and try new experiences.
That’s not to say that we didn’t welcome the chicks home with open arms when they visited during the holidays. But with one still home waiting for her college semester to start, we are starting to see some stress on the nest.
First, chick nocturnal habits evolve so differently when they are sent into the wild on their own. The older birds tend to tuck their heads in at a much earlier hour than the chicks, which often leads to frequent late night squawking.
Flight patterns never seem to match up. This appears to be a direct result of those nocturnal disparities. While the older members of the species rouse and get moving at an earlier hour, the chicks have a tendency to roost until after noon – unless forcibly awakened. Resulting in – you guessed it – more squawking.
Chick feeding habits can lead to ruffled feathers. We expanded our home culinary adventures while cooking for two, but chicks expect their calorie-rich favorites to be stocked in the nest’s pantry. The older birds were doing so well keeping their feathers trim before chips and cookies came back to the nest. Plus chicks want to eat when they want to eat, which always seems to be after everything has been cleaned up.
Yes, chicks have a tendency to mess up the nest. Some in the flock might put the blame on a mother bird who never really enforced nest chores. Except all flock members were expected to keep their parts of the nest clean. Riiggghhtt. To avoid squawking, the mother bird is just keeping to her part of the nest for awhile.
When the chicks finally do awaken, flock interaction can be fun. Because chicks like to be out of the nest as much as possible while visiting, you get to take them to movies and shopping. Mother bird has been getting some great style advice on her plumage.
Sometimes it’s hard for old birds to accept how grown up their children are. Perhaps there’s a tendency to keep thinking of them as the cute little chicks who first entered the nest. But chicks grow up and long to fly on their on, and we’re learning to let them stretch their own wings. It’s a balancing act within the nest. So until we have our empty nest back again, we’ll wrap our wings around the youngest for a while longer – but not too tight. Don’t want to hear any squawking.