Posted by: morrowsl | August 3, 2019

Chanticleer, the Good Father

I knew from reading about them that Carolina Wrens build nests in the most unusual and awkward spots. Still, when I found bits of grass and leaves and sticks poking out from the space between Chanticleer’s tail and back, I had no thought that it might be a bird nest. I even pulled some of the bedding loose before it dawned on me that I was wrecking some poor little bird couple’s home! A peek between the two metal “tail feathers” confirmed my suspicions. Inside was a cup-shaped nest with an overhang.

Chanticleer was going to be a father!

Okay, technically he was only going to act as the site for incubation. But still…

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Initially, I counted four eggs. Carolina Wrens will lay four to six eggs and the mother won’t start sitting on them until the penultimate or final egg has been added. No mother in sight and no fussing from the nearby trees. Apparently, they weren’t finished.

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Sure enough, a check the following day confirmed that mama was still adding eggs.

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But then we had that snake in the chicken coop and I became alarmingly aware of how vulnerable this little nest really was. A check the day after the snake incident caused alarm. There were only four eggs in the wren’s nest. I just knew that snake had snacked.

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When I peeked in the next time, I got a face full of mad Mama Wren and much fussing and flapping from overhead by Daddy. But, thankfully, the little eggs counted five once more. I resolved to leave them alone so Mama could have as much peace as can be had living in a metal rooster tail adjacent to a chicken run populated with chatty hens and one transgender bird who half-crows at odd hours.

It seemed the least I could do.

I was busy enough to almost forget there were baby birds. But, every now and then, I would get scolded for passing too close to Chanticleer as I changed out the water in the chicken run or turned on the soaker hose for the flowerbed. I watched as Daddy Wren did his best to distract me and refocus my attention elsewhere. He was a good decoy!

Then last week, I decided it was time to check on the progress of the little family. In the nest I found several newly-hatched baby birds and at least one unhatched egg.

BABIES!!

Now I began to worry about the predators that posed a threat to the new littles.

I tried not to obsess over the nest. I would listen closely, or as closely as possible considering the noise my chickens make the moment they realize I’m at the run. I could hear little cheeps but had no idea if they were truly coming from Chanticleer’s tail or if there were other nests I hadn’t discovered nearby. I was only ever fussed at by one pair of adults, so chances are I was indeed hearing the hungry calls from these five. I was determined to leave them be. And have been busy enough to keep my promise.

Then Thursday afternoon I came home late and went out to give the girls some fresh cold water. I went in the coop door at least twice, opening it wide as I came out the first time with the water container to wash out and again when I took it back in to fill. When I came back out, I noticed something to my right just beyond the closing door. It was a baby bird, tiny and distressed, flapping and hopping to get away from me! In a panic, I scooped it up and took off for the the house, only realizing when I got there that my two cats would be more than happy to “help” me take care of this defenseless little creature!

I retreated to the safety of the yard and frantically dialed my sweet friend and self-admitted bird nerd, Judi. Unfortunately, I got her voicemail. I left a quick message and began to think as logically as possible about how to help the newly fledged baby.
I went back to the nest, thinking I’d just shove it in beside its siblings and the parents could deal with it when they returned. Inside the nest, none of the other babies were moving. Again, I panicked, thinking the string of triple digits heat indices we’ve had must have baked these little guys inside their metal framed home. My stomach began to flip.

Thankfully, my phone rang at that exact moment and I retreated to the shade, baby bird still cradled in my palm, to extract advice from an expert.

At Judi’s urging, I found a box, stuffed it with leaves and twigs, and returned to the tree closest to Chanticleer’s bird mortuary. Just as I stepped down into the entrance area of the chicken run, another tiny bird began to flap and hop around at my feet.

GOOD GRIEF!!

At least I had the box to put the second one in. Otherwise, I was out of hands and the chickens had begun to focus hungry eyes on the would-be treat.

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I shoved the box, not ironically a Dos Equis box, into the crotch of the Crape Myrtle and retreated to the porch swing to send Judi a photo and call her back with an update. As I was walking away, I heard the tell tale scolding of an adult Wren and stopped. Sure enough, one of the parents had returned with a tasty bug to feed the babies. It could hear the two in the box calling, but was confused on why they were no longer in the nest. It hopped around for a few minutes until it located them and flew down into the box. When it flew back out, minus the bug, I felt like I’d done all I could do to help and went to the house to call my friend.

As luck would have it, I had to be away from home again on Friday and had only enough time in the morning to feed the chickens before I left. I didn’t take the time to check the nest or box before I had to leave.
I did have time once I got back home so, after getting fresh water for the girls, and not finding any more babies, alive or dead, on the ground near Chanticleer’s feet, I pulled the box down from its perch in the tree. Inside, two sleeping baby wrens – I nudged them to make sure and was greeted with open eyes and lots of scrambling to get away!
I went ’round to have another look in the nest, thinking I’d pull the dead babies out and dispose of the whole mess.

All I found was baby bird poop and some bug wings!

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Still holding the box, I started trying to think where a bird couple might go with their newly fledged brood and why they wouldn’t take the two from the box with them.

From the woods across the dirt lane that leads to the barn, I could hear an adult wren calling and a baby calling in return. I headed that direction and was just in time to see a baby, about the same size as the two in the box, hopping toward a brush pile where an adult was perched and calling out instructions. A bit closer to the brush pile was yet another baby. And in the pile of leaves just at the base of the brush pile, I discovered a third baby resting up.
I started picking leaves out of the box to uncover my two, then lifted them out and popped them atop the leaves, pointing in the direction the others had hopped.

It took less than a minute for the final two babies to reunite with their siblings and parents and, before I had time to pull my phone out and record the reunion, they were all gone.

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I did go back and pull the nest out of Chanticleer’s tail. I told him he’d done a great job, harboring the little family and seeing them safely away to a new adventure. Then I explained that maybe his tail did offer a good nesting spot. Or at least as good as the hopper on the wood chipper or the top of the outdoor lights can boast. He had little to offer on the subject.55783773_10161604961760201_3580915891979681792_n


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