Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

For The Birds.

Posted on | May 20, 2013 | 6 Comments

So through some freak event like El Nino, global warning, or monotonous weather forecasting, we are now living in a Pacific Northwest bubble.  With constant rain and cool temperatures, luscious green leaf cover, and the grass growing a foot each week, it feels like a temperate rainforest around here.  Which is fine as the spring vegetables have been fooled into thinking it is still April and they are still growing instead of bolting, like they usually do in May.

4′ tall spring onions, anyone?

Brussels sprouts that seeded themselves from the fall crop.

Broccoli that has been harvested twice and is still giving the grass a run for its money.

The only problem is that it’s impossible to get in the hay.  With mommas and babies in the kidding barn, it helps to have some square bales to fill their hay racks.  But picking the bales up, driving them home, and unloading them is difficult inbetween spotty showers and unpredictable downpours.  I finally got 12 bales to the top of the driveway and they were only a little bit wet from the sprinkles that started as soon as I got on the road.  Since the ground is way too soaked for driving up to the barnyard fence (The Other Half gets mad enough when I drive over the septic lines.  Getting the truck stuck in the mud right on top of the septic lines would have to be blamed on Big.), I had to settle for hauling it into the barn by hand.  And beating the next rain storm called for desperate, if precarious, measures.

But the most dangerous part was not the threat of the hay toppling out of the wheelbarrow.  It was the threat of attack from the herd.  The rest of the goats and sheep despise the coddling of the new mothers in the kidding barn.  They know those ladies have free access grain.  Bringing them fresh hay is enough to trigger a revolt.  Luckily, their envy is counteracted with just a little bit of planning.

Oooooh, ladies.  Look at this newly fluffed hay roll!

And, oh my gosh.  What was I thinking?  I guess I forgot. And left this new hay bale completely unattended on the picnic table.

Muuwhahahaha.  A hay trap!

With everyone otherwise occupied I managed to get the bales into the kidding barn.  Too bad I needed a bit of extra room for the bales and dumped the bucket the little mad wren made her nest in earlier this spring.  Because Pretty told me that the baby birds had fledged already.  And the bucket was in the way.

Of course, 3 feathered, yet fuzzy, baby wrens scattered into the barn as the remnants of the nest dropped onto the floor.  Of.  Course.

When the little mad wren appeared in the rafters with a tidbit from the bird feeder to find her nest knocked down and her babies peeping from all corners of the barn, boy, was she was pissed!  I would’ve taken a picture but I was busy trying to get in the hay before the next rain storm.  Also, I am a crappy photographer and my point-and-shoot camera blacks out now when I try to zoom in.  I don’t know why, but I think it is exhausted from me putting it on auto and expecting it to correct everything that is wrong with my picture taking.

Good thing this photographer, Joni Johnson-Godsey, captured the expression of a little mad wren perfectly.  ‘Cause this is exactly how she looked at me.

“They’re fine”  I huffed as I stacked hay.  “I put your nest on the ground.  They’ll make their way back to it.”

“Really,”  I puffed.  “you’re not an endangered species or anything.  Just start over.”

“Who put her nest in a bucket in a barn? What kind of a wild animal raises her young next to people?  I mean, have you seen what people have done to wild species lately?  Whose fault is this really??!” I exclaimed.

I was about to begin another defensive tirade when Angel piped up from her corner of the barn.

“Um, I think I found one under the corner of this shelf.  Perhaps you could remove it from my stall.  Its peeping is disturbing my milk production.”

Angel is always so……helpful.

Fine,”  I said.  But I said it in the way that indicates that everything is not fine and that I probably hate you. I know y’all know what I mean.

I repaired the nest on the ground, scooped up the baby bird, and stuck him next to it so he could see his mama and his home.

“You’re on your own for the rest of them, ” I grunted as I rolled the wheelbarrow out for another load of hay bales.

By the time I finished with the hay the kids arrived home from school and ran out to the barn, covering their ears.

“What’s all that noise?”  they exclaimed.

“Oh, the little mad wren lost her babies and now they are chirping incessantly in order to find each other.”

“Here’s one!” they cried and they promptly cornered/traumatized/rescued one that had tucked itself in this little gap in the barn wall.

With 2 solid stacks of hay bales in place for Tina and Angel, I sat on the milk stand and sighed.  Off in the distance I could hear the little mad wren chirping and flitting about.  Where could that 3rd baby possibly be that was getting her into such a flutter?

Oh, for Pete’s sake.  Whoever Pete is.  How did that baby get stuck between the backyard fence and the wire side of the barn?  A 2″ wide gap?  That is only open at the top, 6′ high?  Well, Pete?   How?

The little mad wren was perched on the fence top, encouraging the baby to try and climb up the wire to her.  But he kept falling back down.  Until he lay exhausted on a 2X4, panting weakly.  She glared at me.

“This is NOT my fault,” I declared as I got the wire clippers.  I cut a nice square in my previously predator -proof fencing and reached for the baby wren.

The exhausted baby wren that quickly and vigorously scampered out of reach to a new section of hole-free fencing.


I cut another hole in my now ruined barn fencing, but blocked the baby’s retreat with clumps of leaves before I reached for him.  Because fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, and I’ve just been outsmarted by a bird with a brain the size of a booger.

I got him, the fence got me….

….and I stuck the last baby on the pallet by the nest so his momma could find him.

As I nursed my bloody knuckle and the little mad wren gathered her young into the nest for the night I grumbled to myself, “Why does the simplest task turn out to be so difficult?”

Then I noticed Nigel, Tina’s kid.  Bouncing around on his once-weak, now-perfect forelegs.

Which healed, magically, mysteriously, all on their own.

Without any splints or medicine or anything.  Within the first few days after he was born.

“Oh, well,” I said, stroking Tina’s velvety nose.  “I guess not everything turns out to be difficult.  Sometimes things work out just fine.  All’s well that ends well, right, wren?”

“Yeah,” she said.  “Fine.

I’m not a therapist.  But I think that bird could use some anger management.  I’m just sayin’.


6 Responses to “For The Birds.”

  1. Lin
    May 20th, 2013 @ 6:36 pm

    Hooray!! All’s well that end’s well!

    ‘Cept for your hand. 🙁

  2. Holly
    May 21st, 2013 @ 4:19 am

    Who hasn’t been outsmarted by an animal with a brain the size of a booger?

  3. Jill
    May 21st, 2013 @ 4:34 am

    Nigel is still a buckling… 🙂 Thanks for saving face for that mad wren!! (And I think I am married to Pete… 35 years in fact!) Good luck with the knuckle..

  4. Samantha
    May 21st, 2013 @ 8:57 am

    This is lovely. The wrens put their nest above my only door into my house. Yup. Fun times every year. 🙂 So far only one has got in the house that I had to catch and one baby fell on the door mat that I had to put back. Not too bad for as many years as they have done it, and no bloodshed.

    They also pile in during the winter. I can tell when I super cold night is coming by the amount of wrens cramming into the nest.

  5. Bobbie
    May 21st, 2013 @ 10:54 am

    What a well-written story! I’m so glad to hear about Nigel– that made my eyes cry. One thing about farming–it keeps us humble. Humbled by the weather. Humbled by sassy animals. Humbled by healing that we didn’t know could happen. And in that humility there are blessings, at your house, and at our house too.

  6. Nadine
    May 21st, 2013 @ 8:32 pm

    Loved the way you told that story! Glad they all got back in the nest even though it was a pain for you! Hope you get a rain free day soon : )

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