This morning, standing outside in my bathrobe coaxing a young bird out of our apple tree, alternately flapping my elbows and waving a syringe full of lukewarm oatmeal, it suddenly occurs to me that I have gone mad.
Quite, quite mad.
I know. It should have occurred to me before now, but perhaps owing to my Quixotic nature itself, it simply hadn’t. But it’s true: I have gone barmy. Completely fruited the loop. Cracked up. Lost the plot.
Some of you may argue I’ve always had a somewhat tenuous grasp of “the actual plot”, seeing as how I have, on account of my creative chicken accounting*, continued to add to my flock this year, even throwing in four Pekin ducks for good measure. Because one’s denuded chicken run can NEVER have too much mud.
Naturally, to keep the eggs nice and healthy, I sprout every sort of fodder for my flock – wheat, rye, barley (which might be better put to use in beer, if I’m honest!), lentils of every colour, quinoa, you name it. I have sprouted it. They have eaten it.
The increased levels of Omega-3, however, have done nothing to preserve my fragile hold on sanity.
It all started with my grandsons, actually. And a windstorm so violent it ripped the huge Wood Pigeon nest out of the tree over their own chicken coop. Youngest grandson appeared on Instagram sporting the ugliest – UGLIEST – ball of loosely put together black bird flesh covered in bristly yellow down. It looked like it had stuck its wing into a light socket. There were two squabs. If you ever saw a baby pigeon, you would know exactly why someone dubbed them SQUABS!
The boys tried valiantly to keep the babies alive in their greenhouse, but one died on the first night – presumably of hypothermia. The second day, Darling Daughter broke the sad news to youngest grandson that the second baby was dead. Floods of tears, as you might imagine. FLOODS. Long story short, my youngest grandie showed up in my kitchen that morning holding in his hands what appeared to be a dead bird.
“Buddy,” I said, taking the limp, ice cold bird in hand, “I can try to help… but I’m pretty sure it’s already dead.”
“I know,” he said sadly. “But look! I think it’s still breathing! See? I saw its beak move -”
I was unconvinced, but, owing to the hope in his face and my own bleeding heart, I readied my rice bag in the microwave while we continued to search for signs of life. “You have to prepare yourself for the worst,” I said gravely. “Honestly, bud – it is so far gone, I don’t know if we can bring it back.”
He dropped his big brown eyes to hide the tears. “Don’t worry, Nan – I’m all cried out. Mummy already told me it was dead.”
Well, what was a Nanny to do?
We gently wrapped the squab in the folds of my rice bag and placed it in a box in the kitchen. There was nothing for us to do now but wait.
Well, Lo and Behold! The darned thing was up and shaking its little wings flaps for food within a couple hours.
Which led to a manic internet search for what and how to feed a baby pigeon, enlistment of my chick brooder for heat, bird poop and oatmeal splatters on pretty much all my clothing, and about a dozen rolls of paper towels to change her bedding over the next few weeks. The boys had named the pigeon Jack Sparrow, though I am fairly convinced it is a she.
SHE has now, can you believe, fledged and is living in our apple tree. Way to go, Mother Hen, eh? All the feeds and the fuss are worth it when you see your baby take to flight.
And then yesterday morning, I get this message from Darling Daughter:
It was a juvenile Collared Dove. Hit by a car, I reckon. Open skin wound to her breast and a broken left tarsometatarsus just above her foot, which I splinted. I am having to syringe feed her baby bird formula at the minute as she is off her food, but she survived the night and has enough pluck to dislike me. I can live with that!
This morning, HH came into the dining room to find me splinting its right leg as well. “It has a reticulated fracture of the femur,” I explain. “Blood flow to her foot is intact, so she should heal in a couple weeks.”
“Mm-hmm,” he says, nodding his head sagely. “What we need to find out is WHO HIT HER in the first place!”
“What?” I say. “There’s no way we can know…she was found near the A404!”
“Uh-huh,” he says. “Funny, she didn’t have a broken femur yesterday, though, did she?”
“Of course she did! I just discovered it this morning!”
“Sure you did.” He says, straightening his tie. “You couldn’t stand your baby bird leaving the nest so you made sure you got another one -”
I roll my eyes. “You’re ridiculous!”
“Of course I am.” HH pulls on his jacket. “You know, you’re just like that lady who broke that guy’s legs so she could ‘TAKE CARE OF HIM'”. He even forms air quotes for emphasis.
I am much bemused. “You mean, Cathy Bates? From Misery?”
“That’s the one,” he says with a firm nod. “I’m gonna start sleeping with one eye open…”
And so I stand under the apple tree, waving the food syringe at Miss Sparrow, the Wood Pigeon. She gets so excited she flaps her massive wings and flies down to me, coming to rest on my head. All I can think is, “Please don’t poop. Please don’t poop. Please don’t poop.”
Yes. Mad. Quite, quite mad.
- Featured Image: Adult Collared Dove and Wood Pigeon – pigeonrescue.co.uk
*”Chicken counting” is a verifiable fact, well known to all spouses of crazy chicken people. Ask a chicken owner how many birds they have. If they say 6, think 10. If they say 10, think 18. It goes like this: “Honey, I’m going to get a couple chickens…” Comes home with 8.