Don’t get me wrong… I love my barn cats – most of the time.
I mean, it is all my fault. I rescued all of my barn cats so that they could supervise over the rodent population so that it didn’t become overly robust with tunnels throughout the hay and grains stored here.
However, I have always preferred the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ method of barn cat keeping.
I know why they are employed and they know why they are employed, but most of the time, we just skip around merrily and never discuss what goes on when I’m not watching.
Until this morning.
OK, DON’T WORRY, THERE ARE NO GOREY DETAILS.
There are no gorey details, but suffice it to say we are lucky because when I entered the barn today, I found myself in immediate baby bird rescue mode.
I knew instantly that something was wrong. The cats were huddled and there was a chirping sound that was too close for comfort.
Like a Momma Bear, I made myself as big as possible and charged the assemblage of felines with a ferocity not usually in my repertoire at 6am.
As I rapidly tried to infuse this situation, Mother Nature’s Goon Squad reassembled and paced just outside of my swinging distance.
TINY, BABY BIRD
There, sitting in its haunches with a wing looking awry, sat a tiny, fluffy bird. A tiny fluffy bird in the middle of a very bad predicament.
I was apoplectic.
What in the heavens was I going to do?!
The poor chick was screaming and I could hear Momma screaming back.
I looked up and there was a visible nest in the vent in the roof of the barn directly above us.
What bird builds a nest in a barn full of barn cats?!
I wanted to calm the baby and give myself time to think (and make sure the cats didn’t pull a fast one) so I put a feed bowl over the tiny chick. I figured the darkness might calm him down.
RUNNING AROUND HYSTERICALLY
So there I was. A human with absolutely no experience with birds – and especially no experience with baby birds – trying to make a plan.
I heard somewhere (maybe National Geographic Channel) that you aren’t supposed to put your scent on a baby bird or the mother won’t put it back in the nest. And then I wondered if a mother bird has ever brought a baby back into a nest? Does that happen once they’ve fallen out? Was I even remembering this correctly? Maybe that was raccoons or deer.
But, first things first.
I had to remove the Good Squad.
So, I picked up each Thugkitty by the scruff and put every one of them in the tack room – which I was sure they would destroy given any time at all. But, whatever. You gotta do what you gotta do.
About this time, the dogs came wandering in…
Scoutypants (trotting in): “Hey, what’s all the fuss? (Immediately noticing the upturned feed bowl) Umm, why is that feed bowl turned the wrong way and why is there a thing that smells interesting underneath it? (Sniffing the rim) Can I eat it?”
Me (SCREAMING): NO! NOOOOOOOO!! GET OUT. GET OUUUUUUT!
Scoutypants (head down and muttering while walking away): “Geez. You don’t have to get so bent about it…”
SO AFRAID TO LOOK UNDER THE BOWL.
All was silent under there and I was really frightened.
Had my cats done the evil deed on this baby? Would he be alive? And if he was, what would I do? Did I have any really tiny eyedroppers? What would I feed him? What do they eat? Who do I know that could help? Would he live long enough without his mother for me to figure out how to help him?
I took a deep breath and looked under the dish.
There he was – looking back at me, all fluffy.
His feathers were so fluffed up, he looked like a stuffed animal baby bird. He didn’t even look real. I was sure he was horribly frightened.
As soon as he saw daylight, the little chick started screaming again.
I put the bowl back over him.
I needed a plan!
SHOULD I GO TO THE HOUSE OR DO SOMETHING NOW?
I decided I had to do something now.
Mama was screaming so loudly, I thought that maybe she might help. I didn’t know if birds helped their young or not.
Like a Keystone Cop with a sketchy plan, I brought out the tallest ladder and set it up.
I climbed up and saw Mama in her nest with one other baby. Everyone was screaming.
I climbed back down and scooped up fallen baby – with a rake full of shavings so that I never touched him -into the biggest, deepest feed bowl I had.
He scooted/flapped/toddled around a bit. His wing was looking normal. He had enough room to flap and fly, if he wanted – with a bit of tumbling and false start areas, too.
Like an offering to the BirdGods, I then took the huge feed bowl and put it on the shelf of the 14′ ladder and then placed the ladder so the bowl was right under the nest. Then I quietly walked out of the barn.
(As an aside… how does a baby ever learn to fly from THAT HIGH up in a barn roof? Seems like a bad place for a nest if you ask me.)
RACING TO THE INTERNET
Racing to the internet, I found this article…
Found a Baby in Need?
Many times, well meaning humans actually do more harm than good by trying to “save” wildlife that they think are in danger. There are also many “old wives tales” that are widely accepted as truth. We get in so many babies who really didn’t need to be “rescued”, but were going through the natural process of growing up.
If you do find a baby in need of rescue, please do NOT give it any food or water, as this could further compromise it’s condition. Place it in a safe, warm place, away from pets and children, and find a local rehabilitator to properly care for it.
NEVER feed cows milk, or any version of cow’s milk (such as half and half or heavy cream) to any animal.
This page is to give you some tips on how to know if an animal is in need of rescue and to explain a couple of old wives tales.
Old Wives Tale:
If you touch a baby the mother will smell the human scent on them and will reject or kill it. This is most commonly heard in reference to birds. The reality is, very few birds in the world have any sense of smell at all and those who do smell either do not live in the US, or use their sense of smell to find rotting flesh, so human smell would not really bother them. With mammals this is not true either. The mom may think their baby smells gross, and give it a huge bath, but she will not reject or kill it.
In most cases, the best help you can give to a baby is to put it back where its mother can find it.
When its time for babies to leave the nest, they are almost fully feathered and they do spend a lot of time on the ground, not able to get back to their nest. This is perfectly normal, it is how they learn. If you see a baby bird on the ground, who appears in need of help, unless it is in immediate danger of being killed by a predator, stay back and check on it from time to time to be sure mom is coming back to help it along. In most cases, mom is around and teaching this baby how to be a “big bird”. She and sometimes the father will call to the baby until it flies up to a short bush, until it can make longer and longer flights and eventually become a “big bird”.
If they are injured, or in immediate danger by a predator, then yes, it does need to be saved.
If the baby has no feathers, or just pin feathers, then try to find its nest and put it back in (mom cannot pick baby up and take it back to the nest). If you cannot find its nest, please call a rehabilitator.
You may wonder why some of our raptors have “Transferred to CRC” under their picture. The Carolina Raptor Center is one of the leading raptor facilities in the country. All of our raptors go there for “mouse school” and some for specialized care that we cannot provide. CRC is a wonderful facility, we are so happy that they are here to take care of so many raptors in need!
SO, I WENT BACK TO THE BARN TO SEE IF I COULD GET HIM HIGHER AND CLOSER – OR IF HE WAS EVEN STILL IN THE FEED BOWL…
The chick was not in the feedbowl.
He wasn’t on the ground.
He wasn’t anywhere.
I looked in the nest and I only saw one baby.
Ugh. This was not what I wanted to find.
But, Mama was quiet. She was staring at me.
Me: “Where is your baby?”
Mama Bird: “Never you mind!”
Me: “Please help your baby… I will feel terrible if he didn’t make it.”
Mama Bird: “Oh he made it. He’s squashed down here next to his brother… but he is grounded!”
And there he popped up – at least I think it was him… sitting next to his brother. I was surprised.
I thought I’d call him Stan.
I hope he grows up to HATE barn cats! And, I hope I never walk in on the barn cats doing their work ever again.