Posts Tagged ‘Pets’


Posted: January 1, 2018 in Chat
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000_0190    Sand-bath time!

These are our pride and joy.
They were both supposed to both be hens: bantams. That’s what we asked for; they were to keep our found-hen company.
That was Pearl.
She was wandering down our road (we once had a tiny flock of twittering game birds – quail – pass through. They all must have flown down from the hills, and the game centres there, somewhere). I saw her one afternoon on a neighbours’ low shed roof, and a local cat was stalking her. Donning my superhero costume I was out, and rescued the fair maiden.
She had cat-scratches on her legs, but was otherwise ok.

Pearl was my special friend.
She would come looking for me, especially in the evening, roosting-time. She would look up at me in my chair; I’d pat the chair arm, and she would flutter up, then walk up my arm to my shoulder, shuffle in under my hair, against me. She’d flick my hair over her, like a wing, then nestle. Until she got too hot, then ‘d have to go somewhere cooler.

Originally we got her a small batch of rescue-hens for company. She would keep challenging them, though, in a ‘I was here first’ type of way; they would just pick her up by her comb, and she’d dangle helpless.
The rescue-hens we have kept have not lived too long. Their livers are usually too badly damaged through over-rich feeds of that first year of intensive farming, to produce their ‘right type’ eggs.

Pearl was extremely fragile and nervous; her egg-laying times were a nightmare. She was prone to fits at those times. Giving her medicine on one such occasion caused her to have a heart-attack. She died as we tried to make her well.


She died, and… these two are still here.
And as you can see, he is anything but a hen.

As bantams, they are only tiny: 18 inches long, and high. The cockerel was very sick when he arrived – it took months of all manner of nursing to bring him round. And full of fleas – it also took many months to fully rid him of those, and their eggs.

We had them outside in a coop, but neighbourhood cats took an interest: just snack size.
The crunch came when we looked out the window to check on them one day, and there was a hawk standing squeezed up against the bars, head through, looking in greedily, while they quivered in fright at the back.


And you wouldn’t believe how mischievous they are – the hen in particular. Is there a rule says the smaller they are the naughtier they are?100_0143

And noisy. When they want something, either food or just a bit of attention, she cries and each time it gets louder, then louder again, and so on until we respond. He just shouts – being small, it is a piercing shout that can be heard everywhere.

The more we chat with them, the more they respond in kind – the cockerel (name omitted for privacy) actually copies our syllables. Very touching, that.
Also touching is how he looks after the hen: whenever he finds food he stands back and clucks continuously until she comes over. He often misses out, if she eats it all. Whenever I bend to their level he stands before her, challenging, and warding me off.

If anyone is considering keeping some bantams – they are great fun – be warned: they are difficult to feed. It has taken us literally years to find a food they will accept and eat. And they now eat with relish, where before we were constantly worrying over them: Garvo Alfalfa Feed for Chickens.

Our pride and joy.


Posted: January 11, 2015 in Chat
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It starts off a little complicated. A neighbour called us: they had found a young crow in their garden, could we take it?
Ok, we’ll give it a go (!?).

He got strong and well, so we contacted a bird centre to take him and slowly re-introduce him to the wild.
Then we got a phone call: ‘The crow you brought in is going to have to be put down….’ So we dashed down by bus and taxi. There he was as fit as anything in a cage; but on the floor was this poor scraggly one with hardly any wing feathers and far too small. She had parasites which had permanently stunted her growth.
Mistaken identity of course. But could we leave this one to be put down?
Of course not (!?).2013-05-18 14.00.19

We have had her about ten years now.
I built a small aviary – we insisted she be outside for her health. She values that independence.
We treated her for the parasites, fed her by hand every two to three hours during the day. My wife got up early and helped her practice and build up confidence getting airborne. New feathers grow only once a year.
It paid off, she can fly now – not well enough to be released. And her beak grows twisted if not regularly clipped. We have since taught her to wear it down herself.

Meet our crow.

2013-05-18 13.59.11
Over time she has had companions come and go. Other crows – other fed-by-hands but in the end released – and, a mistake this, a jackdaw. Her calls bring wild crows down; we put food on the top of her aviary so she can have company.  Now she has a regular but small and changing clientele.
They change because, alas, in the wild they do not live too long due to predators, which includes humans with guns. Also when new crows are born they are chased off once capable of feeding themselves.

She had a very playful period – loved anything blue. Also yellow for a period. We gave her blue paper; it always ended up in her water dish. We gave her blue aquarium pebbles, they were stowed away in little holes everywhere. Then we would see her carry them around in her beak to another safe hole.

She would utter soft calls when she wanted us, and very soft trills when she was happy with what we had done for her. She also shouted at us full in the face if we were late or forgetful.
If no crow friends come down to see her for ages she also can get rather annoyed and shout blue murder at them.

She now has a bigger aviary.


I surprised myself: I have never been craft-handed, and it is only basic, but… yes, I think I did a good job.


The step ladder is for the feeding the wild crows on the top. We get spotted now when we are in the garden, and called at from trees if they want feeding.

The side cover is to protect from cats and bad weather. Bad weather is all very well when you are a fully grown and robust crow, but when you’re not…. One Winter we had to bring her in. Ice had thawed then refrozen in her feathers against her skin: my wife woke up in the early hours of the morning with the sudden thought she needed us. She was right.
She adapted to indoor life well, probably remembered her first few months as we nursed her: crows have long memories.

They are also very clever.
She has a shallow plastic bath she bathes in. We fill it and she toddles over, sits on the side; we say Here’s your water, and it is as though she tries to copy our speech, definitely a Water there. And she snaps it as it flows in, playing with the stream. It’s a joy to watch her bathe – goes everywhere, but it’s great fun.


She won’t like me telling you this, but, ten year’s on, and she still likes the night supper feed by hand. After dark, of course, when none of the other crows can see. Warmed drinking water in the Winter, and a little time spent with her before she settles down properly for the night.

Pigeons – For Whom the Telephone Rings

Posted: August 3, 2013 in Chat
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We have this long-standing agreement with the local Vet – if there is anything small, preferably feathery, they are having difficulty placing or need help with… we’re here.

So, I got a phone call.

I was tired, didn’t want to take anything else on. I made this plain, but said I’d have a look anyway. It was tiny, a baby pigeon someone had picked up off the floor. It should not really have been out yet. ‘It’d be no trouble, something that small.’ I thought. Brought it home.

We snuggled it down in an old cat carrier, with a warming mat underneath. We built up a higher and higher roosting platform, as it got stronger. Pigeons don’t seem to like roosting low down.

Authorities had recommended baby foods, so we tried this, that – didn’t take to them. Rice definitely not. Then we came across Egg Food: Quiko Classic Eggfood. Excellent. Never without it these days.

Ok, feeding him up – every four hours throughout the day, though: hold him lightly but securely with one had while with the other roll a small bolus of egg food, grain and grit, then prise open his beak and push as far back as comfortable so that he has to swallow it. Otherwise it gets shaken free and spat out. Sometimes stroking his throat downwards aids the swallowing. To check it is actually down there and not spat out all over the place (!) you can tell by finding and then checking how full his crop is getting. Not a natural way for a bird to feed or be fed, but needs must.

Pigeons are one of those birds that drink by sucking, as opposed to say, hens, crows, blackbirds etc who fill their beaks then lift to drain it down. No, pigeons drink like us. And don’t they drink!

Over the weeks his beak changed shape from a flatter bumpy light coloured beak to more grown up dark and adult. His nostrils actually seemed to retreat down his beak from about half way, to the base. He lost his yellow baby fluffy look. Our boy was growing up.
His feathers were a bit of a mess, with food stuck here and there. We tried to bathe him. We eventually managed to clean him up. He got the hang of it and started his own grooming. And bathing – they love bathing. It goes everywhere but that’s the fun of it. It is, isn’t it?

He hasn’t grown very big, though. Usually stunted growth is due to parasites at an early age. He had been checked and found to be free. It probably means he was a runt or has something a bit askew.

So, growing up meant he was readyfor big-boy food. We actually had to teach him how to take on large seeds from pigeon feed. Online sources recommend we start him on peas and sweetcorn. Frozen, then thawed but not warm or hot. We got him to take these easily enough.

The difficult bit, the most risky time, is when he has to learn for himself how to manipulate food from his beak tip to the back to be swallowed. No easy thing; it involves correct use of tongue in combination with slight throws back up the beak. While all this is going on they’re out of the nest, so early flying lessons and independent eating are going on concurrently.

We got it right.


Then one of us came home a few days before Christmas with a little bundle: another one! This one was drenched to the skin in freezing December rain and sleet. It seemed he had given up. Warmth and food did the trick. The same procedures all over again: every four hours during the day with the egg food, then getting the big stuff down. Then the risky times.

Ok, now there are four!

I had said No, that’s enough! Then the Vet rang that first time.

Beware for whom the telephone rings – it rings for you, your time and your patience