Weekends are building and repair days at Pandemonium. I am hopeless when it comes to installing or repairing anything. I do, however, have a wonderful handyman. I initially hired him for one weekend. That was three years ago and while I keep promising that “I need just one/max two” more weekends of help, I am as addicted as any substance abuser to having my fix. In my case, it’s fixing all of the zillion of things that break down/need changing/ don’t work right/ have been destroyed by rodents/simply too ugly or too unsafe for the birds. You can imagine, therefore, how grumpy I was when I got the call early this morning informing me that the person who was going to tackle my list of t0-dos wasn’t feeling well and would not be able to come. I usually can exhibit some grace when I am disappointed and I almost always manage to suppress my own need if someone has a greater one, but in this case, I simply couldn’t rally. I was not particularly sympathetic when the man I had waited for all week told me he had a bad stomach . “Are you sure?” I asked. He groaned. “I have a big, unopened bottle of Pepto,” I offered. He did not respond. “Will you at least send your helper?” I asked.
He assured me that the helper was already on the way. I then managed to eek out a half way believable, “We’ll be fine,” but I only got the first word out before he hung up. He knows me; I’ve talked him out of attending family birthday parties, picking his in-laws up at the airport… I once even got him to postpone surgery for three weeks by insisting he get a second opinion before he went under the knife.
I admit it. I’m a terrible person. I try, however, not to be a terrible bird keeper.When birds need something, they need it right away. One of the things that I wanted to tackle this weekend was getting more light into the Victoria Crown Pigeon aviaries. That meant removing some tree limbs, replacing part of a plexi-glass roof panel with wire and taking off some protective sheeting.
I explained this to my carpenter’s assistant, a very sweet man named Jose. “We have to do this right away because the birds are going to nest soon. I’ve seen them checking out the nesting sites and we don’t have much time. I’ll show you what needs to be done,” I assured him. However, when we got to the aviary, the birds were already sitting on a cement pedestal bird bath. Several weeks ago I placed wooden chopsticks in the bowl, hoping they looked like sticks and therefore would be acceptable nest material for the birds. It had worked.
However, birds sitting on eggs can’t be disturbed. Therefore, we would have put off getting more light into the aviary for months: at least one month of incubation and then another month of feeding the baby.
“Can’t do it,” I told Jose. “We missed the window.”
He went off to do some painting and I continued feeding birds when I noticed the Crowns were off their nest.
I ran to get Jose. “Now. We have to do it now!” I insisted.
We both gathered the tools he would need and returned to the aviary. The birds were back on the nest.
This went on three more times. The next time I told him, “Let’s go now,” good natured Jose was ready to use the trimming tools on me. We were in luck, however. The birds were off the nest and they hadn’t laid yet.
One of the first things that needed to be done was to trim a tree that is inside of the aviary. In the interests of efficiency we decided I would do this while he trimmed a big oak that was on the outside.
I entered the aviary with some apprehension. The birds are not tame and I seldom go inside because they panic and sometimes bang into walls or ceiling and hurt themselves. This time, however, they stayed calm. They retreated to the back of the aviary and watched me. I glanced over to the nesting area and was appalled at what I saw. The chopsticks I had placed there looked as if they had mildew. Certainly this could not be good for either egg or parent. In addition to the sticks were a few dead leaves. We keep the aviary so clean that the poor birds had only been able to gather a few measly nesting materials.
Their need for more material became even more clear when I began tree trimming. The birds could not have been more interested. Instead of exhibiting their normal fear, they walked over to the growing pile of leaves and branches and sorted through one. The male selected a large branch with several leaves on it. He started to smash it against the ground to make it smaller but couldn’t. After he dropped it, I reached over with my long handled pruning shears and cut the branch exactly where he had indicated he wanted it cut.
The transformation of this pair of “wild and untamed” aviary birds was nothing less than remarkable. In lieu of their customary fear, they treated me as their helper. They each selected branches that had potential, showed me where to cut or trim then and then stood back and waited for me to do their bidding.
This partnership went on for almost two hours. When we were done, the pair had more than enough material to construct their house.
I was simultaneously exhausted and elated. I hadn’t realized before that I was this couple’s only handyman. Here they were, wanting to have a baby, needing a home and minus critical construction help. Insensitive me had been missing in action for far too long.
Guess I’m both a terrible person and a terrible bird keeper. I do, however, have potential as gardener. While I don’t mow or blow or even plant well, I did quite a nice job of trimming the aviary tree.