New Cardinal Family - Part 2 in Series

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Just wanted to shorten things up a bit with a new thread.

This is Part 2 In a Series that began with "Help With Expecting Mom": http://davesgarden.com/forums/t/584917/

However, she is now a full time mom, and I'm a birdie Grandma. (sort of)

The Saga Continues:

Today I came home to find Mr Cardinal busily tending and feeding the youngsters, even flying in near me. Later as I sat on my garden scooter mid arbor path, both Mom and Dad flew back and forth working double time trying to keep those little mouths filled! The arbor and nest were just down the path from me, and it was great to have them coming and going and feeding babies with me so close by. They seemed as comfortable as if I were not around. I loved it.

When I finished my work, I thought I'd grab a quick pic of the little darlings. I hadn't seen the parents for a little while, so I figured the coast was clear. I walked up to the arbor, and raised my camera to that one opening in front of the nest - you know, the one that borders all of the nest shots. Suddenly, camera raised, pointed, and only INCHES away, I was shocked into reality as I realized that Momma Cardinal was SITTING ON THAT NEST and looking right at me! And she didn't look frightened, didn't look poised to fly away, just looked like a pet, a friend, might look. I had just walked up and shoved my camera in her face! I could not believe it. My lens was 4" or less from her! And she didn't run away! I didn't want to risk all of that trust by setting off a flash in her face, so I lowered my eyes and my camera and slowly backed away.

I walked away giddy. That naive little girl who SO wanted to be friends with the animals lives on within me, and SHE IS SO HAPPY TODAY!


Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Ah, thanks, angele. Pass them around. Smokes, eh, I mean bubbles for everyone. It's almost certainly a boy and a girl, or two.

Just went out to walk the puppy a little while ago. I always like to peak around the corner for the familier site of mom on the nest. I can usually catch a glimpse of the red from her beak. Just to confirm that all is still well with the family. (I know, i know, Magpye, I worry too much, but it's a MawMaw's job.) Tonight I don't see her. Hope everything is ok. : (

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Above, I was joking around with Magpye, joking because in an earlier post she had told me to try to think positive. It seems I have fretted over every little thing, always fearing the worst. But we were joking, kidding around in our joy at being part of this wonderful experience.

And so it is now, with heavy, heavy heart, that I must tell you all that our babies really are gone. This morning I went out to check the nest. The mother was away. I peeked in and to my horror the nest was empty. In denial, I stood on tip toes trying to see deeper into the nest, trying to find them. Likewise, I looked about on the ground under the nest. But they are gone.

I know that DG's is supposed to be a happy and restful respite. And so I am very sorry to have to tell you this. I know that I am struggling with the stages of grief, mostly denial for now. Trying to figure out some explanation - like the parents moved them - that would explain their disapearance. But I fear that we all know the truth. The wild is a dangerous place.

Edited to correct spelling errors

This message was edited Apr 13, 2006 9:07 AM

Houston, TX(Zone 9a)

Oh, scutler... I'm so sorry!! :-(

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

After I wrote the above paragraph and before going to work, I could not resist the urge to go back to the nest, to check the ground. Still battling with denial, I went back. As I approached, the mother was flying away. I guess that she, too, is grappling with the stages of grief.

I found nothing. Nothing in the nest, Nothing on the ground. Nothing in the thicket. Not one clue to explain what happened. No blood, no fur, no feathers, not in the nest or on the ground or caught on a thorn. There was no sign of distress or of a struggle. The nest was not damaged or distorted, not a single piece of straw out of place. Nothing. No babies. No parents. No clues...

I am very sad. Sad for the loss of the adorable little cardinal babies, sad that they will not be growing up in my yard, learning to fly, leaving the nest, lining up at the feeder. Sad for the mom and dad who sang so loudly and worked so hard. Sad that this entire experience has come to such an abrubt end... even now when we were SO close to fulfilling the dream. Sad that my opportunity to get close to the parents is also gone. And very sad to think that they may not know that it was not I who harmed the little ones. Sad.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Thank you, Marylyn.

Even now, even as I know the awful truth, I keep hoping that someone will write in and tell me that sometimes cardinals move their babies - like dogs and cats do - when they fear they've been discovered. But I know that isn't true.

(((Scutler,))) I am so very very sorry. My first thought was are birds like cats? Do they move their babies?

I can tell you I am very glad for this thread because it brought me a lot of joy and helped me to know some of the nicest gardeners better. It is a fine & wonderful thread even with this sad middle. You are a joy to know and a very gifted writer.

Angele

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

thank you, angele, your words have meant a great deal to me both before and after today's tragic events. Your "name" is aptly chosen.

NW Qtr, AR(Zone 6a)

Awwww, Scutler ...

Am unable to get any words of consolation out thru my fingers .. Only to say that none of us, had even considered the crawly predators; the snakes .. for they would've had a very keen interest. Especially this time of the year ..

The snakes are definitely out and about, with an intensive drive to search and feed. Altho' it's a part of the (sometimes) 'rickity' balance of nature - but, it sure seems mitey unfair and horrifically cruel. Sometimes wish the good Lord could've managed to dull their senses a wee bit, ya know ..

Those varmints leave no trace of any kind .. and rose brambles would not have hindered their access, in any way.

I'm reaching (& hoping) in vain: but mite there be a small chance, that a neighborhood kid .. opted to come over, and take and use them for 'show & tell' .. ? ..

(((((mourning the loss with you and momma Cardinal, scut)))))

- Magpye

This message was edited Apr 13, 2006 9:04 AM

Tiller, OR(Zone 8a)

Aw, so very sorry! Nature is not always kind. Sharing your heartache.

The first time I had orioles hatch here I was so excited. Blasted bluejays raided the nest the day after hatching.

West Warwick, RI(Zone 6b)

Oh Scutler,
I'm so sorry to hear this news.
I'm sure that Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal, know that the kind heart that is you, would never have hurt their babies. Don't let this setback dash your hopes, I'd bet you a dollar you will see them in your garden and at the feeder, and I bet the second nest is being made near by.
To tell you the truth, they couldn't have picked out a better territory than your yard, what with all the water changin and seed and kindness you have shown them. Keep your chin up, you may still have the chance to befriend an entire Cardinal family.
Dena

Mississauga, ON(Zone 6a)

Very sad news Scutler ... we were all looking forward so much to watching them grow and learn. It's still early in the season and I'm wondering if mama and daddy will start another brood. Joan

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Magpye, Snakes. Oh, my I think that you are right. You know, I thought about those snakes the day that she 1st built the nest. I knew how much the black rat snakes had "dogged" the mockingbirds with their nests in the front yard. Then on the USGS site I read that mockingbirds kill snakes! (Those mockingbirds are some mean little dinosaurs. I've even seen them attack a cat.) I had thought about putting some of that snake repellent around the arbor. Then I decided I was being paranoid. Later with all the focus on raccoons, I forgot all about snakes. The USGS lists raccoons and snakes as the major predators of Cardinals.

You sound like me - trying so hard to find some other explanation. But, no, the part of my yard that I refer to as my garden is enclosed by a 6' privacy fence with a locked gate. Also, given the difficulty I had in just getting a camera aimed into the nest, I don't see how any human could have gotten the birds out without damaging something in the process.

Having that empty nest feeling : (

Thumbnail by DreamOfSpring
Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Oh, tigerlily, I share your pain. Our little cardinals lived just a few hours more than 3 days. They had not even opened their eyes yet. But, as hard as it is, I know that Magpye is right. It's all part of the cycle of life - and I'm trying really hard not to be angry with the snake.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Thank you, Dena, I do SO need to believe that they know that I didn't hurt their babies. Yesterday, I was so happy when I accidentally walked up to the mother cardinal and she just sat their looking at me so calmly. It was such a milestone in my relationship with the cardinals. I had walked up and stuck my camera right in her face and she had looked at me as if she had no fear that I would hurt her or them. Even when they came and went repeatedly feeding the babies in front of me, I knew that was an indicator that they did not perceive me as a threat. I would hate for anything to have changed that.

And today I felt so bad for them. Yesterday they had worked so hard to feed the little fellas...But, alas, it seems that, thankfully, unlike humans birds don't have time to sit around grieving for very long. This afternoon, as I was sulking about my garden, the loss of the cardinal family still weighing heavily on my mind, I could almost swear that I heard a click,click here and a click, click there. But I didn't see the cardinals anywhere, and that made me feel all the more sad. I wondered if they might move away from my garden altogether. I wondered if one of them had been killed with the babies. (Again, I forgot that I was supposed to thinK positive.)

I can't begin to tell you all how lonely the garden seemed without the presence of the cardinals, the babies in their nest with mouths open, the parents flying to and fro caring for the babies, living in the garden.

And then, hearing a bit of a ruckus, I walked into the clearing to see...the cardinals flitting about the garden, "playing tag"! A creature that only lives some 5-7 years can't afford to grieve for long, and they are wasting no time in starting the next group of nestlings! And they are still in my garden!

Thank you, Dena, for reminding me that I have been a good friend to them. I needed that right now. I've spent the day 2nd guessing myself with "Why didn't I's?" and "What if I'ds?". But you know, I neglected to mention (probably because I didn't want to sound like a nut) that yesterday I paid almost $20 for shipping to have live meal worms overnighted to me because I didn't want them to have to choose to let one of the little guys die if they couldn't find enough food for all of them. I only had roasted worms and while I had put them out I figured they were not appropriate for babies.

As much as I enjoyed their company, I hope that they will find a better place very near, but not in, my garden for their next family. I've done too good a job in making my habitat wildlife friendly and with all of the raccoons, snakes, opposums, squirrels, etc I would be afraid they'd loose yet another family. At this point, after a few weeks of worrying over this group, I'm surprised that any birds make it to adulthood.

What about a nest box with predator guard? I have a bluebird box that I haven't mounted yet. I also have the predator guard to keep snakes out. I could put a raccoon baffle on the pole. Do you guys think cardinals would use such a box? Any ideas?

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Thank you, Joan. In fact, as I mentioned above, the couple is already working on that with enthusiasm. It was nice to see them frolicing about. I'm trying to learn from them.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

One thing that I have learned from watching the animals - not just the cardinals - is how incredibly lucky we humans are, and how much we probably take all that for granted. When I think of how most of the animals and certainly the birds spend their entire lives 24/7 trying to delay the moment when they will be eaten alive, I just can't imagine a life like that. I can't imagine looking over my shoulder while I eat or drink or sleep, always having to be on the lookout for some creature that wants to make me into dinner. When a gunman shoots up a restaurant we are appauled (as well we should be, don't get me wrong!) because no one should have to face death to get a burger. But contrast that to the lives of birds and deer and wildlife in general. That's the norm for them. They go out to eat each day fully expecting to be in mortal danger. Whew. We have it good fellow humans! We have it so very good indeed!

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Now with all this sadness, I'd like to turn things around for a moment and relay to you an event that I left out earlier because with the cardinal family growing in leaps and bounds there was never time. Now I must appologize as this is not about the cardinals, but it relates to their saga if only loosely.

Remember the day when the mockingbirds were in the arbor, frolicing about with their own spring enthusiasm? As I was standing there scolding them for bothering Mrs Cardinal, an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail was flitting about the area from flower to flower. Apparently the butterfly became too focused on the plethera of roses before him and failed to see the 2 mockingbirds perched atop the arbor and amidst the roses. In an instant, as the butterfly ventured too close, one of the mockingbirds snatched him right out of the air. I had never seen anything like this before and had never considered that the sweet little birds might be eating the lovely butterflies. At any rate, the whole thing happened so fast, but I can still see the butterfly's wings fold and begin to collapse as the mockingbird pulled him in....and then, in an instant, just as quickly as the bird had caught him the butterfly flew away - free from the predator, free to live another day, free to continue his trek through the garden from flower to flower.

I marveled at what I had seen, how quickly it had all happened, how the picture of the folding wings stuck with me. Pondering all of this, I could only imagine that the butterflies wings had torn and thus freed him from the deadly clutch of the bird. I hoped that he had not suffered fatal wounds.

Sunday, shortly before the birth of the 1st baby bird, as I was in the garden taking photos, I tried in vain to get a picture of a butterfly. For some odd reason, he was extremely unwilling to let me get at all close to him as he visited the flowers. Finally, I settled for a quick pic from across the yard as he settled on the blooms of the small crabapple tree. I had not expected much to come of such a distant shot.

Later that evening as I downloaded my pics, I was surprised at the crisp focus of that off-hand and distant butterfly pic (shown below).

Thumbnail by DreamOfSpring
Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

As I rather liked the photo, I tried my luck at zooming in closer. Again pleased, I got the photo below. As I was marvelling at the beautiful pattern of the tiger swallowtail, I suddenly noticed an annomally in his stripes...or was it...I looked closer, thinking it must be a mirage perhaps due to overlapping of part of the wing...but, no, it was really there...and then I realized that this was, in fact, the same butterfly that had managed to escape from the beak of the mockingbird only a few days prior. Look closely, and you will see the "bite" missing from the bottom portion of the wings and some holes on the right wing.

He made it!

Thumbnail by DreamOfSpring
Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

And, finally, my very heartfelt THANKS to all of you for following this thread, for taking time out from your busy day to spend time with us, for writing in to let me know that you were there and that you were enjoying the saga, for caring about the lives of all the little creatures that dwell among us, for sharing your own stories of baby birds that have come into your lives, and for being there to console me even as we have witnessed the harsh realities of what life in the wild is really like.

Sheryl

Bartlesville, OK(Zone 6a)

Oh scutler, I was late getting to this thread, eagerly opening it to watch the babies.

Now I am sitting here with tears streaming down my face and wishing there was something I could say to make you feel better.

The butterfly story is wonderful! We had the same thing happen once to a cardinal nest that was made in a tomato plant. I was taking pictures every day and one day there weren't any babies. Just gone, it was so sad. But we still have cardinals all over, more so than ever. They will have more babies.

That doesn't ease the pain of the moment however, and I do share your grief!

Susan
=^..^=

Cedar Rapids, IA(Zone 5a)

Oh, Scutler - Couldn't get on yesterday, and so got here this morning - and rushed to this thread for an update! The beautiful notes from all us DG'ers express my thoughts and feelings for you (and us) so well that I'm speechless beyond their expressions. The joy, the pride, the love, the devastation, the anger, the acceptance, the hope. The circle of life. The family of life. - DG -

Becki

(Zone 5a)

Scutler, I am so sorry and so sad that ''our'' family ended just like that. I guess something got them because a bird can't move her young. I just can't believe we won't know the sex or the joy of seeing them perched on the nest ready to fly. The cardinals will be busy building another nest, so maybe you will find it too. Our story can't end now!

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Susan, Becky, billy, thank you all for your condolences. I was pretty bummed yesterday but am doing much better today. The garden still seems somehow empty without them. It is amazing how quickly they became such an important part of the garden; afterall, only a month ago they were not there. I didn't seem so empty then. Odd.

This evening I was taking photos in the garden. I was on the far side away from the feeder. At one point I was sitting amidst some large, arching pink english roses just across the rose hedge from the arbor path. I heard that signature click, click sound and turned to see the male cardinal sitting on a white lady banks rose beside the arbor and amazingly close by. I was so happy to see him, but I thought it odd that he had come over there so near me when the feeder and bird bath were on the other side of the garden. (Remember, at the start of this thread I had to go inside so that he could get to the feeder to eat each evening!)

A few minutes later I decided to go inside. As I rounded the curve in the arbor path, I saw the female at the feeder, eating. Not wanting to risk scaring her away, I sat down on a nearby bench. She continued to eat for a while even though the dog and I were in full view.

It seems that all is not lost. The cardinal pair are still in the garden every day, and they still seem to be quite comfortable around me - far more so than the day i started this thread. It seems I have at least not lost the "ground" I'd gained with them. We are still friends.

Sheryl, the butterfly saga is amazing! Poor thing but I think it is so neat that you saw it & were able to know he was ok after his horrible experience.
I feel so happy knowing the cardinals were playing in your yard so soon! :))))) It sounds like everyones heart is healing

Big cyber hugs... angele

edited for spelling , sheesh wish I could speel.

This message was edited Apr 14, 2006 7:10 PM

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

I thought about this issue today (at work). I've decided to get a few nest boxes, mount them on very solid poles anchored in concrete, add predator guards to the openings and racoon baffles around the poles. I won't be able to do it anytime real soon, but I should be able to have them ready for next year at the very least. I figure that would give any birds that want to nest in my garden the best hope for safety from all of the predators that also call my little garden home.

And on that note, speaking of birds that might want to nest in my garden...

I've been hearing a lot of chirping around the front door. I've seen a pair of house finches in the crepe myrtle next to the door and some other teenie tiny birds chirping a lot. Today as I walked up, I saw this piece of glass on the mat.

Edited for typos

This message was edited Apr 14, 2006 9:09 PM

Thumbnail by DreamOfSpring
Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

I looked around to see where this chunk of glass had come from. I looked at the door and those narrow "windows" on either side of it. Whew! No breaks. Then I remembered the HUGE glass window ABOVE the front door - it covers the whole 2nd story area over the door. I held my breath as I looked up there, fearing the worst....and look what I saw...oh, btw, that's 22' UP over the mat at the front door!

Thumbnail by DreamOfSpring
Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

I couldn't make it out too well from way down below, so I took my camera and zoomed in as close as I could...
That is my light fixture. Again, it is 22' up. The glass is broken, and there is a BIRD's NEST in it. Well, I don't know what bird did this. I will have to keep the porch light OFF so I don't cook them. But I don't think Mr Snake can make it up there!

Thumbnail by DreamOfSpring
Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

I just hope the nest and eggs or babies or whatever don't FALL down from the weight - now that they've broken the glass!

Edited to add that it is heartwarming to see that so very many of my little feathered friends are interested in calling my home their home. Oh, and about that 22' high fixture, I don't think we're going to get a lot of good photos of that group.lol. Don't ask me how I'm going to change the bulb either. The same bulb has been up there for 5 years. I figure when it burns out, I'll have to move.; )

This message was edited Apr 14, 2006 9:14 PM

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Hi angele,

I'm glad that you enjoyed the butterfly story. I wasn't sure if it was too soon, but after seeing the cardinal couple "flirting" in the garden yesterday, I felt that we should try to follow their lead. They don't seem to be dwelling on the heartache. Yesterday, when I saw them frolicing about, clearly working on their next brood, I thought it ironic that I was sulking while they were moving on with their lives.

I am very thankful that they are still visiting my garden and still seem comfortable with my presence.

NW Qtr, AR(Zone 6a)

(((scutler .. nothing is ever lost, in love .. or with the love of nature)))

It isn't always happy endings .. but it sure provides for many a blissful moment to share and some of the dandiest entertainment, and teaches us many lessons along the way ...

Again .. it may not offer much consolation: but I'm glad natures critters aren't like us human 'beans'. Nature will work toward immediate alternatives: while [our] 'nature' consists of generally .. moan, groan, gripe and belly-ache about our unpleasantries, and for much too long a period ... (hee)

((huggerooners))

- Magpye

Edited: to add that I've not, in any way, meant to insinuate that you are belly-aching, Scutler!!! Please, forgive me, for not clarifying my goofy remark, first-hand. You, are entittled to the concern, grief, and 'fretting' from your love for your garden critters, scut - very much entittled! ((huggs))

This message was edited Apr 16, 2006 10:03 AM

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Oh, Magpye, you are SO right! When I was moping about the garden AND feeling sorry for the poor cardinals, I was shocked (and even found it oddly amusing) to see the cardinals frolicing playfully through the garden all caught up in a new love affair, clearly enjoying the moment, and having let go the sadness of the previous day's events. And they DID teach me something that day - in addition to all that I had learned from them already.

I've noticed that I hear the cardinal's talking any time I go outside. I suspect that they have a nest nearby, possibly in the edge of the forest at the back of the property. They continue to come to the feeder daily, and continue to show diminished fear of me and a willingness to come to the feeder/garden even when I am nearby. As I have tried for years to gain their trust, this makes me very happy.: )

BTW, yesterday morning I was surprised to find a BLUEJAY in my garden. I had not seen one for maybe a year or more. Later that same day, a hawk flew/glided very low over the arbor area. In the past, I have seen hawks gliding very high overhead from time to time apparently on the lookout for birds at the feeder. I have never seen one come in so low. Hmm.

Did you see my other nest above? It's not the cardinals. I think it may be a house finch or siskin as I keep seeing them in the area. They are not doing much for my light fixture. Now I have to tell visitors that I can't turn the light on because I don't want to cook the birdies - which get me a lot of strange looks. I hear a lot of chirping up there so think whatever is up there has hatched.


Moab, UT(Zone 6b)

Of course you hafta leave the light off. And the glass musta already been cracked. It's probably finches [sparrows] as they seem to love being up under the eaves. 'Spin's made their nest in her jasmine vine up under the eaves... and we got to watch the fledglings.

(Zone 5a)

Scutler, it's nice to see the thread keeps going. It's so gratifying to know we have provided places for wildlife to feed, drink and nest. Makes a person feel more alive.

Greenville, SC(Zone 7a)

Scutler, So sorry to hear about the 'missing babies', It's so sad that that's how a lot of good stories come to an end in the world of wildlife, but there are many who make it too.
In the years that I have lived where I'm at now, I've put up many, many birdhouses, ( I have at least 30 up now) But have never had a cardinal nest in one nor ever heard of a cardinal using a nestbox ( But I always say there can always be an exception) But I do think it's a great idea that you have decided to put up some nest boxes, Especially if your going to use the baffles and such, I'm sure you will get some familys that will move in!
I hope that you soon get to see what kind of bird you have in your light fixture, I'm not sure about what birds you have there, But here, The Eastern Phoebe likes to use those kind of spots.
Of all the birds that nest here throughout the year, I'd have to say that the robins always pick the worst spots! I have one right now that built a nest on one of the arbors we have, The arbor was just put up last year and I don't really have anything climbing it yet so the nest is 'Totally Exposed'! The best I'll be able to do is put my motion activated scarecrow water squirter at the bottom of the arbor, It should deter anything thats walking close by, But, A snake would be another story, The only good thing about it, Is that it's kind of in the open, So a snake would have to travel across an open area to reach it and thats something I've noticed they don't like to do, So I'm hoping it helps.
I'm sure you will have some new young-ins soon and new adventures in the garden through the season, So keep us up-dated when you can and lets us know how things are going!

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

Sorry nothing much going on. The cardinals still visit the feeder several time each day. In the mornings they are waiting for me to bring the feeder out (I have to take it in to discourage the raccoon). They continue to be more trusting. They come to the feeder when I am very close by. One day I accidentally walked right up on the female while she was at the feeder and I was walking around, working, and not paying attention to such things.

But, alas, so far no nests or babies discovered. They are most likely in the edge of the adjoining forest. I hope they have greater success this time.

Here, BTW, is one of those BlueJays that I don't have in my garden or at my feeder. lol

Thumbnail by DreamOfSpring
Pittsburgh, PA

DreamofSpring, THANK YOU SO MUCH for sharing all this with us!
It was so obvious, from the very first post, that you care deeply about all the critters.
Thank you!

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

You are very welcome, crittergarden,

I do care very much for animals of all types, and I can't begin to tell you how much I enjoyed sharing my garden with the birds during those years. I felt so genuinely honored when the cardinal built her nest in my arbor and so heartbroken when the baby birds were lost.

If you are interested, I have a few other bird related stories on here somewhere - and some other animal stories. There are 2 or 3 threads about a titmouse we ultimately dubbed Mr T and a thread I started one day when I found a baby mockingbird sitting alone in a small shrub, no nest nearby, and wrote to ask if anyone knew why he would be sitting there all alone and whether I should do anything to help him or just leave him alone.

Sadly, as I mentioned on the other thread, at this time I am not feeding the birds. It was a difficult but necessary decision born primarily of health problems along with problems caused by rats being attracted to the plethora of free BOSS and snakes attracted to both rats and birds. I like to think of myself as taking a temporary sabbatical rather than quitting altogether.

Pittsburgh, PA

Yes, a sabbatical.
I'm thinking of getting a few chickens (for the eggs) and while I was scheming I felt confident I could keep predators out of the coop - THEN I read a forum about mice and rats and the subsequent snakes. Not to mention lice, mites, and fleas! I'm still xcheming though. Studying up on how to prevent the little pests as well as the big ones.

Charleston, SC(Zone 9a)

crittergarden,

You are very smart to research and plan ahead this way. I usually just go blindly forward - and stumble a lot. I live adjacent to a forested area which I think exacerbated the rat problem as did the cover provided by my then very lush, full cottage garden. I'm not sure if there is any way to provide food for birds while keeping rats from sharing in the bounty. The various weight sensitive feeders designed to keep squirrels at bay may work depending on the weight of the rat. If you do end up with a rat (and bird) population (attracted to the food), you will almost certainly end up with snakes, as well. Such a tasty food supply will surely attract potential diners.

To add additional perspective, one of the rats ended up building a nest under the hood of my car where she chewed up the wiring harness and damaged the car's main computer all of which cost me some $600+ in repairs. The mechanic (as well as many DG'ers) told me this is actually a common occurrence, although the repair bill is usually much higher (I have an older car and agreed to used/off brand replacement parts). I didn't see any sign of rats before I started feeding the birds, and I don't see any now that I've stopped. It's sad that this is the case.

As to snakes, if you are thinking rat and garter varieties, think again. Although I did see some of these early on, in short order a copperhead took up residence in my backyard - or at least became a frequent diner. Over the 5 or so years during which I fed the birds, I ran across the copperhead no less than 1x per year and often more.

I can't tell you how much I miss the birds. At one time my yard was so full of birds that some were even sparring over turf. Year after year, mockingbirds claimed the large wax myrtle trees on either side of my front door for roosting, for their nests, and for food. Doves nested (for years) in the foundation hedges near the wax myrtles. Sparrows nested annually in the front door light fixture. I kept a birdbath under the wax & crepe myrtles in the front foundation beds, and birds were there in the small trees pretty much constantly. They 'greeted' me each day when I drove up in my car and walked past them on the front walkway.

The back cottage garden was home year round to many birds including several cardinal families and a bluebird family and was regularly visited by indigo buntings and bright red and black tanagers. There were nests all over the back and front yards, and it was pretty much impossible to go outside during daylight hours without being in the company of birds. One titmouse even started landing on my head when I was working in the garden. Even thinking of the beauty (and company) they added to my little garden makes me miss them all over again. If you find a way to keep those chickens w/o attracting rats, please let me know.

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