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Placing the Miracle Chick- Part 5

Thursday, June 10, 2021

On the frigid, rainy morning of April 29, I went out to check my boxes, leave mealworms on the roofs for the adults and stuff any young hatchlings with egg food. Then I made a beeline to R's house, to give Miracle Baby its first feeding out of the incubator. Oh, it was hungry, but it was strong, and I had a good feeling about this bird. As an embryo it had already been through so much. It wanted to live!

I fed it four times before creeping up to Warren 1 and slipping it in alongside five near-term eggs. I also included a pipping egg from the cold clutch, hoping it might hatch successfully. It was the best I could do. 

Here's how the hatchling looked the next afternoon, April 30. I was delighted to see it plump and pink. 

Four of Warren 1's five eggs wound up hatching on May 2. The pipping egg from the cold clutch died in the shell, not surprisingly. So our Miracle Baby would be three days older than its foster siblings. I had to have faith it would all work out, because at this point I was out of options. What a sigh of relief, to have my last orphan in good bluebird care.

Here are the newborn Warren 1's, with a great big Miracle Baby asleep on the upper left on May 2.

Here's Miracle Baby on May 5, with a couple of its foster siblings. Bigger, even showing the beginnings of pinfeathers on its wings, but not hideously out of the ballpark. I'm hoping for the best.

The bluebirds occupying Warren 1 are great parents--they're the ones who divebomb me every time I approach the box. But Mrs. Warren 1, I will aver, is a lousy nest builder. So while I was there checking on Miracle Baby, I took her brood and her crappy little nest out, and you could see right through the bottom of it!

The whole thing was crawling with chicken mites, too! Ack! This box seems always to host them. They likely hide in the crevices over the winter.

I put the babies in a white tissue nest while I drenched the box interior with Glass Plus and swabbed it out with paper towels, and made a fresh nest from dried tufted hairgrass that I gather in my meadow. While I worked, the mites on the chicks crawled off onto the tissues--don't know why they do that, but it always works! 
Then I replaced them in a nice cushy fresh grass nest, in a virtually mite-free box. Sigh of relief.

Speaking of sighs of relief, here's Roquefort Eddy, the tiny skinny orphan that Curtis sniffed, on April
30, surrounded by the infertile eggs of their foster mother. I removed them after I took this photo. 

THIS is a FAT baby bluebird! Here's Roquefort Eddy on May 2, growing like a weed!

Little Roquefort Eddy grew and grew, and by May 5, I could tell it was a boy. 14 days old here, and he got a new nest, too, because his had mites. That was a little tricky--he squawked and shrilled and leapt out of the box, whoops! Zick! Remember your own damn rules! I laughed and caught him, stuffed some paper towels atop him, finished cleaning the box and making the nest, and installed him in it. Just to be safe I stuffed the box opening with paper towels until I was sure he had settled down. Crept up, removed them--all was still. Roquefort Eddy stayed put. A successful, if way too late in the game, nest change!

Meanwhile, Roquefort's mother, who had abandoned the brood of 6 newly hatched chicks farther down the same road on April 21, had started over.
She's incubating 5 eggs as of May 12. Hey, no judgement, Mrs. Eddy. You have more sense than I do.
(And as I revise this on June 10, those eggs all hatched and have all fledged and she's feeding them. I'm going to bet she goes for Round 3. Wish her luck.)

I stopped at the little Methodist church and had a chat with my old friend Jeff, who'd put up the bluebird boxes I was now messing around with. I know he'd be bemused and amused and befuddled by my overcommittment to these birds. But he'd also be intensely interested, and learning right alongside me. He wouldn't read my blog, much as I wished he would, but oh, we'd be yakking. I miss those chats. I'm grateful I get to see his fine brother Jay now and then while I'm cruising the bluebird trail. We're both too busy, but we find time to catch up.

That's a bluebird box, a turkey, a John Deere, and a boombox on his stone--some of the things he loved. I adore the concept and the art on these storytelling stones.

Back home, I was actively subsidizing two more broods of bluebirds, the first to hatch on my trail. Here's how the oldest brood looked April 30. It was pretty easy to help them--I just walked out a few times a day, leaving a crock of mealworms on the roof of the box. The adults took care of the actual feeding. Man, they were happy to see me first thing on a wet, freezing, rainy morning! 

They still appear out of nowhere whenever they see me, hoping for mealworms. Their babies fledged on May 4 at the age of 19 days, and the adults are keeping them nearby, and were still accepting handouts as of May 12. It brings me joy to help them along. I'd much prefer warm nights and sunny days, and not having to buy mealworms by the 3,000 lot, but they're well worth the effort. I get my mealworms from Tim at   Always highest quality and fast shipping, and far more affordable than pet store worms!

In the yard, another box is fledging as I write on May 12, even with 32 degree night temperatures. You can be sure the adults are eager to see me pop out the door each morning!

And the Ritchie baby, left for dead by its mother on April 21? It's the big male at the bottom of this photo. Isn't that beautiful? He fledged along with his broodmates from the Hendershot nest somewhere around May 8. I still remember him, stone cold, but beginning to squirm in my bra on April 21. I call the incubator chick the Miracle Chick, but they're all miracles to me, surviving in this cruel spring.

My batting average--three chicks fostered and saved out of seven chicks and five eggs taken in--isn't anything to brag about. But I'm sure the additional broods I fed and subsidized are in far better shape than they would have been without the feedings. They may not have made it at all without the subsidy. 

 As much work as it's been--and it has been all-consuming--it is good and sweet and right to know there are bluebirds out there who wouldn't be on the earth without my help. I'm not sure I'd want to do this all again. Nah, I definitely don't want to have to do this again. 

But then again, with the weather the way it has been these past two springs, and my heart in the shape it's in, I'm not sure I have a choice. Sometimes it snows in April. 


Congrats, Julie. All that hard work paid off. I think I'd be doing the same thing if I had bluebird boxes and your skills and knowledge base. Just can't leave critters that can be helped to die if I can do something. (You can ask all the wildlife rehabbers in the of them called me a "repeat offender").

Good woman.

Nature's way is amazing! Thanks for the tip!

See, I knew you would be too busy saving something to worry about building that pond! I think your bluebirds needed you more. I am in awe of you passion for helping critters that you find or that find you.

So happy you shared this. I had no idea about all the ways that nature could be helped along. Love your blog, Julie, and so glad that you find time to keep doing it :-).

I thought about you this spring, while I saw that you were getting all that bad weather! I don’t know how you do all you do! All the property to take care of, writing, painting, being an ornithologist!!! I have a city lot that keeps me busy enough subsidizing my one family of bluebirds.

My biggest problem are the house sparrows this year! I bought one of those house traps and it actually worked. I caught the female then the male…they took off like “bats out of hell” when I opened the door. The interesting thing is, I took the nest I saved from last year and put it in a new Duncraft box that is supposed to discourage sparrows and they ended up using it instead of their old wood box that the sparrows were trying to take over. There’s 5 eggs ready to hatch any day!

I have a pretty intimate relationship with all my birds because of my smaller yard. My bluebirds come when I call with the mealworms. The mealworms are so expensive I decided to grow my own…They take longer then I thought to mature. Thanks for the info on where to buy them. I always learn something when I read your books and blog.

I have one more interesting family this year. Tell me if it’s not normal to have Wood Thrushes nest in city yards? They had 4 babies fledge from a nest in my bushes. They are the cutest birds to watch! The males was so melodious when he showed up earlier this spring!

Please feel free to stop by if ever you are in Lancaster, Oh. Not that you have time, but the invite is always open. I’m usually having a beer on the patio while the bluebirds eat their mealworms.

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