1/1/17: A New Home

It’s been a lovely, peaceful week. Bryn has mostly recovered from her near-death experience, but she’s certainly thinner, and her left front leg sports a four-inch high bare-skin area that looks odd. But who cares? The IV infusion line there saved her life. 
By the way, hundreds of readers from as far away as Australia, England and Canada sent me caring notes- far too many to individually respond to, but please know that I deeply appreciated your thoughtfulness. You made those terrible few days bearable. 

We’re fattening her up with a bit more of her special kibbles and perhaps a few more bowel-friendly treats... 
She loves the attention. 

Since bringing Bryn-dog home from the hospital we’ve acquired three new guests: our younger daughter Lisa has entrusted her budgerigars, BB, Gray and Daffy- to our care until mid-March. (She’s in Rome, Italy helping a University of Michigan friend excavate an ancient Roman temple. Oh, boy!) 

The birds have always settled nicely into Sunnybank’s front bedroom during other weekend visits. But now they’ll be residents for a long time. so we’ve covered the twin beds with heavy 6ml plastic tablecloth covers and removed anything that might injure or entangle these tiny creatures. 

One problem: their regular traveling cage was small. Yes, they’re out of their cage a lot, flying about the room, and landing on us. But their acidic poo leaves tiny white scars on the wine-red carpet, and when Joe and I want to leave them we must set aside about half an hour, and offer a millet bribe, to get them properly caged again. (Lisa has a fine cage downstate, but it wasn’t possible to haul it up to Traverse City. So, we’d need to figure out how to provide proper exercise and stimulation, but never leave them untended in the bedroom, where they could get into trouble. 

It was an interesting challenge. 
I would put my mind toward designing a solution. 

I began to research big aviary designs that would allow the birdies almost the same freedom they enjoy when free in the big bedroom. With a large enclosure, I wouldn’t worry that one tiny soul might scramble underneath the 6 ml plastic laid on top of the carpet...(Budgies are soooo curious. It would be easy to step on one as I walked in. And, one could fly out the door, too, if I wasn’t quick enough entering or leaving.  They’d fly around, confused and cold, and eventually roost in some impossibly high place where I’d never find them. They could freeze to death in the night. The heat’s turned down to 50 then. 
It took hours to find them the last time I babysat a few years ago. (Click here to read the chapter called: Lost!

So, I thought, let’s begin. 
I went online to investigate big bird cages. One giant beauty was black, round, and had a door. It could be disassembled if one was patient, and didn’t mind the tedious task of rebuilding it elsewhere. But it cost $4,000.00! No way!  I needed a structure that would dismantle quickly for transport or storage. One that was truly affordable. Out came pencil and paper. I sketched a long, high rectangle with a tinker toy-like frame using white PVC poles at each end. Les could secure window screen to a simple wooden frame, and the birds could climb all over the structure. PVC elbows would join up the poles. No screwing. No gluing. No pain, financially. Quick up, quick down. easy access for cleaning.... I could tip it to vacuum underneath, or, Les could fashion a hinged window to I’d open to make cleaning easy.) 

The long pipes, elbows, window screen and thick visqueen were duly purchased. But it was quickly apparent that regular window screen, designed to block flies and mosquitoes, wouldn’t do for birds. 

Maybe Tractor Supply would offer wire-y half-inch square hardware cloth... 
Joe and Les wandered the aisles, then stopped in their tracks and gasped! There, on sale for $189.00, was a beautiful, well built, rot-proof chicken coop, complete with hardware cloth. Gorgeous! It even boasted a shingled roof. The whole thing-  6’d x 5’h x 4’w- would take one hour to assemble, the box cover assured us. Just screw each section together. Everything was included. 

The other stuff was immediately returned to Home Depot. 

Les screwed that classy chicken house together right up in the bedroom while the birdies watched. In an hour, as promised, he’d finished. 

It was--- almost perfect. Light years better than the tiny cage, but still...not quite right. It wanted modifications. We tossed out the heavy asphalt roof, as this cage would never go outside, and in its place set two rectangular hardware cloth screens attached to wooden frames, with simple hinges so the roof would fold for transport. Finally, we raised the whole coop three feet higher, also using 4 slim wooden frames and more hardware cloth. 

Now, it was absolutely PERFECT. Airy. High. Aesthetically pleasing. 

Then, I dragged a large (6ft) branch upstairs that had three offshoot branches, which would lend an outdoor feel. It had blown from my giant tulip tree out back during a recent windstorm. 

What a hit! The birds LOVE it. Ignoring their cage they roost on that branch all night long, rub their beaks on it, walk up and down its length. There is still plenty of room to fly around in there. 

Every day for a couple of hours we open the coop’s three doors so the budgies can fly happily around the room, or sit on our heads and listen to our silly songs. Birds are fascinating creatures. They chat, groom, argue, sing, share meals, play ‘follow me’ and cheerfully fly back into their roomy house for a millet treat when we leave. 

Bryn sits on the floor watching with great interest as we interact with BB, the most social bird. Bryn seems to enjoy BB’s incredibly diverse repertoire of cheeps, and cocks her head in amazement when BB lands on our heads and grooms our eyebrows. 

Here we are, three utterly different species, who are: 
-eager to learn each others’ preferences, 
-willing to listen to, and try to understand, the many different sounds that make up our different, complicated languages, 
-happy just to be together, as friends.


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