Saturday, December 7, 2013

Unplanned Parenthood

There's a story here, isn't there always?

Last summer Mrs Dr. C was driving home after a stressful day on the job via what I call our 'de-stress' route.  You can get from Olympia to Oakville on I-5, but that's just rolling down 3 lanes of freeway.  But if you take a right out of the parking lot at work you can be cruising through the Capitol Forest in a matter minutes.  It's back roads and forest, with little traffic at 30 or 40 miles an hour, definitely not I-5.

As she drove through the forest she noticed a little bird in the road; she slowed thinking the bird would fly up, she slowed more, until she was just creeping along and ... the bird never flew.  She looked in her rear view mirror and the bird was still there in the road.  Thinking it was dead she pulled over and went back to move it off the road because, nobody wants to see a little bird get splatted.  Imagine her surprise to discover that the bird was actually alive (in pretty rough shape) and - it was a little blue parakeet!

She scooped it up and called me.

Eventually they came home.  When I first saw the bird I figured we might be digging a hole in the back yard the next day, this little thing looked to be on it's last legs. But we fixed up the office out in the shop, I put up a perch in front of the window and we left it with a dish of water and a saucer of wild bird food hoping against hope that it would make it till morning. 

Over night the bird made a miraculous recovery, (I think it was mostly dehydrated) but it was singing, and screeching, and pooping, and flying all over the office.  OK now what?  Off to the pet store for a book and some essentials, we were not planing on turning the office in to an aviary.

long story short, we enriched a few people through Craig's List, learned that he was a she, and that keeping one parakeet verges on cruelty (for the parakeet). So we started looking for a room mate for her.  After looking at a few birds that people had for sale we ended up getting a nice looking green male at a small mom n' pop pet store in Centralia.

All the literature we read suggested that putting two young birds who were not familiar with each other in the same cage was likely to go better if they were male and female.  We learned that they would probably get along together better than two females.  We also learned that we would not have to worry about them breeding if we did not provide a nest box or anything that remotely resembled a nest box. 

I won't say it was a rocky start but Billie Holiday (because she's blue) was pretty hard on Mr. Greenburg right from the start, about most everything; Her first choice of perches, her favorite feed dishes, she being first up to work the millet spray over.  Greenburg for his part was bigger and louder and put on more flight display, but she ran him around whenever he was in her way. It was interesting because she was the foundling, looked close to death when we brought her home, she's much smaller than Mr G, and he was big, healthy, and flashy and came to us from a very comfortable setting.

Their relationship developed slowly over the summer but by the time fall set in they were pretty comfortable with each other.  We fly them in the spare bedroom on Saturdays and when ever he would fly up onto the curtain rod she was right with him. She rules the roost when things are going well, but when there is perceived danger, she stays close to him.

So it was clear that they were getting along better but we didn't realize how much better until we saw them exhibiting classic courtship behavior and then ... 'doing it'.  Obviously they had not read the books we had read.  This went on over a couple days so that it was pretty hard to pretend this was not going to lead to something more. 

back to the books to read those sections we had skipped on breeding and raising chicks.  We revisited the pet store and looked closely at their breeding menagerie.  They always have at least three or four pairs in various stages of raising chicks.  They let us see the chicks that were just getting feathers, those very young birds that were about out of the nest, and those ugly little featherless chicks that had recently hatched but had not yet opened their eyes.

We bought a nest box and brought it home, I made some modifications to the cage, mounted the nest box and ....we waited.   Normally she begins laying eggs about a week or so after mating, but a I mentioned, she apparently had her own instruction manual.  No eggs were forthcoming, and we began to worry because she was looking rough.  Then, on December 1st, there was a little egg in the nest box.  It's little but looks painfully big complared to her body. 

According to the book we should see an egg every other day for a total of 4 to 8 eggs in a clutch.  The eggs are incubated for about 18 days at which time they start hatching at approximately the same interval as the laying.  So we may be experiencing multiple 'blessed events' in our own little manger around  Christmas. 

On Dec. 4th when I checked the nest box after work there was another egg. 

Again, I guess she doesn't read 'how to' manuals much.  Not knowing much about our little found hen, I can't be sure if she is an old hand at this or if she is as new to it as I am.

We were not planning on getting a parakeet, never mind a pair.  We were not planning to raise baby parakeets, in fact it would be fair to say we were planning not to raise babies.  But that's the thing about plans, they're just the best of intentions, obviously the keets had their own plans.  But we are all in on this, no telling how it will turn out; if the eggs hatch and the chicks all grow up to be pretty birds that will be fine, but if not, we just hope our two keets come through this in good health.

Really, baby birds in December seemed so unlikely to me.  Then again, they are native to Australia and while it was single digits here last night, in Australia, it's summer.

Chairman Meow is fit to be tied.  He was very welcoming at first,
Welcome to our home, let me take you out for lunch, won't you?

Though he has now sullenly accepted them he will occasionaly lie on the carpet just below the cage and stare up at them, longingly.  Seems he has forgotten that he too was a stray we adopted.  I am sure he would say he adopted us.

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