Although our dogs know to leave our chickens alone, small birds really bring out their natural prey drive. After witnessing our sweet natured Golden Retriever, Chardonnay, flush, catch and instantly kill a baby bird on a hike once, I realized that she sees chickens and birds as different creatures. Cory, our Shar-pei mix, has an even stronger prey drive and focused on the robin’s nest every time she went outside. Cory is a very vertical dog, so although she’s smaller than Chardonnay, jumping up to grab the nest is well within her capabilities. We knew this was going to be trouble.
“Survival of the fittest,” rationalized my son. I cursed the ignorance of the mother robin for choosing such a low spot to raise her brood. Last year, the nest was in a maple tree, 15 feet up. Sorry, the thought of our dogs killing a nest of robins was too much.
The robins starting hatching so we knew we needed to do something. Jay and I found some old rusty fencing material and surrounded the holly bush, using a couple of old stakes to hold it steady. Being so low to the ground, it was easy to monitor the family as the little robbies emerged. The big surprise was that unlike chicken chicks which are fully feathered and adorable, newly hatched robin chicks are naked, their black eyes bulging underneath their closed eyelids. Not exactly cute; they reminded me of inch-long, miniature rubber chickens.
|Two Days Old|
|Rusty Robin Fencing|
We remained vigilant over the nest without trying to be intrusive and our rusty fence did its job of protecting the robin family from our dogs. We are well aware that snakes are easily tempted by a nest of birds and the fence could easily assist a snake trying to reach the nest. I have seen four-foot black snakes climbing fences or on top of tables, reaching toward nests of chirping Phoebes and Bluebirds. Ironically, I knew that our dogs would discourage any snakes, at least during the day. Fortunately for the robin, the babies were very quiet and attracted little attention.
|One Week Later|
The last time I saw the chicks in the nest was a few days ago, looking like fat people in a crowded subway, wishing their neighbor wore deodorant and their stop couldn’t come soon enough. I waited two days too long to go back and get a picture, because when I did, the nest was empty already.