How The Hen House Turns: Nesting

How the Hen House Turns
By CAROLYN (CARY) NEEPER Ph.D.
 
Nesting

David Attenborough has hosted a special on PBS called “Animal Dwellings”, which reminds us that we are not alone in needing shelter or knowing how to construct it.

Beavers do a fine job of building dams and water lodges that contain a vented family room, a mud room, and a moat to protect it all.

But it is the birds that practice a wide variety of specialized architectural skills. We are amazed at the Merganser ducks that hatch in a hollow tree and jump 50 feet out of the nest when mother calls for a walk through the woods to water.

Hummingbirds build their tiny, precariously perched nests near hawk nests, knowing their larger neighbor will keep egg-snatchers away. Ravens nest on granite cliffs where there is a protective overhang.

And of course, chickens will lay their eggs in a bowl of carefully arranged straw, given a box that fits comfortably. Our Lucy goose once chose to build a nest in a small space near the feed bins. That summer it was far too hot in there, but she refused all my attempts to move her. The only answer was to leave the door open and vent it at night so the local raccoons couldn’t get in.

In all our years with birds and dogs, only the Khaki Campbell ducks seemed to lose track occasionally—lose their eggs that is. They would appear in abandoned dog houses, near the water trough, and once in the water. When they did use the nest box, they carefully covered the eggs with straw so I wouldn’t find them. It was the little male miniature mallard, Kiebler, who ran and attacked me as I gathered eggs from the nest box. The ladies couldn’t care less.

There’s some point to all this, but I’ll leave that to you. As I look around our California apartment, I see a lot of comfortable doo-dads that give me a feeling like comfortable nest straw.

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