Public Service Announcement to Birds Nesting in Our Trailer

Attention Mr. and Mrs. Wren: Please don’t build any more nests in the spare tire of our horse trailer. That’s why your young’uns went missing today from 10:30 am until 5:30 pm.

Attention anyone hauling a trailer: check your trailer for bird nests and chicks before you use it this spring.

You don’t see anything unusual with this spare tire, do you? More on this in a second.

Stowaways

My wife Julia and I hooked up our trailer today and hauled our horses and mules from Lenoir, North Carolina to our vet Dr Bill Hay at the Tryon Equine Clinic in Landrum, 76 miles miles away.

Heading out in our trailer. It’s a 2002 Sundowner Rancher stock trailer and we love it. This photo was from another trip.
The route from Lenoir, North Carolina to Columbus, just north of the South Carolina border

We had a great drive to the vet clinic, and Dr. Hay gave the mules their annual shots, drew their blood for Coggins tests, and checked their teeth. Everything looked fine, and as Julia and I were getting ready to load the mules back up, we heard a peeping noise coming from the spare tire.

The spare tire on our trailer

Julia asked me, “Does that sound like baby birds to you?” I hated to admit, having hand-raised baby birds before, it did. I looked into the spare tire and, sure enough, four hungry beaks gaped up at me as if they were gobbling invisible worms. They looked like baby house wrens.

Damn! We’d just driven 75 miles from our farm to the vet’s, hitting speeds of up to 65 miles per hour on Interstate 40 and I thought, “Those poor baby birds!”

A hell of a place to build a nest: the baby wrens in their nest in the rim of the spare tire

Lunchtime

Wrens aren’t great technical nest builders in that they don’t glue their nests together like barn swallows, with mud and horsehair. They’re more like throw-it-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks types, and I was amazed the nest of pine straw and moss hadn’t blown apart on the two-hour drive to see our vet. It was unclear if the nest and the chicks would survive another two-hour ride home but I knew I had to leave them alone. I didn’t want to handle them in case we got them home and Ms. Wren said, “You guys stink like a man,” and abandoned them.

I felt bad, but also hungry, and it was lunchtime, so Julia and I drove our truck and trailer over to the nearby Ingles for a sandwich. While Julia was buying a sub, I bought a single hamburger patty (93% lean/0.33 lb/$2.37) from the guy at the fish counter. He looked at me kinda funny when I told him it was for four hungry birds. Yes, I know you’re not supposed to feed baby birds beef but given that they weren’t going to get anything to eat or drink all day, I figured that was better than watching them starve or dehydrate.

100% Beef

Feeding Baby Birds

Julia and I went back to where we’d parked the trailer and I rolled a little bit of hamburger into what looked like an inch-long worm. It was sorta lumpy and, because I didn’t want to touch the birds and leave my scent on them, I grabbed the faux beef worm with the needlenose pliers on my multitool and poked it into the nest of baby birds.

This sorta looks like a wren holding an inchworm, right?

One of the birds opened its beak crazy-wide like baby birds do, and gulped down the hamburger worm like it didn’t know the difference between a momma bird feeding them an inchworm and a dude feeding them ground chuck on a Leatherman. The rest of the baby birds raised hell like they wanted a taste, so I rolled up three more little red, 100% lean ground beef worms, fed them, and they shut up.

After I fed them, one of the chicks wiggled backward to the edge of the nest and laid what looked like a tiny, off-white egg, which turned out to be bird crap, so I considered that my tip.

Reunited

Fast forward to the end of the story. Julia and I drove home on back roads so we could keep the speed down (well, technically that’s not quite true, our truck gets better mileage towing a trailer at 55 mph than 65 mph) and by 5:30p we were parked at home where I’d taken off with Ms. Wren’s babies seven hours earlier.

I unhooked the pickup, parked it and, as I looked through the garage at the trailer, I saw momma wren fly over to the babies and feed them. Yes! I was hugely relieved though I had to wonder if she sniffed their breaths and said, “Hey, has your father been feeding you MacDonald’s?”

I’m guessing tonight, our baby road-tripping wren babies are having inchworms for dinner and I know for sure Julia and I are having one cooked hamburger patty that’s missing four, worm-shaped pieces.

Supper: couscous, garlic-sauteed squash, and one hamburger patty minus a few bites.

Moral #1 of this story is if you’re a momma wren, don’t build your nest on a trailer. And if you do, make sure it’s heading to Ingles.

Moral #2 is if you’re going to use your trailer this spring, make sure it doesn’t have a nest in it.

Check Your Trailer for Baby Birds

Seriously, if you’re heading out with your trailer and you haven’t used it in a while (as in two weeks, which seems how long it takes for a bird to lay and hatch eggs), check it for hidden nests. These can be easy to overlook as it’s really easy for a bird to build a nest in places like:

  • the spare tire
  • the spare tire holder
  • under the gooseneck
  • in the compartment where the horses ride

Oh, and if you do haul your trailer somewhere and discover you’ve hauled a nest full of chicks along, know that those wayward chicks have a chance. Just get them home as soon as you can so their parents can feed them. There are four happy wren chicks and two relieved wren parents sleeping in our trailer tonight that have learned chicks can go on a 150-mile road trip and come home fine.

Post Script

Four days later, the baby wrens flew their nest so their road trip couldn’t have affected them too much.

Let Me Give You a Heads-up When my Book “Two Mules to Triumph” Comes Out

I’d be happy to give you a heads up when my new book “Two Mules to Triumph” comes out.

“Two Mules to Triumph” is about my 2,300-mile mule voyage from North Carolina to Idaho.



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