Forty Years with Birds and Dogs - Care and Respect
Los Alamos Daily Post
During the last few weeks in the Los Alamos Daily Post I have explored the Human Factor in our "verbal" relationship with the geese, ducks and chicken of the Hen House. How much can we rely on our love of animals to carry on a meaningful relationship with them?
I've stressed the importance of repeating the same verbal phrases with body language, while doing the routine chores, like "Time for sleeping," with an open palm scooping toward the nest box. It convinces the ducks Puddles and Ms. Khaki that it's too dark to go hunting worms in dense mud with the trowel, and they should head for the sleeping area, which is their nest box (until it gets too cold in winter.)
Today the Post published my blog reviewing the related history of Boots the shepherd and her best pal, Oscar the alley cat. Check the link above, if you haven't already, and take a look at the earlier suggestions. You can get all the stories by searching on "Hen House" in the Los Alamos Daily Post.
Poncho was a "Santa Fe" shepherd who looked me straight in the eyes while sitting quietly in his shelter cage. One wag of the tail and I was hooked. True to that first impression, he was always very sensitive to what us humans were about. Here's the story of one conversation I will never forget. Read it in the Los Alamos Daily Post
Wild Jays never fly over the house to the backyard’s Hen House pen for a snack of lay pellets, but a few small birds do, even when Lucy and the gang are there.
On the front porch bird feeders, only one Scrub Jay watches and waits for us, but him or her (we can’t tell which) keeps his distance. He doesn’t come in for the peanuts if I wait outside on the porch, but he will snatch peanuts off the porch railing when Don has turned away to fill the hanging feeders.
Years ago two generations of Scrub Jays frequented the feeders, and some took peanuts from our hand, but only if we rested our hand on the fence rail. One Jay would come down from the aspen trees for peanuts, even if I sat down beneath the porch roof to watch. One day I pushed the relationship too far.
While I sat on the porch chair, the Scrub Jay took several peanuts and hid them in the yard. When only one peanut was left on the rail, I got up, took the peanut, and set it on the table beside my chair. When the Scrub returned I showed him the peanut. He hesitated, squawked, flew in, picked up the peanut, and flew back to the railing. Then with a squawk he threw down the peanut and flew off.
The message was quite clear. “Okay,” I hollered. “You win. Peanuts go on the rail.” A few moments later he came back, picked it up and hid it in the front yard. Ever since then his rules for the peanut game have remained firmly in place.