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Friday, April 15, 2011



About fifteen years ago, I noticed that a mom robin had once again left her nest and flown away. The nest was located at the end of my then-carport and if I looked up, I could see it but not what was inside of it. Worried me and after a week or so, my husband and I decided to knock down the nest for it was evident that the mom was not coming back. Here I was in a dress and high heels and was standing behind my house as he was on the carport with a big stick getting ready to knock down the nest and I realized that I would be holding baby birds. That specific fact is not something I have ever wanted to do in my life!

All I could do was to spread my dress out and catch the birds: First one, then two and then three baby robins complete with their feathers were in the skirt part of my dress and I was holding tight. Horror set in for although I love birds, I didn’t want them that close. They were chirping and moving frantically. “Go get something to put these things in !” I screamed.

An eternity passed before he showed up with a metal washtub and a small screen: I was never so grateful in my life. We placed the three baby robins in the tub, covered them with the screen and brought it in the house. I was worried that my huge cat would immediately pounce upon them but he could have cared less. It was my dog, Prince, a huge part elkhound and part St. Bernard who went balistic when he heard the birds chirping. What to do with the tub of birds? We decided to put it on the dining room table [a bedroom had been converted to a dining room at that time] and close the door. One episode down but oh so many more to come.

My only prior experience with a bird was taking care of my grandmother’s parakeet and I remember feeding it but these were wild birds. Went online and read that to feed them you  had to use an eye dropper and give the babies egg yolk as well as water. Had that covered but trying to feed all three at once was harder than taking care of a real baby: They were all in a furor to see who could get fed first. I had also read that these robins had to have real meat; there was no way on earth I was going to hold worms much less go out and get them—ever!

We decided to use ground meow mix along with the egg yolk to start with and then proceded to use ground beef. Weeks passed and I was worn to a frazzle and my dog paced back and forth in front of the shut door: He was more than jealous. The cat remained austere. With all animals, there is always one who is the leader and one who is the runt: I taught at J. E. Robins Elementary and so I named the birds “J,” “E,” and “R.” “R” was the runt of the three. “J” was the leader and one who wanted to be fed first while “E” was just there.

By this time the birds were growing rapidly and were taking up most of the content of the small metal wash tub. Keeping the small screen on top of it was becoming a challenge as the robins’ beaks kept ramming it. No way did I want three birds flying around the dining room and escaping out into the house: There was already enough chaos going on with taking care of a dog and a cat. And so, we bought a bird cage and already had an old stand: The ever-growing robins were so relieved to be in a bird cage as was I.

The days were becoming warmer and warmer and we made the decision to take the bird cage with the stand outside. These three robins could now feel the air on them as well as hear other birds and they not only relished in it but wanted out! “J” was the biggest, “E” was somewhat smaller and “R” was tiny but all three were in good health bird-wise. We would bring them in for the night but when outside, one of us stayed with them. This went on for several weeks and then when outside in the cage, they started ramming the cage with their beaks till “J” had bloodied his: It was time to set them free. I knew it but my husband didn’t want to let them go.

Several days later, I was outside with the birds in the cage and I was alone. And I decided to let them go free. You can’t imagine how fast they flew out of that cage—they flew like lightning and then landed on the grass. I watched as each one went his or her separate way and hoped that some other “mom robin” would adopt them. But I was never to know for my yard was full of robins in the daytime and I couldn’t tell one from the other.

I had hoped that “J” or “E” or “R” would return to me just for a little while as if to say thank you but that never happened. Relieved that I was no longer caring for the three and yet feeling remorse for lettting them go, I knew in my heart that it was the best thing to do. It was an unforgettable experience and one that I would never repeat again even if it did save their lives for the next year, the same mom robin did the same thing: She flew off the nest and left the babies. By some miracle, another robin took care of them till they could fly out of the nest. That robin was a lifesaver in oh so many ways! And as for the mom robin who left her babies stranded twice, she should have been reported but to whom? Where were the “bird police” when you needed them? Wish I had known.

Sherry Hill

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