On Sunday 30th June we took our neighbour's dog, Ratty, for a walk and came across two cyclists. One of them was holding in her hand, two chaffinch chicks. They told us that just as they were cycling past, a magpie had thrown the chicks from their nest. The chicks were feathered, mainly down but with some primary wing feathers. The couple had been looking for the nest to return the chicks to it. We helped to look, but failed. It was a tricky situation, even if we found the nest, the chances were that after being handled by humans the adults would now reject the chicks. The couple were about to leave the chicks to fend for themselves, when I said that we would take them home and try to rear them ourselves.
We then did a bit of research online as to what to feed them. The answer seemed to be, kitten food (60%), egg yolk (20%) and mealworms (20%). I know what some of you will be thinking, and I think it myself. How vegan is it to feed one animal to another, it's a conflict that I can not reconcile. Faced with animals totally unable to defend for themselves, bereft of their parents, we chose to feed them. We expected them to die over night, as, however much we tried, they refused to eat anything. The next day, I got up at 5am, expecting the worst, but found both of them alive and keen to eat something. So, it's now four days on and they are still both doing well. In fact, so well that today, the larger one took his first flight.
So, today we were lucky enough to be lent a small bird cage, to re-home them into from their original cardboard box. Now they are hopping around we can put a shallow dish of water in with them. It is important not to syringe feed chicks water as it can pass very easily into their lungs.
I thought I might add to this blog, the fact that the cruel practice of Vinkensport/Vinkenzetting is still continued today in Belgium. I mention it as the sick individuals that take part in this "sport" mainly choose to imprison chaffinches. The idea is to see how many times one poor soul, locked in a wooden box, can call. Whole rows of small wooden boxes are laid out next to each other, while sad unmentionables sit and count the bird calls within one hour. This practice has been taking place since the late 16th century.
On a more positive note, we can see that people form early on have shown empathy to animals. One such person was Thomas Hardy, who wrote the poem "The Blinded Bird" as a protest against it. At the time, it was practice to blind the birds with hot needles to stop them from visual distractions during the competition.
The Blinded Bird by Thomas Hardy
So zestfully canst thou sing?
And all this indignity,
With God's consent, on thee!
Blinded ere yet a-wing
By the red-hot needle thou,
I stand and wonder how
So zestfully thou canst sing!
Resenting not such wrong,
Thy grievous pain forgot,
Eternal dark thy lot,
Groping thy whole life long;
After that stab of fire;
Enjailed in pitiless wire;
Resenting not such wrong!
Who hath charity? This bird.
Who suffereth long and is kind,
Is not provoked, though blind
And alive ensepulchred?
Who hopeth, endureth all things?
Who thinketh no evil, but sings?
Who is divine? This bird.