114 Man’s world

In which our su­per-handy South­ern gen­tle­man gra­ciously used his con­sid­er­able skills to build the per­fect habi­tat for fine-feath­ered friends.

NZ Gardener - - Contents -

Joe Ben­nett builds a habi­tat for some fine-feath­ered friends

So you’re think­ing of mak­ing a nest­ing box. Bravo. You’ll need tim­ber, a saw, screws, an elec­tric drill, a ham­mer, nails, some oaths and a stick­ing plaster.

For tim­ber, I used deck­ing from a chook house that I never built be­cause of Bub­bles, a friend’s lap dog who, de­spite be­ing the size of a well-fed rat, is a mor­tal ter­ror.

Three years ago he bailed up a rooster of mine called Brian. Brian was a mag­nif­i­cent crea­ture, ex­ud­ing all the gleam­ing pride of roos­t­er­dom – the carmine comb, the plum­ing tail, the strut­ting step and the world-an­nounc­ing, sun-up­lift­ing morn­ing crow. Within a minute Bub­bles had re­duced him to a bro­ken bird, a gib­ber­ing cata­tonic who never re­cov­ered from the shock. He died within a month. Bub­bles felt not one scin­tilla of guilt.

Brian had been the last of my do­mes­tic fowl and, with Bub­bles the trau­ma­tiser still a reg­u­lar vis­i­tor, I felt that to bring another bird onto my prop­erty would be like invit­ing my god­daugh­ter to New York when King Kong was at large. So the chook house project went on to that cel­e­brated if some­what over­crowded sec­ondary culinary lo­ca­tion, the back burner. And the deck­ing tim­ber I’d ac­quired stood idle in the garage. Un­til, that is, I read an ar­ti­cle about nest­ing boxes.

The size of the nest­ing box you make is dic­tated by the species of bird you wish to at­tract to your gar­den. After care­ful thought, I de­cided to at­tract the species of bird that is ex­actly as long and tall as stan­dard deck­ing is wide. There­after it was sim­ply a ques­tion of mea­sur­ing and saw­ing half a dozen bits of wood, paus­ing for a day to re­cover the use of my arm, and then screw­ing the bits to­gether.

When I get to re­design the hu­man frame I’m go­ing to give it three hands. Thus fu­ture hu­man be­ings as­sem­bling nest­ing boxes will be able to hold two pieces of wood to­gether while ap­ply­ing a drill to them with the third hand. And while I’m at it I’ll re­cal­i­brate hu­man na­ture so that when the drill bit skids off its mark and two bits of wood fall to the garage floor, the ama­teur car­pen­ter pays less at­ten­tion to the fall­ing wood and more to the where­abouts of the scream­ing drill bit in re­la­tion to his thumb. One of the dis­ad­van­tages of hav­ing a thumb swathed in stick­ing plas­ters is a cer­tain ner­vous­ness when swing­ing a ham­mer. Sev­eral nails flew into cor­ners of the garage where only the car tyres will ever find them. But, as they say in bird­ing cir­cles, per­se­ver­ance nails the box, and I even­tu­ally had a cube of deck­ing with a gap in the front to al­low ingress and egress. It wasn’t the stur­di­est of cubes but birds weigh al­most noth­ing. And once they’ve lined the thing with twigs, moss and mud, they’ll have noth­ing to fear from the pro­trud­ing nails. There­after it was sim­ply a mat­ter of fix­ing my nest­ing box to the trunk of a cherry tree in sight of the house but out of reach of the de­monic Bub­bles, and then wait­ing. And now as win­ter grips the land, the whole busi­ness seems to me a good one, an af­fir­ma­tion that looks to the res­ur­rec­tion of spring, and a be­lief, if you will, that the earth will tilt once more on its axis, my thumb will heal, the birds will nest and the Bri­ans of this world will crow again. Hope from deck­ing. I rec­om­mend it.

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