5 Tips to Attracting Birds to Your Backyard Nesting Boxes

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We are always so excited when spring arrives and wrens and chickadees start checking out our backyard nesting boxes. It’s such an honor when they finally decide to raise a brood inside the boxes that we built ourselves from leftover wood.

Providing nesting boxes is important, say experts at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, because for many species of birds there’s a shortage of great places to nest. Spring is already underway, and many birds have already chosen their nesting locations, but it’s never too late to hang a birdhouse, say the experts.

Many birds have more than one brood per season and may switch to a new box to raise their second or third broods. In addition, if a bird is unsuccessful in raising its first brood due to a predator, it may be very happy to take advantage of a new box hanging somewhere else on your property.

HERE ARE FIVE TIPS TO HELP ATTRACT BIRDS TO YOUR BACKYARD NESTING BOXES.

1. Location, location, location

Every species of birds has a different habitat requirement. If you choose the right location, you will have the best chance of attracting the type of bird you’re hoping for.

Experts at Birds and Blooms Magazine say that the best location for a bluebird house is an area facing or surrounded by open fields where insects they eat and feed to their young are plentiful. Chickadees, on the other hand, prefer their houses to be located in a cluster of small trees or in a shrubbery.

House wrens are attracted to boxes hanging from small trees in an open yard, and purple martins prefer housing to be placed in open fields or lawns with clear flyways.

If you want to attract tree swallows, and you have a body of water in or near your yard, then you’re in luck. These birds like to nest close to water where they can find aquatic insects to feed to their young.

2. Consider the style of your nesting box

In general, say Birds and Blooms experts, small birds need small houses and big birds will look to the larger backyard nesting boxes, but each species have desires beyond the size.

For example, purple martins like to nest in groups and are attracted to condo-style housing. These community homes should have at least four cavities with between six and 12 being ideal.

Bluebirds look for single room nest boxes, which can be about 50 to 75 yards apart. Unlike the bluebirds, house wrens prefer to live in small single houses away from other nesting boxes.

While commercial nesting boxes come in a wide variety of colors and designs, bird experts caution that it’s best to keep the boxes simple, not stylish.

In addition, experts at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology say that a perch is unnecessary for the birds. In fact, perches can help predators gain access to the nest. We learned this the hard way when last year a blue jay used the perch on one of our boxes to attack the babies inside. We removed all of the perches on our nest boxes and the birds still use them.

Blue tit bird brings caterpillar in nest box

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What Renting Baby Chicks for Easter Really Teaches Kids

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Excited that he won a blue chick in a church raffle, a young child ran to show his mom. Like thousands of chicks every year, this baby bird was dyed as an Easter novelty to be sold or raffled off to families.

Thankfully this boy’s mother valued the tiny chick’s life and asked Woodstock Farm Sanctuary in High Falls, NY to give him a home. Picasso has grown into a handsome rooster who loves his life at the sanctuary.

Not all chicks are so lucky. Easter is a time of rejoicing and renewal for Christians, but for thousands of innocent chicks, this season is nothing to chirp about.

Every Easter, families across the country purchase chicks for their children only to drop them off at shelters a few weeks later when the novelty wears off or they can’t commit to caring for the animal. A more recent trend is rent-a-chick programs promoted by retailers and farmers throughout the country in the weeks leading up to Easter.

RENTING BABY CHICKS DOESN’T TEACH CHILDREN RESPONSIBILITY

The rental program is popular because children can enjoy the novelty of caring for a chick without the long-term commitment.

One farmer in New Jersey who rents chicks to families promotes the program as “… teaching kids to appreciate animals and to better understand the responsibility of caring for them.” The farms Facebook Page promotes the rental chick program as a “… great educational way to introduce children to caring for a live animal without a long-term commitment!”

Another farmer in Maryland said his rent-a-chick program allows parents to “…give their children a fluffy surprise on Easter without getting stuck with a new pet.”

picassotheroosterPicasso started out life dyed blue and raffled off as an Easter novelty, but today he is enjoying life at the Woodstock Farm Sanctuary.
Photo courtesy of Woodstock Farm Sanctuary.

Caring for pets has long been credited with teaching children responsibility, trust, compassion, understanding, empathy and respect for animals and by extension other people. Parents who adopt pets from shelters  teach children about the importance of saving a life and committing to the care of that animal for his or her lifetime.

Despite the promotions, renting chicks for Easter does not teach children responsibility, respect or compassion for animals.

“By renting animals for a few weeks and then just sending them back to eventually be slaughtered children are being taught—even if unintentionally—that these animals are disposable,” said Andrea Springirth, animal caretaker and humane educator at Woodstock Farm Sanctuary.

Many farmers and retailers say they started the rent-a-chick program to help cut down on the numbers of chicks being released to the shelters. But what these rental programs actually represent is the further exploitation of animals for profit with little or no concern for the welfare or interests of the animal, said Springirth.

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Sanctuary Gives New Beginning to Chicken Rescued from Religious Ritual

This article first published on Care2.com

Recently as I pulled away from a toll booth on the New York State Thruway I noticed what looked like white feathers blowing across my windshield. Sure enough, when I glanced to my right there was a truck bed stacked high with flat crates each crammed full of live chickens. It was about 90 degrees outside and I couldn’t imagine the pain, fear and confusion of these poor innocent birds as they were driven to slaughter.

I thought about the suffering of chickens again when just a few days later I received an “Emergency Care for the Beloved Birds” email alert from Woodstock Farm Sanctuary. This awesome sanctuary located in High Falls, NY is in desperate need of donations to help cover the cost of emergency care for 14 chickens who survived the annual Kaporos ritual that ended last week in Brooklyn, NY.

Kaporos is a ritual celebrated by some ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities on public streets of Brooklyn prior to Yom Kippur. Practitioners symbolically transfer their sins to a young rooster or hen by swinging the bird around his or her head while reciting a passage and then killing the chicken. Many communities choose to use money instead of live birds but a number persist in this cruel practice.

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Horse Racing is Not a Sport: It’s the Exploitation of Animals

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In “A Day at the Saratoga Race Course: 10 Ways to feel like an Insider” that published on NYup.com, readers are advised to take in at least one race at the finish line because “…not only can you try to spy celebrities in the clubhouse off to the right, it’s a great place to experience the race – the guy with the bugle, the roaring crowd, the straining jockeys, the thundering hooves of the horses.”

I agree that racegoers should pay close attention to the homestretch. Not to experience the excitement of the chase but to see how jockeys thank horses for running their hearts out by whipping them 15 to 20 times before they reach the finish line. As for those who enjoyed the races at Saratoga Springs this summer, I would like them to consider that 19 horses died. They included Angels Seven who was pulled up in the race due to an injury to the left front leg and was euthanized on the track; Brooklyn Major who collapsed and died after the finish of a race; and Fall Colors who fell at the second fence and died on the track. Horse racing is not a sport it’s the exploitation of animals for entertainment and profit.

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The Benefits of Adopting a Pair of Kittens

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Reed and Rowan, 6-month-old purring machines, are the longest residents at the Clifton Animal Shelter in New Jersey. The siblings were brought to the shelter with their mom and two brothers who have all gone to forever homes.

Photo courtesy of Clifton Animal Shelter  

“We call them the dream team. They sleep on top of one another, and they purr while sleeping, eating and playing,” said Liz Taranda, vice president of the shelter and cat room manager. “They are lap cats who love to be held together while giving nose rubs to whoever is holding them.”

The brothers are bonded and will only be adopted into the same home. It’s not unusual for shelters and rescue groups to encourage potential adopters to adopt a pair of kittens rather than going home with one cat.

The Itty Bitty Orphan Kitty Rescue in San Jose, CA, requires that young kittens be adopted in pairs unless adopters have an existing kitten or young cat at home. According to the shelter, this policy is not based on a desire to increase adoptions but rather to ensure that kittens are adopted into homes that offer the best possible environment for their social development.

There are many benefits to adopting kittens in pairs

Besides saving two lives, there are many advantages to adopting kittens in pairs. Kittens tend to need more time and attention than adult cats and two together will keep each other company. The acclimation to a new home will go smoother, too, because a bonded pair of kittens won’t need separate transitional rooms. All they require is one litter box and two dishes (also true when adopting an older bonded pair of cats).

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Is Crate Training Cruel? Here’s What Some Experts Have to Say

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One of my dog walking clients recently adopted a 3-year-old Italian greyhound who wasn’t housebroken. He peed and pooped all over her house, and the rescue group where she adopted him suggested that she use crate training to housebreak her newest family member. Because my client works full time she called me in to walk the greyhound during the day. We had fun on our long walks and he willingly returned to his crate with a favorite treat and toy to settle down and relax until his “mom” returned home.

Everything was going according to plan except for one problem—my client wasn’t happy. Crating filled her with guilt as she thought it would traumatize her dog.

So, is crating cruel or is it an effective training tool?

The use of a crate as a training tool is controversial. Many leading animal welfare groups such as the HSUS and the ASPCA believe that when used properly crating is an effective and humane training tool. Behavioral experts at the HSUS recommend crating dogs until they can be trusted not to destroy the house, and after that leaving the crates around as a place where dogs can go voluntarily. Other groups such as PETA believe that crating is cruel and has become a popular “convenience practice” that is often used on adult dogs.

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Rescued Greyhounds Give Sense of Purpose to Prison Inmates

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In addition to writing about pets, I have the pleasure of working as a dog walker and pet sitter. Among my clients is Spring, who was adopted from Greyhound Friends of New Jersey (GFNJ), and is a graduate of the group’s Prison Foster Program. This wonderful program that is located at the Mountainside Youth Correctional Facility in Annandale, NJ, celebrated its 15th year anniversary in May 2017 and to date has graduated approximately 822 greyhounds.


Photo courtesy of Greyhound Friends of New Jersey 

In 2011, GFNJ was inducted into the New Jersey Animal Hall of Fame for the positive impact the Prison Foster Program has had on the retired racing greyhounds and the participating inmates.

“It’s a great program that’s a win-win for the dogs and the inmates,” said Susan Smith, a retired corrections sergeant, who has volunteered as the coordinator of the prison foster program for almost 10 years. “It allows us to take more dogs and it provides the inmates with an opportunity to care for the dogs and develop new skills.”

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How to Make Ocean-Friendly Choices for Your Saltwater Aquarium

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Nearly all fish living in saltwater aquarium tanks began their lives thousands of miles away on warm tropical reefs, according to For the Fishes (FTF), a nonprofit working to protect the future of reefs and wildlife. Many of these fragile fish die before reaching aquariums from poisoning, the stress of captivity or the inhumane practices used in handling and transport to the pet store.

“Most people have no idea that the saltwater fish they are buying for their aquarium were captured in the wild,” said Rene Umberger founder and executive director of FTF and a consultant to the HSUS and Humane Society International on coral reef wildlife issues. “Aquarium hobbyists automatically assume that they are buying fish that were bred in captivity.”


Image credit: Thinkstock

According to FTF, only 2 percent of fish species kept in saltwater tanks can be bred in captivity. The other 98 percent are among the most trafficked animals in the world. They are captured on reefs depleted and degraded from overfishing and cyanide use and exposed to ill treatment leading to prolonged suffering and premature death. On many tropical reefs, methods of wild capture include the illegal use of cyanide as a stunning agent, puncturing of organs, spine cutting and starvation prior to transport.

 “It’s almost impossible to breed saltwater fish, which is why there are fewer than 60 species that are commercially available out of the 2,500 marine fish species that the U.S. currently imports for the aquarium industry,” Umberger said.

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Why You Should Never Release Pets Into the Wild

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While it’s illegal to release non-native species into the wild, many pet owners who no longer want their pets will turn them loose. Releasing unwanted pets into the wild is both cruel and bad for the environment. Domestic rabbits, ferrets, rats and mice and aquarium fish have all been released to fend for themselves — often leading to either their death or disastrous environmental consequences.

The release of exotic pets in Florida is such a huge problem that the Department of Fish Game and Wildlife created an Exotic Pet Amnesty Day where pet owners can surrender unwanted pets without penalty.

Here’s a list of popular pets that people often consider releasing into the wild and why they shouldn’t: 

Ferrets

There’s a common misconception that domesticated ferrets are wild animals and can fend for themselves if turned loose. That’s not true. According to the American Ferret Association, Inc., ferrets were domesticated by humans as early as 63 BCE and shouldn’t be confused with the black-footed wild ferret. If a domesticated ferret is turned loose into the wild he or she will rarely survive more than a few days.

What to do instead: Reach out to a local shelter to see if it will accept and rehome your ferret. The Ferrets Rescue Shelter Directory provides a global list of shelters and rescues dedicated to finding new homes for ferrets.


Image credit: Thinkstock

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Puppy Mill Survivors Serve as Comforters, Role Models and Ambassadors

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Pomegranate, was 9 years old and carrying nine dead pups when she was rescued from an Amish puppy mill by the Ramapo-Bergen Animal Refuge, Inc. (RBARI) in Oakland, NJ. The Pomeranian had just three teeth left, a heart condition caused from over breeding and feet splayed out with nails that grow up instead of out.

“She had lived her whole life outside in a rabbit cage with hundreds of other dogs,” said Frannie D’Annunzio, Volunteer Manager at RBARI, who adopted Pomegranate. “The cages were those typically found in puppy mills with wire bottoms so that the poop falls out and no one ever has to clean them. The food is thrown into the cages and the only time the doors are open is for breeding purposes or to take the pups away from their mothers.”

For two years when the other dogs in the household ran towards D’Annunzio, Pomegranate ran in the opposite direction. Today, she’s eager to jump in her “mom’s” lap and serves as a “therapy dog” for new rescues and sick dogs and helps socialize new puppy mill rescues at the shelter. Several RBARI adopters have reported that their rehabilitated puppy mill survivors serve as comforters and role models for newly-rescued mill dogs as they acclimate to life in their new homes.

“I foster hospice dogs and puppy mill rescues and Pomegranate is always the first to run up and comfort them when I bring them home,” D’Annunzio said. “Most recently I brought home a 19-year-old hospice Chihuahua, Cupcake, and Pomegranate immediately jumped into the bed beside her. It’s so heartwarming to see her in action.”

Pomegranate comforting cupcake, a hospice foster.
Image credit: Frannie D’Annunzio

Adopt Don’t Shop

According to the Puppy Mill Project, two million puppies are bred annually in an estimated 10,000 mills across the United States, and 1.2 million dogs are euthanized in shelters each year. Adult dogs who can no longer breed are typically discarded or killed after they have served their purpose.

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