birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Blue Jay

We found an orphaned bluejay chick, too young to feed itself, and slightly injured. It wasn't our first orphan critter, we'd had skunks and raccoons, and too many possums to remember, but he was the smallest and needed the most help. We made a nest for him in an old mouse cage, and my dad called the bird lady (in retrospect, I wonder who on earth that was) and were given very specific instructions on how to care for him. Who knew what to feed a baby bird? We learned: canned dog food, mixed with liquid vitamins and sprinkled with some kind of grain flour.


Every day I carried him, in his wire handled cage, in to the school where my dad was running summer school. We visited classrooms, read in the library, made copies in the office. And every day, it was my job to make this foul-smelling concoction, and feed it to JayJay using the narrow handle of a small spoon. It was terrifying and satisfying at once. He seemed so reptilian and primitive when he was hungry. Instead of a peeping blue bundle, he was all gaping gullet and rolling eyes. It was desperation up close.

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