Thursday, September 9, 2010

Not really a happy ending

A couple of weekends ago, I got home from market and opened the chicken coop to check for eggs. There's a funny little ledge inside the door, which is hidden when the door is closed, where I often startle mice or see a little stash of mouse-hoarded corn. On that day, I surprised a small mouse with a missing tail, who was hovering over three just-born pink babies. I shut the door quickly, and decided that I should perhaps introduce a nice box for them to hide in from the omnivorous chickens.

In the process of introducing the box, with the best of intentions, I scared off the mother mouse. Hmmm. But I left the babies in the box for the evening. I checked back at night when I locked up the coop, and there was still no sign of the mother. So I decided to just move the babies back to the original ledge, and hope she would come back for them if they were where she had originally left them.

Kind of worried about it that night, since I was starting to feel responsible for messing with this situation, even with good intentions.

The next morning, heading out to Sunday market, there were only two babies left on the ledge. Did that mean she had come back for them? Or had one fallen out and died? When I got home again that afternoon, I ran right over and checked. No sign of any babies on the ledge...oh well, end of story. But then I saw one on the ground, where it had fallen...still shockingly alive 24 hours after my first "intervention." Ok ok, at this point I definitely felt responsible and decided to try to take care of it myself rather than let it die from my neglect.

My internal dialogue by now is going something like this: "Why am I doing this? I mean, I cheer for my cats when they kill mice! I don't WANT mice in my house! This is just an exercise in heartbreak anyway if I get attached, because chances are very slim it will survive. I don't WANT to do this, but I feel responsible and have a choice here. I should try to choose the chance of life over the certainty of death."

So I installed the wee baby in a Chinese takeout container, on some cloth, with a hot water bottle under the container to keep it warm. Got some eyedroppers. Looked up on the internet what to do. Did you know that you have to stroke a baby mouse with a wet q-tip to make it, umm, eliminate? (That mimics the mother mouse's licking, which it needs.) Fed it tiny drop by drop...all I had were half-and-half and eggs, mixed with water to thin it. Took it to a potluck because I needed to feed it. Was amazed every time I checked that it was still alive. This little thing was about the size of my first finger joint, and you could see through its skin....fragile, but surviving. I didn't get attached. Why was I doing this? All this care and work for a baby mouse of all things, this is ridiculous.

Maybe two days later I was out at the coop again, locking up in the evening. I spotted a nice fluffy mouse nest on top of the nesting boxes, and carefully poked it to see if it was occupied. It was!! So I decided, with great relief, to leave the baby I was attempting to care for in the nest and hope for the best. The next morning all seemed well, so I felt I had discharged my duty.

So in one way this is a happy ending. I feel good that I took care of my responsibility and made the choice to try to make a good ending out of a situation I had messed up. But in another way it's not...I got some new hens the next day, and in the process of getting them settled the mouse nest was destroyed. But that was ok, because it wasn't through my intervention or neglect.


Gary's third pottery blog said...

OH CHRISTI! Gosh. I think some of those guys live in my bedroom walls.....

k.a. barnes said...

I remember being kinda horrified when I worked at the SPCA and found out that foster-fed baby kitties and puppies needed to be stroked to eliminate. It was so cute to see them drinking from teeny bottles, but not so cute to find out you're responsible for making them poop.
Anyway, kudos for caring for that mousebaby as caringly as you did.

Sarah said...

If you end up with the critters in your house, get those traps that humanely kill and then seal the mouse within the trap. You don’t have to see it and feel badly. And you’re not exposing your cats to the fleas or ticks that could be on the mice. Victor makes a good one: