The Bird in the Wall (and other construction surprises)

Our house is over fifty years old. We have owned it for nearly fourteen years and we have had the happy coincidence of meeting (now knowing) the original builders so we feel very connected to the house even though it has been “ours’ for a relatively short period. There were two other owners in between our family and the original family, one of whom did some cosmetic remodeling, and one of whom seemed to add random cable wires all over but neither did any substantive, structural work. Houses, I have learned like people need constant maintenance to stay healthy. You can’t eat a whole bunch in your twenties and then not eat again for ever. You have to eat every day. Houses are like that, they need things fixed and patched and replaced – that is how you keep them healthy.

So we have been doing some of the structural work that needs to be done but we are not experts in the construction field and so we have to hire people to do most of the actual work and then hope that we know enough about what they are talking about to make the right decisions. It’s hard to do, precisely because we are not experts and so when the “experts” say that the such and such has to be fixed with the this and that and there is no other way and it is going to cost a lot more sometimes you just don’t know. I mean the house has been here for over fifty years so logic would suggest that it is doing basically okay and we don’t need to rebuild everything, right? Also, I don’t think it is reasonable to say a house should never experience water incursion or else walls must be ripped down and reconstructed. There are houses in tropical areas that get a lot of rain, surely they experience some water incursion and the whole thing doesn’t crumble. I get the issues with rot and mold and beams missing from walls that you thought would be there, but gosh sometimes it just seems like much ado about nothing.

We are currently preparing for the next phase of some big structural work that involves removing parts of the exterior and sort of exploring, if you will, what is behind certain walls. I try to work on the philosophy of don’t go looking for trouble, but contractors seem to really love doing exactly that. So we have some rather large holes in various parts of the exterior of the house at the moment. And that is when the chirping from inside the wall started.

Now we have lived here for well over a decade, and we live in an area with a lot of wildlife which is wonderful. This means that we have a pretty good sense of wildlife behavior during various seasons (though of course always something new to learn like when your neighbor mows the meadow that the chickens play in the coyotes can now see them and coyotes are more than happy to eat a chicken in the middle of the afternoon). What we do know is that in the spring birds are busy flitting about making nests and laying eggs. Also birds like cozy little hidy-holes out of the rain and wind. This information leads to a conversation in which my husband says, “fine, go ahead and cut into the wall but make sure you close up the hole because we don’t want to end up with a bird in there.” Well of course we ended up with a bird in the wall because we all knew the hole wasn’t going to get closed up – there were too many other things to do.

I did not mind the chirping coming from the wall, who could blame the bird for picking that spot for a nest. It was perfect and was already full of nice fluffy insulation. And it was a sparrow so the whole nesting, hatching and raising cycle was really quite short. Basically no inconvenience for us, save the delay in the project because once the bird was there we couldn’t then close up the wall and we certainly couldn’t proceed with tearing things down around it. The contractor might have been annoyed but I felt like this was a great opportunity to learn something about actions and consequences. After all we did say, “be sure to close the hole.” Sometimes the most logical outcome is in fact what occurs, sometimes things that seems like a big deal are not, and sometimes you get a bird in your wall – there are worse things in the world than that!

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