A wren family in trouble

Jerry Apps
A house wren may be small but has a large voice.

The birdhouse was meant for bluebirds. It stood a few yards from our front window, and not far from a big maple tree. As it turns out, not far enough from the maple tree.

Almost every year a pair of bluebirds took up residence in the house, providing Ruth and me a treat watching them fly in and out of the little house, tending to the little ones there.

Not this year. No bluebirds—the birdhouse stood vacant. But not for long. A pair of wrens, searching for a suitable place to take up residence and raise a family, moved in. We watched them and listened to their early morning chatter and their saucy scolding if we walked too near their newfound home.

All was well until a stormy night in late July smashed off a major part of the maple tree, but mostly leaving the birdhouse untouched as the smashed limb surrounded it. A week later, when I assembled my little crew of chainsaw users and brush haulers, everything changed for the wren family. We couldn’t avoid it. A major part of the chain-sawed limb smashed off the birdhouse post and the house fell to the ground.

Orphaned wren nestlings at wildlife rehab center.

I hoped the wren family had grown and left, but not so. The little ones were still in the house, shaken, but alive. Steve gathered up the birdhouse—still in good shape, but without a support post—and fastened it to a pine tree. All the while the wren parents flew about, chattering their unhappiness of all that had happened to their little family.

A few days later, I once more watched the wren couple flying in and out of the house. Wren family life back to normal?

THE OLD-TIMER SAYS: Saving a wren family is the right thing to do.

Jerry Apps

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work go to