Growing Corn in a Bird Sanctuary

Some call it corn. Others call it maize. Whatever you chose to call it, the birds love it.

Maize cum corn is the staple food of large sections of the world’s population but as the food resources available to birds declines through destruction of their habitats by man, they cannot be blamed for satisfying their needs by feeding off the crops we have put in the place of the original flora, fauna and insect life that once fed them.

In ancient times farmers grew crops for household use and sold or exchanged any surplus with other householders. In those days people understood the value of birdlife in controlling insects and plant diseases and in uplifting the inner spirit with their beauty and songs. So valued was birdlife that people willingly shared their harvest with their feathered friends and helpers.

At the Retreat in Belize we grow only a little corn for green mealies: the cobs are harvested when still green and the seeds full and soft. If our timing is right we can get a fair share of the harvest. But the cobs we need to get seed for planting the following crop of maize have to be left out on the stalk until the seed is dry and we have to take extra measures to protect them.

Welcome to the sock method. After the cobs have formed and been pollinated by the flower heads we slip socks made of mosquito gauze/screen over the cobs we want to preserve for seed. The socks allow enough air to get through to the cobs to dry them and prevent cob rot but the birds are put off by the covering.

In this way the birds get a share and we get what we want. We feel that is a fair trade.

Bird damaged cobs

Blue Jay with corn

Maize cob covered by gauze

— H.A.E.

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