A Parrot: The Forever Two-Year-Old

When you think about adopting a baby bird, consider this:

You are raising a child monster with permanently-affixed pliers, and that child is gonna be a two-year-old for fifty to one hundred years, depending on the species.

Every mistake you make in his or her formative years, every bad habit you instill, will be with you for the duration of that parrot’s life.

It’s so important to do your research. Any bird, big or small, requires a level of expertise in handling and training beyond that of a cat or dog. Negative reinforcement doesn’t work, and it takes a measure of patience that many many not expect.

Baby parrots never forget, and they rarely forgive–and only if you grovel. 😉

This is just one more reason why I strongly believe in adopting an older bird. If you spend enough time with an older bird, you know what their quirks and habits are BEFORE you bring him or her home, and if you make a few mistakes here or there, you will not be imprinting key memories in a bird that is as impressionable as a baby one.

Parrot ownership…

…has taught me to be a kinder person and a better teacher because now I know how to inspire what I want and need from people and psittacine alike rather than punishing them for what I don’t.

Parrot Culture

Today, Hubby and I had our semi-weekly coffee shop work date, and a teenager was there with a survey for school–one of the questions was “What sub-culture groups are you a part of?”

His answer?

Parrot/Aviculture

IMG_1474
Hubby and I, attending the 2015 Birds of Prey Soiree, a benefit for Nature’s Educators, a non-profit organization that rescues injured birds of prey (and educates people on why they actually don’t want a “pet” falcon.)

…Where people’s first reaction to furry, brilliantly-colored masks isn’t “Hi Oscar and Elmo!” but rather, “Do you have an eclectus?!”

…Where people judge each other’s “parronting” skills with the same passive-aggressive judgment as in modern-day mom groups. (You feed your parrot that? Have you provided him with all the latest foraging toys? You’re ruining your bird for life!)

…Where people endlessly discuss the various species of parrot (and especially why the species they own is the absolute top of the trees–in all seriousness, though, ekkies are the way to go.)

…Where people roll their eyes when people claim they have to leave early/arrive late to ‘let out their dog’ but who instead cancel entire evening plans to go home and spend time with their fid.

…Where use of the word “Fid” to stand in for “Feathered Kid” never needs explanation.

…Where people don’t bat an eye when someone walks in with an ‘accident’ on his/her shoe… or shirt… or hair…

…Where it’s somehow considered more socially acceptable to have a bird nestled in your bra in public than to breast feed a human child. (For the record, I don’t/won’t do this.)

…Where being bitten hard by an aggressive pet doesn’t result in the animal being put down, but rather the question, “Well, what did I do to cause that?”

Yeah. We’re of that ilk. xD

Dog and cat people may not always see eye-to-eye, but one thing they absolutely agree on is this: nobody is as weird as bird people.

 

Rehomes – The Way to Go

Many people often ask the question:

Should we go with a baby bird, or look for an older bird who needs a new home?

Hubby and I have done both; each experience was fulfilling in its own way. The biggest benefit to a baby bird is that it allows you to learn to handle your parrot without fear early-on; but they grow up, they often change, and young birds are incredibly vulnerable to illness.

As far as older, rehomed birds go: there is nothing so touching as bonding with an older parrot. I have never met a more grateful creature in my life than a rehomed parrot.

sophie
This is Sophie, a goffin’s cockatoo with a plucking problem. She’s looking for her forever home in the Denver Area at Busy Beaks Bird Shop.

It may take patience, it may take some very deep understanding, and for some, it might just take lots of time. But winning the trust of a parrot neglected or formerly abused is one of the most rewarding things I’ve experienced in my twenty-seven years of pet ownership.

Sure, they have a funny way of showing their gratitude–tearing up all the cardboard and wood we provide (and some that we don’t), singing, dancing, screaming their hearts out when I’m trying to work, making giant messes, destroying a student’s homework for funsies, chasing my feet around and trying to kiss my ankles while I cook dinner…

There is an element to a rehomed parrot that just doesn’t exist when you raise him or her from a baby. It is absolutely beautiful and indescribable.

Even Louie, who clearly hasn’t been neglected a day in his life, also has that extra element of thankfulness and joy that many home-raised babies I’ve met and/or raised do not: he is deeply, deeply attached to us now, not because he thinks we’re his parents, but because we have been excellent flock-mates. =) We have earned his trust.

I’m sure that people who adopt shelter dogs and cats experience this as well, but there’s something extra special about forming a bond with so long-lived a creature.

That trust can be hard-won, but once you have it, it’s incredible.

harry
This is Harry. He’s a little shy, and also looking for his new home in Denver!

Now, I’m not suggesting you go out and take home a bird that clearly hates you (or is even indifferent about you.)

Before we adopted Louie, I visited:

-a goffin’s cockatoo who liked me just fine, but just wasn’t all that into me. I could just tell.

-an amazon I wasn’t comfortable handling, though he seemed to like me. A lot.

-another smaller amazon who bit the dickens out of me (with virtually no warning)–no way we were taking her home!

Finding the right ‘fit’ is essential; you have to know what you’re comfortable with, what your triggers are, examine your own experience.

And you may walk into a bird store one day, and a bird may fall in love with you. They may dance when they see you–they might let you pet them when no one else can touch them. They might sing you a lovely little song.

Louie met Fletcher and I and immediately began kissing us on the cheeks, over and over. His former owners were blown away–he NEVER does that. Now that we’ve had him for over a year, I can vouch for that!

If you’re struggling to decide what to do, my advice:

Pick the parrot that picks you.

It is beyond worth it.

If you’re really struggling with the idea–baby or adult?–I implore you:

Look for that right fit: Give a re-homed bird a chance. 

It may be the best thing you ever do.

An open letter to my new parrot.

Dear New Parrot,

Wow, this must be a scary transition, huh? Everything you have ever known has totally shifted; baby or adult, this is a new chapter in your life, so I suspect you must be feeling really uneasy. You probably miss your person, no matter how poorly that person treated you–you probably don’t know if we’ll provide for your needs, if you’ll ever taste your favorite foods again, or if we’re even nice. 

So here are a few promises to you:

  1. I solemnly swear to respect your body language so that you’ll trust me when it’s really important; if you back away, I’ll let you leave. If you tell me to back off with that big beak, I will. I want to earn your trust so you don’t feel the need to bite to communicate.
  2. You will have tasty, fresh food every day. Fruits, veggies, noodles and beans–whatever is bird friendly is yours. Food is one of my favorite parts of life; where is the fun in eating nothing but dried pellets every day? If I’m eating something that you can taste, I promise to offer you some, too.
  3. I won’t show my anger when you destroy some part of my furniture. I know you don’t mean to–it’s my responsibility to make sure you have plenty of interesting things to chew on so that you have a better outlet. I’m prepared–I know there will be some splinters. It’s okay. You’re worth it.
  4. I will not mind the mess you make; my husband puts up with me (and I’m messier than you, dear parrot!), so I’ll bite the bullet and clean up after you, too, as long as you keep me company while I do so. =)
  5. I will not react (and I will forgive you) when that inevitable bite happens. I’ll try my hardest not to provoke it, but I know that it’s coming–it’ll be okay. No one ever died from a bird bite, although there is apparently now a medical code for someone who has been bitten by a macaw parrot–not an amazon, but a macaw. Go figure.

These are just a few preliminary promises; here is to many happy years together!