Is Delaying Giving Up Your Bird The Right Thing To Do?

Military macaw

I have been avoiding writing this post for a long time. But someone recently contacted me and confirmed that this post needs to be written.

I have for years encouraged people to work out their problems with their birds before giving them up. I stand by that. If you have a behavioral problem with your bird, Birdtricks.com has every tool you need to fix it. Screaming, biting and aggression are solvable problems. In fact, of all of the birds I have ever kept, known or known of, there is only one who didn’t respond to positive reinforcement training and the reason for that is believed to have been medical. You can stop unwanted behaviors if you make it a priority.

The problem with problems is that when left on their own they can grow out of control like an untended garden. What used to be an annoyance becomes a major ordeal and soon you might barely recognize the bird who was once your best friend. Unless you do something about it, you will be miserable and so will your bird.

Even though it is difficult to say the words, there are times when I have wanted to instruct someone to give up their bird. Sometimes that is the right thing to do. Not all people are meant to keep birds and not all birds do well in even the most doting homes. When the time comes to part ways it should happen without delay to avoid the problem worsening still. Pride should never enter into the decision. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to make things right.

Knowing when to hand over the reins was never more important than it was a few years back when the owner of a yellow naped amazon owner (we’ll call her Sue) found her bird’s health, life really, hanging in the balance.

After reading our blog, Sue brought her bird in for a complete work over with an avian vet. Her vet immediately noticed that the bird was morbidly obese weighing in at 607 grams (normal weight for a yellow naped is about 400 grams), and there were some black discolorations in the feathering.

The vet was not at all surprised to find the bird had fatty liver disease, but it was a young bird with a conscientious owner and he felt that the damage could be reversed with dedicated commitment to a diet change.

Sue was fairly new at parrot ownership and she reached out to the avian community for help. A friend contacted me and asked me to help her. I spoke with Sue and told her that I would help her as long as she remain dedicated to making a diet change and that she would always tell me the truth, even when she screwed up.

I answered a bunch of questions about fatty liver disease and explained the dangers but also emphasized the amazing regenerative capabilities of the liver with the intention of giving her hope for her bird’s full recovery.

Cockatiel

She was young and like many others her age, she lived off the fast food that she would pick up on her way home from work. She did not understand nutrition or the health issues that would result from a poor diet. I explained that the body is like a car. It could be brand new, with all new parts but if you were to neglect keeping the oil and other fluids at a proper balance, let the air in the tires run low and use a lousy grade of gas, even the newest car would begin to fail.

She understood what I was telling her – she was smart girl, but not smarter than her manipulative parrot. She was not prepared to deal with her bird’s persistence and persuasiveness. The bird would time and time again convince her to share her french fries, each time sending her back to square one with her progress in her bird’s diet change.

For a while I stopped talking about the bird’s diet and discussed hers hoping that I might eventually eliminate french fries and the like from the house altogether. That did not work.

After two years, we succeeded in pulling off only a mere 50 grams of excess weight. Not nearly a sufficient amount. Throughout, the bird remained in the care of the vet, but the fatty liver was advancing and causing scarring and destruction to the liver that would not regenerate.

I had to tell her at that time that her bird needed to be in someone else’s care if it were going to survive. She was still insistent that she would get the job done. At that point I was no longer sure whether it was her love for her bird or her own guilt that was driving her. I had to tell her that I could no longer be a part of this. I was not able to do anymore than I had already done to help her.

Not long ago, she contacted me to tell me that she had given up her precious bird. His health had declined and she did not feel in a position to do him any good. I tried to hold back my anger over the situation. Had she listened to reason a year earlier, her bird would not be suffering the stresses of a new environment and new owner while it is very ill. It is possible this will further exacerbate its condition. There is also another year’s worth of bad eating habits that need to be undone.

No one wants to give up a bird that they love and no one wants to admit to failure. But there is a point where you have to stop thinking about how this feels to you and consider what is best for your bird.

The longer bad habits are allowed to continue, the more of a stranglehold they will have on your bird. The sooner you make the decision and put it into play, the better the chance that someone else can make things right, and the sooner your bird will be able to go on to a happy, stable and healthy life.

Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.

7 comments

Julie childs

I have a one year old African gray. I had a sweet gray years ago. This bird will not step up. Will not eat fruits veg or seeds. No treats. Just pellets Only pellets The worst is that he will not come out of cage. We leave door open and he climbs all over cage but will not come out. I am so disappointed. Any suggestions?

Julie childs
Miguel Romero

I toyed with the idea of giving up my Quaker because I like to travel, but find it hard to find someone to take care of him while I am away. I had two women who wanted my bird, but when it came down to actually giving him to someone, I just could not do it. I travel domestically now and take the bird where ever I go. He loves traveling. I gave up the idea of traveling overseas. Once I accepted that, I am o.k. with doing things with the bird. Today we are going camping in the mountains of Northern New Mexico. My bird has traveled from coast to coast, and he loves bird watching with me.

Miguel Romero
Lisa Koontz

I did give up my Congo African Grey, Ziggy. I raised Ziggy from a chick and had him for 10 years. Due to major life changes that occurred all at once, I could no longer dedicate my attention to him. Ziggy developed behavioral problems that required time and energy to fix—time and energy that I didn’t have. With much regret, I gave away Ziggy to an experienced bird owner, under the condition that if for some reason she could no longer care for him, she would return him to me. When his new owner moved to our state, we made yearly visits to see Ziggy for about 6 years. After keeping Ziggy for almost 10 years, his owner gave him back to me just 6 months ago. So now, at 20 years old, Ziggy is back home, but still as demanding and challenging as he ever was. Luckily, I am now in a position to work with him to improve his behaviors. Additionally, online advice has evoloved over the past 10 years, with more and better information available. I purchased videos from BirdTricks.com, and have implemented touch training. We have seen improvements with Ziggy, but still have work to do…unfortunately, training (or perhaps the hand-offering of sunflower seeds as treats) has stimulated Ziggy to exhibit sexual behaviors. During training (which I keep to very short 2 minute sessions), Ziggy pants, droops his wings, and makes the most pitiful whiny/squeaky noises. If I continue training, he will start to try to regurgitate. Sometimes Ziggy will start the panting and squeaking before he knows we will train—in anticipation of training! I’m at a standstill with training, as I do not want to encourage this behavior. But I still need to correct some bad behaviors. What should I do? Help! I love Ziggy, and want to do right by him now that I have a second chance.

Lisa Koontz
DONNA

I WOULD ONLY GIVE UP A BIRD OR BIRDS IF IT WAS IN THE BEST INTEREST OF THE PET FOR ME TO DO SO. I HAVE 9 COCKATIELS AND I LIVE IN A MOTEL ROOM…SO FAR IT IS WORKING OUT BUT IF IT WOULD START INJURING MY BIRDS IN ANY WAY, I WOULD TRY TO FIND SOMEONE WHO WOULD LOVE AND CARE FOR HIM, HER, OR THEM AS MUCH AS I DO. I DON’T BELIEVE THAT PERSON EXISTS, THOUGH :)

DONNA
michael and cookie

Getting rid of a parrot is one thing, whos getting the parrot is another. We know that a change of owners in a parrots life can be deadly for a parrot. And we can’t just give the parrot anybody, it has to be somebody who knows what to do and has the time to do it in. Otherwise just keep the parrot then. And finding somebody who is parrot savy might not be so easy. I just learned just how important diet is to parrots. I always knew about fruits and veggies and did give them to Cookie now and then but she was never really big on them so mostly it was parrot food. She loves her parrot food which is just seed and some freeze dired veggies. And that form of feeding gave her a stroke. Now I’m more forcefull with fruits and veggies and she even weights more than she used to. On mostly parrot food she weighed 381g, now she stays just under 400. But she is a she and shes are smaller than hes so size has something to do with weight. So if you have to give up your parrot, make sure its to somebody that has the time to feed the parrot the way it should be fed. But if you know about birdtricks.com then thats all you need is time. Me, I make the time. Saying we don’t have the time is like saying I can’t afford that. You have the money, its not that important to spend on somethings. Time is the samething, if your not willing to give up something that takes time to free up time for your parrot then consider giving it up. The day I give up Cookie is the day the world has ended. If I were bed ridden and no wife I’ll get somebody to do what I can no longer do. As long as I can hold a gun in one hand somebody will be feeding Cookie.

michael and cookie
Peter

400g seems low to me for a Yellow Nape. Mine (a Parvipes) is in the 570’s having been brought down from 600+. At 400g it would be not much heavier than an Orange Wing which is a much smaller boned species. My Yellow Nape is larger boned than a large African Grey where mine weighs in at 525g.

Peter
Robyn Little

I have had to give up some of my birds due to not having enough time to care for them all. I have MBS and took on more birds than I could handle. I believe my babies went to a loving home and I have been lucky enough to babysit them for their new owners but it continues to break my heart that I don’t have them any more. It has been over a year now since I last heard from the boy who took them and he doesn’t write any more which kills me. It is a struggle sometimes with the number of birds I have but I don’t think I could go through that again. I often question whether they would be better off with someone who can commit more time to them but I don’t think I am strong enough to part with any of them. They make my life complete and even though the expense is sometimes stressful I love them too much to part with them.

Robyn Little

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