When a person without bird experience goes into a pet store, it is easy to fall in love with the young, interactive and beautiful parrot on display. She may fall head over heels in love with you, and you with her, and may call loudly to you when you leave, making your heart feel heavy. She might remember you when you come back into the store for dog food weeks later, and do everything in her power to get you to return to her cage side and all but beg you to take her home with you as you leave.
This time, as you are driving home, you won’t be able to get her out of your mind. You will argue with yourself: “A bird? I don’t know anything about birds. Do they even make good pets?” This will be rebutted with: “But she’s soooo sweet and pretty. And I think she really likes me. Maybe I should go back.” This is the most dangerous kind of bird bite – the one that takes a chunk out of your heart.
All of a sudden you find a new addition to your home, one that comes with a huge and expensive cage and accessories that have considerably lightened your wallet. As life goes on with your new parrot, you might come to realize that you have taken on a bit more than you anticipated and you might start to rethink your decision.
Unfortunately, there are very few pet stores that care enough about the well being of the birds they sell, or their customers, to give you the whole story before you buy. Had you known about the mess, the noise, the destruction and the expense of keeping a bird, you would have thought twice and would likely not have given into that urge in the pet store. This is a familiar story to many former parrot owners.
So here you are with a bird that has reached sexual maturity and isn’t as cuddly as the bird you fell in love with at the pet store. You don’t have enough time for your children, let alone your needy and increasingly demanding bird. Your home is covered in dust and your neighbors think you’re crazy. There are only three legs left on your desk chair. Thoughts begin to creep into your head about what life would be like without the additional workload of a bird. The arguments resurface: “She’s just a bird. I can’t do this anymore.” balanced with: “But I love her.” What now?
The former owner of Theo, my precious goffins cockatoo, had to make the hard choice to give her up. He had gotten her from a pet store when he was a kid. She lived with him for 22 years before she came to me. Theo had been a part of every aspect of his life. She grew up alongside him. She was there when he graduated from high school and college. She was there when he embarked on a career and when he took a wife.
She was very loved and well cared for, but somewhere during the course of his busy life, she got left behind. She was no longer getting the attention she was accustomed to and had begun some feather destructive behaviors. He knew this little cockatoo was not thriving in his care any longer, and while it would leave a hole in his heart the size of Lake Michigan, he knew what he had to do. My avian vet’s technician, told me about her situation and within the week, I had a new bird. His terrible loss was my gain, and I have so much respect for this thoughtful, caring man.
I want to encourage you to do everything in your power to keep your bird in your home. This is the time to do a lot of soul searching. Are you really stretched to your limit? Are there reasonable lifestyle changes you could make that could better accommodate life with a bird?
Rehoming can be a very difficult transition for some birds. Still, sometimes it is for the best for all parties concerned. If you are sure that your bird will fare better elsewhere, and there is no other recourse, then you are probably right.
The next move you make is very important. Since you entered into the world of birds blindly, through no fault of your own, DO MAKE SURE that you don’t hand your bird off to someone as equally in the dark about the hardships of bird ownership as you once were. This will only ensure the continued rehoming of this bird. Find a reputable bird rescue in your area, where someone experienced and knowledgeable can prepare your bird for rehoming and match its personality to the lifestyle of a new family. If you can’t find one, get online with the members of a bird forum and ask for their help. Speak with your vet about possibilities. This worked out well for Theo and myself.
Bird ownership is not for everybody. It is more a lifestyle choice than anything else. Some people are suited to it, others are not. There is no need for feelings of guilt if you should decide to relinquish your bird to someone who is better equipped to deal with its needs. In fact, it speaks highly of your humanity and says that you are a great person for acknowledging that your bird deserves a good life and then seeing to it.
Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.