This particular topic is rarely discussed for some reason. It is concerning because, over the years, I have watched many, many great bird owners get in way over their heads. It follows a pattern that you can see coming on like a freight train and the plan they started out with goes right off the rails. I apologize in advance for my bluntness in this post…
Once your journey with parrots begins, it never really ends. You scour the internet to learn what you need to know to evolve into a great bird owner. Eventually, you have a sense of needing to give back to the community that held your hand and gave you guidance when you needed it most and you do this by taking in a bird that needs a good home. There is always room for one more bird to love, right?
The problem is, there is always a bird in need. For some people, it is very difficult to say no - and the avian community makes it harder still. Your online friends will sing your praises and encourage you to be out there fighting the good fight. Their appreciation propels you forward.
It all feels so good and so right. Then one bird leads to two, three, four…where do you draw the line? How do you say no, especially when there is the expectation that you will always find space for another cage to fill with another needy bird?
I have discussed this topic over the years with many people with multiple birds. Some of the more honest ones said they felt they couldn’t turn a bird away for fear of criticism. Many of them feel regret for their decision to take in so many birds. And, of course, they also feel guilty for feeling regret.
Rescues and sanctuaries (the responsible ones) know when to say ‘no’ and bird owners should show the same restraint. Unfortunately, it needs to be said that you should never, ever, ever take in a bird out of obligation or to gain recognition or popularity with the people you admire.
I am in no way chastising or criticizing the big-hearted people who always find room for one more. Nor am I suggesting that you should not help birds in need. Sometimes, though, the best thing is to put your resources into finding a home for the bird that is NOT yours. That’s helping too.
Every new bird you bring into your house will put greater strain on your resources. The cost of food, toys and health care will go up. More importantly, since YOU are the most important resource, each bird will get less and less from you. Chores and feeding will take longer and your free time to spend with the birds will be divided among more and more needy recipients.
When you have that many birds, you will find that none of them get ample out-of-cage time because it can be too risky. When the wrong bird lands on the wrong cage, feet get bitten. When there are no rooms that don’t contain birds, it might be safer to keep all the birds caged for the majority of the time. That will make them safe, but it will make life unfulfilling.
It must also be taken into consideration that with all the bird dander, the environment becomes unhealthy for both humans and the birds. Further, I have walked into some multiple-bird houses that were beyond filthy. Birds are messy, that is true, but that increases the need to clean more often and is not an excuse to let things go. It is your responsibility to provide a sanitary environment for the birds in your care. This is very difficult with too many birds.
If, to you, living the dream is having the walls of your house lined with bird cages, please reconsider. If you want to be a true ambassador to birds, take on only what you can handle and learn to say no. You’re not doing justice to any birds you don’t have enough time for. How is this an improvement for them?
By over-extending yourself and not imposing limits, their current situation may be no better than the one they were “rescued” from making yours just another crappy home they landed in.
Oh, and somewhere in there are your original birds that consumed your heart when you first started out. What has their life become?
Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.