The joys and challenges of bird companionship

Hello all! I have decided to start this blog because, being new to the world of bird companionship, I’m still learning and wanted to document the ups and downs, the challenges and joys of being the mom to five beautiful babies (baby birds, that is). I have two parakeets and three cockatiels. But I also want prospective bird owners to realize what a responsibility these animals are. They require a lot of time and attention. They are not an object that should just be given away, anymore than you would give your child away. Cockatiels can live up to 20 years. There are some that have lived for 30 to 33 years. Parakeets live on average 8 to 10 years. And so owning a parrot can be a lifetime commitment. They don’t grow up and eventually move out. It is like having a 2 year old to take care of for the next 20 years. And much longer for bigger parrot species.

And so my story begins…My son talked my husband and I into letting him have a parakeet this summer. After months of research, reading books, and talking to other bird owners, nothing  really prepared me for bringing one of these creatures into my home. They are amusing but extremely fragile little guys. I was terrified when we brought snowball and bluebell home (we went to the pet store to buy one parakeet and came home with two, of course). Everything that I read told me that taming a parakeet was as simple as having a little patience and talking to them, spending time with them everyday. Boy, was that a lie. That was in September, and they still won’t let us touch them. And so my son was disappointed. He wanted a “friend” that would want to hang out with him and cuddle with him. So my research led me to believe that a cockatiel would be the perfect bird for my son. I learned a huge lesson about buying from a pet shop, by the way. You should always try to find a breeder who hand feeds his babies so that they bond more easily with humans. And so, I found a wonderful breeder. Off we went to pick out our new baby cockatiel. What i got was a baby who wants to be held all of the time. He doesn’t like for us to be out of his sight. He sits on my shoulder all of the time. He loves car rides and meeting new people. And he still isn’t weaned off of his baby formula. (he should have been weened months ago). Apparently, cockatiels like to be nurtured. Being hand fed with a syringe is like a baby with a bottle or a pacifier, it can be a security issue. He’s so spoiled that he sleeps with my husband. He despises his cage. Whenever we would put him in his cage would pace back and forth, begging to be let out. And so we stopped putting him in it. I would never, ever recommend sleeping with your bird. I’ve heard so many horror stories about people accidentally rolling over on them and killing them. But my husband has had three back surgeries and sleeps on his back, never moving during the night. So on my husbands chest is where he sleeps. I’ve woken up several times in the night to find him sound asleep on my head, so I usually sleep in my son’s room. I toss and turn, and so I’m not comfortable having him in the bed with me (not to mention having your head pooped on in the night is a very unpleasant thing).  We did build a playgym, which all of my birds love to play on. And he is starting to sleep on the swing on the play gym. He usually sleeps with my husband until 2 or 3 in the morning, and then my husband wakes up and puts him on the play gym. He used to fly down, but he’s getting better about it. As long as he can see us, he seems to be fine. I will post pics of the play gym. It was very simple to build. We built it out of 1/2″ pvc pipe and wrapped coban around it in bright colors so that they can grip it. But I’ll save that for another day.

Let me back up a little bit. Two months before I got my gorgeous new baby, I signed up on a bird adoption website. No luck. Two days after bringing my new baby home, I got an email asking that we adopt two female adult cockatiels. Two days after we brought our little bouncing bundle of pooping joy home, we went and got two more! When i asked my husband if we could adopt them, I never thought he’d actually say yes! But unfortunately, this is their third home. Parrots are very intelligent and emotional creatures.  Giving them away is like giving your child away. They become very bonded to their human companions. It turns out that the people that we got them from got them for their son, whom they only have every other weekend. He quickly lost interest in them, and they showed signs of being cage bound when we brought them home. It turns out that these people had 3 dogs and it was unsafe to let them out unless the dogs were out in the yard. Which probably wasn’t very often. Now, they rarely go into their cage. Well, not by choice but because our demonic little parakeets decided that they like their cage better and have moved in. Parakeets are very dominant and fearless. Our cockatiels are terrified of them, even though they are 10 times bigger!

I look forward to writing more about our birds crazy antics, and in the meantime I would love for everyone to watch this video of a wonderful bird sanctuary in Washington State. It is a haven for birds who’s owners found out that they couldn’t handle them. Many were neglected or abused, having self mutilated and pulled out their feathers. This bird sanctuary is very uncommon, most are horrible places. But this one in particular is wonderful. Hope you enjoy!

http://zazushouse.org/?page_id=102

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