By Leah Matejka, Adoption Director, PEAC of Cleveland
WHY ADOPT A PARROT?
Adoption vs. Purchase
The parrots I share my life with have different backgrounds. Some were fully-weaned babies purchased from breeders. Others had previous homes and came to me later in their lives. ALL, including those who came here as babies, have a history and brought their life experiences, even brief ones, into my home.
One might expect a stronger bond exists with the birds who came here as babies. Not true. The relationships I have with the birds who have lived in previous homes are as sound as the relationships I’ve developed with those who have lived with me for most of their lives. My previously-owned birds love me, and feel safe and secure in my home. Further, they seemed to know from the get-go that they’d reached a benevolent situation. Take Maizey, for example, a ten year old, Lesser Sulphur Crested Cockatoo, who came to live with me a year and a half ago.
Maizey settled in immediately. I knew little about her previous home or why she’d been given up for adoption but it appeared that she suffered no ill effects from her change of home. She became attached to me rather quickly, but seemed oblivious to everyone else here … husband, children, dog, other birds. She was, and still is, a rather quiet cockatoo and less demanding than most I’ve known. Bonnie Kenk visited when Maizey had just arrived and commented, “she’s a wonderful bird but she isn’t silly enough”. Bonnie would be very pleased to meet Miss Maizey now. She’s as silly as can be and plays with toys joyfully. She’s also a little mischievous. And, she began, after a year here, to notice the existence of the men in my home and has made it known to my husband and two sons that they can leave at any time. In fact, she’d like to help them pack! She’s utterly devoted to me though and I to her. I manage her out of cage time carefully when the guys are at home.
Kendi, my Congo African Grey, on the other hand, came here as a baby. She came from a good breeder who provided her with an excellent start to life as a companion parrot. She was fully weaned, fully fledged and well socialized. She had been introduced to a variety of healthful foods and I was easily able to continue with those as well as introduce her to new taste sensations. She went places with me and accepted new people, places and things with interest and curiosity. To date, when people enter my home, she leans towards them, not away. She has a fabulous sense of humor, and is a devoted companion.
Two very cool birds, Kendi and Maizey have added indescribable joy to my life. Each has a different background and each has species traits. Maizey, however, is an older bird while Kendi is in the midst of her adolescent time of life.
Avian adolescence can be a challenging time for birds and their owners. I am prepared to meet those challenges. Phoebe Linden’s work on that subject has taught me well. Most people, however, are not. The common expectation is that birds will remain the compliant babies that they were at the time they were purchased. Giving up on them during their adolescent stage of life, as they change, mature and push limits, is not uncommon.
I am hoping that those who wish to buy a baby parrot will do so from one of the best and brightest breeders in the country. Our most intelligent breeders are changing the face of aviculture today with their experiences, knowledge and research.
But, from experience, I can tell you that an older bird can be a loving, devoted, enjoyable companion without the challenges of avian adolescence. And that, I believe, is an underrated quality of previously-owned birds.
People buy baby birds for different reasons. Babies are often impulse buys because of the irresistibility of baby anythings. Babies are also purchased because people assume they are blank slates … empty pages that only they can write on to determine the bond and future relationship they have with that parrot as it ages. This is not true. A baby bird comes into a home with a history, albeit a brief one. Kendi’s success in my home is largely related to the earliest days of her life as well as what I’ve contributed to it since she came.
Another misconception is that previously-owned parrots are “damaged goods” or “throw aways”. Birds who have had past homes are not completed books with endings that cannot be rewritten. On the contrary, although an older parrot has had a longer past, its future is open to possibilities.
Knowing as much about that past is helpful in the development of a new relationship. As I said earlier, I know little of Maizey’s past. I know that she was owned by a teenage girl and her father. It would not surprise me to learn that Maizey’s affection for her female owner and lack thereof for “dad” interfered with her future in that home.
HOW TO ADOPT A PARROT
The first step is to educate oneself. Parrot Education & Adoption Center offers educational seminars that are required of those who wish to foster and/or adopt a parrot. Though seminar requirements vary per chapter, each conducts:
- Basic Bird Care: This seminar offers good and current information regarding the best possible solutions for quality parrot care. Cage size, placement and quality are discussed in detail. Toys, perches and items of enrichment are introduced, as is avian nutrition and safety issues. This seminar discusses the parrot psyche and the fact that parrots are undomesticated pets.
- Parrot Personalities: This seminar discusses in general terms, the behaviors, nutritional needs and health issues of a variety of parrot species. We stress that each bird is unique. However, one should not be surprised, for example, that their conure is noisy or their cockatoo likes to chew.
- Behavior Problems: Screaming, Biting and Feather Abuse: This seminar focuses on positive reinforcement and training techniques dealing with certain “negative” behaviors, stressing that what might be “negative” to us, might be very instinctive and normal parrot behavior. Proper bird handling techniques may be demonstrated, such as toweling and proper restraint.
Other seminars are offered throughout the year and whether they are required for adoption or not, we encourage potential adoptive parties to attend them. We recommend certain publications and materials and hope that those interested in a PEAC bird will be those eager to continue their educational process. Aviculture is an ever-changing field and it is important to continue learning. We have found that knowledgeable people have appropriate expectations from a relationship with a parrot.
Once seminar requirements have been completed, an application will be provided to those interested in adopting and a home visit will be conducted to make certain no obvious safety hazards, etc. exist in the home. For example, a home that smells of smoke is one that a bird should not live in and one that we will not approve.
Once approved, potential adoptive parties may visit birds in their foster situations to witness them “at home”. Once a proper match is made, an adoption may take place.
Adoptive parties are expected to provide a PEAC-approved cage and a play gym for the bird. A nominal adoption fee, including reimbursement of veterinary expenses, and a signed contract completes the process.
Birds can live a long time. Although we understand that people and their living situations change, and that life offers no guarantees, we look for those willing to make a commitment to our parrots.
I’ve heard discussions and criticisms of rescue organizations whose high standards make it too difficult for people to adopt parrots. And I admit, PEAC standards are very high. However, they aren’t high because we are fussy people. They aren’t high because we are judgmental, difficult to please, want-to-keep-every-bird-for-ourselves kind of people. We truly don’t want to prohibit anyone from qualifying to adopt a program bird.
Our standards are high because of commitment. Our commitment is to our birds, first and foremost. After all, they have been left behind and their future is in our hands. PEAC is their advocate and their best chance of a promising future.