To Rescue Or Not To Rescue…That Is The Answer!


…And what an answer it is!!!

I have had the pleasure of rescuing three birds (Kacey, Chloe, and Sophie) and let me tell you…it wasn’t always a pleasure but one heck of a learning experience!!  Between the distrust, feather shredding, biting and what have you…let’s just say I have a few…ummm…”Enrichment Battle Wounds“.  Unfortunately, the knowledge I have today I didn’t have back then so, I’m making up for lost time.

The body language of a parrot can tell you a whole bunch of things.  I often sit and observe my birds with such great awe marking their body movements, listening to their vocalizations and watching the way they interact with each other.  The same goes for that rescue parrot you brought home last month that you still can’t get near because he lunges at you through the cage!  Hence…the rehabilitation starts!

Trust is a big issue when it comes to a rescue bird.  The first step is gaining their trust.  If you are fortunate to know of any trauma that went on in the previous home then you are one step ahead of the game.  One of the toughest rescue situations is the “unknown”.  Patience is a virtue when it comes to this…because of the unknown we have no idea what has happened.  Through trial and error we make our decisions on how to go about the first steps of rehabilitation.  I am going to use Kacey (my 11 year old Blue and Gold Macaw) for an example.  I was fortunate enough to know about Kacey’s background.  She was 10 when I got her and for the first 7 years of her life she had been physically beaten and abused, knocked off her perch in her cage by a water hose on a daily basis, on a diet consisting of nothing but peanuts and with all of this combined…untrustworthy.  I would be too if you treated me that way.  She didn’t trust strangers and that was exactly what I was to her.  I had to be careful feeding her…she would lunge at me through the cage.  So, I figured she loves peanuts, I will use that to get her to step up.

Every morning I would wrap my arm in 2 towels, an ace bandage to keep the 2 towels on and a long sleeved sweatshirt with gloves on (I live in Florida…this is not proper attire!).  I would open the cage door, put my hand out to her and show her the peanut.  If she even just put one toe up to me…she would get the peanut…if she snapped at the peanut (and my hand) I would drop the peanut through the grate of her cage and close the door.  I would get a polite “Uh Oh” from her and then come back 10 minutes later and try it again.  Within a week I had her stepping up to me.  This is what we call Positive Reinforcement (R+).  She steps up or makes an attempt to…she gets the peanut.  She didn’t always get the peanut… an obnoxious, “GOOD GIRL” from me seemed to make the same impression.  This type of training is used with your baby birds as well.  While all cute and cuddly, they are eventually going to grow up.  R+ needs to be started immediately during weaning!  I cannot stress that enough!!  The last thing you want is a parrot that dominates your home.  Through R+ Training and Enrichment you obtain a mentally, physically and emotionally healthy parrot.  Great reading and DVD’s on this subject can be purchased at GoodBird, Inc. and The Leather Elves there are 2 major training tools I use and that is the book Good Bird by Barbara Heidenreich and the DVD Enriching Your Parrot’s Life by Robin Shewokis.  Thanks to Patricia Sund…these have become my bibles!!  This is a joint adventure.  It is a partnership…you work together to achieve the goal. 

So…the answer remains…To Rescue Or Not To Rescue…There is a sense of personal achievement when that rescue bird finally steps up to you instead of lunging at you.  It is a slow and patient process.  I will tell you from personal experience, it has been the greatest achievement of my life so far.  I am the Companion Animal Department Manager at a local Petco store and everyday I see animals being brought in by customers that cannot take care of them.  Some enter the store in a purse or a bag and left in a kennel on our shelves.  All I can say is this…there are so many unwanted animals out there in shelters and rescues that there aren’t enough people for.  Petco is already doing their part by lowering the animals they sell by 30%!  That is a big step for the pet industry!  I am happy to say that the discontinued sales of birds is on it’s way as well…an even bigger step!  Think adoption first before you go to the pet store and pay an astronomical amount of money for a bird (or any animal).  Do your homework and research on what species is appropriate for you, your family and your lifestyle.  Weigh the pros and cons, discuss WHY you want to add a bird to your home.  Remember…the idea of getting a bird to match the color of your couch and make your home look more tropical is NOT the reason to get one!!  I see it all the time…especially where I live in Florida.  People get a big bird to make their house look more ” Florida like”.  It doesn’t work, they have no idea how to train the bird, no resources, or the desire to learn and that’s when they wind up in the shelters here (it’s not the only reason but one of them).  For the “die-hard” bird lovers…we never let the novelty wear off of owning such beautiful creatures.  You own an exotic animal that was born to be wild…there is no “taming” that animal…only to teach them right from wrong.


One Response to “To Rescue Or Not To Rescue…That Is The Answer!”

  1. Suzanne Gregoris Says:

    Lots of good info here. I know how hard it is to rescue and im glad to say so far all my rescues have worked out.
    Thanks for posting this Christina

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