By Dr. Laurie Hess | Director of Pet Health and Nutrition at ZuPreem
Birds are phenomenal creatures that can make great pets under the right circumstances. They are available from stores, breeders, and rescue organizations around the world. Unfortunately, too many people see birds in stores, on television, or in friends’ homes and decide they have to have one as a pet because these birds are so beautiful and so smart. They think, “It talks. It’s so intelligent. I just have to have one.” Then they bring the bird home without first doing research on how to care for it. They don’t understand how much care, attention, and time these birds require, or how loud and messy they can be. Consequently, many bird owners are surprised and frustrated with the level of care these birds need, and they end up turning their birds over to shelters and to rescue groups.
Where should I go to get a pet bird?
Pet birds are available from breeders, pet stores, shelters/rescue groups, and foster homes. Most people know they can get birds from pet stores and breeders, but not all prospective bird owners realize that there are thousands of birds waiting in shelters and rescue groups to be adopted.
Shelters and rescue groups
Owning a bird is a huge, long-term commitment. If you are considering a bird as a pet, don’t go out and get one impulsively. Think long and hard first and do research on what kind of care particular types of birds require. One of the best ways to learn about particular types of birds you’re interested in is by visiting a local rescue group. There are many of them all around the world. If you’re thinking of getting a pet bird, you can go online to see if there is a bird shelter in your area.
Many bird shelters specialize in particular species of birds. There are cockatoo shelters, conure shelters, and cockatiel shelters. Other shelters have all different types of birds. Some shelters are very small, with as few as 10 birds, while others are huge, with hundreds of birds. Some shelters have acres and acres of property, many buildings, and a lot of a lot of space outside where they have aviaries and a staff caring for the birds. Other shelters have only a couple of people caring for birds in one of their homes.
If you’re going to adopt a bird from a shelter, try to visit the shelter where the birds are housed to see where the bird is coming from before you take that bird into your home. You can learn a lot about a bird’s history and experience by interacting with it before you bring it home. It’s important that you get as much information about the shelter, and specifically about any bird you’re considering, before you finalize your adoption. Some birds have had bad experiences in the past that can lead to serious behavioral problems afterward. If you’re considering adopting a bird from a previously abusive or otherwise unhappy home, you’ll want to know that before you get involved so that you can properly educated about how to deal with a “battered” bird.
When you’re working with shelters, you may hear the terms “foster” and “rescue.” These terms have different meanings. Fostering a bird works the same way as fostering a child. People who foster a bird are typically volunteers who take a bird into their homes and take care of it for a period of time before the bird can find a permanent home. Sometimes this is a matter of days to weeks, while other times it may be to months to even years before that foster bird finds a forever home. Rescuing a bird typically involves housing that bird in a shelter with other birds where they are cared for by volunteers, typically funded by donations, until the birds find permanent homes.
If you are trying to determine whether a particular bird is right for you, consider becoming a foster parent for that bird so that you can see whether you’re a match. Fostering might give you the chance to see whether your lifestyle suits this bird’s needs. Some rescue groups will let you foster a bird before you officially adopt it to see if you and the bird are a good fit. Even if you don’t become a foster parent for a bird, some rescue groups will allow you to visit foster homes to get to know a particular bird you’re considering adopting.
Where can I find a reputable shelter or rescue group?
There are many reputable, responsible shelters, run appropriately by caring volunteers who do what they do because they truly love birds. Unfortunately, there are also sketchy shelters with no true organization and nothing more than a couple of people seeking donations to help them care for too many birds in their own homes. To ensure you’re working with a reputable rescue group, you will have to do some fact-checking and ask for references of people who have had successful bird adoptions from this group.
One place to start is online with Petfinder. Petfinder is an Internet company that operates the largest online pet adoption website, www.Petfinder.com, serving all of North America where thousands of animal shelters and rescue groups can post pictures and information about adoptable pets. This website is a place where prospective adopters can see all different species and breeds of adoptable pets online. On Petfinder, you can enter some basic parameters to help you search, including what type of bird you’re looking for and in what geographic location. Ideally, you’ll want to look within a geographic range close enough to yours, so that you can visit the rescue facility if you find a bird you’re interested in.
What should I expect if I decide to adopt a bird from a shelter or rescue group?
Most rescue facilities have certain requirements if you want to adopt a bird. They will make you fill out some paperwork. They may ask you for references. They want to make sure that that bird does not end up in a home where the new owners are not truly informed of what they’re getting into, and the bird ends up being returned to the shelter. Sometimes rescue facilities can be frustrating because they ask a lot of questions. They want to make sure that you’re not going to abuse or neglect the bird any in any way. They want to be sure that you have the financial means to care for and feed a bird potentially for many, many years. They’ll want to know whether you’ve had a pet bird before. They want to make sure that the bird is being adopted into a very stable environment and will be provided with the resources to thrive. They may ask you for personal references or even for a veterinarian’s reference. You really can’t take it personally if they ask you many questions. They’re just looking out for the bird’s welfare.
For many bird rescue facility workers, this is a full-time job. They are dedicated to making sure these animals are cared for properly, and they’re very sensitive to the fact that rescued birds may be coming from horrible situations of abuse and neglect. Some rescued birds need really attentive care, patience, and kindness. They need to learn how to trust humans again. The volunteers at bird shelters make it their mission to ensure that the birds they are entrusted with will never suffer again and will go on to loving, caring homes.
What should I expect once I bring a bird from a shelter home?
Some rescued birds are very well socialized, and they go right into new homes and thrive. Others take more time and training. They make have to unlearn some bad habits (such as screaming to get attention) that they’ve developed. They may have to learn to trust you. You may have to work on changing their diets. These are all facts to consider before taking the bird home. The worst thing for you and for the bird is to bring it into a new home and then find out that it’s not the right bird for you. This situation is stressful, not only for you, but also for that bird.
If you’re looking for a new pet bird, it’s great to bring a little baby bird into your home to mold and shape into a well-adapted, well-socialized pet. However, there are many older birds who need homes, as well, and who really are deserving of second chances.
So, remember, before you even think about bringing a new bird into your household, whether it’s from a rescue group, a foster home, a pet store, or a breeder, please research that bird’s requirements first. Don’t do get a bird on a whim. Don’t bring that bird in just because it’s pretty or interactive or talkative or does tricks. Think about what this bird is going to mean for you long term, as you don’t want your bird to end up back in the shelter because it’s not what you thought it would be.