I have always thought birds, particularly parrots, were beautiful and captivating. As a young child I remember going to the Philadelphia Zoo and hand feeding the colorful Lorikeets. Although the experience was memorable, having 6 Lorikeets biting at my arm is something I wish to forget! From that moment forward I was an ornithophobe – I was afraid of birds.
Fast forward 11 years and I now find myself in a very precarious situation. I am a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT) here at Gilbertsville Veterinary Hospital and if you don’t know, we see a fair amount of birds here! In my first week at GVH, we saw 2 Macaws, a handful of Amazons and a couple of African Grays. I realized quickly I would have to get over my fear of birds. Throughout my entire life, I have always conquered my fears by facing them head on….so, naturally that meant I would have to get a bird!
I started doing research online and talked to “bird” people I knew. One day I found myself at a local pet store that had pet birds for sale. A beautiful and very playful Sun Conure charmed me from the moment I saw him. His bright colors and sweet nature, how could I not fall in love?! After talking to friend who has had birds for over 20 years, I realized that the sweet Sun Conure was not for me! I decided to continue to do more research into characteristics that were important to me: size (not too big), friendliness, ability to talk, and an independent nature. After a fair amount of research I narrowed it down to 2 species – a Quaker parrot or Hahns Macaw. Now for those non-savvy bird people like I was, Quakers are illegal in the state of Pennsylvania so that left me with one choice. You might be asking yourself, “I thought she didn’t want a big bird?! Macaws are HUGE!” Alas, Hahns Macaws are also known as Mini Macaws since they are close in size to the Cockatiel.
Once I did my research on Hahns Macaws, I then had to start the search for a place where I could actually meet one! M & D Bird Farm in Delaware, exclusive bird and bird product retailer, was the one such place that had Hahns Macaws available. My husband and I drove over 3 hours to M & D just to solely interact with these mini Macaws. We spent another 3 hours in the store just talking with staff and interacting with one baby in particular. After a 3 hour drive home, more research, and slowly collecting bird items, I decided I would take the plunge and bring home the baby Hahns I had met 3 weeks prior.
Kalley, Client Care Specialist with Zazu
Once our girl was fully weaned, yes birds need to be weaned just like cats and dogs, we brought home Zazu! The 3 weeks leading up to Zazus’ homecoming I secured a cage, perches, toys and every thing I would need to make her happy and comfy! In the beginning it was all about her learning to trust me and realize I was going to be her protector now, her flock mate. Consistency and patience prevailed and Zazu became trustworthy of me, and I of her. Sometimes it has been challenging because she does have tantrums just like a 2 year old. However, I love having a bird now! I spend a lot of time taking Zazu with me all over to teach her to be social and not be afraid of others. It took a few months of repeating myself over and over but after about 3 months her vocabulary took off! I love having a pet I can talk to and have her talk back to me. I don’t think it will ever get old when I hear her ask me for a kiss and then she makes a kiss sound back to me. She loves saying: kiss, Bubba, whatchadoing, yummy yummy yummy, come here, upside down bird and more! She also helps me eat healthier too! Macaws have a very wide array of food items they can eat most of which are fruits and vegetables!
I can no longer say I am afraid of birds; ok I am still a little afraid of bigger birds. But Zazu has taught me so much more than I give her credit for – confidence, perseverance but most of all trust. There is a different bond I have with her than with my dogs and cats. I can see when she looks at me that she is taking in everything I do and sometimes she reflects it back to me. Every day she makes me laugh and smile. Sharing a bond with an animal that can associate with you and communicate is unparallel to anything else. Every one of my pets (I have 10) holds a special place in my heart; Zazu will always have her place!
-GVH Veterinary Technician
If you are considering adding a pet to your family and are looking for an intelligent, loving, loyal and interactive pet, why not adopt a bird? Pet Finder is a great resource to start your search for an adoptable pet bird. There are a few local groups that can be accessed from this site. A Helping Wing is a rescue group based out of New Jersey that specializes in rescuing pet birds. A Helping Wing deals with many pet birds that are displaced due to owner dedication or pet birds that outlive their caregivers. Many larger birds can live well up to 80 years if taken care of properly. For this reason many larger birds, like Macaws, tend to find themselves displaced due to nothing more than outliving their owners.
Having a pet bird can be very rewarding; it also can be very demanding! Some species require much more time and dedication than others. Make sure you do thorough research on the specific species before deciding what type of pet bird might be appropriate for you and your lifestyle. Getting in touch with bird clubs, like Chester County Bird Club, and specific species breeders is a great way to get one-on-one advice to make the best choice for your new pet bird.
There are many types of cages, accessories, toys and diets to choose from. Small to medium size birds (Finches to Lories) can usually be kept in cages that range in sizes up to 18”x18”x57”. Larger birds (African Grays to Macaws) need to be kept in much larger enclosures up to sizes such as 58”x42”x74”. Birds should be able to fully extend their wings and have ample room to play and entertain themselves with multiple types of toys in their enclosures.
Diets can range from seed, nectar, pellets, fruits & veggies to even meat, or all of these! Certain things are dangerous to pet birds just like they are to cats and dogs. Chocolate, caffeine, salt, avocados and even Teflon cookware are all major dangers to birds. Female birds need to be closely monitored so they do not become “egg bound” since you cannot spay a female bird. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can also play a huge role in the health and well being of your pet bird. Birds are just as big of a responsibility as a dog or cat; intelligence also adds a very interesting and complex factor to having a pet bird.
Being able to grow and bond with a bird is a wonderful thing. So if you also don’t mind having a perpetual 2 year old living with you, a bird may be right for you! Seeing your bird learn and interact with you is very rewarding and makes the entire experience priceless!
– GVH Veterinary Technician