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A FREE BIRD:  DO YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES?

Reprinted with permission by Dotty Schira
of Bird Placement Program Parrot Refuge
People contact us wanting to adopt a bird or get one "real cheap" as they like to say. Before you go looking in the ads for a free bird or "cheap problem bird," please consider the following:

I understand that many people just want to give an unwanted bird a good home with them because they care. If you are not experienced with birds then you might not be doing the bird justice. If the bird is not tame or has bad habits, many times it takes someone experienced and knowledgeable in bird behavior to correct the bad habits and problems. It could take weeks, months or longer to correct or curb the problems. Are you prepared to wait this long?

One of the most common bad habits is screaming. Birds can sometimes scream for hours at full volume. Consider every one in your household before taking on such a bird. Can everyone tolerate this? You may not be able to talk on the phone, watch TV, have friends over or have peace of mind during this time which could last for weeks or months before it is corrected. If you do not know what you are doing than you could make the problem worse. This could cause great stress and relationship problems on the family members. Sometimes the best thing to do is ignore the screaming. Can you do that and for how long? Any response to screams just reinforces the screaming. Yelling back at the bird only makes it worse.

What if the bird isn't very tame? Are you prepared to be bitten? You could get bitten severely enough to require stitches. You could even get bit in the face. You really can't blame the bird. It is confused and upset with all the changes going on. If you do not know how to get a handle on this immediately you could do more harm than good to the bird. Many people want to fight aggression with aggression. This is not the way to correct bad habits in birds. Patience and understanding are the key tools needed here.

Are you prepared for the proper size cage for the bird? You need to make sure you are prepared to have a place in your house that can house a proper size cage for the bird. Do not even consider the basement, spare bedroom or laundry room. These birds need to be treated as a member of the family which means they should be where they can see and interact with the family. Isolating them to a far corner of the house will just magnify their bad habits.

Yes, birds can be messy. Their little down feathers can float around the house, not to mention the dust from new feathers coming in. Sometimes, just for fun they like to throw their food out of the cage just to see how far it goes before landing on the floor. As a result some people move the cage to a less noticeable area of the house to keep the mess contained. However, you just isolated your bird from the family. He will feel rejected and start calling (screaming) to you for attention. His idea of calling to you is screaming as loud and as long as he can.

We have also received many inquiries from people stating that they are financially strapped and can not afford the purchase price but would love a large parrot. Why does it always have to be a large parrot? Smaller parrots also make good pets and need good homes too. First, if someone is financially struggling the last thing they want to take on is the responsibility of a pet of any kind. Pets are expensive. People say, "How come the free animals end up costing the most?" A pet is never "free." If you are a responsible pet owner, the first thing you will do is get a full veterinary check-up done on the bird. This usually costs no less than $200. Now, what about the cage? If your first thoughts are, "How small of a cage can I get by with" then please please please do not get a bird. Now you will need toys. You don't get off easy here either. Birds need constant mental challenges. The same old toys day after day will not do. You should offer your bird new toys every few weeks. Have enough toys on hand to rotate them. That will only last so long than you must buy even more new toys.

Now, lets say someone forgot to put the bird back in the cage and no one was watching him. Well, now you have the expense of replacing anything wooden that was in his reach and is now laying in toothpicks on the floor. Oh, he won't stop at just chewing up anything wooden. In his mind if it is within his reach than he can and must chew it up (also, parrots love to chew up curtains or drapes.)  Lets hope Whatever he chews is not  harmful or there goes another trip to the vet. There are many more hidden costs in owning a bird. Why do you think so many end up in rescues in the first place? People were not prepared for the expense, time and care needing to keep these birds happy and healthy.

To be a good pet owner you must be prepared for the what-ifs that go along with owning a pet. What if the bird gets sick? What if he starts to develop a behavioral problem? What if he dislikes a member of the family? If you are not prepared to deal with these problems and situations or lack the knowledge to do so than please reconsider adopting a problem bird. Leave these birds to the more experienced bird owners and rescue organizations.

If more people did research on bird behavior first, then less birds would end up as unwanted pets.