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ADOPTING AN OLDER BIRD
Statistics show that the average parrot may have up to 7 owners in his/her lifetime. Due to changing circumstances in their lives, some parrot owners may need to look for new homes for their pet birds. Some of the more common reasons pet birds are offered for sale are: a change in the family such as divorce or the addition of a new human baby, or the bird has not lived up to the owner expectations and they find the noise, the mess, and time commitment overwhelming. Also parrots may live between 70 to 100 years and thus outlive their owners.
Adopting an older bird can be both challenging and rewarding. So, is adopting a previously owned bird the right choice for you? There are many different aspects that you need to consider before you make the decision to purchase someone else's pet bird.
Your first consideration is to determine whether you can make the commitment to give the bird a permanent home and that you have the time to socialize and care for the bird . Many of these birds may have had more than one previous owner, some may not have been tamed and/or trained, and some have even been neglected or abused or have developed behavioral problems such as screaming, biting, or feather picking. Then, you have to determine whether you have the knowledge, experience, and/or have the resources to take care of the bird and give him/her a safe and healthy environment to live in.
Purchasing an older bird may have a few advantages. Some of these birds may already be trained and very friendly. Usually pet birds are offered for sale at prices less than the cost of a handfed baby. Investigate the background of the bird that you are considering to purchase. Gather as much information as you can on the previous owners, the birds diet, medical history, age, whether it was handfed or imported, the breeding history if applicable, and personality traits. It may be difficult to trace the previous owners if there are more than a few. If the bird is banded or microchipped you may be able to find the original owner or breeder. Use all of the information that you have gathered to determine whether this is the right bird for you.
Your expectations should be realistic. Some older birds may have behavioral problems such as biting, screaming, or feather picking, and these problems may be the reason that the bird is up for sale. Sometimes these problems diminish or disappear with a change in environment, but often they stay the same or the behavioral problems could even get worse. Make sure you have the available resources to handle any behavioral problems that may arise.
Patience is a standard requirement for anyone considering the purchase of an older bird. Some previously owned birds may bond instantly while others may take months. Each bird has his/her own individual personality and should be treated accordingly. Some of these birds may have been neglected by uncaring owners because of ignorance and even worse... ABUSE. Birds raised under these conditions may require even more care and time to adjust.
When you bring your new bird home be sure to place the cage in a quiet area of the house for a minimum quarantine period of 90 days. Be sure to follow strict quarantine procedures if you already have other birds. Have a complete medical check-up performed on the new bird as soon as possible by an Avian Certified Veterinarian. During the initial medical exam, give the vet all of the background information that you have on the bird. Throughout the entire quarantine period you need to monitor your bird's weight daily, and observe him/her closely looking for signs or illness and stress. Moving to a new home can be more stressful for an older bird, so try and duplicate his/her old diet and routine if possible. Having some familiar belongings such as his/her old cage, favorite treats, and toys may help comfort him/her during the transition period. Some signs of stress are loose watery droppings, shivering, heavy breathing, fluffed feathers, lack of vocalizations, poor appetite, and lethargy. These symptoms should disappear in a few days. Many of these symptoms can be signs of more serious medical conditions so close observation is imperative.
Building a trusting relationship may take longer with an older bird. Some birds will adapt rather quickly to their new environment while other birds may take a few months to adjust... Older birds can form strong bonds with their owners if given the time to trust their new owners. Proceed slowly, while always keeping the bird's comfort level in mind. Approach the cage slowly, hand at your side or behind your back, and speak softly. Sitting on the floor will help the bird to feel less threatened. Allow the bird to determine how fast the relationship will develop. Don't force your bird into interacting with you. It will only delay the bonding process because he/she may fear you and not trust you.
Taming, training, or behavior modification may be necessary for certain birds. Begin training after your bird has become comfortable with you and his/her new home. Before you begin training or taming, be sure to keep your new bird's wings clipped. In addition to the safety aspect, birds with unclipped wings can have an attitude of superiority to their human companions which can make taming and training more difficult. Teaching the "step up" and "down commands" are a must for all untrained birds. Be consistent in setting limits of acceptable behaviors, and use positive reinforcement to encourage desirable behaviors. Reward good behavior with head scratches, favorite treats, and praise. Ignore unwanted behaviors and don't reinforce negative behaviors.
Some older birds may require changes in their diet. Dietary changes should be made gradually, to ensure that your bird is eating enough to maintain weight. New foods may not be readily accepted so continue to offer them even if your bird refuses to eat them. Eventually, your bird will begin to eat more nutritious foods so don't give up.
Birds with physical handicaps can make wonderful pets. These birds deserve loving caring homes too. Most physical handicaps can be accommodated with custom designed cages, toys, and/or special diets.
Adopting an older bird may initially require more time, work, and patience, but it is well worth the work. You can form a lasting bond as strong as you would with a handfed baby. So don't overlook the purchase of an adult bird.