I am writing today to get something off of my chest, as well as my head and shoulders. Meet Kiwi.
Kiwi is a gold-capped conure, a small species of parrot native to Brazil. I have written about her in the past; what it’s like living with a bird who thinks my face is her personal playground. To those she loves best (read: me), Kiwi is 6 inches of pure birdie fun, but to everyone else, Kiwi is hell on wings. Her jealousy has always been a bit of a joke. 8 years ago, when she first came home to roost, her feelings were still adolescent. She was docile. Friendly. I was pretty much HERS, but she’d happily allow others to hold her, even my young daughters.
I don’t know when Kiwi decided I was IT, but it didn’t take long. At first it was cute, me being the “chosen one.” We’d laugh as she’d fly from room to room, seeking me out, finally landing on top of my head. Living with a bird is novel, and so we embraced many of her quirks. She was young and we were too, and our youth rendered outlandish behavior tolerable. We were doing our best to ensure she was happy and fulfilled, not relegated to her cage all day. But living as an integrated member of the family has allowed Kiwi not only freedom of movement, but also freedom of choice. And over the years her demeanor has changed. Little by little, her obsession with me has grown. Her transition from family pet to enraged hell-bird happened so very gradually that we never saw it coming.
Imagine yourself at home. Then imagine a show called WHEN BIRDS ATTACK. Now superimpose the two. This is my life. Kiwi is jealous. Not in a “keep it to herself” kind of way. More like a serial killer escaped from prison going after the cop who incarcerated him. The problem? Those “cops” are my kids and Kiwi wants VENGEANCE. Typically it’s my older daughter who bears the brunt of Kiwi’s terror, because Maddie is mild-mannered. Easy prey. Whatever you say about birds, they aren’t dumb. Kiwi never gives my husband the grief. She knows better. She knows it’s only me standing between her and the fiery furnace. Each time Kiwi goes after one of our kids, my husband yells, YOU TELL ME WHEN BABY AND SHE’S KINDLING. So what do I do? I do the only thing I can. I let Kiwi free-range during the day and the minute school’s over, it’s detention time.
Now I know some of you are saying, “Why don’t you just clip the bird’s wings?” That would stop her from dive-bombing the kids! Of course! Unfortunately, much like the bird, our Rottweiler has a jealousy issue. And whenever Kiwi is around (read: on) me, the dog is on top of me too. What I am doing to elicit such strong possessive emotions is a mystery to me. I am NOT flattered. I am fed up! Bottom line? Dog is jealous of the bird. The bird is jealous of everyone, including the dog. I can’t clip Kiwi’s wings because the dog will then kill her. My husband BEGS me to let one dispatch the other. And he’s the one who brought the bird home in the first place! THE IRONY IS NOT LOST ON ME.
Kiwi is about ten now. Conures live to roughly 30. Twenty years is a long time. I will be reaching seniority by the time this bird takes a dirt nap. I know that sounds bad, but it’s the freaking truth. I love Kiwi. My love for her is the only thing standing between her and the great beyond. I have thought seriously about re-homing her, but I just can’t. The bird loves me. I mean LOVES me. As crazy as she is, as messy, and nerve-taxing, abandoning Kiwi would be the ultimate betrayal. Birds are extremely complicated creatures, with very real emotions. If you haven’t already seen it, please watch Parrot Confidential. It will convince you that birds have no place in captivity. Dropping Kiwi off at a rescue might seem unbelievably appealing at times, but in truth it’d be akin to leaving my kid at the supermarket and hoping for the best. Sure, she might meet a nice stranger, but she really MIGHT NOT. Could I live with that?
Kiwi is a pain in the ass, but she’s mine. For all her screaming, pooping, pecking, preening, neediness and neurosis, she’s a part of us. It’s like dealing with a difficult relative whose crazy ways leave you swearing, I CAN’T TAKE ANYMORE! But you do. Over and over again, out of love. My husband and kids annoy the crap out of me sometimes, as I do them. But none of my family has ever (to my face) suggested giving me away. I can’t imagine what that would do to a person. But I can imagine what it would do to my bird. And it would be ugly.
So I’ve figured out ways to make our relationship work. Like a naughty child that needs a time out, when Kiwi is bad she gets sent to her room (cage). Sometimes I put her to bed early (cover her cage with a blankie). In summer, she goes to day camp, hanging outside in the chicken coop. When she drives me nuts, I remind myself that it’s hard to be human, but maybe it’s harder to be a bird living with humans. It’s all about commitment and negotiation. So far, so good.