When Life Hands You Parakeets…

A month ago, a dear friend asked whether I’d be interested in helping her out.  Her sister, working at a summer camp in Massachusetts, had found a lost parakeet down by the pool.  She’d tried locating its owner for weeks, to no avail, and was trying to re-home it.  My friend was visiting her at the camp for a few days and had immediately thought of me.  She sent a picture of the parakeet and – NO PRESSURE!!! – but I’d get first dibs if I *was* interested.

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The Chickominium

A month ago I introduced you to the adorable fluff balls known as Fred, Cuddles and the rest of the girls.  AKA, our baby chicks.  In just 4 weeks these formerly tiny chicks have morphed into big birds with fully functional wings.  And once chicks start flying around the living room, it’s time they move outside.

My husband & I had to build a coop, and fast.  But having never owned chickens before, let alone built a coop, we needed to do a little research before starting construction.  We read a few books and found a photo of a coop we really liked.  A quick Google search turned up plans for the “Playhouse Coop” shown below.

The Playhouse Coop by Dennis Harrison-Noonan

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Life with Kiwi.

Have you ever found yourself asking: Is a pet bird right for me?  Nope; me neither.

I don’t profess to be a bird expert, but I do speak the language.  I live with a parrot named Kiwi.  Or as I call her, my birdie appendage.  Kiwi is a gold capped conure, a small species of parrot native to Brazil. We adopted her several years ago. And when I say adopted I really mean my husband was offered a parrot for free and then brought her home. Not that I minded, but I want to make clear I had NOTHING TO DO WITH IT. We were told at that time she was young; maybe 2-3 years old. Also, her name was Robin.  Not a bad name, but I felt strange calling a conure ‘robin.’  So I named her after a fruit instead.

Kiwi quickly bonded to yours truly and I now spend the bulk of each day w/ Kiwi nesting in my hair, grooming me and generally making herself comfortable. Most of the time I don’t mind, but when she gets particularly engrossed in picking my face, it can be a bit distracting. Especially when my husband starts screaming, UUGHH WOULD YOU NOT LET THE BIRD DO THAT!  In addition to surrendering much of my physical person, I have also surrendered my wardrobe.  Most of my shirts have holes and keeping anything with buttons or a zipper intact is a near impossibility.  Let’s not forget the matter of her “birdie business,” which she does at will and with abandon.  Suffice it to say, I change clothes often.

Kiwi has one goal in life.  It is called I MUST DRIVE ALL OTHERS AWAY FROM THIS WOMAN.  See, Kiwi likes me.  A LOT.  And like all stalker/victim couplings, it’s a special kind of relationship.  Normal people can talk on the phone.  They can leave the house.  They can hug their children without ducking down and glancing around wildly.  The day my husband brought Kiwi home, I went from being a free woman to a claimed territory.   And not just my body.   I’m not talking boogers here (though she definitely wants those too).  Kiwi wants ME.  She wants all of my love & attention and BOY does she let me know.  Her voice can be deafening at times.  She also likes using her beak.  NEVER ON ME! mind you.  No, just on anything and everyone else.  I am her property alone and the rest of the world must be kept at bay.

In this way, she is much like my husband.  Yet the constant pull for my attention can wear thin.  When her jealousy reaches intolerable proportions, I tell her NO.  I stick her back in the cage.  Over and over.  And OVER AGAIN.  But she never lets up.  My husband says, “Baby, you tell me when and the bird is HISTORY.”  But I just look at him.  And he knows.  We all know.  Kiwi’s here for good.  Even though I did NOT bring her home, I can’t turn my back on her now.  I’ve off-loaded too many pets over the years.  And my parents aren’t interested (I asked at Christmas.)  It’s unfair to tame these animals, make them dependent on us, and then abandon them when they grow too needy.  Though trust me, the temptation often abounds.

Not to discourage anyone, but there is a reason birds are considered EXOTIC pets.  Exotic can mean non-native, or topless, but in the case of birds it’s really code for unusual.  Bird people are also an unusual species.  Long on patience and short on clean tops.  As far as birds go, parakeets are pretty easy.  I had one as a kid.  But as you get into the larger species of pet birds, things change dramatically.   The mess, for instance.  Parrots are poop machines.  Just ask anyone who’s ever been to my house.  And like all birds, they are social.  They do not just need but indeed demand companionship.  Many large species will also outlive you.  Apart from this massive time commitment, you need to consider your living circumstance.  Birds are noisy.  The squawking may drive close neighbors (and often you) insane.  And lest I forget to mention, birds can be nippy.  If permitted, they will chew you, your clothes and your furniture apart.  All of this – the noise, the biting, the destructive tendencies, can be lessened through proper training, but in some semblance will always remain.

Now that Kiwi is “mature” (meaning reproductively), I’ve begun wondering about her gender.  Although many birds are dimorphic (i.e., you can tell whether they are male or female simply by looking at them), gold capped conures are not.  I have always referred to Kiwi as a girl.  I put a little nest thingy into Kiwi’s cage ages ago.  I’ve never actually seen her in it (she sleeps on top of it), but I do occasionally glance in there, just to see if she’s produced anything.  I know Kiwi thinks of me as her human mate, so I wonder why she hasn’t yet laid me an egg.  Which (were she female) she’d have likely gotten round to by now.  She is certainly a very happy bird.  Plenty of food. and attention.  Hmm.. In order to establish her gender w. certainty, I could have a DNA test done.  Which isn’t a big deal, but frankly I’m not rushing to do.  Deep down, I’m starting to think Kiwi is a boy.  But I still call her my (favorite nickname) “Bird Girl.”  Do you think it’s confusing?  I don’t think she/he cares, but still.  I wonder.