I've been thinking a lot about this topic lately, and decided to write about it after a lunch I had with my friend the other day. I'll call her J. J has 4 parrots -- one she bought from a pet store several years ago, and the other 3 have had previous homes.
One has wings that contain healed breaks that could only have been caused by intentional abuse. Another was owned by a person who intentionally pulled out the feathers of and mutilated the bird. The third was left outside in the street on a hot day, where you'd put your garbage, with a "for sale" sign attached to her tiny cage -- and owners who had been gone and left her out there with no supervision for several hours.
Of our 5 parrots, we purchased Max from a breeder, and the other 4 had previous homes. I don't believe that any of mine were physically abused, but they definitely had hardships in their past.
And they are fantastic! All 7 of these used birds -- abused, neglected, unwanted -- are in loving homes where they are happy and thriving. If someone were to come into our house and observe the interactions we have with our parrots, I don't think they'd be able to tell which one we got as a baby. And our stories are not unique. Through the Internet and real life, I have met many people successfully living with parrots with a past. Parrots are so incredibly resiliant and able to overcome a lot.
When we were researching and trying to decide whether a parrot was right for us and what kind of parrot to get, I read articles stating that you had to get a baby in order to forge a bond. This is not true at all! I know a lady who has four birds -- three she got as babies and one she acquired when the bird was in her teens. The only bird this lady can handle? The one she met after the parrot was well into her second decade. And if you peruse the stories I've posted on this blog, hopefully you'll see the incredible bonds that one or both of us has with every one of our birds.
Then I read articles talking about the problems second-hand (or more!) parrots have to overcome and basically saying that you have to be an expert or a martyr in order to take on this responsibility. Once again, not true! While this may be true for certain extremely phobic birds, the vast majority of older parrots needing homes will thrive in a parrot-appropriate home.
Parrots are wild animals: loud, messy, destructive, demanding, and extremely intelligent. Most homes are not equipped to deal with having a parrot as a pet. That's why there's so many looking for new homes. But I truly believe that most homes that would be appropriate for a baby parrot would also be appropriate for a used parrot. After all, that baby is going to grow up!
Personally, I love the mystery of living with a pre-owned parrot. How did Rocky learn so many funny phrases? Why did Beeps start dancing to a certain song on the radio -- had he heard it before? These guys have been around the block and seem to appreciate the new chance they were given.
I like to think about the parrots that are living right now that will someday live with us. There are two blue-front amazons that will be willed to us should they outlive their current owners (I'm hoping their owners are around for a long time because they are fantastic people!) Probably some caiques (I am a sucker for those guys!) Maybe some mini macaws (Thomas has such a way with them). And hopefully a special lory that I am trying to convince Thomas we should adopt now.
If anyone out there is considering taking home a used parrot but has been scared away by the thought that they're not good enough -- try it! With commitment, common sense, and a willingness to seek help, I think you'll be amazed at the relationship you'll build with your older bird.
Two organizations that I know are absolutely fantastic and can personally vouch for are Birdlovers Only Rescue in Northwest Indiana and Rosebud's House in Texas. If you live near them, I'd highly recommend looking there for your next companion.