Thursday, August 28, 2008

Answer to questions in the comments

I got a couple of questions in my comments from yesterday, so I thought I would answer them in a post instead of the comments.

First, the easy one! Richard asked where I get the wood I use to make toys. Rocky and Stella go through wood like crazy, so I would go broke if I couldn't make my own toys! We have a home improvement store in our area (it's not national) that sells untreated pine 2X4s, 2X6s, 4X4s, etc. Untreated is the big issue. In my area, The Home Depot only sells treated wood. You might also have a family-owned lumberyard in your area that would be willing to sell you wood. Here is a list of wood that is safe and unsafe for parrots.

Then, we take a mitre saw and chop up the planks into bird-usable sizes. Thinner for the caiques, thicker for the others. Some we drill and hang on wire, but the 2X4s are perfect size for everyone but Daphne to hold in their feet and chip, and that's what they often choose to do!

You can just use regular food dye for the wood, but we've found that our parrots will chew non-dyed just as well and since we're trying to eliminate artificial dyes from their food whenever possible, we give them undyed wood.

If you don't have, or know anyone with, a mitre saw, you can purchase pre-cut wood. The place I would go is The Parrot Asylum, from which I've always received quality components and fantastic service.

I really like making my own toys because it allows me to customize for each individual bird.

Also, thanks for letting me know about the broken link. I will fix it as soon as I post!

Onto the less pleasant question, posed by Shannon, about plans for parrots since there's a good chance they may outlive their owners. Beloved Parrot gave some good answers, but of course I have to be a bit more wordy!

First, this is something that Thomas and I have thought a lot about, even though we're relatively young (early 30s). You never know what can happen! What scares me the most is the lack of control over what happens to your parrot once you're gone. Perhaps I'm jaded by being involved in parrot rescue, but I've come to the conclusion that the majority of people who own parrots shouldn't have them.

I'm not exaggerating when I say that we get at least 20 birds, every year, surrendered to the rescue where I volunteer that haven't been allowed out of their cages in over a year. My own severe macaw, Rocky, was kept at least 6 years in his cage, not allowed out (and that's only what they admitted to). The ridiculously small cages, lack of toys and perches, and filth that we see every week is enough to bring me to tears. The horrible things that come out of these parrots' beaks, and you know that someone was yelling those things at this helpless creature. I'm tearing up now. I could go on with stories of neglect and abuse -- thrown out of a moving car in February in freezing weather, an individual with suspected Munchhausen-by-proxy that plucked her own bird -- but I try not to think about specifics too much as my goal is to remain a relatively optimistic person.

Obviously, I think the best solution is to find a responsible, bird-loving person that you trust.

Good luck with that, especially when you have several birds you'd need to place.

Finally, after going off on my tangent, I arrive at Shannon's question about willing your bird to a rescue. My biggest concern about this is that many of these are basically headed by one or two individuals. What happens when the head of the organization dies? Ideally, as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, plans are in place to keep it going, but I know that's not always the case. Also, many organizations have issues with funding. If the organization is suddenly unable to bring in enough donations or the director is unable or unwilling to cover expenses him/herself, will they start selling birds (adopting into inappropriate homes) to cover the mortgage? Or skimp on food, toys, heating? With some of the bigger organizations, are the birds getting the one-on-one time they need? Especially in a sanctuary situation where the bird is there for life, so the number of birds keeps increasing but only decreases when one of these long-lived birds dies?

Beloved Parrot mentioned some organizations, but I don't have any experience with them. I do know there was controversy recently when it became public knowledge that one of the people on the Gabriel Foundation's Board of Directors is a large-scale breeder. Personally, I don't think I'd want to put any of my birds under the care of an organization with those ethics.

The organization that I like the best right now for long-term prospects is Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. Each of my parrots recently virtually adopted one of their counterparts at this organization (although there was only one caique, so Beeps "adopted" a severe macaw, and no budgies, so Daphne "adopted" a cockatiel). They are large, well-funded, and I have been impressed with everything I've read about them. We're hoping to go out there in the next few years to see it for ourselves.

I must confess that despite a lot of thought on our part, we've personally done very little action. If Thomas and I were to die tomorrow, Rocky would go to Birdlovers Only. I know the director quite well and I know she would find him a great home or keep him. He's just so difficult and I can't bear to think of him being abused or neglected again. Calypso would go to my friend who is great with parrots, but already has a full house so she can't take everyone. Her instructions are that her parrots be euthanized on her death so I feel confident that he wouldn't be neglected or abused again, either. My parents would take, at least temporarily, Max, Daphne, Beeps, and Stella. Obviously this isn't a permanent solution (Max and Stella are likely to outlive my parents). However, those four are great birds so it would be easier to find good homes for them. Not that Rocky and Calypso aren't great birds, but they are more challenging and therefore, in my mind, more likely to be subject to neglect and/or abuse.

Since we still have a fair amount of years to live out a natural life span, I'm really hoping that we outlive the parrots. I'm also hoping that my younger siblings will become bird people, or perhaps have children who are.

Probably not the succinct answer you were hoping for, Shannon, but what else did you expect? Brevity is certainly not a strong point of mine!

I guess the bottom line is that I don't think there's a perfect solution, and it's nice to know there are other people out there thinking about things like this :)


Richard Lyon said...

Actually, on the "birds being taken care of after you die" thing, we talked about it a few months ago on the Macaws group on Yahoo. Some people are taking out life insurance policies with the beneficiary being a rescue. They then have a contract written up with the rescue group specifying that they will take the birds, and basics about how they will be treated.

Like my Blue and Gold, Harley, who like your Severe, is difficult. He's not a bad bird by any means, but I wouldn't want anyone who didn't have experience with the larger macaws getting him. He bites, and is well versed in using that large beak of his to get his way. For someone use to macaws, he wouldn't be a problem. (An aside, I LOVE the whole bratty difficult macaw attitude. They are my favorite birds, hands down).

belovedparrot said...

Excellent post, as always. I hadn't heard that about Gabriel.

I'll have to look into that life insurance thing.

I've thought for a long time that parrots do not belong in our homes -- they belong free in their native lands. I plan to never buy another parrot from a pet store or breeder; too many parrots out there need forever homes.

Shannon Ryan said...

Thank you, Mary, for the thoughtful answers you made to the one of the most difficult issues I've been mentally wrangling with for quite some time. You were not wordy at all - this is a very complex and emotional issue!

Thank you for clarifying about rescue organizations - I knew I'd get a good answer, since you work with one yourself. And also thank you for directing me to the Best Friends site. When you visit them, please let us know what you think.

I agree with you entirely: most people who have parrots shouldn't have them.

You've quite helped me with formulating a general direction, and my planning for the future of my feathered friends is that much clearer. Thank you very much!

Mary said...

Richard -- I am actually working on a post about macaw people and how some people just get them. Harley is so lucky to have you! Good idea about the insurance policy. We need to get serious about this.

BelovedParrot -- I completely agree. I think that we are very close to the point (if we're not already) where unwanted parrots are euthanized, just like with dogs and cats. Unfortunately, there is no perfect solution. If all breeding were to stop (which isn't even possible, but just for the sake of this argument), the demand is still there so illegal wild importation would increase. I think the key is education -- not supporting pet stores that sell birds, promoting adoption, etc. I feel so helpless but try not to get too bogged down in the details.

Shannon -- I feel like I didn't provide much clarity; only got my confused thoughts in writing! My friend and I are hoping to plan a trip out to Best Friends in the next couple of months so I hopefully should have an update soon!

DweezelJazz said...

Thank you for this post. I too have been working this problem over and over in my mind. Your post helped clarify things a lot. We're still tackling trying to keep our little girlie going through our nightmare situation where we're living. We spend even more hours out on the mountain each day now, it's not ideal for either J or me, but its preferable to her suffering when we're at home. We will be moving in 2 to 3 weeks from now.