Tuesday, December 30, 2008

How many is too many?

This post is inspired by a comment by DoodleBird the other day. She wrote: "I love reading about your flock. I sure wonder what it would be like to have more than one bird...CRAZY! (love the regurgitation story)"

Which, of course, made me think. As always, thanks for the compliment :)

Shannon wrote, "I have four birds and I don't think I could handle more than that without compromising the quality of their lives. I wouldn't have sufficient time to give them all the attention they need, some needing more than others."

I completely agree. And to be honest, there are many days when I believe that we have too many parrots. With one or two birds, it's possible to be a family that owns parrots. When that number inches up towards six, as in our case, the reverse seems to happen. The parrots own us. Pretty much every decision we make revolves around them.

For example, for years we couldn't take a vacation because we didn't have anyone trustworthy to watch them. With one or two, we could have boarded them with my parents. That's just not possible with six. Now, since we do have a wonderful bird sitter, we are taking as many vacations as possible. We don't know how long we'll have her (we may move, she may move, unanticipated life events, etc.) so we have to take advantage now!

With one or two, we could take them along with us when we go for overnight visits with my parents (they live about an hour away). With six, that's impossible, so we don't stay overnight.

The other main area where this comes up is in my daily life, especially when I'm home alone with the parrots. Of our 6, 2 are what I'd consider low maintenance (Daphne and Calypso), 1 is medium maintenance (Beeps), 2 are high maintenance (Max and Stella) and 1 is off-the-charts-extremely high maintenance (Rocky, of course).

When Thomas is home, he provides the vast majority of the attention needed by Rocky and as needed with the others, especially Beeps. Each of us tries to spend at least a few minutes of quality time with every parrot every day. When Thomas is not home, Rocky demands attention from me, which takes away from the time I have for the others.

Not to sound whiny, but with so many parrots requiring so much attention, that doesn't leave us a lot of time to ourselves. It's difficult to read or knit around them because Beeps flies over and wants to play with my book or yarn. Or Stella will fly over and nudge me with her beak until I acquiesce and pet her head. Or Max flies to the stairs (where she knows she's not allowed) and starts calling, "Hello! Come here! Up! Up!" Or Rocky starts screaming, for no apparent reason, and breaks my concentration. Or Rocky climbs up on the couch and fake attacks my leg (protected by a blanket or likely to be an actual attack). Or Stella climbs on the lizard tank and I have to get her off before she gets any closer to the couch and risks burning herself on their lights. Or Rocky climbs on Daphne's cage to provoke a reaction and I have to remove him. I could go on and on... Before I know it, I've spent 10 minutes on the same page, with little comprehension due to the interruptions. Or I've lost stitches in my scarf by setting it down mid-row to rescue someone. And I think I've mentioned the time when Rocky bit through the cord on Thomas's video game controller at the worst possible moment (he now has a wireless).

This is what my life will be like for the next 50 years. They don't grow up, move out of the house, and visit only occasionally. They never leave (just like Bob Wiley in What About Bob?)

Of course, as I've mentioned many times before, these parrots are all here to stay. I love them all and know they're about as happy as captive parrots can be. To be quite honest, I can't imagine our lives without the parrots. We got Max when I was 23; she's known me pretty much all of my adult life. Thomas and I had been married less than a year when we bought her. We'll grow old together. But would she be happier if she were the only parrot in our lives? Quite possibly. There are times where I think she enjoys the ambient company of the parrots (they rarely physically interact -- only an occasional tussle that is quickly broken up). But there are other times when her jealousy surfaces and I wonder if we shortchanged her by making her share our attention with so many others?

As I mentioned yesterday, there are 5 greys up for adoption at the rescue where I volunteer, with another one possibly being surrendered this weekend. I'm going to have to stay strong and not bring any of them home, no matter how much it causes my heart to break. I must be fair to the parrots already in my home.

Sorry it seems like I've been a little down lately. I'll have more upbeat posts in the future! It's just been a rough few weeks due to the demands of Thomas's job (he had to spend 25% of his nights at the hospital in December but only 16% in January), my job, my volunteering (not parrot-related), the holiday, etc. And then having all of those greys surrendered has made me a bit melancholy.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Mary, for the year-end summary of how it is to live with multiple parrots. It can sometimes be extremely challenging - and I relate to not being able to get away for fear that they won't be cared for properly. I'm lucky in that my Dad likes birds and is happy to care for them when I go away. But he doesn't relate to them as I do. So I don't like to be away from them long - especially in relation to Sam, who is more sensitive and tends to feel abandoned. He knows now, from experience, that I always come back. But I can tell, when I return, that he just passed the time and ate enough to survive.

These birds are always in the background of my mind and I'm always trying to figure out how to improve the quality of their lives. I did not know this would be how I would live when I first took them on. I wouldn't change anything at all, and love my birds passionately. They are with me till I go or they go first. But I might have taken on less.

I just wish that I had more time to home one of those greys. But I know I can't. (To be honest, I did not read all of your post - otherwise, I would have been unable for weeks to free myself of the images of their suffering! I find these mental images unbearable, which is why I could never work at a rescue...sigh)

ashley said...

I sure wish I was in a place to get one or two of the greys at the shelter. I know I have the time and love to give them to help them recover any emotional issues they might have. Just don't have the space :(

DoodleBird said...

I can just imagine what you're saying is true. Sometimes, between Nani, my daughter and my husband I feel like everyone is pulling me in a different direction. "Pay attention to me!"..."No me!"..."NO ME!". Travel is harder now, all my other pets are low maintenance but Nani can't be left alone even a day. I'm driving to Florida in March instead of flying so I can easily take Nani and a large cage with me (we'll be there 3 weeks). It's not really a burden, but what if I have more birds? It definitely would be a challenge.

I think what intrigues me about your flock (and others) is the family dynamics. How they react and interact with each other in a flock situation vs just a single bird/human relationship.

Beloved Parrot said...

I'm amazed at how well you manage with all your birds. When I discovered your blog I thought you were a stay-at-home person; otherwise, how on earth could you do it?

I have three cockatiels and a brown-head -- the brown-head wants to kill the cockatiels, the lutino cockatiel hates the other cockatiels, the two cockatiels tolerate one another. Which means I have to deal with them separately. I can let the Bobbsey Twins out while I deal with the brown-head or with the lutino, but it's so time-consuming to deal with them separately. This all takes time and focus, so that by the time I've given them all some attention it's getting past dinner time.

I knew a woman with 17 rescues who swore she gave each of them one-on-one attention. She worked at home, but there's no way she could deal with that many each day, one-on-one.

I love my birds and know my life will always be complicated by their presence, but I knew that going in. It literally breaks my heart to hear about abused, abandoned, neglected parrots and I wish I could take them all in, but, as Mary pointed out, it isn't fair to the other birds that were there first. I only have so much space, time, and money -- I won't cheat my current birds out of any of it.

I so wish people would educate themselves before getting a parrot. And I really believe now that parrots shouldn't be bred or sold at pet stores or fairs -- they should be left alone to be free in their native lands (I'm not saying to throw out parrots who are already in our homes, of course). There are more than enough birds in rescues that need homes to meet the "needs" of parrot lovers for years.

Beloved Parrot said...

Hey - y'all send us pictures of your parrots! We'll add cute captions. It's free.


In your "spare" time, of course. ha!

Mary said...

Thanks for all of the nice comments -- it's always nice to know that I'm not alone in my thoughts.

There just really are no easy answers to the parrot overpopulation problem. I think education is key.

Sadly, even if by some magic all breeders shut down, people would still want parrots and there would be a even bigger black market for parrots smuggled out of the wild.

I try not to think about these things too often so that I can still be a relatively positive person in real life!