January marks the 10th anniversary of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ (ASPCA) Adopt-a-Rescued-Bird month. Those interested in adding a bird to their flock should consider adoption before going to a pet store. Though, before running out to your local shelter, be warned that birds are not low-maintenance pets, as most people think. Birds require time and attention, not to mention veterinary care. And certain birds, such as parrots, need mental stimulation, extensive exercise and many live 50+ years. Though they require a lot of work, birds can make wonderful companions.
“As with any companion animal, potential bird adopters should be ready to invest money for regular veterinary care, a varied diet, appropriate-sized caging and toys,” said Jacque Schultz, ASPCA Director of Special Projects. “Birds are social creatures. Those in the parrot family depend on human contact for their happiness and well being. Owners must be prepared to spend time playing with and talking to their birds.”
If you are considering adopting a bird, keep in mind that parrots, lovebirds, parakeets, and cockatiels are noisy and messy. Squawking and chirping is a part of a bird’s communication, so be prepared for a noisy household. Birds also eat throughout the day, dropping bits of food everywhere. They also like to chew, so they must be watched carefully when out of their cages as they could potentially chew wood, electrical cords, and even curtains. Birds are also very sensitive to the quality of air in your home. Birds should never be exposed to tobacco smoke, chemical fumes, and Teflon coated materials.
Domestic fowl are also a good consideration if you are in the market for a different kind of rescued bird. Chickens are the new craze in backyard pets. You can have fresh, nutritious eggs on a daily basis; quality nitrogen-rich fertilizer and nontoxic pest and weed control. And not to mention, chickens are friendly animals with individual personalities.
Surprisingly, chickens can adapt very well to the constraints of an urban environment. Though, like all pets, they do have certain requirements. I spoke with bird expert Joanne Alexander-Horne, who expressed the following: “Chickens are wonderful companion birds. They are highly social and need interaction with people or other chickens and they really must be able to cruise around and be able to jump up onto perches, chairs, things that they would do normally in the wild or in a farm sanctuary.”
There are many things to consider before getting chickens. First, you must check your local ordinances. Many cities are starting to allow hens, but most won’t allow roosters as they are perceived as noisy and would fall under noise ordinances. You will need enough room for a chicken coop. You will also need nest boxes where the chickens can lay their eggs and bird netting to protect your outdoor run from hawks. Chickens are susceptible to diseases, so make sure you know of an avian veterinarian. Most importantly, tell your neighbors what you’re doing. You can try to bribe them with free eggs since most chicken owners end up with more eggs than they know what to do with.
On the downside of having chickens in the city, unless you plan on keeping the chickens for their entire 8 year lifespan (which I hope you do), you will need to consider what you’ll do with the unwanted birds. If your main reason for keeping the chickens is for their eggs, most chickens only have a productive life (one egg per 1.5 days) for 2-3 years. They may still produce as they get older, just not as often. Sadly, most factory farms cull their chickens after only two years. Secondly, if you are hatching your own chicks, plan on half of them being roosters. Since most cities won’t allow roosters and they’ll likely kill each other and harm the hens, you will need to find homes for them. This is obviously a very difficult task as we all know what happens to male chicks on factory farms.
With all these things to keep in mind when adopting a bird or fowl, if you are still interested in giving a bird a special home in honor of Adopt a Rescued Bird Month, visit www.petfinder.com for a shelter near you.