November 1999 Magazine
Starting a bird club in your area can be a very rewarding project. Making new friends, learning about birds and sharing experiences are just a few of the benefits a club can provide. For those of you thinking of starting a bird club, here are some of the things we had to do and some of the ways we went about handling them.
Some of the basics were explained in my previous articles Starting A Bird Club - Part I and Starting A Bird Club - Part II. This article covers starting and running bird adoptions and rescue programs. The next will discuss bird shows and other club events.
Adoptions are one of the mainstay activities of our club. It's an incentive for many people to join your club, even if it's just for the thought of receiving an inexpensive bird. There are many good people who can provide a good home, but are financially unable to buy a young chick. On the other hand children grow up, people move, jobs change, babies are born and couples get divorced. What are these bird owners to do with their unwanted birds? Give them to a pet store or ask the local bird club to find a home for their beloved pet.
PFC requires that an adoptor be a member of the club for three months before allowing adoption of a bird. There are several reasons for this requirement.
PFC has an 8 page adoption application that helps us to help people in their selection and match them with the proper bird. They may want a particular type of bird, such as a macaw, but if they live in a small apartment, then a loud macaw might not be the bird for them. Does the person's partner know that they might be taking on the responsibility of another mouth to feed? What if the person travels a lot? Who will watch the bird?
- One being, that this must not be an impulse decision. Birds are cute in the store, but once home, may scream, bite, pluck, retreat into a corner of their cage, chew up furniture or wake up the baby. The list could go on. Further, some birds have been abused or developed behavioral problems and need owners who know how to deal with such problems. Each bird should be matched with a compatible new owner.
- Second, adopting a bird involves a commitment by the owner of many years, when you consider that unlike dogs and cats, birds have long lives. People wouldn't like being shipped from home to home and neither does a bird. Every living being deserves consistency and security. We want to be sure that the new owner understands the needs and responsibility of owning a bird, has sufficient time, space and funds to care for and provide a happy home and has a family situation that will ensure the bird is wanted in the future. People who want a bird as a status symbol, to "keep up with the Joneses" or as a decoration should not own a bird.
- Also PFC has an obligation to the donor to see that the bird is placed in the best situation possible. I have had many birds dropped at my door with the owner upset, crying and pleading, " Just find him a good home. I can't keep him anymore." In most cases the cages and birds were immaculate and came with accessories. Many of these people really loved their birds, but circumstances had forced them to part. I have recieved calls a few weeks later from the original owners just wanting to know if their birds were placed in a good home. Those giving up birds want to make sure that their birds are going to a home where someone knows how to properly take care of their parrot.
- Even if adoptors can't attend a meeting and listen to our educational guest speakers, by receiving the newsletter, they are at the very least reading something that will assist them with the care of their new bird. And the parrot hotline is always there if they have a parrot related question. They can be referred to a member who had the same problem. PFC also has a new bird packet for those who have never owned a bird before. People don't have to be a club member to ask for information. Also it is only fair to adopt out to members first.
Ultimately, the decision to place the bird is up to the donor. If the bird is scared of children and the person next on the "list" has children, the donor might not want the bird to go to that family. There are many questions on the application which will get the potential adoptor to "think" about this transaction and realize that this is not just a superficial fling, but a lifetime commitment.
If anyone would like an application, please feel free to contact me at Haikina@aol.com. I had begun an adoption program with another club, so it was easy for me to make up this application. If I can assist others, then please make your request. A modified version of the PFC adoption forms can be seen at Sample Bird Adoption Forms
By having a member adopt a bird, it helps the club in a few ways. First, we have their membership fee. Then for each application submitted, there is a $5 fee and a small donation is suggested for each adoption. For a macaw, the suggested donation is $40. These monies are placed in a separate account, whose funds are used for the Parrot Haven birds only and not for rent, postage or newsletters. It may be applied to the vet bill of another homeless or injured bird, in our Parrot Haven.
The person heading the adoptions committee must be a fair and caring person. Some people dictate to others or play favorites. This is not fair. Everyone must be given an equal chance. A person can have 20 birds and maintain them immaculately. A person with one bird can be a horrible caretaker. Any person adopting a bird must be able to provide the bird with veterinary care, suitable housing and a good diet, besides lots of love and attention. Emotional problems, family situations and many other variables need to be considered. This is not an easy job and investigations take a lot of time.
Then the question comes, who will house the bird until an adoptive home is found? You don't want to bring a sick bird into your flock. But the bird needs a home now. There are several options.
We have set up an account with a local lab and culture all birds. This saves on the extra cost of bring the bird to a vet for a culture. The club is billed once a month. We also work with one of the local vets who treats the birds, if needed, and waives his fee.
- You can place the bird in a foster home that has no other birds. We listed in a local newspaper that volunteers were needed for temporary homes for birds and got a great response. We provide an informational packet which includes safe and poisonous plants, do's and don'ts concerning bird care, a list of avian vets, feeding tips, info on nonstick cookware whose fumes can kill your bird, basic pet bird care, the health exam, the incredible beak, wing trimming, caging and management of a pet bird, cage territoriality and caring for sick birds. (This packet is available for the cost of $5 to cover shipping and handling if anyone is interested.)
- You can also place the bird in your home, someplace where they would not be in touch with your birds such as a room in the basement or a spare bedroom. Even though we have several foster homes available, sometimes in an emergency, I need to place a bird immediately, so I have a room in my home that is used for such birds. We started Parrot Haven, a sanctuary for homeless birds to address this problem.
- Birds can be kept in a rescue shelter temporarily. PFC offically opened Parrot Haven 3 months ago, after having a B & G, a cockatoo, a keet and a meyers bought to us within a two week period.
Make sure the surrender papers are signed before adopting out any bird. If it's a homeless bird, then the person adopting this bird, takes the bird in knowing that at any time the bird must be given back if the rightful owner ever reappears, even if it's 5 years down the road. My answer to those who don't like this fact is "If you lost your bird, wouldn't you want it to be returned to you, if possible?" It could be years down the road and the owner might be content knowing the bird is in a good home, but the owner should be given the choice. If the original owner claims the bird, the we expect him/her to make any veterinary reimbursements to the caretaker. That would only be fair. Regulations concerning abandoned pets vary by locality, so you may want to check with local authorities.
Rescue and Shelter
The Parrot Haven was recently initiated when we realized the need for a place to care for homeless birds. I was lucky to have a spare room in my home that I could convert into a foster facility. Any bird taken into your home must be kept in quarantine for the protection of your flock. It is good to have foster homes available in various locations, but in an emergency, a clean, empty cage is a welcome retreat for a lost parrot. There is warmth, food, toys and veterinary care available at the Parrot Haven.
We also keep a folder, with a list of all lost and found birds. You never know, when you might receive a call about a missing bird. There's nothing more gratifying than reuniting a bird with it's owner. We keep a form for each bird containing information such as the species, date lost or found, the person who lost or found the bird, band # and speech patterns. If a lost bird is reported, we ask where the lost bird was last sighted and if it was clipped. This gives us an idea whether to look high in trees or low to the ground if we can help in the search. If a bird has been found, we record whether a finder wishes to keep the bird and the bird's weight. This is of the utmost importance to make sure that the bird is adapting to its foster home and does not starve itself to death. ( I actually have had to resume handfeeding several birds until they make the adjustment.)
Most of the birds in the Parrot Haven are available for adoption after a 6 week attempt to locate the owners has been exhausted. We place ads on the Internet Pet Patrol, Lost Bird Hotline and several local newspapers. Word of mouth is always helpful. Never give a complete description, just say amazon, or small green bird. We get a lot of calls from people looking for any free bird and we want be sure we reunite the bird with the rightful owner.
Whether or not your club has a separate rescue facility or uses other places to house rescued birds, all of this does involve funding. When the number of birds increases and the lab fees are added, the cost can be significant. We do try to recover some of the costs from the new owner when a bird is adopted, but this is not always feasible. So we have a number of approaches to getting help.
We work with a lab which is more than willing to perform lab work, such as cultures, gram stains, etc at cost.
We have to give credit to Dr. Bob Corona of All Pets Animal Hospital, in North Babylon, for his care, concern and time in examining any of the rescue birds that have been bought to him. He also treats the birds, if needed. Dr. Corona has always waived his fee and we are eternally grateful to him.
We keep a list of all costs incurred for a bird. When this bird is adopted, the new owner pays the costs. For example, we currently have an amazon which has an infection. The new owner will pay for the medicine and the cost of two cultures. This might not be a problem with a macaw or an amazon, but could be a problem when trying to place a tiel or keet. Who's going to pay $150 for a keet? But the cost is still there. At times like this, the club will have to eat the cost when placing the bird. Having a vet that works with your club is a big plus.
One of our members works in a pet store and received permission to place a collection can on the counter. This can take in about $100 a month and really is a big help. Ask local businesses if you can also place these cans. A picture of an injured or homeless bird, with a description of your mission statement can be helpful. By also being nonprofit, it might encourage a larger donation, than a few coins, and all donations are tax deductible.
We have requested and received many donations from several of the major food companies, such as Lafeber, Kaytee, Scott's Petamine, Roudybush, Brown's, L/M products, Kaylor Made Products and Sun Seed. Richard and Andrew King of King's Cages were very generous and donated a cage and two stands. I think if you make the right approach, you'll find that many people will be happy to sponsor your sanctuary. I just happened to be visiting at King's, when Tom from First Flight Exotic Birds happened to be there. He was reading my literature and asked how he could help. There are a lot of good people out there. They just need to know you need help.
Within 2 weeks of its inception, the Haven had acquired a keet, a meyers, a cockatoo, and a blue and gold. The parakeet had been found in a Chevy car dealership and was full of grease. He is now doing fine and will be available for adoption after a 6 week search for the original owner has been completed. This is done by placing ads in local newspapers and on the Internet.
Parrot Haven wants to reunite all birds with its owners, but sometimes it is impossible. The blue & gold, Beadles was found after it had flown the coop. His owner decided that he did not want the bird back and asked us to place him. He was placed in a loving home, with a gentleman who already had a monkey and a few other parrots. The bird had been cultured and was free of any type of infection.
The cockatoo had been a previously adopted bird who had fallen and had a wound on its sternum. Coco had picked at this scab for 9 months and it was bleeding and infected. An Elizabethan collar was of no help. The owner dropped off the bird, hysterically crying. She could no longer cope with the birds self mutilation. After working with the bird and treating the wound, (we discovered another use for duct tape - over gauze), the bird was able to be returned to its' loving owner. Coco comes back about once a week for a dressing change. He is healing up nicely, though the wound was so big that it may take up to 3 months for it to completely heal.
The meyers was brought to my house in a paper bag, found by a man, who didn't know how to care for it and knew that we had birds. We had an adoption application from someone who had selected a meyers as their choice of adoptive birds. So in a few weeks, the meyers will go to its new owners, if its old owner is not found.
I hope that this info has been helpful for this important portion of your club. Please feel free to email me with any other questions any other questions pertaining to starting a bird club.
Winged Wisdom Note: Lisa Umstead has been breeding birds for many years and is an officer and founding member of the Parrot Fanciers Bird Club.
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