Long post ahead! You have been warned!
Summary: Coming into owning a Macaw of my own.
Back in 2008, I had really developed a strong interest in birds. I wanted one pretty bad and was tempted to start patrolling the internet for some breeders or rescues. Then my "Horse Sense" kicked in. You see, I have been training horses since I was young and even in my early teen years was charged with a lot of responsibility at the ranch I boarded my horses at. I had often times seen people rush into getting horses with catastrophic (sometimes life-altering) consequences for horse and owner alike. I would tell people "Don't rush and buy a horse because you want it. Do your research, get a horse that is RIGHT FOR YOU not a horse that is FLASHY.
" I would also tell people "Horses are expensive to maintain and especially expensive when they fall ill, monthly costs are astronomical, PLEASE research this before buying
" and no one would listen to me (likely due to my young age, they were older and knew better right?)
As I was saying, my horse sense kicked in and I told myself I needed to have a taste of my own medicine. I wanted a bird... but would I still want a bird after 5 months of just researching them? Would I have the dedication to actually read up on an animal that I had no current plan to obtain? The answer... Yes. I did. So, I passed my first test. I absorbed everything I could about parrots of all shapes, sizes, and colors. What was toxic, what was necessary, cage dimensions, behavioral issues, noise levels, health ailments... and every day I found myself more interested in learning about parrots than the day before.
I realized I was ready for the next step. No, not ownership just yet! I still had more to learn! I always recommended that people lease horses before committing to buy one because at the end of the day, if you can't afford it... it's okay because it's not your horse and you can just terminate the lease and be done with it.
So I volunteered at a local rescue (run out of a woman's double-wide, but I do not judge as she was pretty kind to the birds). I wanted to see the "worst" of birds to see if I would be okay with owning a bird of my own. The way I saw it, if I could deal with parrots at their worst then getting a young one and rearing it up should be a cake walk. I wanted to get used to the sounds, the mess, the upkeep and see what impact a bird would realistically have on my life. The lady who ran the rescue loved me, and after a few months of steady dedication I got a phone call.
"I think you're ready" she said, as she walked me back into her garage where a new arrival was just placed. A Blue and Gold Macaw. About 10 years old. She wanted me to take him home and foster him, as she didn't have the space for him. I was terrified, but honestly I just wasn't confident in myself. Her confidence helped, and my little "patient" thrived here for 6 months before he was successfully integrated into a family. My gosh, I will not forget how awful it felt to see him go. But he taught me something important. I can deal with the noise, the bites, the mess, the attitude. I CAN own a parrot one day.
For a few years, I volunteered at the rescue, rehabbing a Congo African Grey for a few months, then a Blue Front Amazon for a month... they get placed, and I just make sad faces because here I am, once again birdless. I never thought to ask to adopt one of my fosters. I guess the way I saw it, I was a good "step mom" to get them on a healthy track again and into families. The lady who owned the rescue ended up moving her and her birds out of state and for about a year I was without any feathered friends.
I decided to look for a parrot of my own. My only qualification:
I did not want a rescue.
All I ever did with birds was fix other people's blunders. While it was rewarding, I did not want to saddle myself with a bird that I would have to work and work at to come around and hopefully undo the emotional distress and pray that there was no health-risk due to long term inappropriate parrot care with their previous homes. Finally, I despise... fully 100% despise paying just as much for a rescue than I would for a baby. While working with the rescue, I saw her drop up to 1,000 dollars on a plucked-insane-hyperaggressive Amazon just to get it out of there (only to have it die a month later from health issues due to the neglect). People who neglect birds almost seem to challenge themselves to "break even" when it comes to selling their bird. As a horse person, the concept of "breaking even" on the sale of a horse was ridiculous. The cost and time of upkeeping and training the horse seemed to always cost more than the horse sold for.
So yes, selfish? Incredibly. I worked with rescues for about 4 years and I decided that even after all that I did not want one for myself, I would rather have a clean start for the same price of a rescue. Have you started calling me names yet? Hate me yet?
I ended up doing some soul-searching and deciding that I would pursue a Macaw of some sort, and ended up looking for a Blue and Gold Macaw and started scouting breeders to get some pricing and information. I loved all the Blue and Golds I had come into contact with, even the "problem" ones, and their personality suited me well!
The Birdie Claw of Fate
Well I posted an ad on Craigslist for a friend's "Mutt Strutt" to benefit her little Boxer Rescue. When I checked to see if it posted I saw "B&G Macaw - needs to go
" no picture, not much text, but I noticed the bird was located in my city (which is rare, as I live in the middle of nowhere). The price? 1,000 dollars. The ad was short, but claimed "no time, son is allergic, too loud" etc.
I ignored the ad, went back to my doings, then checked back on Craigslist about an hour or two later to see where the mutt-strut ad had fallen down to (sometimes these ads get washed away by pitbull puppy ads, lol) and I saw it was nearish to the top, but the ad that had been placed right after it?
"B&G Macaw - needs to go
Aw crap. If that isn't a sign I do not know what is. Alright, I will bite, this bird was accidentally double-posted and has sandwiched my ad and is almost taunting me. I called them.
I got a lot of.... weird information about the bird. She is loud, 11 years old, unbanded, she loves cheese, she hates women, eats the big bag of birdfood from Wal Mart (note: he meant the Wild Bird Food they sell for Cardinals and Sparrows), she screams for no reason, she hates me because my son is allergic <--- I was left pretty... confused... at how these people ended up with a Macaw. It was likely an impulse buy if I had to guess. They also flatly REFUSED to send me pictures of her, but upon asking for them he dropped the price from 1,000 dollars to 800 dollars "and not a penny less, I spent more on her than that anyhow" he said. Psh, yeah buddy, I hear that a lot.
Hoboy, my curiosity was absolutely peaked at this point. I scheduled a visit that afternoon to check her out.
A Sad Past
I arrived about an hour before dark and when I got there they had the bird on a perch outside, this made me incredibly nervous. They claimed she couldn't fly, but that certainly doesn't mean that a hawk couldn't come and take her. She had feathers. I was surprised, because since they said NO pictures I figured she must have been in really bad shape.
I walked up, she turned, looked at me, scooted over to me and started bouncing up and down pinning her eyes going "Waaaaow!" The guy and his wife were surprised "She hasn't done that before" he said. His wife went on a tirade about how the bird hates her and shrieks at her, blah blah. She kept offering me her claw to step up as they told me about how she screams non stop, she poops all over the place, she won't talk, she makes a huge mess with seeds and won't eat food offered to her (as they offered her a french fry lol). The term "problem" came up a lot when referencing her.
(Note: I do so love when people do nothing but "diss" a bird and complain about rotten behavior then still command the same amount of money for it that a weaned baby would cost
He had a bag of cheese, and kept trying to get her to step up on him by giving her warm shreds of what appeared to be cheddar. I was dying inside, wanting to tell him not to give her so much dairy but... not my bird, and I did not want to insult somebody that I might try to "haggle" with if I intended to get her. She wouldn't step up but he kept giving her the cheese anyways.
He told me the story of the bird's life.
Home #1: Elderly woman purchases her and dies 3 years later
Home #2: Family inherits, passes bird from relative to relative for 4 years
Home #3: Family sells to someone on Craigslist in West Virginia, where she lives for 3 years
Home #4: These people purchase her, driving to WV to get her, and have her for 8 months
So she is assumed to be about 11 years old. I was surprised to see that her feathers looked alright, albeit very dull due to not having a bath for the duration of her time with these people at the very least. She had been living on a PVC perch (not caged) for the last 7 years of her life.
Something I did notice, were cuts on her face. I asked about them and he said "he hadn't noticed them before" and walked off abruptly. I got my answer to the question though, when I saw him move about the home, every time he picked up an object, like a broom or a chair, the bird would start SCREAMING bloody murder. I think he had thrown something at her, possibly causing her to fall or possibly even hit her.
I didn't want a Rescue
The family walked outside to smoke, and I stayed back looking at the bird. She was preening herself contentedly, letting out little groans, and I thought about what I was about to do. I was about to spend 800 dollars, only 100 dollars less than an unharmed baby, on a bird that had been neglected emotionally and physically. She wasn't too far gone though. I kept telling myself that. When they came back inside she immediately slicked her feathers down and went to the far side of the perch, away from them.
I bought her, and took her home with me, she rode the 30 minute drive perched on my arm, eventually preening herself in the car (filling it with bird dust... thanks).
I sat, car idling at a long stop light, the last one before I got home, kicking myself for being so gullible and for buying a neglected bird for full price:
I didn't want a rescue.
I didn't want a bird that I had to "fix"
I didn't want a bird that other people had neglected
I didn't want to pay full price to fix other people's problems
I didn't want to deal with the anger, the bites, and the screeching
I wanted a bird to love
I wanted a bird to keep from ever experiencing harm
I wanted a bird to bond with.
But then I realized, as my new friend started picking her little bits of bird-dust delicately off of my arm, her little feet nice and toasty on my arm...
She didn't want to become a rescue.
She didn't want to be broken
She didn't want to be neglected
She didn't want to bounce from home to home
She didn't want to be angry, bite people, or scream in terror.
She wanted a person to love
She wanted to live a life free of harm
She wanted a person to bond with.
And by golly, I am going to give that to her.
I didn't want a rescue... but she didn't want to become a rescue, either.
Here's Khepri, sitting at her "happy place"
One Month Later
Khepri, as she has come to be called, has shown no signs of this atrocious behavior that she showed towards her previous owners, or any of the weird behavior she showed when I met her.
- She speaks... quite a bit actually, and started speaking only 2 days after she got here... she was at the mercy of my delicious birdie bread and when she had her fill she went on a speaking tirade, where I found out she can say "Can I have a nut?" and "Thank you" immediately thereafter.
- She does not scream. I only hear a flock call (one or two screams) after breakfast.
- She does not fear me or my husband. I use the broom, I move chairs, she never screams the way she did when she was there.
- She does eat (and loves) fresh food... as mentioned above. I don't think they were offering her the right stuff, or she did not feel comfortable with it.
- She is shifting gradually to a pelleted diet and is NOT eating freaking Wild Bird Food anymore... seriously what on earth??? She likes pellets well enough, but still prefers seeds.
So, the way I see it, while she was a neglected bird I think I got the best-case scenario here. She's not too far gone and has been the best bird I've ever worked with, and she's already within her maturity range. She seems to have been able to leave all the "bad stuff" at her last home, and seems to appreciate that we are treating her as a member of the family rather than just "a cool pet". I know the honeymoon period likely is not over yet, but she has been so consistent her entire time here, really "coming out of her shell" after the first week and showing that she has a personality.
I'm not ready to let my guard down... ever (lol) but I am so happy to have found her, and I think it's safe to say that she is happy to have come home with me.
I'm glad I got a rescue
(thank you for reading, or skimming, or whatevering!