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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Hazards of the Unfettered Bird: Part One

I was once ridiculed by a woman for letting my cats outside. She thought it was inhumane, but I thought the same about keeping them in, so I guess it’s a personal choice. The same could be said for birds. They can surely get into trouble when they’re “on the loose,” unsupervised. Since my birds are all in one room in our basement, their wandering space is limited. If their wings are trimmed, they have to walk or climb places, but they do get to fly as their wings start to grow out. A few times, our favorite cockatiel, Trickle, has gotten into innocent trouble due to having his freedom. Luckily and thankfully, it worked out in the end, but you can decrease the risks by considering the following.

If you have a hand-tamed bird that’s easy to work with, let him out for just an hour or two to start. Then progressively increase the time out of the cage. Clear the room of anything that could be harmful to the birds and things you don’t want them to chew on. Our cockatiels have ruined several picture frames I had tucked away on a shelf. Trickle also got himself stuck to a glue trap we didn’t know was left by the previous owner way up in the rafter of the basement. He also got stuck for a few hours in a long, narrow box that contained rolls of wallpaper. He couldn’t get himself out and became just a little sick, we gathered, from the glue on the paper or the lack of fresh air. He came through these incidents just fine, but neither would have happened if he was caged.

Trickle happens to be our best bird so we’re always regretful when he finds himself in these situations that ultimately could have been prevented by a safer environment. By “best bird” I mean he’s the tamest and easily allows handling and petting. He doesn’t even know how to bite. He just pecks at your hand with his beak if he’s irritated. He’s gotten himself into other trouble too, but those all ended well and each will be mentioned in further posts. For now, I’ll talk about some close calls and actual disasters which will again out me as an exotic pet keeping loser who’s smarter for it now.

As I’ve mentioned, rats are one of my favorite pets and I’ve always given them time out of their cage. They don’t run all over, but are allowed to climb out and wander around some play areas on a long table. I don’t allow the rats and birds out at the same time because I had a close call once. I expected that the birds would naturally stay away from any kind of walking four-legged creature, but I had to learn the hard way that this was an unreasonable expectation. Birds, it seems, are just as curious about play areas on a table as rats. I also thought a rat would be afraid of any flying creature and would quickly retreat. Wrong again.

It happened very fast. The rat and cockatiel ended up on the table at the same time and the rat lunged quickly at the bird’s chest. Thankfully, I was right there and grabbed up that bird quick as a whip. He was uninjured as it appeared the rat got only a mouth full of feathers. From then on the rats don’t come out until the birds are in. At our house, this is usually in the late evening or early morning. We can always take the rats into another room for their exercise, but they generally stick to their nearby territory as do the birds. It’s safe to say we got lucky this time. Other times, not so much.

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