King O at Best Friends
In view of the recent seizure of the birds at Wings Over the Rainbow, it got me pondering their dire situation, how-heart breaking and frustrating it must be to be in a position where you cannot afford to move out of a building that is not supporting your needs and desperate for help and support.
My last post about the situation generated comments, opinions and discussion. It not only got me thinking, it got a lot of other people looking at the situation. It seems to me that they could have used a lot more help than they were getting. But overall, I think a lack of planning was the issue at hand at WOTR.
How much help do you really need for how many birds? I mean, is there an ideal number in an ideal world?
Naturally, I equate this question with the airline industry. There is an FAA ruling that states that for every fifty seats on an airplane, you must have one Flight Attendant on the aircraft qualified and trained on that equipment. If you don’t have that crew count for that number of seats, you can’t even board the plane with passengers. One Flight Attendant per 50 seats. Period. In many cases there will be more than minimum crew. This is due to the work load, the service involved and the length of the trip.
So this got me thinking: What if we could figure out a proper ratio for the number of people needed to support the care of a certain number of birds? Naturally, there are a ton variables and I can point out a few right off the bat. Flights are far easier to take care of than cages. There is room for more birds and if you have drainage and a hose, it’s a snap. Cages take longer, obviously. And smaller birds are easier than large ones for the most part.
Clean cage ready to rock at BF
I had a number in my head as to what I thought the ideal Caregiver/ Bird ratio would be in a rescue or institutional setting. In my guest zoo keeping experience, volunteering, interviewing, research and digging around, I came up with a ratio.
I think 25 birds to one caregiver is the ideal number. Notice I said, ideal. This is in a perfect world with a proper budget, space, equipment and time. I wasn’t sure this was the proper number. Was it too many birds per caregiver? Could one caregiver look after more given the proper environment? So I called Jacque Johnson, the Manager of the Parrot Garden at Best Friends and asked her what she thought of my number. According to Jacque, my guess was dead on because that is the BF ratio for their labor budget.
Marlene at BF
At Best Friends Animal Society, there is a Cockatiel flight with about 30 cockatiels in it. This population changes with the demand for the space and the rate of intake and adoption of course, but it that number is pretty consistent throughout the year. This is a video that will give you an idea of what the cockatiel aviary looks like:
The cockatiel flight is not a tough area of the Parrot Garden to take care of. The substrate is now pea gravel two and a half feet deep. This just needs some hosing and shifting, a little time for drainage and surface drying, cleaning the perches and feeding stations and you’re good to go. Aside from being a beautiful environment for the birds, Best Friends Parrot Garden is set up from the giddyup for efficiency, cleanliness and speed. Yes, it’s a great space for the birds, but it has to work for the people as well. Best Friends has a budget that they have to stick to.
BF Fort: Great enrichment!
Inside, the Parrot Garden has 30 cages containing 36 birds. They allot four man hours to clean, feed and change bowls for this inside area. And another thing to keep in mind: While Best Friends does indeed welcome volunteers, they base their intake of birds on their ability to care for their flock without any volunteers. When they get volunteers, this affords them time to create foraging toys, work with the birds and work on special projects. But their projection of their labor cost and time to care for their birds is based on the staff to operate without any outside help whatsoever. I think this is logical and very smart planning. They need to be able to provide their birds with care in the event no volunteers are scheduled for the day.
View from the BF indoor bird room
You can’t always depend on the the kindness of strangers. I asked some colleagues what they thought of the current situation in Ohio, the state of affairs in the world of aviculture and how they view rescues and even an opinion of my “25 to 1 ratio” of birds to caregivers. These are a few of those thoughts:
“To have no home is a terrible thing. It’s happening to birds quite a lot, exponentially actually. Sometimes the only option left is a place with too many birds already. Maybe the well-intended caretakers got overwhelmed, and now there’s not enough time, people or money to provide adequate care.
So when it comes to parrots in captivity, perhaps we should change the paradigm, and SOON.
Let’s start by never using the term “forever home!” Birds live a long time, they almost always need multiple homes. The number of aging parrots is growing, and there are fewer and fewer places for them to go. Parrots don’t start as “rescues” but they often end up in places where they acquire this label, and then the road gets harder and the options get slimmer.
Phoenix Landing has a perpetual waiting list of 150+ birds; and we also regularly rehome the birds already in our protective system. There are simply not enough adopters to be found. If our experience is any indication of what is happening nationwide, then the prospects for your bird finding a future good home(s) is getting a whole lot tougher. This should bother all of us.
Let’s make adoption an admirable way to acquire a parrot, it’s the right thing to do. Well-loved birds deseve a good home each and every time; they are resilient and adaptable. If we all take some responsibility for the community of parrots in need, then perhaps fewer birds will end up in places that really can’t care for them.”
– Ann Brooks, Founder of Phoenix Landing
Feeding the penguins at the Cincinnati Zoo
“25 birds to one caregiver is pretty spot on with medium to large birds in good health. However, that ratio can go up or down depending on the mix of birds and the health of the birds. For instance, 25 budgies is a heck of a lot easier to care for than 25 large macaws. Those macs can be enormous pigs to clean up after. Also we are caring for a severe macaw, Max, who requires treatment every day for an open wound on his chest. He is medicated twice daily and the wound treated once a day. His care obviously requires more hands on attention than a healthy severe. Finally, the amount of attention can vary as well. I spend more time with our super needy cockatoos than I do with our less needy macaws and much less than our untame pair of cockatiels.
It’s hard to assign a solid number. I think one volunteer to 25 birds is a good generic number given what are likely an average mix of small to large birds as well as the typical health care needs of the birds.”
-Christopher Burgr, Florida Parrot Rescue
Cleaning Lorikeet Landing at the Cincinnati Zoo
“From this point on we need to shift our focus from the past and start working on the future. As a friend of mine said, “You can’t change the past but you can provide for a better future.”
With the headlines and emotions of the latest seizure it is difficult sometimes to put our feelings aside. So here is what I propose: Lets start an open dialogue about ways to help the Humane Society of Greater Dayton get what they need when the time comes. We must be proactive and not reactive. We are a strong, positive and good group of parrot lovers. Let’s show the avian community what we are made of and what we can do. We have made a huge difference in this past year alone-put your thinking caps on and shift the focus of our frustration and anger to helping and fund raising.”
-Kelly Moore Parsley, Member of “The Parrot Posse”
Cleaning the indoor Little Penguin enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo
What are your thoughts about this ratio? If you have a better concept or a new way of approaching this issue, I’d like your opinions. This is an important issue in light of these recent events. I’ll be doing followup posts as my time allows.
May 18, 2012 at 9:25 am
I have to agree with everyone here. Between adoptable birds and boarders,we house approximately 25 parrots at all times and that really is about all one person can do, if they do it right. Another well done, Patricia..you are really spot on with these latest blogs.
May 18, 2012 at 11:17 am
I’m just trying to get a handle on what happened at WOTR and attempting to come up with some solutions to this. Thank you so much.
May 18, 2012 at 9:41 am
I believe (as said above) this number should vary. IMO for larger birds, grey’s and Macaw, a 15:1 ratio would work better. I know for myself, 4 greys and a macaw was hard to deal with. For smaller birds your 25:1 I think would work well or could even go up 30:1.
May 18, 2012 at 9:55 am
My birds are my full time job and I tend to prefer to work with the special needs fellas. I would say 20-25 depending on the species and their needs is a good “Max” number
May 18, 2012 at 9:58 am
I use the term “forever home” out of political correctness. However, I have also long believed that is just not appropriate when speaking about parrots. This is why so much thought needs to be put into the breeding of parrots. Not trying to start a discussion on that powder keg. Just trying to highlight that there is an enormous long term responsibility we in the bird community have with each new bird brought into captivity. That one bird will change homes many times under even the best of circumstances, so there is a huge committment required of those of us who love and care for them.
May 18, 2012 at 10:00 am
In the case of a rescue, it sounds like a reasonable number. There are situations where the number can be more but those are few and far between and even then it depends greatly on the person and environment. As you say, if the birds are in a “community” situation and not in cages, it is easier. In that case, more birds per person is doable. I do know someone who has many of her birds living in a community without cages and she has more birds than the “ideal” but because of the situation, she handles it alone.
May 18, 2012 at 10:00 am
It takes me about 30 mins every morning to change cage papers, water, wash dishes and feed my 3 birds. This includes mixing medication in peanut butter, warming birdie bread in the microwave and fixing some basic foraging opportunities. In the evening it is another 15-20 mins. Once a week I take an hour or so to scrub cages, walls and do a really good sweep. (I sweep up inbetween and poop patrol each day as needed). I have one Grey and two tiels. This doesn’t count the “quality time” I spend playing with and loving ont hem. So let’s see, that’s about 3 birds an hour times 8 which =24. I would have to agree that one person per 24-25 birds is about right! Sorry about the laborious math!
May 18, 2012 at 10:10 am
I love your “laborious” math!
May 19, 2012 at 7:51 am
That makes 3 of us.
May 18, 2012 at 10:59 am
Your math adds up in my book!
May 18, 2012 at 10:07 am
What a wonderful way to follow up after all the copious comments on your last blog entry. A nice summary of what’s important. Thanks for focusing on the issue so clearly and not getting bogged down by the chatter.
A ratio is indeed an interesting concept, and yet so hard to pin down. My first thought was regarding the VARIETY of birds. I currently have traditional parrots (Congo African grey, red-belly parrot, Jenday and Sun conures); white ring-neck doves (fosters for Phoenix Landing); and red and rainbow lorikeets. Their care is all so different. The doves are easy. But the “chops” I serve for the parrots and lorikeets are like night and day. So that’s more work. In addition to having different pellets than the parrots, the lorikeets also get nectar powder.
I have 3 doves, 6 parrots (in all), 6 snakes, a tortoise, a frog, a hedgehog, a tarantula, Madagascar hissing cockroaches, 5 lizards, a dog, and a cat. If I worked full-time outside of the home, this would be nuts. But my job IS the animals – I do live animal presentations to teach kids about animals and conservation. I also started a Rent-a-Reptile business, so some of the animals aren’t even here all the time. I think it works for me, but I can see how getting a few more animals would land me in hot water.
May 18, 2012 at 10:13 am
This is a wonderful article, and not only does it present the problem without blame, it provides the basis for a solution.
25:1 is very reasonable, and it can always be increased or decreased for each situation. Also, not using the term “forever home” is so important for avoiding disappointment and burnout. A rescuer may not be able to win the war, but small battle wins go a long way in recharging the mind, body, and spirit to face another day.
Thank you again!
May 18, 2012 at 10:57 am
My pleasure and thanks for your insightful comment.
May 18, 2012 at 10:21 am
I think the 25:1 guideline is an excellent concept. I agree that the number NEEDS to be flexible based on species and health of the birds. There are many contributing factors that could (should?) allow this ratio to vary. For example, how much time does it take to care for each bird on a daily basis (cleaning, feeding, watering, bathing, medications, etc) ? Take that number, multiply by the number of birds to be assigned per care taker and see what kind of hours you’re talking about. This number will always be different based on specific individuals. I think the ratio needs to be determined based on individual needs, circumstances and situations. But I love the idea of having a guideline. This blog really lifts my heart up, it’s a sign that aviculture is improving for the birds and the care takers. I feel as though people are reverting their mindsets, out with the old and in with the new. Lets keep going guys, lets run with this and see just how far we can get in making the quality of life better for all the birds we brought into captive lives to live with us.
May 18, 2012 at 11:20 am
Best Friends actually did a time study using a worker with an average speed. That’s how they came up with their expectations of labor costs and the work required.
May 18, 2012 at 10:23 am
As Chris said, it takes more staff hours to clean up after cockatoos and macaws, the 25:1 is an average for us. We are constantly working to find better solutions for the birds and for our husbandry. Our new macaw flight has been designed for ultimate ease of cleaning, as well as comfort and safety of the birds. Each bird will have an individual indoor/outdoor flight cage. The inside has FRP on the walls so that they can be easily hosed and scrubbed. The outdoors will have 2 1/2 feet of pea gravel. With our sandy environment, the pea gravel acts as a great french drain. That should cut down on our macaw cleaning time dramatically, as well as greatly enhance their quality of life.
Aside from actual numbers,which will fluctuate due to housing , medical condition, and size of bird, Patricia has an incredibly accurate grasp of the issue.
We are extremely lucky to have an ongoing source of volunteers. But I schedule staff, and regulate our intakes, based completely on my staffing numbers. If all the volunteers stopped coming tomorrow, we would be ok. That said, I know we are incredibly lucky in that we do have paid staff. Many small rescues are not that lucky and need to depend on volunteers. Bottom line though, is to keep your numbers where you can continue to care for them without assistance. One horrible day last winter my entire staff called in sick. I was still able to get everyone fed and cleaned that day…even though I never had a chance to take a breath. We clean every cage, enclosure and bowl every single day….so it takes much less times to keep things up.
May 18, 2012 at 10:44 am
we need to be VERY VERY careful when suggesting a ‘number limit’ for any animals, whether that be birds, dogs, cats etc. It is way too easy to see these numbers (based on what WE as bird (dog cat etc) owners know to be workable for ourselves, turn quickly into legislated regulations on how many birds you are ‘allowed’ to keep.
The number may vary depending on species, health of the animals, special needs animals, health of the owner, available space and many other factors.
I agree that for some people 25(or more, depending on the situation) birds is easily ‘doable’, while for others 1 bird may be ‘too many’.
Your well thought out article is well written, Patricia, and covers many of the factors that most of us consider when it comes to adding ‘just one more’.
Keep writing and making us think…
May 18, 2012 at 11:50 am
Adrienne, I agree with you. This is just a starting point discussion.
May 18, 2012 at 10:52 am
Patricia, once again, well thought, and well written,, as an RN I deal with ratios for care alot,,, at our hospital we call it a matrix,,,, the matrix for day shift is different from nights, because of the difference in duties.. some states mandate this,, others don;t and leave it up to the facilities to manage,,, doesn’t always work, but does well for the most times and a definite place to start…. to do this rescues would have to be willing to say “at this time we are full”, but could also say “let me check with other rescues to see if they have space”. This I believe would go the longest way to alleviate overcrowding, I have to believe that the majority of rescues all start with those great intentions that sometimes go awry….. Linnea
May 18, 2012 at 11:49 am
Interesting thoughts about the time matrix. Wow!
May 18, 2012 at 11:13 am
Very informative and very interesting.
May 18, 2012 at 12:22 pm
Wonderful write up Patricia. I also loved the quotes and pics, and the foraging toys video was fantastic.
May 18, 2012 at 1:40 pm
I think the point on the types of birds involved is an important one. I keep all sorts of birds from Society Finches to a Lesser Sulphur Crested Cockatoo. I have a dozen finches and two quail in an aviary and while that’s 14 birds, the whole set up takes about as much time to upkeep as does the one cockatoo. The finches and quail don’t really need human attention so I just need to clean the set up as needed and feed and water the birds daily. Feeding the finches isn’t too difficult. They get a finch seed mix, broccoli and other greens, and egg food that I make. I do like to spend time watching them and that lets me know if any particular bird seems sick. I often have to scrub parts of the aviary (perches etc) in the sink but that doesn’t take too long. I also have a set of parrots (two Lineolated Parakeets) that don’t really need human social attention since they prefer each other’s company to that of people. Those two are not difficult to care for. My budgie and Bourke’s Parakeet also prefer each other’s company to that of people. Those four birds are in a flight cage.
Now the cockatoo (Mitri) needs loads of attention. He’s also creates more cleaning work than the finches due to the fact that he loves to chew and will kick the mess he generates out of his cage. If the finches were all cockatoos, there’s no way I’d be able that handle that many birds!
Actually, I have no idea how anyone handles keeping multiple cockatoos, but every household or rescue has different limits. I don’t like the trend I’m seeing where people automatically call anyone (person, rescue organization, etc) with lots of birds a “hoarder.” They question should be: are the birds receiving the care and attention they need?
May 18, 2012 at 1:42 pm
I think it’s important, too, for those in the parrot community who are influential and have a following to hold themselves as an example. It doesn’t help to have the people who adopt and donate to rescues getting themselves into similar situations. We should not collectively laugh off having more birds than we can handle or condone the behavior of those who do. Showing restraint and personal responsibility does at least as much or more for the parrots and the community than adopting too many birds from rescues than one can be reasonably expected to care properly for in their homes, and this does not just refer to finances. I don’t know how anyone would care for twenty five parrots’ well being emotionally and physically in their homes without help, and yet we see some in the parrot community attempting to do exactly that, all the while taking in ever more parrots and condemning breeders and rescues as hoarders. Let’s remember to show a good example to people, be a model of that which you wish to change in the world.
May 18, 2012 at 3:00 pm
In keeping with your idea, here is something I put on my wall shortly after this seizure happened. It was written out of frustration and anger, but I think rescues need to see it.
Thinking about this whole situation in Ohio and seeing what I am seeing, I want to say something to all of the rescues out there. As a rescue, I believe you have to have a higher standard of care for the birds than even a pet owner. Lets face it, you have the lives of birds in your hands that need you to be the example of how birds should be kept. You are looked upon as THE source of information to go to. You are the ones who decide who gets to adopt a bird and who does not.
The questions I want you to spend some time asking yourselves are these: “Am I meeting a higher standard than I expect from the people who I adopt birds out to?” “Am I setting the example?” “Do I have a right to expect more from others than I expect from myself?”. If you ask these questions, look around and act upon them, then you will become the rescue that will not have to worry about this kind of things happening.
On the other hand, if you cannot meet the expectations I am laying out here, you need to reevaluate what you are doing and get out of the rescue business. If you cannot set the example, why do you think you have the right to judge others?
May 18, 2012 at 3:54 pm
Excellent point. We should be paragons of virtue if we expect others to respect those virtues as well.
May 18, 2012 at 2:04 pm
It became clear in the other thread that there’s something going on behind the scenes that we at a distance aren’t privy to. Since I wasn’t there, I’m going to reserve judgement about whether or not a quick fix like forcing people to have a staff of Y would have made any difference.
Besides, it just doesn’t work that way. You can say you’ll only take in 25 animals until you’re blue in the face, but it won’t stop the social pressure to take in more once you’re known as a soft heart. I have friends who work in rescue, and they are VERY much exploited by the fact that they won’t turn away an animal that will be euthanized. Ugly animals, bald animals, old animals…the shelter will kill them. These people know this. It makes it very, very hard for them to turn away and say that’s it, that’s all I’m going to do. It doesn’t matter how many animals they have already or how many times they’ve sworn this rescue will be the last. When they know the fate of the animal if they refuse to take it…it’s very difficult to refuse.
Patricia, to go back to your analogy of the airline, I’ve been on many of those understaffed flights with 1 FA rushing around trying to service 50 pax, and of course we all love to complain about how awful it is. But if the option is bad service or no service, I think we would all choose the bad service since the alternative is a VERY long walk. Would the bird choose to be euthanized because it’s #26 instead of #25?
In my humble opinion only, you can’t solve this problem with a number.
May 18, 2012 at 2:09 pm
I dunno, I think it’s all about having a ballpark. And yes, IMHO, it is the right thing to say no to even just one more over your limit. Because it doesn’t stop at one more. It’s one, then two, then before you know it you have twenty more than your limit. It takes guts and strength to say no but it is the responsible thing to do or you are perpetuating the problem.
I used to have a very tender heart for any stray creature that came my way. And then i started as a vet tech. Do you have any idea how many sob stories come into vet clinics? How many unwanted animals are dumped on the doorsteps? You HAVE to be hard for the protection of those for whom you have already taken responsibility. You HAVE to detach yourself. You HAVE to say no. You can’t save them all, or even a sizeable portion. Emotions run high, hearts are soft, and I get that, but if you can’t say no, you are doing a serious disservice to the ones you already have.
It’s a good thing we can’t hoard children like birds. What must it be like to go to an orphanage looking for one child? People manage to do that, and we must have the discipline to do the same with birds.
May 18, 2012 at 2:15 pm
I think another problem are the people who outright threaten to euthanize or abandon an animal if a particular rescue says they can’t take it.
Some people will also just dump an animal off in front of a rescue, pet store, or the home of someone who has lots of animals.
May 18, 2012 at 2:43 pm
Would the bird choose to be euthanized because it’s #26 instead of #25? In my humble opinion only, you can’t solve this problem with a number.
That is where working with other rescues comes into play,,, okay take in #26 and get on the phone to the nearest rescue that has a spot
May 18, 2012 at 2:28 pm
What if we all just took a little different mindset, and rescues enabled this type of relationship: Instead of feeling compelled to take in every bird on the planet for the life of the bird, why not work with rescues that mostly FOSTER parrots? You give the bird a stable, safe, clean place to live and work on finding a home and let the rescue work on finding a home. Don’t take the bird forever. Yes, I know you get attached, but if you never let yourself believe that this is YOUR bird, wouldn’t that be better? Say, you have room for 8 birds, and when that is filled, you can’t take more until they have been rehomed.
Rescues, when you have reached capacity, why not work with a network of people willing to foster instead of strictly taking on all the responsibility in one place?
This is done successfully with dogs and cats, why isn’t it the case with most parrot rescues too?
May 18, 2012 at 2:48 pm
that is exactly how our bird club who also has a rescue does it,,, fosters until homes are found
May 18, 2012 at 2:41 pm
I understand that rescues must have a standard for the person adopting a bird, otherwise, the bird may come back or be abused. My feeling is that some organizations have such stringent requirements to adopt, many people who could and would give wonderful homes to a lot of these birds are unable to meet them. I see nothing wrong with them charging a fee for the adoption as it would help fund the rescue.
May 19, 2012 at 1:46 pm
Carol, I agree !!!
May 18, 2012 at 2:52 pm
Those of us in rescue DO work with other rescues we know and are comfortable with. I was on the phone with one yesterday. Last year, when we worked with a hoarder/breeder, no less than 4 other facilities stepped up to help us with placing those birds. When someone calls me to take a bird and I don’t have room I offer 2 options: if time isn’t an issue, the bird can go on our waiting list, if he needs immediate placement, I’ll start networking. We do this behind the scene a LOT.
May 19, 2012 at 3:17 pm
Jacque, I didnt mean to imply that no one in rescue didn’t work together, but I sure don’t see enough of it,,, what I have seen is one rescue bashing another,,,,publicly,,,, and for those of us on the “outside” so to speak, who probably don’t have the inside knowledge one side has,, it seems to become a “he said, she said” and quite frankly it drives me nuts…I commend you and the rescues who work together…. I would like to see more of it
May 18, 2012 at 3:22 pm
Regarding ratios of caregivers to birds is a useful concept. But labor concerns cover more than the species of birds or numbers of birds at a facility versus numbers of workers and number of hours worked.
In my experience, the organization of a facility is the foundation for making the work load easier and more efficient. IF a sanctuary or rescue or re-homing facility is carefully planned and the layout is organized from day one, (prior to any bird intakes), that makes a huge difference in the facility being able to offer good daily care in a timely manner so that the birds welfare is adequately addressed.
Critical issues include details in the housing (cages or flights, uniformity in cage design, uniformity in types of food and water bowls, uniformity in cage doors, organization of the cages or flights inside/outside the facility, and so on).
Along that line, organizing the record keeping: physical identification on each cage or flight, physical identification on each bird, correlation of physical bird id and cage id in the intake records, vet records and daily maintenance records.
While the importance of organization in a re-homing facility is crucial, the training and education of staffers and volunteers is also crucial. Many volunteers have the best of intentions, but those good intentions can be short circuited if those individuals are not well educated and well trained in the daily management practices that protect the birds’ health while providing for their care. Staffers and volunteers being well trained and following protocols to the letter is far more critical to the birds’ welfare than the best of intentions.
If a re-homing facility works with an avian vet knowledgeable in avian flock medicine, that can make a big difference. While pet bird medicine and flock bird medicine cover many of the same health concerns, prevention of disease and correct use of quarantine procedures are of critical importance in flock management practices and should be of great concern in re-homing facilities.
It seems to me that a new section of avian medicine might be developed which would address specific disease prevention and appropriate health management concerns for birds in re-homing facilities. The ongoing intake of new birds creates an ever present potential for introduction of disease into the re-homing facility’s flock. An associated concern would be the issue of potential exposure to disease to those who adopt birds from these re-homing facilities.
May 18, 2012 at 4:01 pm
The Avian Welfare Coalition has a book “Captive Exotic Bird Care: a Guide for Shelters” that should be mandatory reading for anyone even considering informal or formal rescue. It covers many of the subjects Laurella touches on. Quarantine, medical testing, avian vet care and adopter/volunteer education are need to be thought about and planned out before the first bird arrives.
May 18, 2012 at 6:23 pm
Laurella, that’s definitely true and good points. Jacque, thank you for posting that book. i will give it a good read before building my own quarantine and fostering facilities in my home for the birds I have been planning to foster for years. Thank you both for the insight.
May 18, 2012 at 9:26 pm
The numbers make sense on paper, but each individual rescue has to realize their ability and then find the gumption to stick to it. There has to be a network of “foster” homes available at a moments notice to relieve unexpected surrenders or intake from a seizure. Some of those fosters need to be no birds homes so that an ill bird can be quarantined. If not no bird homes then each foster needs to have a quarantine area free and open for intakes. While we are talking about using fosters to relieve the pressure on rescues, we also need to keep in mind that each foster has to follow the same principal and set a limit.
May 18, 2012 at 10:22 pm
I see a LOT of comments regarding ‘taking in parrots’ and calling other shelters/ rehab/rescues if you have more than you (think you can) handle.
NO ONE has mentioned HELPING the current owner KEEP their bird(s). In many cases, the reason people give up their pets is because they have behavior issues they can’t handle. Whether this is screaming/biting (for parrots) or some other undesireable behavior (any animal) whatever happened to TEACHING? To HELPING? Or are ALL of the rescues just collectors? In it for the ‘warm fuzzies’? Look how many (insert species here) I saved… poor animals,… no one wants them… I must save them all.
Now, I know that many of the rescue/rehab/rehome groups a least STARTED out with good intentions. Wanted to help animals in untenable situations. But how many eventually fell into the “I need to keep them because no one can keep/ care for (animal species) as well as me and thee, and I’m not so sure about thee” mentality.
I talk to a LOT of pet owners – birds, dogs, cats and ‘other’. When people mention having to give up a pet because it they can’t deal with some beahvior, I suggest things to try, give them my contact info; or send them to people who can help them (if I am unable to do it myself). Often (not always, but many times) it is best if the pet STAYS in it’s home. With some education on the owner’s part, and time, most situations CAN be resolved. Then we save shelter space for those animals that TRUELY need it. Abuse, owners moving and can’t take pets, illness or death in family and no one can take the pet or care for it properly.
Most of us are aware than number limits do not work. They are usually applied in a “one size fits all’ and as one poster mentioned, keeping 25 finches/ canaries etc is MUCH differnt than keepign 25 large parrots.
May 19, 2012 at 12:00 am
Totally agree, Adrianne..and Dana both. I think fosters should definitely have a quarantine area for the protection of their own birds no matter what. You never know what a rescue is bringing in with them. Sometimes this can be as simple as an extra bedroom where the new bird stays for 60-90 days, sometimes more drastic measures are needed or no birds should come in contact. I would never subject my own flock to an unquarantined addition, even a foster, so i’m waiting till I have an outbuilding set up to handle quarantining. Having fostered wild baby birds and the possibility of disease spreading, I found it very difficult to keep a sanitary boundary if the room was in the house; at the very least they are sharing the same airspace via the a/c & heat.
And i also agree that the best solution is for the owners to work out their problems with their birds. This is most preferable to all involved and sometimes you can turn a potential surrender situation into a “okay, maybe we didn’t do everything we could do” situation. These are the great stories! But unfortunately there aren’t as many as there are “I have to get rid of this dumb bird! It screams all the time and when it bit me, that was just the last straw! I have kids you know!” That’s the frustration of a person who wasn’t committed to owning birds in the first place, who was not educated on bird ownership, who probably considers pets as living toys that can be discarded when they are no longer fun. there’s no saving that situation. I wish there were more of the first kind.
May 18, 2012 at 11:04 pm
I agree withe the 25 to1 ratio.I can EASILY handle 25 birds. my “limit” before I become tired as all get out is about 50.I know this because I worked at pet shop/boarding facility years ago and there 8 of us there to take care of approximatley 200 birds at any given time>we each took a section of birds to clean/feed water/interact with and on days people called in sick we’d of course take over an additional section and boy were you exhausted at the end of the day!
I think some can handle more and some can handle less,there are many factors at play here 1 being the age and health/stamina of the care giver obviously, a young healthy person could do more than an older person with health issues.
2.the amount of time a person has to spend on caring for the birds.A home maker can give more time to the birds than someone who works 70 hours a week etc.
I also agree about flights being easier to clean than single cages.My cockatiels have a flight cage and it is much eaiser to clean IMO and since its a flight they get more room to play,they get to interact with eachother and are happier living in a small community than being in regular a cage alone so its a win-win situation for them and myself.My two doves also have a flight cage and they love it.I love it too because doves are pretty darn messy,it’s far easier to clean the poop off linoleum flooring than scraping it off the grate every day.
I think if WOTR gets their birds back I hope more people volunteer and help them out.If i wasn’t in Michigan I’d be there and more than happy to donate my time.
I think they were victims of a crap landlord and not enough donations,they were good to the birds and worked very hard to care for them.I think they deserve a second chance .The love was definitely there.They took in some pretty sad cases,birds many would have turned away and turned their lives around..unfortunately many people forget this.
May 19, 2012 at 8:47 am
A well written article! Excellent case for discussion the online parrot forums have been swamped wih people judging and defending the most recent seizure but few people talking about solutions for the future. I love that you’ve cited so many experienced individuals.
Thank you Patricia!
May 19, 2012 at 9:50 am
lots of variables here. i have 21 “rescue” parrots, 14 are in pairs in aviaries and i manage quite well, but if they were individually caged birds i wouldnt be able to keep up. single birds require more time and attention than birds that have a “mate”. i think 25 is the upper limit especially if you are dealing with birds with behavioral problems. if you are talking only feeding and cleaning it is a lot easier to come up with a number than when you factor in the individual attention requirements of each bird. it is a very good starting point, but there needs to be a way to factor in the variables.
May 19, 2012 at 10:11 am
Sorry, got interrupted. The biggest issue is peoples ability to accept their limits. I may only be able to deal with 20, someone else may be able to handle 30 or only 10.Too many people pass their limit without even realizing it, we need to be very vigilant and totally honest with ourselves about any slip in care and attention and admit that we may have stepped passed our limit.
May 19, 2012 at 10:50 am
Bruce – you totally nailed it. We have to know our own limits, and the limits of our resources. If adding another bird is going to compromise diet, husbandry or socializations, then it is one too many. If you have an established top line number…whatever that might be for you….it’s easy to know when to stop. When we get to our maximum census, I know I cannot accept even one more bird until someone is adopted out. And, if a large bird is adopted a large one can come in. If I adopt out 2 cockatiels, I’m not going to bring in 2 macaws.
May 19, 2012 at 9:51 pm
Please watch the volunteers and the special birds at Wings Over The Rainbow. (The disabled mitred conure with her best buddy had lead poisoning prior to being rescued by WOTR. Because she ingested lead before she was rescued, she can only walk on her knees) Most of these parrots are throw away parrots that were abused and neglected before coming to Wings.
September 25, 2012 at 8:03 pm
Looking for by birdie friend Nicole and sweet Geronimo hopefully you will fly back and join our flock
May 20, 2012 at 6:56 pm
A little late in replying here, but I think it’s interesting that you can up with the number 25, because De at Wings of Love Bird Haven came up with that number for herself. I was a board member of Bird Haven for a couple of years, even though I live in Austin, and even though she was able to get volunteers somewhat, De was really the only one reliably there every day to feed, clean, and socialize. So she set her limit at 25, and sticks to that number unless she can find fosters for any birds over that limit. Beyond 25, she refers out to other rescue groups or maintains a waiting list. We at Austin Parrot Society, on the other hand, don’t have a building at all, so we are entirely dependent on fosters. And yes, there have been birds both at Bird Haven and at APS whom we couldn’t place right away because we didn’t have a place for them to go, and the owners got impatient and dropped the birds off at a shelter or sold them on Craigslist or some other suboptimal scenario. That is unfortunate, but I think one thing that people who are working in rescue need to remember is that we can’t save them all. There will be birds who slip through the cracks. All we can do is try our best while knowing and maintaining our own limits, offer education and alternatives to rehoming to the community, and be able to emotionally let go of whatever is left over that is beyond our control.
May 21, 2012 at 9:37 am
May 21, 2012 at 10:20 am
I wonder if a points system could be developed? For instance a budgie could be 1 point while a macaw could be 5 points. Then you add in a special care multiplier. A healthy bird who doesnt need medical care and little or no physical attention could be a 1. A bird that needs medications, dressing changes and lots of one on one time could have a multiplying factor of 10. Birds requiring less hands on care, say just one medication a day could have a factor of 2 or 3. There are many variables that I think this list would be very long. Another factor could be cages vs aviary birds. Aviary birds might have a multiplier of 1, while a cage bird might be a 2. Once you get this in place you figure how many “points” a single person can handle in a single day.
July 2, 2013 at 9:32 am
after re-reading this I was thinking, the original suggested ratio of 25:1, would probably be adequate for the basics: food/water/cage cleaning. but what about the loving, handling, working with problem behaviors etc, that would ‘bite’ into the time. Does the rescue have volunteers that can be consistently counted on to take over some of the chores, releasing trained staff to work with the birds? In rescues like the one I belong to that rescue through fostering, the birds are in a home environment, so it is different……….
some people can handle 20-30 birds, others have enough with 2-3….
July 3, 2013 at 12:27 pm
This is strictly about husbandry and care. This doesn’t take into account the enrichment and interaction. This is about keeping them clean and fed.
July 3, 2013 at 5:38 pm
hmmmmm well,, okay
July 2, 2013 at 10:57 am
Wow, that is alot of birds for one caregiver. I think it is much to high. I have been to Best Friends Parrot Garden and cleaned cages there. I would rate that facility A+ in organization and cleanliness. They have the donations to support them so they can build the proper environments for the birds. We have about 25 birds at the Lily Sanctuary and I can tell you if there was only one volunteer a day, the birds would suffer for it. Granted the majority of the birds are either Macaw’s or Cockatoo’s, large and messy birds but there is just no way one volunteer could take care of them all.