Goodbye, Baby!

There is a piece of news I needed to share with all of you. We made a very emotional decision based on many different things. Time became a factor when we knew we would be moving into a smaller house. One with no patio and one less room, so we have no more Birdroom. The Birdroom and patio had been our saving grace with Baby in particular all these years. Things grew increasingly difficult - even living in the old place, as my husband had to take up the slack with the birds for me (after our first baby girl was born) - on top of working and going to school to learn to fly helicopters.

For many years I was the "buffer", keeping Baby from driving my husband nuts. We actually lived apart for a few years (just after Baby became a hormone-monster. I scrambled to find answers about Baby so we could try to make things work out. We moved back in together and I worked hard on my "buffer" role, and it worked out. However, when our first baby girl was born, it became virtually impossible to keep things safe - and sane.

With the news of moving into a smaller place - with no screened patio and no Birdroom - I began to realize I was kidding myself if I thought I could make things keep working. It was a struggle in the larger house, with a Birdroom and large screened patio. Those two important factors really helped. Without them, I knew we would be in the presence of a very unhappy flighted Cockatoo - and we would be in a household so stressed it could bring things to pieces.

Long ago, I met some friends of my family near where they live (who have and love birds), and corresponded infrequently with them for some time. I went and visited them, and they have a really great attitude and environment. I jokingly mentioned that I thought Baby would like their place better than ours. After going through things over and over and over again in my mind, I decided to get in touch with them about Baby.

I had raised the question over the years a few times - as to whether it was fair to keep trying with Baby - or whether she could possibly find happiness elsewhere. EACH DAY of the 7+ years that passed once she changed (hormonally) I wondered if we were truly the best people for her. I wondered if she was not around my husband, if the zeal of her "hormonal-ness" may subside - and if so, how much. Never before did I know anyone who I thought MIGHT be able to provide an equal - or better - life (who was not doing rescue and dealing with MUCH more needy birds) until I met these people.

Baby's was with us for over a decade, and we were the only family knew. Sammy and Baby became close over the years. How would Sammy feel about not having her around? I had even discussed the possibility of both of them going to a new family (so they wouldn't be separated) with my husband, but there are a lot of factors involved. The bottom line is that when I made the drive to visit my family in April 2008, I took Baby with me and dropped her off with her new family.

Right now, I want to go over a few things. As I said, there was no ONE factor involved in our decision to re-home her. ALL sides of things had to be considered. Baby's happiness - and ours. Without ample space to fly for a bunch of hours in a day, I KNEW Baby would not be a happy camper. Flight was THEE thing for her that burned off a LOT of pent up daily energy all those years. The Birdroom was a refuge for them. A place where Baby and Sammy would hang out and do BIRD things. Having her in a main living area - especially with small children - would have been asking for disaster because of her aggressiveness. While I had weathered having chunks taken out of my hide, it was hardly fair to subject any child to that.

Our daughters' safety was a factor. My safety (and anyone other than my husband's) was a factor. Baby's happiness was a factor. Sammy's happiness was a factor. Our sanity and health were factors. Now I'll talk a bit about Sammy. While Sammy loved his "BeBe Grrrrrrl", we had seen a bit of a depressed attitude from him when Baby was acting aggressive. When she would peep for hours, we would hear him grumble and mumble - and even sometimes holler at her - to try to get her to stop. When she was in attack mode, he withdrew - kind of like an abused child. (She had only been rarely aggressive toward HIM, so don't get me wrong.) He just seemed like whenever she started acting that way, he just wanted her to STOP.

We could relate to that, because day after day, year after year, we just always wished she could calm down and be peaceful for even 5 minutes. She was always DRIVEN - constantly in motion in an aggressive way. This was mostly with my husband around, but even territorially when he was not. Each moment spent with her over those past years forced me to always try to be on HIGH ALERT, and it was NOT easy - despite my determination. I was always really glad she aimed her aggression outward instead of inward, but always wished it wasn't a problem at all. In any case, more about Sammy...

Sammy's was used to me (in the past) taking Baby with me on family trips. (Incidentally, she always acted like an angel on trips - NEVER aggressive when away from my husband and not in our home. She would tuck her head back and SLEEP ON MY CHEST when we took our trips! Something I wouldn't DREAM of trying at home or with my husband around!) Sammy didn't really seem to notice or care that Baby wasn't around when we all left and Baby was taken to her new home. (He stayed home with my husband.)

Sammy has always been the peaceful sort that LOVES to be in the middle of everything. When our first daughter was born, we knew we had to change things up and keep the birds loose ONLY in the Birdroom or on the patio. It would be far too dangerous to allow Baby free run in the main living area. We didn't want to be unfair to Baby by leaving her in either of those "bird" sanctioned places by herself, so wherever Baby was, Sammy was. Sammy would "beggar wing" to join us in the main living area a lot, and one of us would go spend time with them in their domain. It was a juggle, but we did it.

Since Baby's been gone, Sammy is able to hang out with us, and he seems more happy and relaxed. He's happy to chill out and observe things. He goes through his vocabulary, and really seems to be relaxed compared to when Baby was frantically flying around and calling. (She always loved to give a staccato alarm call to spook him and make him fly and freak out. I could tell he hated that.) Sammy is a safe bird. He's not aggressive, and just loves being around everyone and their activities. He's enjoyed being in the main living area, despite giving off a sense of missing his outdoor patio we had at the old place. When we move again in June 2010, we will be looking hard for a new place that has that for him!

So we considered everyone in our family - and how such a change would effect all of us - individually and as a family. I thought long and hard about Baby's happiness without us. I never did kid myself to think WE were the only people on this Earth who could provide her with a nice life. I also don't kid myself that she was extremely confused when I left her. She had NEVER not been with one or both of us. But I honestly believed with all my heart that things would work out for her with these new people. They have a wonderful place, with plenty of space for flying. They have plenty of time to spend with her. They have plenty of money to give her proper care. They have even set up a trust for their animals, which they would/will include her in. That's more than we are able to do yet. And most importantly, they have plenty of love in their hearts for her.

They told me she was quite upset at first, but then calmed and began to accept a new schedule and environment. I was concerned about whether she would pluck feathers. I told them I didn't expect them to treat her (coddle her) in EXACTLY the manner that we have. I truly believed that change would be a positive thing for her. I explained to them how to make her "dinner" the way we always did - just in case she went on a hunger strike. But there were no issues, which was a very good thing. They were informed that her favorite thing as far as toys is anything involving pony beads.

It's been very strange not hearing that peeping and feeling her frantic energy around us. However, it's also been relieving not to feel stressed - wondering if I'm going to be attacked - knowing I'm going to be attacked - wondering when a terrible biting accident would happen to our daughters - watching my husband get so stressed out he had to leave the house sometimes to keep his sanity. It was relieving not to have to worry that she was driving him bonkers when I take family trips.

This was an incredibly difficult decision. We thought about all of the facets of it over years. We worked with Baby's aggressive behavior for over 7 years. Part of me felt as if I had abandoned her - gave up on her. I guess I did abandon her, but I never gave up on her. I gave up on the situation. We could no longer provide her with the freedom that we had previously. We had to do what was most fair for everyone involved.

Furthermore, there was a discussion on a forum about Hand Fed Baby Parrots that echoed in my mind for a long time. Quote by PaRehabber: "Often with hand-raised parrots, everything goes quite well for the first few years. The juvenile parrot bonds to its human family and enjoys their companionship. Its natural instincts do not go away though, and the bird, behaving like a bird, often gets in trouble because although it thinks it’s human, it doesn’t act like one. Then comes sexual maturity when the strongest instinct surfaces…the desire to procreate. This is when some real problems can surface. It may not recognize its owner as a mate, but a parent. Its instinct is to leave the parent family, move on, find a mate and start its own primary family. It can become aggressive to its owner because it wants to leave. Very interesting words that I pondered over for a long time...

I know some were disappointed to learn about this. For them... I'm sorry. For Baby... We tried. We REALLY tried. For a long time. I don't think she will ever understand, but I do believe she has moved on. I pray she remains happy for the rest of her life. I know she's being cared for properly - and loved. I feel fortunate to have been her "stepping stone" for so long.

UPDATE (November 2008): It's been many months since I dropped Baby off with her new family, and I've been in touch with them regularly. (Truly, it seems like an eternity.) Since she arrived there, her behavior has been constant. She's been eating well, playing well, flying LOTS, doing some "healthy" screeching at her usual times of the day, and NOT showing the aggression that she was showing us here on a daily basis. I wasn't sure if, after the "honeymoon period" she would go back to that or not, but apparently not. At least so far. YAY! The "icing" on the cake for me is that her feathers have almost all grown completely back in! I am SO HAPPY about this, because they never did while she was with us. That is a MAJOR milestone!

I still feel like we failed her, but in a different way than you would think. I think perhaps we "stuck in there" too long because she seems to be doing much better where she is now. I can't imagine being so aggressive (stressed) for so long was good for her, and nothing we did seemed to diminish it. I did struggle for a long time with the thought over whether she could find better happiness in another home, or whether that would be "giving up on her". It seems that we've found the answer to that now.

UPDATE (April 2009 - 1 year later): April 10th marked 1 year since I dropped Baby off and left her with "strangers" to begin a new life. So I gave her new family a call to check up on her. They're totally in love with her and really care for her so well. Apparently all of her plumage has grown in and they still can't believe she had ever been aggressive because they've just not seen that side of her. I'm happy for her - beyond words!

UPDATE (March 3, 2010 - almost 2 years later): As we close in on almost two years since Baby moved on, I continue to think about her. There are still sights and sounds that make me think of her daily around the house. Her family assures me that she is thriving and loved. We are soon going to be moving again to a new house, and I'll be doing my very best to see to it that Sammy will be getting a screened patio or sunroom to spend his time in. Although he's enjoyed hanging out with us in the main living area, he definitely misses being closer to Nature. In the meantime, our girls know the joy of life with a Macaw.

UPDATE (January 1, 2015 - almost 6 years later): I haven't checked on Baby nearly as much as I used to, but we still continue to get updates about her from time to time. She's still alive and well, very happy and very loved. I know in my heart we did right by her, and when I think back I only wish we had made the decision to give her a better life sooner. My thoughts about parrots in captivity (especially Cockatoos) are only solidified when I recall the years we spent trying our best (albeit in vain) to make her life better while she was with us. These birds do not belong in captivity. Period. Each day I think of that when I look at Sammy, who is still with us.

He's got plenty of interaction with us (and is great with our kids), he's got a patio where he can hang out and chat with other birds when they're in the area during the nice weather times. Still he will face a window or door and quiver his wings as if he wants to get out and just fly freely. I have no doubt that's something he feels compelled to do by Nature. Because there is a price on his head, and because he was born in captivity, we could never allow that to happen. If we knew he could live freely and survive, and not be caught by another human an imprisoned, we would do it for him in a heartbeat.

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