Second Hand Bird  - - - by Liz Davies (aka "Mom")


A good friend of mine fell in love with an adult sun conure she saw at her local pet store.  The bird (a 2 year old) was a little nippy with her husband in the store, but allowed her to pick it up and seemed quite affectionate.  The price was right and she took the bird home.

Within 3 days, this little charmer went from “sweetie bird” to “birdzilla”.  My friend was bitten quite hard several times, and finally called me to see what I thought.  “Take the bird back,” was my advice.  My friend was reluctant.  She worried about the trauma the bird would suffer from being shifted from home back to the pet store.  She really was concerned about this parrot’s welfare; but every day it seemed worse.  After another week and a half, she finally did contact the pet store owner, who agreed to work something out with her and take the bird back.  I will never forget the tear-choked voice of my friend telling me that she’d “failed” and how dreadfully guilty she felt about it all.  She still worried about little “Mango” and prayed he would find a home where he would be happy. 

It was an extremely painful and guilt-ridden trauma for my friend, and probably not much fun for the conure, either.

The pet store owner eventually found my friend another bird of the same species, but this time a baby.  This newer bird quickly became the joy of my friend's life, and her pain over “Mango” eventually healed.

Another friend decided to adopt a 7-year old cockatiel from a co-worker.  This bird had been with only one family, and was quite tame.  The adoption went well.  There were some adjustments for everyone in the first couple of weeks, but after a while “Tweetie” settled down and it worked out well.

Re-homed birds often adjust well, especially if they were well socialized to begin with.  And there are hundreds of stories out there about so-called “problem birds” who became wonderful pets when they came to live with the right person and family situation.

Not all adult birds offered up for adoption have problems.  Here are some reasons a perfectly wonderful companion bird might be given up by it’s owner:

  • The owner has passed away
  • The owner is elderly and no longer able to care for the bird (or must move into a housing situation where pets are not permitted)
  • The owner has developed dust/dander allergies and cannot live with the health consequences of a pet that generates the amount of dust that some parrots do
  • The owner is having some other normal "life change" situation that now makes keeping the bird impossible

When considering being a bird’s second (or 3+) home, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask questions about the bird’s health, typical behaviors, and why the owner has decided to part with it. 

Here are some questions which may lead to revealing answers:

  • What kinds of situations make this bird unhappy?
  • When this bird screams, how do you deal with that?
  • When this bird bites, how do you deal with it?
  • Who is your vet (this is, I guess, a sneaky question.  A person who cannot name the vet may actually have never taken the bird to a veterinarian at all…)
Listen to the answers to your questions and consider carefully what you are being told.  And never, ever, allow yourself to be pressured into adopting a bird.  If the person you are dealing with says “I have several other people interested in the bird…” then you must assume that if the bird is adopted by another family, that it was “meant to be”. 

In the case of adult birds offered in a pet store, ask if the bird can be returned for a full or partial refund if it begins to exhibit unusual problem behavior once in your home. 

Birds that undergo the stress of re-homing have a “honeymoon period” where they are too nervous and timid to show their true character.  In the case of my friend with the sun conure, that honeymoon period lasted only 3 days.  It takes a while for the bird to settle in and relax enough to behave “normally” (whatever normal is for that bird).  Being moved from “home” to the store, and then to your home is a lot of stress for a bird, and you should expect to see some changes to personality (even if only mild ones) once the bird settles in.  No pet store can afford to allow an open-ended timeframe, but if you agree to have the bird see a vet within a week or so, and agree to share some responsibility if it doesn’t work out, a ‘trial period’ should be acceptable to the dealer.

If it isn’t, you should seriously consider whether you are willing to risk problems. 

Pakshi, my Hahn’s macaw was 9 months old when I bought him from a local pet store. He had been in the store for 3 months when I got him, and since the pet store that had him is part of a nationwide chain, it’s possible he’d been in another store for a while before being moved to that location.   The store clerk admitted to me that no-one had been handling Pakshi - and although Pakshi seemed "interested in being friends", he wasn't exactly cuddly.  I was concerned about ending up with an expensive bird that might never been the companion I was wanting.

 I asked for (and got) a 2-week no-questions-asked guarantee from the store before I took him home. 

Once he came home with me it took about a week before he relaxed and acted like the bird I know now.  He and I get along fine, and there have not been any severe problems.  But he’s not at all well socialized.  I am the only person who can handle him without incurring a nasty bite, and some days he bites me for reasons I don’t quite understand.