by Heike Ewing Ott
There is a quote that reminds us that we are forever responsible for whatever we tame. Written by a bird owner and breeder, this article further reminds us of our responsibilities to the birds that we bring under our care. It also includes tips for making your bird safer in your home.
I’m getting out the soapbox, so anyone who’s easily offended, just ignore this message and don’t read further.
Since being on this list, I have been concerned about the number of messages I have seen that told of birds being killed or injured by dogs/cats in the home. I have a dog right now, and I used to be a dog rescue person even when I was actively breeding parrots, but only twice have I lost birds to dogs. The first time my black lab jumped up and snapped at my budgie Maxwell while I was carrying him in my hand. Since then, I never transport a bird in my hand if there is an unsafe dog in the house.
The second time was rather a shocking event, since a small terrier-type rescue dog somehow managed to reach two baby sparrows who were in a bowl on top of my clothes dryer. To this day I’ve not figured out how she did it. Nevertheless, she went back to the clinic the next day and I’ve never left birds unprotected by tank or cage since then. Now that we’ve established that I myself am not perfect in this regard, I’ll hop on the soapbox.
As avian pet owners or avian breeders, I believe that we owe our birds freedom from hunger, thirst, disease, fear, and predation. These freedoms are what they get in return for, knowingly or not, sacrificing their ultimate freedom to be with us. IMO, it is my serious obligation to protect my caged, clipped, helpless birds from other animals (and other people for that matter) that share their home. This means two things: One, I must prevent the bird from escaping into an unsafe environment, and two, I must prevent access to the bird by other animals.
Many of my birds are held securely by a simple sliding door or spring-loaded cage latch, while other “Houdini” birds seem to be able to get out of any parrot cage ever made. I have never, however, heard of a parrot that can learn a combination or use a key to open a padlock. Small keyed or combination padlocks are inexpensive, and are absolute proof against escape. (Your efforts are futile, my friend; no bird has EVER escaped from Stalag 13!) 🙂
A padlock, or in the case of smaller birds a dog leash clip, will also prevent a dog, cat, or other animal from getting INTO the cage, but may not prevent sticking paws into it, terrorizing the bird from just outside the cage, knocking the cage over, etc. Therefore, I must keep the animals at a safe distance from the cage. There are many ways to do this, here are some suggestions:
- Keep the bird cage in a room with a closed door when you are not at home.
- In the case of smaller cages, put the cage on a shelf mounted high up on the wall, or hang it from the ceiling.
- Use baby gates or pet gates to prevent access to the room that the bird is in.
- Get a sturdy dog crate that is at least 12″ larger on all sides (except the bottom of course) than your bird’s cage. Place the cage inside the crate when you are not at home, and fasten the crate securely to a wall so that it can’t be knocked over.
- Use a portable room divider with three sections to completely surround your bird’s cage. Most dogs and cats will view these as a solid wall and not even try to get around them. If the ends meet the wall and are fastened, it is pretty solid even if they try.
- When not at home, allow the dogs/cats access to only a portion of the house, which of course does NOT contain the bird.
These measures may seem extreme to some, and some of them can be moderately expensive. All of them take a certain amount of time and planning. But, it only takes 30 seconds for a pet to deprive you of your avian companion or valuable breeder forever. What are the lives of our birds worth?