Today, Patricia Gideon lives in a house with 21 birds. Tomorrow, that number could be more or less, depending on if birds are abandoned by their owners, or adopted by new ones. One of five “Adoption Coordinators” for Mickaboo Companion Bird Rescue, Patricia runs a foster home for rescued companion birds, and pairs prospective owners with birds from her flock. Out of the 21 birds living with her, 11 are foster birds. The remaining 10 are permanent residents, adopted by Patricia and her husband, Christopher.
Patricia admits that it’s hard not falling in love and adopting every bird. But she says the hardest obstacle isn’t her own attachment, it’s gaining the trust of the birds placed in her care. “So many of these birds have been shuffled from home to home, or have been neglected or abused, that they don’t trust humans,” says Patricia. “With birds like these, there’s a traumatic history, or fear, to overcome.” She tries to find the cause of the trauma, whether it’s physical or emotional, and handle the bird in a way that won’t trigger its anxiety. “It’s about the most difficult thing of all,” she says. “On the flip side, overcoming that fear is about the most rewarding things I can think of.”
A daily routine of human contact is part of winning the trust of these ‘special needs’ birds. Each day begins at 7:00 am with Patricia and Christopher feeding all 21 birds, antting part of the flock out to play. If there’s any disabled birds, blankets are changed out of their cages, and birds in quarantine are given medication. Some are weighed to monitor their health.
After handling birds in quarantine, Patricia washes her hands and changes clothes. In the afternoon, Christopher feeds the birds a snack, and, by 7:30 p.m., all birds are fed dinner. Sick birds are given a second dose of medication at this time. At 9:00 p.m., the routine ends after the cages are cleaned, and each of the larger birds is let out for twenty minutes of play.
When asked why she volunteers her time to foster birds, Patricia cites her 23 year companionship with a white capped Pionus named Miss Buddy. “When she died of cancer, I knew I wanted another Pionus because I love their personalities,” she says. From researching on the web, Patricia learned about the overpopulation of pet parrots and wanted to adopt. It was a friend, a volunteer at Mickaboo, who recommended adopting a Pionus from Mickaboo Companion Bird Rescue. Patricia’s experience with the adoption process inspired her to volunteer. “Miss Buddy gave me so much joy and taught me so many valuable lessons,” says Patricia. “I volunteered in memory of her.”