When You Don't Have Time For Polly
Every day I am flooded with rehoming posts on Facebook, Craigslist, and other sources listing "I don’t have time to give him the attention he deserves" and variations of this as the reason the poor pet is being let go. My first reaction is to scream "WHY DID YOU GET HIM THEN??? DIDNT YOU GOOGLE EVEN FOR A LITTLE WHILE???" And sometimes this reaction truly is justified (When you say it in your own head, not when you actually scream at people), but other times it is not. An unexpected move, job change, illness, pregnancy, a child who is struggling, ANY NUMBER of things can come into our lives that take away time we thought we would have to spend with our pets. Even the most responsible of us can get caught unaware and suffer a sever time famine.
That said, I want to encourage people to take a look at the long term before rehoming a pet. Parrots in particular form incredibly deep bonds with their humans, and rehoming can be very hard on them. If you are finding you have less time for your bird and wonder if you should rehome, consider this; what if your best friend had no time for you for a long time? Would you want to never see them again? Or would you rather be lonely for a while, and have that friend back in the end? I feel this is especially true considering the life span of birds compared to other small pets. A budgie can live 12 years, and a cockatiel 30, and should we even mention the larger species who can live 70+ years? 6 months of loneliness IS a big deal, a year even more so, but I struggle to believe that is worse than being ripped out of the home entirely.
Does that mean if your bird is lonely you just toss up your hands and say "Oh well, we will work this out at the end of the school year when things calm down"? NOPE! There are things you can do to help your fid through the crazy time that are a lot less drastic than rehoming:
-Multi-task. Too much homework/office work to get done, not enough time for birdie? Put the bird on your shoulder, on a play stand, etc., and spend time with the bird without making them your focus. This may mean you have to put some time into teaching your bird to play on their own while near you, but that is a skill your bird needs anyway. Take Polly in the shower with you, put her on the towel rack to preen while you do your hair/shave/brush your teeth. sweep the floor with a bird on your head, make phone calls while giving scritches, etc. I have my husband do this, too! He is very busy, but he doesn’t rehome me; instead, when I feel like he isn’t spending time with me but he has work to do, he will sit by me on the couch and do his work, or invite me to eat lunch with him in the middle of the day, which brings me to my next point...
-Make meal time flock time. Everybody's got to eat! This may gross some people out, but eating is a flock activity for birds, and I find one of the easiest ways to break the ice with a new bird is to bring it to the table (Eeeeewwwww birds in the kitchen! Yes! all the time in this house!). If the only time you have for your bird is while you eat, eat with your bird! Be sure to do this safely by not sharing saliva and making sure to only feed bird safe foods. It isn’t ideal, but a meal a day goes a long way when time is tight.
-Get up earlier. It really isn't that hard. I know it can SEEM that hard, but in the end it is a pretty simple way to make more time for birdie. I like to get up and get a bird out to help with the food prep! Again, you are busy, but you can have your bird with you at the same time.
-Have your bird harness trained ahead of time. Harness training takes a lot of time, but it's one of those things that would be wise to do while you have time, just like teaching your bird to play near you, etc. my birds can go with me while I walk the dog, and get not only their "mommy time" but also some good physical and mental activity. On crazy days being able to take both pets out at once is a life saver!
-Work where your bird is. Put the cage or play stand near where you spend most of your time at home. Even mumbling over your finances next to your bird is better than them sitting alone all day! Filling a shallow pan like a never used cat litter box with foot toys and foraging treats and placing it near you can also be a good (and easily portable) way to entertain your bird nearby while you work.
-Bird Sitter DVD or other stimulation for while you are gone. It can be as simple as leaving the TV or radio on, but I prefer something bird related. My friend just got a smart TV and she can choose from a number of live feeds of animals. While the baby goats are cute, the flock of budgies on TV could mean a world of difference for your little friend. No smart TV? Youtbe!
-MORE TOYS! Especially foraging toys! Being alone AND bored is the worst! I know they can get expensive, but there are tons of cheap DIY ideas out there that are great. The more time your bird can spend DOING SOMETHING the better, whether you are hard up for time or not
-Move the cage to a higher traffic area where the bird gets more "exposure" to the human activity, and can be chatted with throughout the day, even if you are just running in to grab something and running back out again.
-Remember that "spending time" doesn’t have to mean "focusing 100% on the bird." focusing on your bird is important just like with your human friends, but a well socialized and trained bird knows he isn’t the only thing in your life. Give the bird the time you DO have, even if it isn’t quite as special as you would like it to be. Is your bird not able to understand this? Training starts now
In the end it MAY BE that another home is the right move for your family, and I am NOT trying to put guilt on those people who have to make that hard choice, howeverthis should be a last resort and before surrendering a family member please try to look beyond the stress of the moment and see if this is temporary. Even if temporary means a year or more, things CAN be done to help your feathered buddy through it. If you are going through a tough time, chances are your pets are not the only ones you don’t have enough time for, but the rest of your family has no choice but to wait it out, perhaps your bird would choose to stay with you if given the option?
Best of luck everyone