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Watch Seymours Feathers Grow

Garth, A Timneh African Grey Parrot. Poor little Garth is a seven year old male parrot who has plucked out all of his feathers. He's only been with us for three weeks (since the beginning of December.

In the little bit of time here, Garth has stopped plucking his feathers out and has started becoming good friends with our African Grey, Zutar. He's going to be a great flyer once we have our aviary set up.

Letter Garth's former owner sent to Jenifer

I remember very clearly the day my husband and I became bird owners. I prided myself on not being one of those hapless souls who impulsively threw down thousands of dollars for an exotic, high-maintainance pet about which I knew virtually nothing. I had done lots of research, talked to lots of bird owners and bird experts, even took a magazine quiz to determine if parrot ownership was "right" for me. I knew that not every lifestyle worked with birds. But our lifestyle was different. We own a produce packing house that only operates six months out of the year. We were home a lot during the off season and when the business was open, we could bring our bird to work with us. The magazine quiz confirmed what I had already rationalized in my head: we were the perfect bird owners just waiting to happen. When we first saw Garth, our little Timed African gray, at our local bird shop, we instantly fell in love with him. But we didn't buy him. I refused to be one of "those people" who made a reckless decision, only to regret it later. I was to become the perfect bird owner. The magazine quiz said so. I told the salesgirl I'd sleep on it. My husband and I discussed it at home. The next morning we returned to the store with our checkbook and brought our perfect baby bird to his perfect new home.

Garth got lots of attention, a great diet, the coolest toys, rides in the car, trips to friends' houses, the very best medical care in Miami. When we re-opened the business, we brought him along. He was a big hit with our customers and he seemed happy. But his health declined. After the third round of antibiotics, we began to suspect that the air quality at our business was not agreeing with him. Produce packing houses are full of airborne dust and debris, not to mention mold and pathogens, any or all of which can wreak havoc on a bird's sensitive respiratory system. We started leaving him home and he regained his health. So every day we went off to work and left our highly intelligent, flock oriented pet alone in a cage for ten or more hours a day. I had become one of "those people". About two months into our off-season, Garth began plucking at a little spot on his neck, and within a few more more weeks, he had pulled out nearly all of the feathers on his chest, back and wings.

When Garth was two years old, Jenifer told us about Tsipora, a Ducorps cockatoo in need of a new home. We had been working with Jenifer to try and solve Garth's plucking problem, and we all felt that having a "feathered friend" might be the answer. Tsipora was living in a South Beach condo with a busy single gal named Fredda. Fredda told me how she had wandered into a bird shop one day to kill some time while waiting for a friend in another store. Tsipora flew from her perch and landed on Fredda's shoulder. The saleswoman started beaming, telling Fredda that Tsipora had "chosen" her, and that the two of them were meant to be together. Fredda protested. She admitted she didn't know much about cockatoos, except that they were loud. The saleswoman "corrected" her. Some cockatoos were loud. This cockatoo was not. She gushed about how the little bird had fallen in love, that Fredda was her "destiny".

Who can argue with love and destiny? Fredda bought the bird. For a year she attempted to juggle two jobs, frequent travel and the demands of parrot ownership, but Tsipora became a chronic screamer, and the neighbors weren't happy. We took her in, hoping she and Garth would form a bond that would help them both. It seemed like the perfect plan. While I can't say it failed, I can't really say it worked either. They coexisted; I'm sure having each other was better for them that being alone. But they were very different from one another. They were never close, they sometimes fought, and they competed for my attention. Now I had two anxious, clingy birds that panicked when I left the room. Meanwhile, my life was starting to change. Due to events beyond my control, it became necessary for me to change careers and re-enter the work force full time. I had to take evening classes, travel to seminars and study for licensure exams. My birds sensed the stress and internalized it like a dry sponge soaks up water. Garth's plucking became worse than ever, and I was soon at my wits end. Though she needed two more birds like she needed two holes in her head, Jenifer graciously stepped up to the plate and gave them a better home. Letting them go was the hardest thing I've ever done. I love them and I miss them terribly. But Jenifer has a way of connecting with these animals and a burden on her heart for their happiness. She is committed to teaching others what I had to learn the hard way: that the only "perfect" candidates for bird ownership are people who can guarantee with 110% certainty that their lives will not change for 90 years. I know that through her efforts, my birds will someday have what I could never give them: wholeness and flight, freedom and joy. Thank you Jenifer and Leon for being their angels of mercy and mine.


Garth around the time given to Jenifer

Garth starting to grow feathers

Garth has many more feathers around the neck

A back view of Garth's feathers

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