While the AFA presentation hopefully will lead these young ladies to make careful pet choices during their adult lives and spread the word to others, it had a more immediate impact on one little cockatiel named Cosmo.
Cosmo is owned by this article's author, Jamie Bennetts. I'm Janet's co-leader and mother of a Brownie and Junior in the troop, Miranda and Haley.
As I listened to Janet talk about the discomfort of undersized bird cages, the misery of too few toys, the unnecessary dyes in some pellets, and the sad boredom of a bird left alone too much, I could hardly hear her words. I just kept thinking about Cosmo, all white and yellow and gray. His bored little orange cheeks. The reddish-orange droppings caused by his unnaturally dyed fruity pellets. The water bowl sullied hourly by his droppings because I didn't know you could use a water bottle in a bird cage. The pathetic, static pair of toys that hadn't really changed in a few years. Also, he hated the yellow, bananashaped pellets in his fruity mix. He would only eat the green, red and orange round pellets. We were wasting our money and filling him with additives at the same time!
During both of Janet's presentations, I drew chastising gazes from each of my daughters. They were thinking about Cosmo too.
So, we went home that night and stared at Cosmo for quite a while. We took him out and let him ride on our shoulders longer than usual, cleaned out the water dish a couple of times, and spent a good deal of conversation on the sorry size of his cockatiel cage. About the only good thing we could say about our bird husbandry was that he had natural, manzanita branch perches.
We all jumped on Daddy when he came home. Did he realize how terrible Cosmo's conditions were? What should we do about it? Didn't he feel just awful too?
So the next morning we all made a trip to a wellstocked pet store, bought a much larger, sturdier cage, a hooded water dish to ensure cleanliness, natural-color pellets to gradually replace the fruity colored ones, and a whole bunch of groovy new toys to rotate into Cosmo's cage regularly. It all cost about $250, which we were quite sorry to part with. But we all agreed Cosmo deserved it and we felt great when we came home, set up his new home and moved him in.
The change was immediate. Cosmo was positively chipper, happier to come and go from his cage, interested in his new toys. At first he was wary of the hood on the new water dish and hissed at it, but he adjusted by the next day. Best of all: He loves the natural pellets. Cosmo started picking the natural ones out from the colored ones right away. The colored stuff will be gone within a couple of weeks, and we can start forgetting our past as poor bird owners!