Don’t Touch the Birds, They Bite

There were four kids at my house over the holidays, all under the age of 10. I do not have a kid-friendly household. It is pet friendly, though. I am much more comfortable with the thought of a pack of dogs or birds running/flying through the house safely than kids.

And, of course, the first thing the kids asked me (besides when can they could open the presents) was, “Can we see the birds?”

“Yes,” I sighed. “Remember, don’t touch the birds — they bite.” Then I worried that the children would have a fear of birds, so I added, “Not all birds bite, but mine will. That is to say, they don’t bite me, but you are strangers and therefore scary to them.” Then I felt like a rotten bird parent because I don’t have these sweet, loving birds that are kind to strangers, but the truth is my birds do bite.

My cockatiels are more than 16 years old and they have no interest in children. They’ve never been around them and, with their fast and crazy movements, they have no interest in being around them.

Deacon, well he isn’t sure about kids, either. He must not have been exposed to them much in the past. (I’ve only had him for about a year.) He is OK with adults if they calmly talk and move slowly, otherwise he starts to wheeze in that special Pionus way of his. The exception is my husband, who is a hyper person, but Deacon just gives him his pirate squawk; he doesn’t get nervous.

The cockatiels were in the office, so I walked the kids back there and stayed with them while they looked at the cockatiels; both ’tiels eyed the kids suspiciously.

Then I walked them to the guest bedroom where Deacon was. He was in his cage. I did not open the door, but let them look at him. I explained what he was … OK, OK, I gave them a little lecture about Pionus parrots but did stop myself from going into the Latin names.

The kids just said, “He’s pretty.” Then he started to wheeze and I moved them all right out of the room. After that the kids seemed to focus on food, gifts and the TV. So, I thought everything was going to be fine. The birds were all nestled all snug in their cages and the kids seem to have a great understanding of “Don’t touch the birds, they bite.”

And then, one of the father’s came into the kitchen where I was putting things away. “I opened the cockatiel door to talk to Natty since I’ve handled him before and he’s always like me.”

“Yesssss?” I said staring at the finger he was now holding up at me.

“Natty was great as always. So I thought I would reach into Carlisle’s cage and pick him up, too.”

“No, no, no,” I shook my head, knowing where this was going. Carlisle doesn’t like you to reach into his cage.

“He seemed friendly enough but then … he bit me. And he broke the skin.”

I looked at the large, 6-foot man who was bitten by the teeny, weenie, pied cockatiel. He looked so crestfallen. I was still irritated and had no sympathy.

“I keep telling everyone,” I said, “don’t touch the birds, they bite.”

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