So you have decided you want to adopt a bird. Firstly, let me thank you for coming here instead of rushing to your nearest pet shop – thank you for not supporting an industry that neglects and exploits animals.
You have run into an issue, however – the Cheeky Beaks application form – maybe you don’t know where to start, maybe you submitted it but never heard back, maybe a team member contacted you once but not again. This article will work through the application process step by step to ensure you have the best chance of being matched with your dream bird.

1.    The plan
Before you fill in the application (yes I hear your groaning, bear with me) sit down for a moment and consider why you are filling in this application – you will answer: “Obviously because I want a bird duh!” – but why do you want a bird? I will list some common answers we get to this question and then discuss why they are not feasible:

a.)    I want a pet I can cuddle and love:  Although some birds love cuddling with their owners, a great many will only accept the occasional head scratch and some may never allow touching, some may also have issues regulating their hormones, forcing their owners to be careful where and how they touch them to prevent stimulating sexual behaviour.

b.)    I saw a video online of a bird doing cool tricks/speaking/singing and I want a pet that does this: Birds are extraordinarily intelligent creatures capable of learning a variety of behaviours, it is important to note, however, that the birds seen in these videos did not learn these behaviours over-night, most often hours upon hours of training went into that effortless trick displayed on the screen and to teach a trick one must have a good bond in place with the bird – this means to be able to do this with your bird you will need many hours available daily to devote solely to training.

Another thing to consider is, as with humans, not all birds are equal – some birds will never learn to speak or do tricks no matter how much training they receive.

c.)    I want to get my son/daughter/parent/partner a parrot for their birthday: This is a major ethical issue for us – we view birds (and all other animals) as sentient beings, not mere objects or ‘things’ that can be gifted and then discarded when the recipient is tired of them.

The problem we often see with giving children birds (or any other animal) as a gift or just because is the child is initially very excited and will devote all their time and energy into caring for the animal but within a few days/months the child loses interest and the animal becomes a burden on the parents and ends up having to be rehomed or is neglected. Please note that we do not blame children for losing interest in animals given to them – this is appropriate behaviour for a child – we blame the parents/adult who gave them the animal as this is irresponsible.

Now you may ask – what is a good reason to adopt a bird?

I am sad to say that I cannot think of one, birds are wild animals, there is no good reason to keep a bird as a pet. The reasons most of the bird rescue community ended up with their birds go something as follows:
“We just ended up with them and now cannot imagine our lives without them.”
“If I didn’t take the bird – who would?”
“I met a friend/family member’s pet bird and fell in love – I knew then I had to have one of own.”

If you think you are getting a bird for the right reasons, please also consider the following:

  • Do you expect to go through a major life change in the next few years – such as graduating from university, starting a family, getting married, etc.? You may have time now to care for a bird but what about after this major life change? Will your life partner accept a demanding pet such as a bird – and if not, will you simply discard the bird? When you are up most of the night with your newborn, will you be able to spend several hours a day with your pet bird?
  • What is your lifestyle like? Do you work long hours? Do you live in an apartment? Most birds, no matter how independent, will require several hours of attention a day – will you be able to provide this?
  • If you live in a complex or an apartment you are ill-suited to certain parrot species like cockatoos and macaws as their flock calls can be heard from kilometers away and their destructive nature will quickly earn you an eviction minus your deposit.
  • Can I commit to a bird? Birds have notoriously long lifespans with the parakeets living up to 25 years in ideal conditions and some of the large parrots living 80+ years in ideal conditions – this is a lifetime commitment, not a spur of the moment decision.

2.    The application
You have decided that you have what it takes to own a bird – so you have gone onto the Cheeky Beaks website adoption page and opened our application form. Before you start typing madly – please take note of the following tips:

  • You are asked first to fill in your email address – this seems so simple but in your excitement, you might make a mistake – just double check that everything is correct here so that we don’t have issues when trying to contact you.
  • We ask you for the name of the bird you would like to adopt – if there isn’t a specific bird you are interested in, please leave this blank. If you are interested in almost all our birds, choose your top three (preferably in the same province as you) and write them down.
  • You have now gotten to the question of what you would like to offer us – this is not a trick question – if you only want to adopt – just tick adopt, you will not be penalized, nor will you get extra points for ticking all the boxes. If you have no experience with birds at all – perhaps consider fostering for us to build your experience.
  • We ask for your full name and ID – this may seem invasive but we do this to ensure that you are not on our ‘rejected’ list trying your luck again and your ID also gives us an indication of your age – if you are 80 we will not be considering you for a young parrot with a lifespan of a 100 and if you are under 18 we will insist that a parent or guardian fill in the form (even if you will be the primary caregiver) – the moral of the story is do not just write down your first name.
  • We ask for your physical address so that when arranging the home check we know what team member is active in the area – thus you make our lives very difficult when you just write ‘Johannesburg’ – if you are not comfortable giving the full address at this point, please just write down the suburb and city/town.
  • We ask what species you are willing to adopt – please note that due to the economic climate in South Africa we very rarely get macaws or cockatoos so do not list these as your only choices (unless you are willing to wait a very long time). If you are unsure, please do not write any, rather write something like: birds suited to apartment living, birds suited to a busy lifestyle, birds suited to beginners, etc.
  • We also ask you to describe to us any problem behaviours birds you owned may have had and also what became of any birds you may have owned – please do not answer this with a single word or a short sentence, be irritatingly specific, tell me about the weather on the day, what you ate that morning, anything you feel that might be relevant in the slightest.

3.    The wait – part 1
You have submitted your application! Well done! Now you wait patiently to hear back from us. Time passes and you haven’t heard anything – when do you act?

  • Why haven’t I received a response?
    • We try to get back to all our applicants but we are a volunteer-run organization and we sometimes get bogged down with caring for our own flocks, the numerous fosters in our care, traveling to take in new fosters, taking fosters to the vet, etc. We, therefore, ask for your patience and understanding if your adoption application does not receive a response.
  • Who should I contact and when?
    • If you have not heard from us in three months please contact one of our team members (contact details are available on the website). You are also welcome to send us a message via Facebook. Please note however that if you ask us to review your application less than three months after it was submitted, your request will not be entertained.
    • Also, note that the team members communicate with one another and find it very irritating when an applicant messages multiple team members’ should they not receive the response they were looking for from their original contact. You do not want an irritated person reviewing your application.

4.    Application outcome
You finally heard back from us – but it wasn’t the response you were expecting, we are asking you all kinds of blunt questions and sending you links to various avian resources asking you to read up – what happened?

  • You were not rejected, rest assured. We found some issues with your application and are now asking you questions or asking you to read up on certain aspects of avian care – wink-wink-nudge-nudge – this is a test, we want to see how willing you are to learn and improve. If you show that you are willing you immediately become a better candidate in our eyes.

5.    Home check
We asked to do a home check. You are terrified – what are we looking for? Do you need to hire a professional cleaning service? We want to see the following:

  • Smoke is very dangerous for birds, but you or someone in your house can be a smoker and still be considered – we want to see how you manage the smoking – where do you smoke so that the bird will not be exposed? Does the area the bird will live in the reek of smoke indicating that this approach is not working?
  • We have a look for scented candles, Teflon pans, ammonia products, and other chemicals that are deadly to birds – we ask where they are used, how they are used, and how they are stored – you don’t have to hide these items, impress us with the research you did on the proper storage and usage of these products to keep pet birds safe.
  • We don’t care much for clutter and an odd taste in décor (you can cancel the cleaning service) – we look at potentially hazardous situations for the bird such as wall decorations with sharp points, ‘sticky’ fly traps, poisonous house plants, water features, etc. Again tell us how you will protect the bird from these threats.
  • If you currently have birds we want to see them, we want to see their cages – how big the cage is, if the cage is relatively clean, if there is sufficient enrichment for the bird, if there is fresh water available, if there is food available and if so what food. We want to see the room/rooms/aviary that the bird is allowed out in every day – here we check if this area is secure, safe, and if enrichment is provided.
  • We want to see the area where you intend to keep the new bird (you do not have to have the cage yet, we just want to see that the area is appropriate)
  • We also want to see your other pets – we want to see if they are happy, healthy, and appear well cared for, we want to see their sleeping area or (if applicable) their cage.
  • The big thing we check for is breeding activity of any animal of any species (excluding humans) – this is the quickest way to earn a rejection from us, we do not care if you don’t sell the chicks/puppies/kittens/kits, we don’t care if you just give the chicks/puppies/kittens/kits to friends and family, we don’t care if it’s a part of your side business – we do not tolerate the breeding of animals whether domestic or exotic.

6.    The wait – part 2
You survived the home check, maybe we asked you to change some things, maybe you even got invited to a meet and greet with a bird but now you got a letter that you were not accepted for this bird – what happened?

  • It is important to realize that we are not breeders – we do not operate on a first come – first serve basis and we do not give applicants the bird of their choice (necessarily) – we give birds the human of their choice. We usually invite two or three good candidates to meet a bird and we let the bird decide who it wants to live with.
  • For you, this means that this was not the bird for you – but you are now in our system, you have an approved home check and you can rest assured knowing that the right bird will find you no matter if it takes a month or if it takes several years – and when you find that bird you will be so glad you waited. laughing