Posted Dec 21, 2013
My grandmother was leading a lonely life. Mum and dad were too busy with work to spend time with her and too guilty to do nothing, so they bought her a budgie.
Even since the loss of her beloved black and white cat Pichoun, she had said she never wanted another pet. Ever. She's French and prone to dramatics. Still, this budgie had been a friend's and needed a home, so she agreed to look after it for a little while.
After a week she was making flippant comments about his little chirps, that they were annoying but better than the silence, or the monotonous blare of television. After a week he was a mildly entertaining companion and after a month it seemed Louis could do no wrong, he had the wit of Oscar Wild, the intelligence of Einstein and the slapstick of Chaplin, rolled in one tiny, feathered package!
Personally, I couldn't see it. I would come over and try to take him out of his cage, but he was too frightened to be handled, even by her. He just hopped around giving the occasional squawk, while I thought it strange that people would ever want to keep an animal designed to fly, locked up in a box as entertainment.
About six months after getting Louis my grandmother decided to go away and visit some friends and Louis came to our house to be looked after. Again, we all tried to interact with him, but Louis remained aloof, breaking his ennui to peck at himself in the tiny mirror.
When my grandmother returned we handed him back, not much changed by the experience of his company. All was well (we hadn't killed him at least, despite a recently unsuccessful run of pets) until my mother received a rather bizarre call. Louis the boy, had laid an egg! We didn't think much of it, birds lay eggs and if Louis turned out to be Louise, then it was hardly going to appear in the local paper.
Unfortunately however, the sex change changed everything for my grandmother. Louis was no longer the same bird, in fact, she was convinced that we had killed him while she was away and swapped him with another. Apparently he no longer cracked jokes like he used to and his IQ had fallen a few points. After a month or so, she gave him to another older woman, who lived in the same street.
I guess for me this illustrated one of my key pet hates regarding the keeping of birds. I am sure that out there there are owners and breeders who have amazing relationships with their animals, but my experience was largely one of confusion.
Why carry the guilt of caging an animal, designed to fly free in flocks that number thousands, for so little in return? I appreciate the domestication of dogs and cats, while many are mistreated, the bond they form with humans is so close it seems to justify it, to a degree. But a bird, who just sits there, slowly pulling its feathers out as it goes mad? In the end, my grandmother quite literally could not tell one budgie from another.
To those who have had better experiences (or perhaps have the aviaries and experience to provide a closer bond) I commend you.