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FEATHERED FRIENDS

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Jarred Bell and his girlfriend, Justice Edwards, with Pikachu, on his shoulder, and Rosie, held by Edwards.
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Justice Edwards of New Castle cuddles with her parrot, Princess. Edwards and her boyfriend, Jarred Bell, share five pet birds.
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From left, Pikachu, Fruit Loop and Rosie explore outside their cage, looking out to see what's going on in New Castle. They love the window and lightbut easily settle down and sleep in the dark.

By DONNA CRONK - dcronk@thecouriertimes.com

It’s for the birds.

That’s how a New Castle couple might well describe their leisure-time hobby. Jarred Bell and girlfriend Justice Edwards love and care for five pet birds, down from the 13 they had at one time. 

Says Edwards, “It’s like having a dog or a cat, only a lot less maintenance.”

Bell rescued his first bird, Kiwi, 18 months ago. The White-Capped Pionus Parrot is 6 years old now – young in parrot years as they can live to be 40. When he first got her, she was scared of everyone but now she feels safe with Bell.

“She’s bonded to him and him only,” says Edwards, who says Kiwi gets anxious when out of her cage and prefers to stay inside it even when permitted out. “She screams at people when he’s not in the room.”

When she’s hungry, she lets everyone know and will sit on her bowl and crow. She picks through her food and throws what she doesn’t like.

Edwards was drawn to birds by seeing how Kiwi bonded with Bell. The couple suggest three-or-four hours of person-to-bird contact a day. That can include simply being near them and hanging out. Inspired by Kiwi, Edwards got a standard gray Cockatiel Parrot, Princess, who was also a rescue, and previously had not been shown much human attention. Along with Princess in that rescue came a package deal of about eight birds whom Edwards rehomed with others.

Nowadays, Princess loves being social with her rescuer and will sit with her for hours, preening both Edwards and herself. “She loves people,” Edwards says. “She’ll sit on your shoulder.”

Another Cockatiel, named Pikachu, came to Bell from Craig’s List. The light-yellow bird flies into walls and gets in trouble by biting wires. He also likes to peck at laundry. However, says Edwards of his personality, “He’s really a loving bird.”

Edwards has a Cockatiel named Rosie. Rosie is gray and like Pikachu, is a young bird. Another bird in their care is a blue love bird named Fruit Loop. This one belongs to Bell’s brother, Zander, but the bird “rooms” with the couple’s feathered friends in their cages.

The couple had a talking bird, a Quaker Parrot. “He would say a lot of cool stuff,” Edwards recalls, such as “I’m an eagle,” or “Do you want to take a bath?” They didn’t keep him because he was so loud, and they wanted to respect Bell’s mom regarding his noise.

Personality traits

Most of the birds seem to love it when the couple come in and will scream when they aren’t there until someone comes to visit. But they do like their own personal space and the birds will scold each other when one gets too close. The couple covers their cages at night and the birds immediately calm down and sleep. They enjoy the morning when the sun comes up and will sing to herald the day.

They also like going outside when it’s nice. Edwards even puts a bird harness on Princess to take for a walk. The birds can also go into soft carriers outside to get some fresh air or if it’s really warm, the couple takes them outside in their cages, which they seem to enjoy.

The couple keeps their wings clipped because they are permitted out of their cages in the day to enjoy roaming around their room and some short flights in the space, but since some will get into trouble biting on light bulbs on ceiling lights, they keep the wings clipped for safety so they can’t fly that high. The birds also enjoy a portable fan blowing in the room and get near it and fan out their wings, possibly simulating flight.

The couple encourages anyone thinking of getting birds as pets to do their research first. They say they tend to be healthy and to keep the five birds, the food cost is around $40 a month. They say buying them from breeders can be pricey but rescue can be a frugal way to go, such as from Craig’s List. 

They also caution that birds are messy and their cages need cleaned regularly and they require fresh drinking water daily. They don’t have any issues with their birds wanting to mate and thus haven’t had to deal with baby birds. “They’re very selective in who they mate with,” Edwards says.

She said there’s no local vet that they know of who treats birds, and while their birds have been healthy, they say an annual check up is a good idea. They have a vet in Indy.

When asked if they think they’ll always have birds as pets, the couple both say yes.

“I have fallen in love with them,” says Edwards. “They’re just really great pets to have.”