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He didn't get where he is today by stealing somebody else's catchphrase.

Introducing The Chicken

Say "Hello" to The Chicken.

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If you've ever heard of the phrase Scary Cat Lady before, then I'm gradually morphing into Freaky Bird Man. In my autumn years, I'm going to surround myself with birds. I can't surround myself with an entire flock at the moment, though, but have been after a feathered friend to Oz for a while - and this is why I'm introducing The Chicken to you. She's a Galah and originates from Australia (I should add that she didn't come all the way from Australia, she was bred in the UK).

As you can see, she's quite pink and contrasts nicely with my little green friend in virtually every way. Whilst Indian Ringnecks are parakeets, she's part of the cockatoo family and is a shade smaller than an African Grey parrot but with a slightly wider wingspan. Illness notwithstanding, The Chicken should live for upwards of forty years, possibly outliving me. Before being with us, she briefly lived with another family who decided that cockatoos weren't for them.

True to the cockatoo family, she's completely bloody mad.

She's about nine months old now and has been attempting to say a few words, namely "ChickenChickenChickenChicken" and "HappyHappyHappy", although because Galahs aren't the best talkers in the world, she tends to sound a bit like a quiet dalek when she says anything. She loves to eat my ears, watch video on my phone, chew literally anything and dangle upside-down whilst screaming abuse at the dog. She's very cuddly and does a good job of impersonating a ball of candy-floss. Like all chickens, she clucks.

As I mentioned earlier, she's a contrast to Oz. They more or less get on, although at this early stage it involves climbing on top of each other's cage and shouting at each other. Oz is an old man who hasn't had to deal with another bird for about nineteen years, so I guess it's going to take him a while to adjust to having a pink-crested drama queen in the house.

Expect more pictures on Twitter (naturally).
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No, He Bloody Doesn't

This is Oz. He's my little Indian Ringneck Parrokeet and he's eighteen years old.

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If you look back through the dusty cobwebs of my site, you'll no doubt find a picture of Oz in his younger days. Despite his age he still looks as wonderfully green as he ever did - and I think he's still got a good few years in him yet. This is the joy of having a parrot. As life companions, he's already outlived most cats and dogs. Many ringnecks make 25. Whichever way you look at it, he's been my feathered friend for nearly half of my life.

Having a parrot isn't like having a dog or cat, for many reasons. One reason is that invariably, when I tell someone that I have a parrot, their first question is always the same:

"Does he talk?"

When posed this question, I politely respond that he doesn't.

All parrots talk is one of the great misconceptions of the animal world. Most don't. Why should they? This follows roughly the same line of logic that all humans are astronauts. Some humans aren't capable of being astronauts. Some humans don't want to be astronauts. There are also more male astronauts than female, although that's an entirely different discussion.

My parrot is a capable astronaut. He just doesn't want to be, so he makes a variety of suitable alternative noises instead. Sometimes he grumbles like an old man (no idea where he gets that from). Sometimes he makes noises that sound like flatulence (definitely don't know where he gets that from) and sometimes he just happily observes the world going by, like in this picture. Parrots, like you, have a personality and you can't force someone or something to do something it doesn't want to do. Putting a helmet on a bird doesn't make it an astronaut.

Bear in mind that should you ever want a parrot, you're making an exceedingly long-term commitment. Larger birds live longer - we're talking forty, eighty or more years in some cases. Unlike many other animals, they've not had generations of domestication and as a result the relationship you build with the bird is on an entirely different level. You're not going to train a bird to sit, stay or whatever in a few days. In fact, most things seem to take years. That's not because they're stupid and have a bird brain (another entirely different misconception), it's because that wild animal you have in your house is going to have to trust you first. Oz still surprises me by doing new things every so often. In the last six months, he thinks he's doing me a favour by pulling the stubble out of my face (ouch).

In summary, don't think of parrots as birds that talk, think of them doing a whole variety of other things. They whistle Star Wars tunes, chew your CD collection, hang upside-down from the ceiling, play football and drive buggies. Think of them as toddlers with a pair of pliers welded to their face or clowns with wings. How does that sound? Great?

If you'd like a friend with wings in your life, do your homework and find a breeder who really knows their stuff. The UK Parrot Society can help you. Or alternatively, adopt a rescued bird. Please don't go to a pet-shop.
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