The joy of meeting a lifelong friend is something very few people ever realize at the start of the relationship. I, at age thirteen, didn’t quite understand what was happening but I felt that my life would change forever the moment I was introduced to a small baby Red-lored Amazon.
On a cool crisp morning in a small town in Washington State a small egg was slowly rotating within an incubator. The house was quiet and the little parrot inside the egg was ready to meet the rest of the world. He slowly used his beak to break apart the egg and crawled out from his former home.
Unfortunately, the next few days would prove troublesome for the little fellow. As he extracted himself from the egg he felt a brutal crushing pain on his right leg and then his foot was gone. You see within the incubator are long rods that turn the eggs so they stay warm on all sides. Normally when a chick is born they’re removed from the egg incubator and placed in a safer one. Unfortunately for him the breeder hadn’t woken up yet to notice his hatching.
He sat for an hour in this awful state as he lost blood and dealt with the pain of his missing foot. It’s unknown exactly how he dealt with the pain but when he was found he was making a loud screaming call and wouldn’t let anyone touch him. His missing foot would become a life long disability which would alter his life and guide him towards a thirteen year old boy named Zack.
The sounds of parrots rang out through the large house as I sat with a freshly hatched parrot cupped in my hands. I held him close to my chest letting him snuggle into my shirt and providing some heat for the fellow. His feathers weren’t in yet and all he had was a small amount of fluff to help keep him warm. His little peeps melted my heart and his calls for food made me want to feed him the world’s best food. Instead I popped a syringe in his mouth and slowly gave the little guy baby formula that smelled down right awful.
My fingers slowly traced over his tiny head, over his beak and down his front. Every time I rubbed his beak he’d begin to fall asleep and would make even cuter baby noises. His soft downy feathers felt like silk and his little face would be a mess covered in formula.
My thumb gently scratched the drying formula off of his beak and as I helped keep his feathers clean he’d lovingly hold my finger in his mouth. He was giving off all signs that he accepted me as his parent which for me as a thirteen year old was incredible. I had developed a bond with another being who was living in a world not built for them and at times felt like we weren’t wanted.
You see, this little parrot and I had a lot in common even though he was only hours old. He had a disability and it was clear that no one would accept him as he was. So much so that the breeder either said we take him or she was going to put him down. She didn’t keep birds that weren’t going to provide profit and while we played nice we saw this for what it was, disgusting.
For the next two months I’d spend a couple hours a day at the breeders house taking care of Oreo and helping out with the other parrots. Oreo could only be handled so much before he needed to be put back in the heat so while he was resting I’d help feed other babies. I spent time working with macaws, cockatoos, amazons and more. My appreciation of responsibility grew and my love for parrots exploded. I could pick out Oreo simply by his noises even though there was other red-loreds in the same cage. Of course the fact he only had one foot helped determine him from the rest.
The little bro took up all my thoughts, at school I would spend the day thinking about him. Any creative writing assignments featured Oreo. I’d planned all these awesome events for us to do together. I kept thinking of awesome toys, neat tricks and things I could teach Oreo to say. Most importantly though I kept thinking about what I’d need to learn and do to provide Oreo a great home.
Being blind helped me understand the type of care Oreo needed as an amputee and I worked with my Dad to build Oreo an awesome living space at our house.
The day came when Oreo could finally make the 20 mile trip to our home and the whole way home I had him snuggled against my chest. He’d grown quite a bit from the small hatchling that could fit in one hand. Now he had grown some feathers and was looking more like a rainbow chicken.
I placed him in his new cage and could tell right away he was scared. It was a lot bigger than what he was use to and had a lot of toys that seemed giant. I kept my hands in the cage slowly petting him and soothing him with beak rubs and face skritches.
He quickly grew accustomed to our home and he’d fall asleep on my chest and we’d both take naps.
At a time in my life where I felt I didn’t belong Oreo gave me the friendship and courage to be myself. I was living in a small town away from all my school friends and the only interactions I had with kids my age was my cousins. My family was a private group and we didn’t let people in our house and looking back I think it’s because we were all a bit anti-social. Oreo was quickly adopted by everyone and I spent all my time with him and read out loud to him from Harry Potter and Lord of the rings.
Oreo learned to bark and call the dogs and my Dad and I taught him how to whistle. So even now Oreo is helping me cope with loss. I lost my Dad on March 15th 2020 due to pancreatic cancer. Anytime I miss my Dad I just get Oreo to whistle and I hear my Dad’s exact whistle. Oreo copied us so well that we couldn’t tell who was whistling.
Oreo gets to go with me when I go to the beach or out for hikes around the forests. He helps serve as an advocation tool, before I’d gotten him back from my Dad’s no one would approach me in public. They’d see the white cane and avoid me. The rainbow chicken overrides the fear of my blindness and they always come up to say hi.
This allows me to talk about disabilities and the cruelty in parrot breeding. Oreo and I have built a growing community online working towards advocacy, education and positive changes. We speak to many people every time we live stream on social media. I truly love him and wouldn’t ever trade him to get my sight back. He on the other hand would trade me in for a chunk of apple. Haha!
I hope you enjoyed our story and we’re always available to answer questions and share more stories.