April 19, 2024
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April 19, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

So we’ve had birds in our house for two weeks now. And we all have holes in our fingers.

(NOTE: This article was written shortly after Sukkos.)

A couple of weeks ago, I ran an article about how our neighbors went to Eretz Yisrael for Yom Tov, and they asked us to watch their birds. This is a tradition going back thousands of years, back to when everyone had chicken farms, and if you were going to make the trek to Eretz Yisrael for Yom Tov, you would have to ask your neighbors if they could watch your chickens for a few months. Otherwise you would have to take all your chickens with you, which would make the trip more complicated. Especially the hotel logistics.

These birds we have in the house are parakeets, by the way. So I assume you’re disappointed. A parakeet is the kind of bird that every time you tell someone, “I have a parakeet,” they say, “A parrot?” And you have to say, “No, a parakeet,” and they’re all disappointed. No other birds are as disappointing just because of the name.

“Why didn’t you get a parrot?”

That’s like if you say, “I got a fish,” and they’re like, “A whale?”

(Look, you can get a pet too. Stop being disappointed about my pet.)

But once these people get over their initial disappointment, they try to at least justify your choice. They ask, “Well, do they talk?”

We don’t know. They don’t talk to us. Maybe they’re shy. We are strangers.

So we were probably a disappointment as well.

I’ve never had a bird. Most of my pet experience involves fish. But it’s a lot of the same concepts, right? Remember to feed it, and water it, and give it lots of sunlight…

No, that’s plants. And I kill plants.

But the birds are not that hard to keep alive. For one thing, our neighbors told us that we could just put several days’ worth of food in the cage at a time and the birds would take care of the rest. So it turns out that birds are very different from fish. If you do that with a fish, it’s going to eat all the food immediately so it doesn’t get soggy. But birds are responsible. And also very aware at what point they need to stop eating or they won’t be able to fly. Except when it comes to millet. In addition to the regular birdseed, our neighbors gave us a bag of these big stalks called millet, and they said, “This is their fancy Shabbos treat. They only get this on Shabbos.”

We were told that every Friday, we should hang a stalk of millet from the top of the cage, and when we’re doing so, we should say, “Good Shabbos! Good Shabbos!”

It was unclear if they were training the birds to know that Shabbos meant special treats, or to say, “Good Shabbos,” whenever they wanted millet. Regardless of what day it actually was.

The birds definitely didn’t understand the concept of Shabbos. We put up the millet on Friday afternoon, and by the time Shabbos started, the entire stalk was gone. We kept moving it around, and they kept finding ways to get to it. We even yelled, “Don’t eat that! It’s not Shabbos yet!” but it didn’t help.

We’re also supposed to let the birds out at least once a day. You don’t let fish out once a day just so they can flop around on the ground for a while and then flop back into the tank.

“No, it’s good for the birds.”

These birds didn’t want to come out. We’re strangers. Strangers who tried to force them to take a bath. They are the most introverted, homebody birds we have ever seen. In fact, we couldn’t get them to try new foods either, and I’ve tried lettuce, kale, and sesame candies. At the moment, there’s a piece of banana peel hanging down from the top of their cage, right over their main perch, and I think they’re scared of it. And I said, “A Gutten Isru Chag,” and everything.

The birds are actually okay once they’re out, but we have to chase them around the cage first. Which is hard, because we can’t fit into the cage, and there are all these perches and toys in the way. And then once they’re out, their main priority is to get back to the cage.

Which I guess is a good thing, because another difference between birds and fish—when you’re watching other people’s in particular—is that you can physically lose a bird. You can’t lose a fish.

“What happened to my fish?”

“Sorry, we don’t know where it went. I put it on the ground to stretch its fins, and when I got off the phone, it was gone. We think the parakeet got it. Or it might be under the fridge.”

Fortunately, though, the birds’ wings were clipped, which gave them limited flight capability. And ensured that they wouldn’t try to fly home, or into the ceiling fan.

I’m actually glad my neighbors told us that their wings were clipped, because otherwise, if anything happened, we would have replaced them with birds whose wings weren’t clipped, and my neighbors would have been in for a surprise the first time they took the birds out of their cage when they got home..

I do have one kid who is scared to handle them. So I guess it’s a good thing we don’t have them long term. Though I suppose he’d get used to it. Maybe this is a reason to have pets long term. That way, your kids learn not to be scared of those specific animals. That way, if your kid is ever walking down the street and there’s a parakeet, he won’t be scared. Everyone else will be running and ducking for cover, and your kid will be like, “Eh, they’re just parakeets. It’s not even like they’re parrots.”

Or he’ll know that if he wants to scare it away, all he needs is a banana peel.


Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He has also published eight books and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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