DeAnn Waggoner is a bird lover plain and simple whose organization, Wings of Love Bird Haven, works to find good homes for birds given up by their owners who can no longer take care of them.
Waggoner became interested in working with birds after her son expressed an interest in having one.
“I home-schooled my children and my son wanted a bird. So we got one and used it as an educational tool. We knew very little at first, but we learned along the way,” Waggoner said.
“Then I started getting calls from people saying, ‘Do you want to take in this bird?’ and I started to see the need for this. So, for the first three years, we were working out of my house,” she said.
Her organization’s goal is simple: to provide good homes to birds that need one and to educate the public on how to properly take care of them.
Waggoner started taking in birds on her own in 2003 and acquired nonprofit status in 2005.
“We are making little steps in teaching people one on one,” she said. “Instead of going out and buying a bird from a pet store as a baby they should try to go and adopt one from a needy situation,” she said. “As far as education goes right now the best thing that we can offer an interested person is hands-on experience.
“One think we look for in a volunteer is a willingness to help out and get their hands dirty,” she said. “We love it when people come and play with the birds, but there is work that still needs to be done.”
Waggoner has remodeled her former garage into a workroom where she prepares food for the birds; an adjoining room houses both large and small birds in cages.
The organization’s birds are available for adoption to people who meet criteria. Staff members look at a variety of factors before placing a bird in a home. Considerations include whether or not a person smokes because that can affect a bird’s respiratory system. A person’s lifestyle also is considered because some birds require more attention and care. The types of food being fed, the cleaners used and even the behavior of any children in the home are all carefully reviewed before a bird is placed.
“One thing that we do is that we keep track of the bird for three years. We do this by making phone calls every three to four months to see if they have any questions or to see if it is working out,” she said. “Currently, we have 12 birds in our facility that we are taking care of until we can find them good homes.”
Wings of Love can handle up to 50 birds – most of which are former pets that were surrendered because circumstances in the owner’s life changed to where he or she could no longer take care of the bird. The reasons for surrender have ranged from a new baby, moving, a spouse that doesn’t like birds or simply no time.
When a bird is first brought into the facility, it is placed in a quarantine area to isolate it from the other birds until it is vet-checked and determined to be free of any sickness.
The bird is typically moved into the main facility from four to six weeks after its arrival.
“The importance of quarantining a bird is that they can be a carrier of diseases that can infect other birds. A bird can be a carrier for a very deadly disease and you might not even know it,” she said.
“When that bird is stressed, that dormant disease might reappear. Stressors include things like a move to a new location.”
The group is hoping to find a vet who is willing to be a permanent volunteer to regularly check the birds. Operating costs for the facility run about $500 a month for food and supplies, not including the cost of water and electric. Volunteers are finding it difficult to get donations because of the state of the economy, Waggoner said.
Since establishing itself as a nonprofit organization, more than 300 birds have been adopted out.
Waggoner recommends that people get a bird that will fit their needs and said the organization welcomes the opportunity to help with the selection process.
Smaller birds with proper care can live from 20 to 25 years in captivity; larger birds can live from 80 to 100 years.
For more information on caring for a bird, adopting a bird, volunteering or making a donation, visit the Web site at www.bird-haven.org.
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