Tag Archives: animal stories

Bald Chickens

For about 10 years of my life, there were NICU incubators about 3 feet from where I sat eating my breakfast.

No, I wasn’t in the NICU. Or a hospital. These NICU incubators were in my parents’ eat-in kitchen.

Why are you looking at me like I’m strange? Surely everyone has such incubators in their kitchen. No?

These incubators did not contain babies, if that’s what you are thinking. Let me modify this: They did not contain HUMAN babies. This is where my mom kept her bald baby macaws and African grey parrots. When you think about baby parrots, this is probably what you are picturing.


But what was actually in my kitchen was this:



My mother bred and raised African greys and ruby macaws for many years. The breeding parrots were feral and lived in our basement. A few weeks after the babies hatched, my mom had to remove them from the nest to hand-feed them for months until they were old enough to feed themselves and sell to pet stores or private parties. The birds went for quite a bit of money in the late ’80s and early ’90s. I believe she sold the African greys for $800 each and the ruby macaws for $1200, but I could be mistaken.

It wasn’t easy work, though. The babies needed to be hand-fed with syringes of foul-smelling mush every few hours. The bird formula was a mushy brown that looked something like hummus, but smelled kind of funky. The birds gobbled up the food like it was delicious. It sure didn’t smell that way.

The birds gradually gained feathers and got bigger, but for a long time they looked like plucked chickens, just what most people have in their kitchens, except most people keep plucked chickens in the refrigerator. Ours were in baby incubators. In our kitchen. Next to where we ate.

I’ll bet most of you can’t say you’ve ever eaten lunch next to that!


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Puppy Love

I promised bird breeding this week, but I’m more inspired by another story.

Eight years ago this coming Monday, Lumpy was born. Since my mother owns Lumpy’s mother, my mom and sister’s dogs Dusty and Snwoball were also born that day. Lumpy’s best friend in the world is his brother, Snowball. Snowball usually lives in Milwaukee these days, but when the two boys get back together it’s a joyous reunion with much tackling and snuggling.

They seriously spent 90% of the last couple days curled up around each other on top of either my sister or me.

Back when my sister was in college and I was in graduate school, we lived 2 blocks away from each other. The dogs spent a lot of time together, as did my sister and I. Our dogs knew the way to each other’s houses. My sister used to dognap my dog and take both boys to the dog park. I finished graduate school one semester before my sister graduated from college and moved out of town.

Snowball did not get the message that we had moved away. He missed his brother and didn’t understand why they weren’t coming to visit us anymore. One day my sister was taking Snowball for a walk and he pulled himself out of his collar and ran away all the way to my old apartment building! He missed his brother so much that if my sister wasn’t going to take him to see her, he was going to take himself.

We weren’t there, so he was disappointed, but this is the classic tale we always retell each other about our dogs’ love for each other. Her dog loved my dog so much that he ran away from home to try to visit him.


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