TAKING FLIGHT: Windsor family wants to educate others about raising parrots
September 29, 2012
Jordan Smith walks through the front door of his home after a day at school and is greeted by seven parrots.
"They're amazing. It's really cool coming home," said Jordan, an eighth-grader at Windsor Middle School. "Not only do I have my little brother to come home to, but they're like my other siblings. When I go into the kitchen to get a drink of water, they'll say, 'Hi. Hi.' They'll talk to me."
To say that being a part of the Smith family is somewhat of a different experience would be an understatement. The Smiths experience the sounds of nature 24/7 right inside their home in old-town Windsor.
Raising the seven parrots (ages 18 months to 13), to go with two children (Morgan, 13, and Westyn, 2) and three dogs, the Smiths have quite a unique setup in their home.
The business cards that Seth and Megan Smith hand out say "Pennywise Parrots" and they want to educate people about raising birds in their homes.
Seth, 33, who grew up in Cheyenne and moved to Windsor with his family five years ago, wanted an African grey parrot since he was in high school after seeing a television program about the bird.
"Megan and I met and her mom (Allene), out of all weird people in Casper, Wyoming, decided that she was going to up and become a bird person," said Seth, who runs the day program for The Otero Program in Windsor. "She spent a huge amount of money bringing some birds in and one of them was an African grey that they had. About three months after that, the people that bought the sister of that bird couldn't handle her. The breeder got a hold of Megan's parents and said, 'Would you like to buy another one?' Her mom called me and I was like, 'Sure.' It was an opportunity that I felt like we had to jump on."
Once that African grey (Beeker) died after four years, the Smiths purchased another African grey (Solo) after three weeks and another six parrots since then.
The Smiths have a privately funded, home-based aviary (four huge cages) in the back of their home of more than 100 years that focuses on the care and conservation of the birds, as well as educating the public.
"They're like kids. I try and show people that the birds don't have to be mean," Megan said. "They don't have to always be grumpy. They can get along with kids. We're just trying to break the common misconceptions about birds and about parenting."
When Megan, 26, set up a Facebook site and newsletter (All The Squawk) about the parrots, she started receiving feedback from bird owners and calls to ask if they'd show the parrots. The Smiths are not in business for themselves, and they do not charge for their shows. Their first two shows were in January at the Windsor-Severance Library. They've also done shows at the Denver Children's Museum, the Larimer County Fair, Windsor Middle School and a fundraiser at Chick-Fil-A in Loveland. Representatives from the zoological department at Colorado State University visited the Smiths in Windsor for four to five hours to learn about and study their birds. They get phone calls from strangers wanting to see the parrots at their home.
The full-flighted parrots — Bailey (Blue and Gold Macaw who is the show-off that likes to play peek-a-boo), Bandit (Hyacinth who is heaviest – 4 pounds – the best talker and interacts like a 5 year old), Solo (Congo African Grey who is daddy's boy and mimics smoke alarms, dog barks, cell phone rings and door bells), Nyah (Great-billed who is the night owl and can see better at dusk or dawn), twins Chewey and Vader (Hahn's Mini-Macaws who are the loudest and like to eat the most) and the 18-month-old baby parrot Leia (Blue-throated Macaw who is inquisitive, flies the best and is one of only 300 of its kind left in the world.) Four of the seven parrots are named after Star Wars characters because of Seth's love for the movies.
The price of the parrots range from $800 to $15,000 — Seth sold his truck to purchase Bandit and Bailey for $11,500 — and Bandit will live from 80 to 100 with the shortest life span coming from the twins, Chewey and Vader, at around 40 to 45.
The Smiths have three screened backpacks that they put the parrots in and take outside for walks.
"Each bird has its own personality," Megan said. "I don't want to be known as that crazy bird person. We're learning a lot as we go."
With plenty of hands-on training and exercise, the parrots sleep 12 to 14 hours a night, are out of their cages four to eight hours a day, eat two meals and one snack a day consisting of fresh fruits, vegetables, a lot of grains, quinoa meat loaf, pasta, egg, oatmeal and 10 to 12 macadamia nuts for Bandit. The Smiths say that bird seed is the junk food for parrots. Megan has created more than 100 recipes for the parrots.
"They eat better than we do," joked Megan.