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These pets talk back

February 12, 2008|By HANNAH TUSSING / Pulse Correspondent

I had a chance to interview two homeschooled teens; Becky (12) and Patrick (14) Snouffer. They are the proud owners of six birds. These birds include Sunnie, the Sun Conture; Emmie, the Patagonian Conture; Fauna, the ring-neck dove; Eugene, the cockatiel and Lucy and Skipper, the parakeets.

"What were you expecting when you bought your pets and what didn't you expect?" I asked the Snouffer siblings. Patrick replied. "When we got Sunnie, I expected her to bite hard and eat a lot, but I didn't expect that she ate peanuts while holding them with her feet! I also didn't expect her to hate me and all other teenage boys! I didn't expect the parakeets to be quite so crazy and wild. I expected them to be small and easy to care for, because we have a book about parakeets. I really didn't know what to expect with Eugene the cockatiel(it turns out that) he likes me and pretty much nobody else, except my grandfathers. He tries to bite everybody. I didn't expect the Patagonian Conture (Emmie) to be quite so smart.

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"I expected that she would be sweet, given the way she looked at us when we first met her." Becky didn't expect this bird to say as many words as she does. It is not uncommon to hear Emmie say, "uh oh" at appropriate times. Becky also taught the cockatiel, Eugene, to say "meanie Eugenie Beanie," which is her nickname for him.

Becky says she is the one who usually takes care of Fauna and Sunnie, and she and Patrick share the job of taking care of the parakeets and Emmie. So, is it a lot of work taking care of these birds, I asked? "All we have to do is clean their cages, feed them, play with them, and talk to them. I like talking to them and playing with them. I don't really like feeding them or cleaning their cages, but I do it anyway," says Becky.

"It really depends on the bird, but compared to a fish or something, it's a lot of work. I do enjoy taking care of them, except for cleaning their cages," comments Patrick.

When asked if they enjoy their pets, Becky replied, "Definitely! and they're fun to watch." The ring-neck dove enjoys sitting on the ceiling fan while Becky spins it slowly.

"I enjoy them too. It's fun to have Eugene or Emmie out, playing or just lounging around with a bird on my shoulder," replied Patrick.

The Snouffers have gotten their birds from many different places including Petco, bird rescues locally and in Pennsylvania, a rescue from a neglectful home and as a gift from a home-schooling friend.

With all their bird experience, I asked them if they would recommend birds as a pet for teenagers.

Becky responded, "I would not recommend it to somebody who is not home very often. The bird would get bored and pluck all its feathers out or get mad and bite your finger off. However, I would recommend them to somebody who is home a lot and has a lot of time to spend with their pet. If you do get a bird, I would recommend a parakeet or cockatiel for a first bird. After you get more experience with birds, you can move on to larger birds. Larger birds are louder, though, so be prepared for some noise! Birds are wonderful pets and they're fun to be around."

Patrick agreed and added, "Birds are really neat. You'd have to be pretty committed - you have to tame it and care for it. Teaching them to talk is a lot of work because you have to keep saying the word clearly over and over again. You should definitely research different kinds of birds before buying one, just to make sure you're happy with your choice and that it fits well with your family and expectations."

Over all, the Snouffers feel that having birds is a rewarding experience. All the work is worth it when they look up at you with shining eyes and give a little chirp or whistle, they said.

n This is the second story in a series on unusual pets and their teen owners. The series will be available at HMpulse.com.

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