The now familiar call out reverberates around the Shelter. The signal has been sent to all staff that we have a large number of animals being brought into the Shelter by the Inspectors. Today that number included over 200 rabbits, chickens, birds and assorted small animals. We will work into the late night to process and conduct health checks on each one.
Often when people think of the RSPCA ACT Shelter, their first thoughts go to cats and dogs. Whilst there is no doubt that our Shelter is always full of these lovable pets looking for homes – they’re not the only animals we have waiting.
Rabbits, lorikeets, pigeons, ferrets, rats, mice, roosters, doves…. the list goes on. A list that has substantially grown due to today’s work.
These small animals are not the most common of pets (or even the most popular), but they are loving animals looking for their forever homes – just like any other. In fact, some years we adopt out more rabbits than adult dogs.
It’s not unusual for our aviaries to be full to bursting at any given time of the year. Truthfully, it’s often birds, rabbits and poultry that we have the most problems finding homes for. Already our aviaries are full. To contain the new animals, we sometimes we have to improvise spaces until we can find them more suitable temporary homes. The wildlife cottage makes way for rabbits. The flight testing aviary houses chickens. A regular aviary has roosters and quails sharing spaces.
I can hear you saying now, “Why adopt a bird or rabbit rather than an animal that will cuddle and nuzzle you when you get home from work?”
The answer is simple – why not? Many people may not realise that small animals of all variations can actually be quite loving and affectionate pets. In fact, given proper socialisation, birds can be every bit as loving and affectionate as a cat or dog!
On any given hot day at our Shelter you can find chickens and roosters rolling around in the dirt under shade, throwing it over themselves and shaking it all off. They enjoy play and the mental stimulation that comes with it.
Many of them came to us quite young and have never have experienced a free-range dirt areas before. To go from a small cage crammed with other poultry to experiencing space as a rescue can be quite a transition! It takes time for them to realise that that isn’t their life anymore. Slowly but surely, they start exploring and begin to feel safe enough to let their individual personalities shine.
Birds in general love to learn and get attention from their humans, so training them is often a breeze and just plain fun. Take pigeons for example. Through the years, pigeons have been selectively bred and tamed and, while they can’t survive in the wild, they thrive as pets and are often gentle birds extremely devoted to their family and mate for life.
The next time you’re thinking of adding an animal to your family think outside the box – try adopting something a little different. Give the unusual a chance!
Tammy Ven Dange is the CEO of RSPCA ACT. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @tvendange.