Can I offer to buy this bird?
August 31, 2017 5:05 PM   Subscribe

I feel sorry for my neighbor's pet bird, and would like to offer to buy it. What is the best way to approach this to get an ideal outcome without offending anyone?

My neighbor has a small parrot. The parrot is in a cage in a room that is seldom used, and my neighbor is typically away for most of the day. When neighbor is home, he is not paying attention to the parrot, which remains in the cage at the opposite end of the house from where he's relaxing. I know all of this not because I am spying on the neighbor, but because I work from home and frequently step outside and take short walks to refresh myself and have picked this up in bits and pieces through the years.

I was asked to care for the parrot while my neighbor was gone for a week, and it's clearly bored out of its mind. The cage is not large enough to allow the bird to fly, and it has obviously not been opened in a while as there's accumulated dust and fluff on the door.

I would love to have this parrot, and would gladly pay a lot to have it, but can't figure out how to get from A to B. I feel like asking directly if I could buy the bird from my neighbor would imply that I think they're neglecting it and might simply offend.

I thought about saying "hey, I've been thinking about getting X kind of parrot, do you have any tips on buying or owning one?" and hope they make the connection. But I fear that this could backfire in that they wouldn't pick up on what I'm asking and then I would have blown my chance.

We don't interact very much and I was frankly surprised that they asked me to watch the bird. So we definitely don't have the kind of casual, friendly relationship where I could just be honest.

I have no doubt that the bird gets food and water. Its cage was clean. My neighbor is not abusing it or anything and in their mind are probably taking more than adequate care of it. Its life just seems very sad, though, and I would like to try to make a difference for it. Is there anything I can do?
posted by ThreeSocksToTheWind to Human Relations (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I have a bird, you are right that they need lots of socializing. However, I don't see this going over well if you just ask for the bird, as it is at best weird, and at worst he'll see it as an affront to his pet owning skills.

Would you consider getting your own bird, and then asking the neighbor if his bird can come over for regular play dates with your bird? That way both birds get company, you get a new friend, and you won't have to try to rescue the neighbors bird.
posted by cakebatter at 5:19 PM on August 31, 2017 [3 favorites]

I don't know, I think you could say something like, "Thanks for letting me spend time with Parrot while you were gone. He's a lovely bird; I felt a real connection with him. If you're ever thinking of letting him go, I'd love to buy him off of you."
posted by Night_owl at 5:25 PM on August 31, 2017 [105 favorites]

This is easy. You ask to come visit the bird, because of course after taking care of bird you just love it, it is such a special bird and you really enjoy hanging out with it (or whatever type of sentiment that seems to makes sense). Maybe say you are thinking of getting a parrot, and want to spend time with their parrot to see if it is the right kind of pet for you. Start by visiting a few times a week, maybe ramp up to daily. Maybe after awhile you ask if you can take it to your place for a few hours, you get where this is going.
posted by nanook at 5:25 PM on August 31, 2017 [19 favorites]

This person may have inherited the bird and while they aren't being actually mean to it, they are probably not a bird person. They may be thrilled to have you take it, possibly for free. It seems you know them, why not ask them how they ended up with it in the first place?
posted by rockindata at 5:28 PM on August 31, 2017 [6 favorites]

You could say, "I really liked having your parrot at my place. In fact, I found myself missing it after it was gone. Would you consider selling it to me?"

If the owner doesn't seem inclined to sell, maybe you could follow up with, "Well, maybe I should just go buy my own parrot. But before I commit to it, I'd kind of like to be sure I know what I'm getting into. Would you be willing to let me keep the parrot for a little longer, maybe a month?" At the end of the month, you can talk some more about how much you really like this particular parrot and how you'd be willing to pay a nice sum for it, since you know and like its personality.
posted by Redstart at 5:32 PM on August 31, 2017 [10 favorites]

The advice above is good. You could also buy the parrot a toy and mention to the neighbour that you thought Polly might appreciate it.
posted by Calzephyr at 5:34 PM on August 31, 2017

I thought about saying "hey, I've been thinking about getting X kind of parrot, do you have any tips on buying or owning one?" and hope they make the connection. But I fear that this could backfire in that they wouldn't pick up on what I'm asking and then I would have blown my chance.

I think you are going to need to be more direct than that, although I can appreciate that you don't want to come right out and ask if you can buy the bird. But they aren't just going to assume you want their bird though unless you say it. You could say something like, "Hey, I really enjoyed watching your bird. If you ever need anyone to watch it, I'd love to. And if he ever needs a new home, I've been thinking about getting a bird and I felt a connection with this little guy."

You could start by trying to figure out their commitment level to this pet and getting a sense of how open he might be to parting ways with the bird. "So, what made you decide to get a parrot?" If the answer is, "Well, my ex-girlfriend bought it when we were together but she moved to England and couldn't take it with her," then that would suggest you have an opening to be direct and say, "Oh, so you aren't a parrot enthusiast then? I've always wanted a parrot, so if you ever think about selling, I'd be interested." If the neighbor's answer is, "I love parrots" then you will know he may not be interested in selling and you may want to be less direct about your interest.
posted by AppleTurnover at 5:35 PM on August 31, 2017 [14 favorites]

What if you couch it as something like: The more I think about it, I more I realize I really enjoyed having your bird around! As you know, I work from home. Having him in my office made me feel like I had the office mate I didn't even know I was lonely for. If you ever want to just drop him off on your way out for the day, I'd be happy to watch him for you while you're at work.
posted by feistycakes at 5:40 PM on August 31, 2017 [15 favorites]

So I wasn't present for the actual conversation, but my dad essentially repo'ed a dog because the owner didn't want to reimburse my dad for some overdue vet bills. He was watching the dog after a co-worker had broken her arm and was having issues taking care of the dog. While she liked the dog, she wasn't attached enough to reimburse for high maintenance vet issues. (dog was pure-bred, but not responsibly so. lots of genetic issues)

It's the only instance I know where a pet-sitting gig turned into an adoption, YMMV.
posted by politikitty at 5:45 PM on August 31, 2017

Thanks everyone for your answers so far. Just wanted to mention in case it makes a difference that I watched the bird in my neighbor's house, not my own. And I wouldn't really feel comfortable inviting myself back over.
posted by ThreeSocksToTheWind at 5:47 PM on August 31, 2017

The bird could be such a help to you as someone who works from home that you could offer to rent it (him/her?) for, say, a big bag of birdfood a month. Bird lives at your place, owner can visit it (unless owner is creepy). Bird happy, you happy, neighbor perhaps more invested in your life, which could have downside. My gut says at least give it a shot.
posted by vrakatar at 5:54 PM on August 31, 2017 [7 favorites]

Re: "My neighbor is not abusing it or anything": Parrots are incredibly intelligent and lively, and keeping this bird locked in a cage all the time IS abuse. It is not dissimilar to keeping a small child in a closet all the time. A child needs interaction with other creatures; so does the bird (they are flock animals!). A child needs more exercise than a small enclosure can provide; so does the bird. A child needs toys and activities to stimulate their mind; so does the bird.

So, you would be rescuing this parrot from abuse.

Many in the parrot community will not reward an abuser financially by buying a parrot from them. Some people will pay a small fee to rehome an abused bird because they feel sorry for it. I would start, though, by not assuming you will have to pay. If you talk to the "owner" you might find that he would be relieved to have the bird off his hands. Since he asked you to watch the bird while he was away, I think he will probably be open to discussing this. I'd try to simply introduce the topic of the parrot in an open-ended way and see what the guy says. If you can muster it, perhaps make sympathetic statements like "it must be hard for you to have a parrot when you need to travel", etc.

If you do get this parrot or another as a pet, they need fresh food, EVERY day. The specific ratios of veggies, fruits, seeds and nuts will vary depending on the type of parrot. Just having "food and water" does not mean everything is A-ok. A lot of parrots are malnourished because their people either didn't research their dietary needs, or are lazy and don't feel like prepping fresh fruits and veggies.

I'm an insanely parroty sort of person, so if you have any additional questions as this unfolds, feel free to memail me. I'm the daughter of an ornithologist, have had parakeets, lovebirds, an eclectus and a severe macaw as pets over the years, have volunteered for parrot rescues, and just generally lurve parrots.
posted by nirblegee at 6:41 PM on August 31, 2017 [20 favorites]

I like the "I saw this toy and thought of your little birdy" scheme as a way to go over to your neighbour's house. Then once you get chatting about the bird, mention how much you enjoyed looking after it and that you would be happy to pet-sit again -- maybe even for company during the day, since you work from home! -- at any time. See what sort of spontaneouos response you get after that. The person might say "that would be great, I just don't have time for the little thing" (in which case...that is your entry-point for saying "oh wow, I'd love to have the bird if you don't!"), or s/he might say "thanks, I'll keep that in mind" (in which you'll have to press a bit harder).

Anyway...all of this is to say: buy the bird a toy and use that as an excuse to pop over and start to plant some (bird) seeds. :)
posted by Halo in reverse at 6:44 PM on August 31, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm a little surprised that, so far, no one has asked these questions: What kind of parrot is it? How old? How long has the neighbor owned it? When you birdsat, what was your relationship with the parrot? For example, you say that you "watched it," but did you interact with it and/or did it allow you to handle her/him? And if you didn't try, how do you know it doesn't hate you?

As noted above, parrots don't just need a cage and food and water. They have very real emotional needs that can be idiosyncratic.

Our 32-year old Amazon is super-bonded to my partner—and hates me with almost comical jealousy—but she only wants to socialize with him about an hour or so a day, generally in the late afternoon, which she communicates with (earsplitting but) siren calls. We figure her low interest in being out of her cage is because she had a very quiet life before we got her five years ago. Apart from riding around on his shoulder, and being allowed to guard the laundry room from any clothes-folding activity—her passion, though we have yet to figure out why—she seems happiest left alone to cluck contentedly with her toys in a large California cage positioned near the kitchen so that she can see most of what's going on in the house.

A casual observer might think that she's not getting enough attention, but she gets as much as she wants, which is something to consider when assuming your neighbor's bird is ignored and under-appreciated.

And I wouldn't really feel comfortable inviting myself back over.

Seriously? You can't buy a puzzle toy and take it over? Our parrot is happiest when she's destroying something, and this would fill the bill for only eight bucks.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 6:52 PM on August 31, 2017 [17 favorites]

You need more information before proceeding. I strongly recommend getting to know your neighbor a little better; if you don't feel comfortable inviting yourself over, invite him over or out for some tea or something, or just go over to bring, as was suggested, a toy.

Then find out how he came by the bird, whether he always wanted a parrot, if he's likely to travel more in the future (thus needing more pet sitting). Find out if he knows much about parrots, e.g. how intelligent/social they are. You might even find an opening to offer him a parrot book (one that makes that point) if he seems interested -- he might genuinely not know. Maybe he's retiring soon, maybe he's considering getting a second bird, maybe you'll leave the conversation knowing more.

Even if no real results come out of that conversation, you'll be less of a stranger and more of a neighbor, so that when you bring this up again, or when you assess the situation and decide to actually try to adopt the bird, you'll be more familiar and it will be less weird.

This "forming a relationship" or whatever you want to call it is handy for a lot of contingencies, too.
posted by amtho at 8:15 PM on August 31, 2017 [2 favorites]

Vrakatar, nanook, feistycakes, and amtho are giving you good layouts for a plan of action. The best way to repo a neglected pet is, in my experience, to slowly assume the duties of ownership, fun parts like playtime first and then stuff like vet bills, until you are the de facto owner of the ownership. You transfer official ownership once it's clear and normal to the previous owner that you are the person this animal belongs to. Start small and cute-- you felt a real connection, you found this cute toy, is the bird x breed? Once you have a clear play bond with bird, say that you'd love to rent it as a companion during your lonely home office time. The next step is taking financial responsibility for grooming or medical costs-- oh hey, I noticed Bird's claws are getting long, how about I take them to the groomer? Now you are on record with the groomer/vet as this bird's responsible party. This seems kind of gaslight-y reading it, but I'm summing up the process I've organically (and not calculatedly) been through whenever I've bonded with someone else's neglected animal and eventually assumed ownership. Slow and steady and friendly.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 9:47 PM on August 31, 2017 [4 favorites]

"Hi, Neighbor. I work from home and enjoy the company. I'm open to getting the right gear if you think PARROT might like a change if scenery now and then?"

That's it.
posted by jbenben at 11:24 PM on August 31, 2017 [4 favorites]

I one time asked one of my neighbors for their pet rabbit that they ignored and they gave it to me and then the next week, I followed up by asking for their pet hamsters. They were relieved that someone wanted to take them and simply said something like "you must really like animals!" I think the most direct non-judgey question is the best. "I really enjoyed taking care of your parrot; if you ever consider giving it up, please think of me."
posted by katinka-katinka at 3:37 AM on September 1, 2017 [5 favorites]

Something like "Hi Neighbor. Sorry to bother you. I had so much fun with him that week I watched him for me I want to get one of my own, but I really want one just like him. I was wondering if you can tell me where you got you parrot and what kind he is?"

If the neighbor is at all inclined to part with his bird, this gives him the perfect opportunity.
posted by mulcahy at 6:40 AM on September 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

You work from home so you know when they come home and can be coincidentally arriving back from a stroll or doing some minor something outside your home so you don't need to "go over there".

When you see him you say "Hey," and then you follow up with "how is the bird?". And he'll say whatever he says, and you say, "I work from home and it really brightened my day up seeing bird. I really liked him. Maybe I should get a bird myself?" That creates the opening for him to say "have mine!" if he is so inclined. And if not it plants a seed that you can leave to sprout for a few weeks before another accidentally-on-purpose meeting where you reveal that you've been looking about but not seen a bird you like as much and, "haha he's not for sale is he?".
posted by intergalacticvelvet at 6:58 AM on September 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Came to suggest the whole. I loved having your parrot visit so much, it was lovely company during the day because I work from home you know, so I was wondering where you got it from? Oh really? Would you recommend them? Do you mind me asking how much you paid? How much for the cage? Oh hmm interesting. Do you think they have older birds like yours, I really liked birds personality, he's such a sweety/chatterbox/whatever? Oh hey you wouldn't sell me bird would you Hahahaha? No aaah too bad, oh well I'll give this guy a call. Thanks anyway.

It might take time, but every time from then on when bird annoys him he'll remember your offer.

Just how far you go down the conversational pathway to asking can be adjusted depending on the person you are talking to & their attitude at the time.
posted by wwax at 8:13 AM on September 1, 2017

Thanks, all. I will update when and if there's a resolution (keep your fingers crossed!)
posted by ThreeSocksToTheWind at 10:19 AM on September 1, 2017 [9 favorites]

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