Troubling lovebirds

As I stare at the blank page on my laptop, I can’t help but get distracted by the birds chirping away in front of me. My new life in Australia started pretty well with great housemates and a cold Autumn. One of my housemates breeds lovebirds—not only because she likes them but also because they make good money.

She’s been doing it for a while now, and so it wasn’t my place to comment or raise eyebrows. She’s even sold a few birds, for about 20 dollars each.

Not a bad deal, I thought when I first heard of it. But the more I observe, the more I’m reconsidering. The marketer in me has begun evaluating the return on my housemate’s investment. Considering bird feed, the cage, nursing the eggs, nurturing the young, the cleaning efforts, and the constant attention, breeding and maintaining birds is an arduous task for which 20 dollars seems a laughable loss.

But it’s her business, and she’s been doing it long before I was in the picture. So I held my silence.

However, as I watched the birds today (for lack of anything else to do), I started wondering why people paid, however much they did, to own these birds. Why would anyone pay money in exchange for years of caring and, in a sense, servitude to birds they could crush in seconds?

Beauty—that’s the obvious answer to most problematic questions. But that can’t be all.

Some people, like my housemate, look at it from a severe business perspective. Of course, she loves the little chirpers and caresses them in her palms, cooing and cuddling even when not so appropriate. She likes spending her time with and for them. But when it’s time to give them up, she’s ready for the next batch.

Some others treat bird raising as a hobby. But even they who look at bird raising as a pleasurable activity still spend a lot of time, energy, and money on maintenance—which makes me wonder why. Why would they expend so many resources to observe caged creatures that grow so finicky the moment you make a sudden movement around them. I only switched my crossed legs, and the two birds in the cage wailed out as if I were slaughtering them. Their behaviour is understandable, too. If I’d been locked up all my life and only given food on certain days and times in a day, I’d become paranoid also. I’d feel so tortured in my mind that I won’t be able to think straight or trust anyone enough to share a conversation.

How is it then, I wonder, still watching the flustered birds, that someone who acquires these birds, makes them sick, and gains pleasure in watching them every day isn’t a troubled soul themselves?

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