The Birdman’s flights of fancy

NEW Norfolk’s weekly market is home to an unusual enterprise that is part bird rescue, part an outlet for handmade bird toys and treats and, thirdly, a breeder of popular small birds like budgies and finches.

Shaun Walker’s Chance Birds – so called because he’s able to give older and injured birds a chance to live into old age – is home to no fewer than 800 birds, spread through three main aviaries and another five smaller ones.

“We take in rescue birds, those that have perhaps been hurt, had a wing broken, or need to be picked up at a vet,” he said. “We’re also a home for what we call ‘surrender birds’ whose owners can no longer take care of them, perhaps have gone into care themselves. “ And let’s not forget, birds can live long lives; even budgies have a lifespan of eight or 10 years. Many of our birds have quite literally outlived their humans.”

Shaun said he looks to rehome as many as possible, but those that came out of the wild need to go back into the wild. “Sometimes that can’t happen because of an injury, so they join us that way.” Cockatoos are among those that need special attention. “They live a long time. We have one that’s over 100, blind and deaf, but we feed her vitamins and she keeps on keeping on.”

Another long term guest at his aviary is a long billed corella with a condition called scissor beak, which needs trimming every few weeks. Shaun enjoys good relations with places like ZooDoo. “We’ll also get a call from a vet looking to find a home for a client’s bird.”

Another side to the Chance Birds operation is breeding some of the most commonly requested small birds, like budgerigars and finches, canaries and cockatiels. Shaun also hand makes a variety of bird toys, which have proved strong sellers at the Saturday market.

He‘s been working with birds for about 40 years now, and is often called on to advise which birds will make good talkers, whistlers or can be trained to sit on a human’s shoulder. “I started collecting birds when I was six, and you learn a lot as you go along,” he said.