Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Couple Gives Sanctuary to Birds Others Cast Aside; More Than 200 Pets Saved

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Couple Gives Sanctuary to Birds Others Cast Aside; More Than 200 Pets Saved

Article excerpt

Byline: Mary Maraghy, Clay County Line staff writer

Just before they got married, Griff Griffin's fiancee mentioned she had a few birds she would be bringing into the marriage.

He pictured a couple canaries.

"I thought 'no big deal,' " he said, shrugging with his palms up. "Then, when I saw them all, I thought, 'Oh, my, goodness.' "

As he told the story, roosters crowed and ducks, chickens, geese and guinea hens scurried about his feet. Behind him were more than 200 exotic birds in 70 cages. His wife, Cindy, cooed into some of the cages as if talking to babies in cribs.

"You're boot-i-ful. You're boot-i-ful," Cindy told a macaw, repeatedly shaking her head from side to side and smiling her child-like grin.

That contagious grin has kept her husband from flying the coop. For seven years now, he and his bird-loving wife have raised and rescued birds on a secluded 5-acre farm in Middleburg. He said his love for her is what keeps him waking every four hours at night to hand-feed baby birds or to chase off a fox or raccoon that has flustered the birds.

They have macaws, conyers, Amazons, cockatoos and monk quakers with names like Chili, Comet, Sugar, Taz and Stubby. Many were unwanted, abused or abandoned. Some are missing feathers, part of a beak or legs. One was sprayed with oven cleaner. Another had its eyes poked out.

From one of six refrigerators, devoted to bird food, Cindy Griffin brought out a tub of fruit she had chopped and a mixture she had cooked of rice, pasta, oats, barley and corn. Some supermarkets donate her their older or bruised fruit.

As Clay County's population increases so has the pet bird population and the number of unwanted pet birds, said Janet Stephenson, a vice president of the Jacksonville Avicultural Society, which meets monthly in Mandarin.

Birds are considered low-maintenance pets for apartment dwellers or for busy families where two parents work.

The problem is many people don't understand that birds are intelligent and need attention and interaction.

"They are not just to be left in cages. That's what the world is finding out," said Kathy King of Middleburg, also a member of the avicultural club and considered a bird expert in Clay County. …

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