Chats with Debbie Goodrich, The Parrot Lady of WA

Written By: B.D. Butler - Jan• 10•12

I have a cousin named Heidi from Brisbane, and she likes to have “chats” usually over coffee.  Chats include just some great conversation, with a little question/answer portion.

So, I decided to get some of my parrot people involved in “chats” too.  For the first installment, I decided to get The Parrot Lady, Debbie Goodrich involved.  If you remember I met Debbie at the Olympic Bird Fanciers Expo, and we hit it off, pretty much instantly.

So I asked Debbie some questions, so the readers of Parrot Earth could get to know her a little better.  Also, check out her parrot pockets…. they are a great way to get your birds to forage, and keep themselves entertained!!

1. What kind of animals did you have growing up?

Growing up, Mom encouraged all kinds of animals to be in our family– we had black widows in the garage, a rattlesnake in the living room, horny toad lizards in the yard, long tailed lizards, roadrunners–okay, those were the wild ones at our AZ house. She, to this day, always has 2 dogs. We had: a corn snake named Henry, Hamster named Ferrah Fawcett, Guinea Pig–Hubert, Fish and eventually, the first bird–Aimee, female cockatiel. When we moved to IL, we started a horse boarding business for up to 11 horses. After all, I began to ride my mom’s horse when I was 6 months old until I was about 9 years old. I still, to this day, have my beloved Jimmer, quarter horse, that I had when I was in High School.


2. When did you realize your love for birds?

When I was 7, I trained Aimee to accept being handled because mom was always attacked by her. She didn’t bite me as bad and I did not want her to stay in a cage. She became great buddies with the family, but when we moved, we gave her back to the breeder. At 13, when in IL, we bought a cute quaker from a store who got sick. I loved that bird so much and hurt so much when he died after only a year, I realized that birds were a strong passion for me. In fact, I felt in order to protect myself, I should stay away for awhile. I dove right back in when I went to college and moved off campus for my first pet. Yup, a bird–Jade, nanday conure, whom I have to this day. I went to college, got my degree in Psychobiology not to work with birds but to work with dolphins. I never professionally worked with them, but have many personal stories that drove me to believe they truly would work entirely for us without the presence of food reinforcement. So, my passion is not just parrots, it’s all animals.


3. What was your first bird?

See Above…


4. What bird do you think makes a great family pet?

Squawkers Macaw (a Mattel or other brand name toy bird)–imitates perfectly. No, really, if you are serious about the wonderful world of birds, the better ones to start out with are those who need a home the most and are good birds just in a bad time. From there, potentially parakeets. Parakeets are awesome because they can do all the things the bigger guys can and they come in a smaller package. I’ve met plenty of parakeets that outshine “the big guys” as far as their ability to be trained or talk.

5. How many birds do you have now?

I own 6 and am fostering/rehabbing 2.


6. How would you describe your training methods?

My training methods are based on Teamwork. I like to view whomever I’m working with as someone who wants to teach me something that I want to learn. So, I watch them. After figuring out what they seem to enjoy spending their time doing, I use primarily Positive Reinforcement. I like to motivate the birds to work for me vs. working for food, but accomplishing that can be tough at times. After all, we don’t always speak the same language.


7. What kind of diet do you feed your birds?

I know the topic of food can be controversial as we still don’t really know the full extent of what the their dietary needs are in the wild vs. living with us. That said, I base my diet in what I see coming from the birds. Do they have the right skin tone? Feather tone? Clear eyes? Clear breathing? Plucking? Activity, physiological tests and parameters. Ok, that now said, I feed my birds Harrison’s Bird Food as a base and then give different fresh foods daily. For example, bananas one day, apples the next, veggie base the next, bird bread the next, that kind of thing. The macaws get nuts daily. The smaller guys get some seed daily as well. Just not sunflower. Millet is a supplement as well.


8. What do you think the future bird/ parrot/aviculturist should think about?

The thing we always need to think about is the future. With time being our number one budgeting limitation. It is this time that we offer to ourselves every day that has constraints–work, children, house chores, etc. The birds live through many life changes with us. We can get them when we are three years old and some may be with with us until we are 60. That’s a life-long commitment. So, that’s the main thing we should think about. Life long commitment. Parrots want to be with us for the haul. We need to influence our decisions for every aspect in which they touch our lives. We need to practice setting them up for success as we do our own children–set limits, priorities, boundaries, mental challenges as they are tought in the wild. After all, they are the wild brought to our doorstep. So, I think we owe it to their wild cousins to help conservation and help our planet be a strong one for ever more future generations.


9. Where do you think that the world of aviculture needs to focus on?

Time commitment. Conservation of our resources. These two qualities expound on many avenues in aviculture. Time commitment–don’t just pull a baby from the parent and hand-raise. Think about allowing the bird to be a bird and co-parent, for example. Of taking the time to place enrichment in the aviaries to increase reproductive success and mental strategies for babies being sold. Conservation of resources– how can we reduce the carbon footprint in a breeding facility? Don’t just take the money and give nothing back. Donate resources to active conservation, NOT REINTRODUCTION of their birds, but with funding to support current projects. Training people they interact with on the sale on how to understand that which is so very different from us, a bird. People are people and birds are birds, but birds are just as complex, intelligent and sentient as are people.


10. People look to you as an inspiration, who do you look for inspiration from in the animal world?

My inspiration comes from the thousands of “light-bulb moments” I experience between the birds or the people I do shows for. For the bird, “the light-bulb moment” is when they realize what I am asking them for or that we finally connect on some level of understanding. For the people I encounter, I love hearing, “I never knew that.” I love to open doors that were shut before to a new world of possibilities. The absolute best is when the people or parrots, who were terrified for decades of one or the other, voluntarily reach out and finally touch for the first time. That is what I live for.



Thanks again to Debbie Goodrich for participating in Chats with us!  Check out her website



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One Comment

  1. Julie says:

    Good luck to anyone who works to improve the myriad of so-called bird rescue places. I wish you well, and hope that things will change some day with who and what can be called a legitimate bird rescue. Sadly, with the ones I have seen, the poor birds need rescuing from the rescuers! Most people go into it as a source of free birds to re-sell or give to other breeders for a ‘cut’ of the babies. The conditions are deplorable in far too many situations!

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