Deer Park teenager rescues bird, raises it as pet

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 15, 2009

DEER PARK — Petey the Pirate may have been the inspiration for his name, but for this little red bird named Petey, it’s not a pirate ship that he calls home.

In mid-June, Rayna Hathcox, 13, of Deer Park, was playing outside her father’s business when she noticed that her pet dog had something in his mouth. When she got him to spit it out, she saw that it was a baby red bird. After examining it, she found that it was unharmed, other than a small puncture wound in its wing from the dog’s teeth.

Her parents allowed her to keep the little bird, but told her she would have to take care of it everyday.

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Rayna kept him in a sand bucket and had to feed him every time he peeped, which occurred every 10 to 20 minutes throughout the day.

“Every time I checked in on him, he’d open that little beak,” Rayna said.

Using tweezers to mimic his mother’s beak, she fed him smashed worms and crickets, bread soaked in milk and water, fruit and green peas.

In early August, just before Rayna went back to school, Petey was eating by himself. That’s also when he started to learn to fly and had to be moved from his sand bucket to a box with a lid so that he couldn’t jump out. Not too long after that, he grew his tail feathers and had learned to fly.

Now at four months old, Petey lives in a regular birdcage and is let out whenever the family is home.

“He’s just like part of the family,” Rayna’s father William said.

Her mother Gayle lets him out of his cage every morning to fly around the house.

“It’s interesting to be woken up by a bird instead of an alarm clock,” Rayna said.

Rayna said that this experience has taught her a lot about responsibility.

“It was a once in a lifetime thing, and I’m glad I did it,” Rayna said.

The family plans to keep the red bird as a pet because they feel he wouldn’t survive out in the wild after being hand raised.

“I’d be afraid the other birds will kill him,” Gayle said.