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The Birds of Pandemonium

My one bird, a 14-year-old cockatiel (parrot) named Pearl.
My one bird, a 14-year-old cockatiel (parrot) named Pearl.

I am just finishing up the most fabulous new book called “The Birds of Pandemonium.”

Written by the founder of Pandemonium Aviaries, Michele Raffin, this book has shown me my own strengths – and weaknesses – in my avowed lifetime love for birds.

For instance, I have one bird.

At last count, Michele’s aviaries housed 350.

My one bird has his own carefully contained (and vigorously swept) room in my house.

Michele’s birds have every room in her house – and also many rooms built especially for them (these rooms are called “aviaries”) outside her house.

I get up around 10 a.m. and consider it a great effort to boil an egg, toast up a waffle, and/or scoop up a tablespoon each of whole grain crunchy cereal and birdseed for Pearl’s breakfast….and given the relative size of my bird to the relative size of his breakfast, I only have to do steps 1 and 2 about once a week.

Michele gets up at 4 a.m. every morning to begin chopping, baking, portioning, and delivering specialized avian diets for 350 specialized avian palates. After they have dined, she then has to clean up about 350 dishes.

Just a few of the 350 birds who breakfast at Pandemonium each morning.
Just a few of the 350 birds who breakfast at Pandemonium each morning.

Granted, now that Pandemonium Aviaries is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, Michele has lots of volunteer help. But no one knows better than a fellow nonprofit founder (aka moie) that the pressure to do more, and do better, never ever stops.

Not to mention that – especially in the early years – she faced a rather staunch brotherhood of exotic bird breeders who overall hadn’t much use for a gal with a soft heart for the injured, abandoned, neglected, misunderstood, and otherwise traumatized cast-aways in the exotic bird world.

But none of that stopped her. 

It was her love for the birds – always the love – that propelled her forward, and propelled her massively understanding (and often complicit) husband and sons forward to support her.

The aviaries themselves are breathtakingly beautiful (you can watch a moving gallery here).

True to her love of birds and commitment to breeding endangered bird species, she has aviaries named “The Next to Last Aviary,” “The Last Aviary,” and even “The Last Last Aviary.” I suspect she will continue to put her foot down when it comes to “no more aviaries”….after which there will continue to be more “last” aviaries.

In my experience, that is just how this sort of calling to love works.

BOP_bookPerhaps most profoundly, Raffin shares in her book that “[The birds] teach us volumes about the interrelationships of humans and animals.”

In other words, they fall in and out of love. They get sick – sometimes they recover and sometimes they don’t.

Some like each other and some don’t like each other. When the latter occurs, the fallout can be brutal.

They sacrifice for one another’s wellbeing, mourn deeply at a fellow’s passing, rejoice upon reunion with a loved one or a fresh new wonderful meeting.

Their ability and willingness to offer their trust to others of their kind and humans varies as widely as ours does. Some are so trusting so quickly. Some never quite manage to trust beyond the absolutely necessary.

Some of the birds Michelle writes about in her book are packed so chock-full of resilience they actually take charge of their own fate and their own future, with remarkably successful outcomes. One bird in particular – a turaco with only one leg – exhibits a remarkable gift for connecting with young autistic boys.

Others, for reasons known only to them, can’t seem to overcome the pains of the past and eventually become consumed by them.

In fact, if the book had been titled “The People of Pandemonium,” I would never have suspected the characters were actually birds. They are braver than most people I know (including me), and have much better self-esteem.

I am just so inspired after reading “The Birds of Pandemonium.”

I am also grateful there are bird-lovers like Michele in this world, who are willing to feed, care for, and clean up after 350 birds, so I can with a reasonably clean conscience continue to feed, care for, and clean up after 1 bird…and even feel deeply grateful for the opportunity.

Today’s Takeaway: Do you ever notice you are pushing yourself beyond your own inclination, ability, or capacity to love? For instance, if you rescue one kitten, do you ever feel guilty later that you didn’t rescue the other 19 at the shelter as well? I know I do! How do you work through those feelings in the sense of what you are able and called to do – whether it is to care for none, one, 350 or even more?

The Birds of Pandemonium

Shannon Cutts

Freelance writer. Author. Cockatiel, redfoot tortoise & box turtle mama.

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APA Reference
Cutts, S. (2019). The Birds of Pandemonium. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 29 Mar 2019
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