A little piece of paradise in a Victorian townhouse

As I knock the front door I study the parrots painted on the arched stained glass window. I feel as if I am in an exotic country as the shimmering emerald greens and ruby reds dance over me in the beating sunlight. As I am welcomed into the home, deafening screeches can be heard from the back room. “That’s totally normal, they sense danger easily,” exclaims the owner, Emma Freeman, reassuringly. The noise overwhelms me as I make my way to the back room. I now feel slightly anxious at what is to come. The room is ablaze with colour. Birds of green, yellow and blue are sat atop their enormous cages playing at ease. “See the birds calm down now they know you are with me,” explains Emma.

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Smiles all round: Emma and Brian pose with Rumble and Perry!

I am astonished to discover that parrots are so intelligent, as Emma informs me that the larger macaws have the intellect of a five-year-old child. It is no wonder then that so many parrots cannot be looked after properly and consequently get abused. Sadly, as parrots can be extremely expensive to buy, many are forced to breed to make a profit for their owners. Also, many people who want a parrot see them as a novelty as many can speak, but they unfortunately don’t know how to care for them correctly. That is why people like Emma and her family have to re-home and care for these enchanting creatures.

Emma co-founded the charity Safe Haven over twenty five years ago with her husband Brian, which heavily relies upon donations, sponsorships and its members. She has always had a keen interest in these vibrant birds, as she tells me; “I’ve always had birds, my brother got me interested when I was about seven… We started with finches and canaries and had aviaries in the garden as well as indoor pets… We went to lots of bird shows, way back they used to have competitions for the best talkers and I thought the parrots were amazing so always wanted one”.

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Dream come true: Emma with her first parrot, Fernando

It is easy to see that Emma and her family have an affinity with these bright and magnificent creatures, as the walls of this spacious room are embellished with beautifully exuberant painting of cockatoos and Amazon parrots. As I explore the paintings one parrot squawks out, “Hello there, who are you?” Emma and I instantly bust into hysterics. Emma explains that this bird is called Georgina and is an African-grey who, unfortunately, has had a hard life. “We got her twenty years ago…She was very traumatised because she was kept in a house with an aggressive dog who charged her cage every time she made a noise, so she wasn’t very friendly when we first had her… it took ten years before she would come out of her cage voluntarily” exclaims Emma.

It is easy to see that looking after the ten parrots that Emma and Brian currently have, as well as four poodles, two guinea pigs and twin daughters, Bronte and Caitlin, both 14, can be exhausting. Emma states, “These are high maintenance pets as they are messy and demanding… Cages have to be cleaned regularly and they need to be kept stimulated so need to have lots of time out of their cages”. However, her passion for caring for these beautiful creatures shines through as she tells me; “parrots aren’t like dogs, they don’t go to anyone, they choose who they like and I always feel honored that such a beautiful and intelligent creature has chosen me as a companion”.

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Protective: The Macaw guards Emma from me, the intruder!

As I leave this little piece of paradise, and step outside into the now dark and cold street I feel content that these astonishing parrots, who have previously lived such harsh lives, are now in such a lovely home with a charmingly generous family. Sadly, it was horrible to discover that so many parrots are being abused and cannot be saved due to little exposure of this charity and others like it. I urge you, the next time you are feeling selfless and want to give to charity, that you give a little to a small charity as that will undoubtedly go a long way.

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