Can you imagine living with 13 guests, aside from your brothers and sisters? A Lakewood family is raising over a dozen beautiful birds from egg
Photos: Tali Weldler
The first thing we notice when we enter the Lieberman house is the noise. It’s loud — we can hear chirps and whistles from the front door. The friendly Lieberman kids show us all the way to the back where a surprise awaits us: The little playroom off the kitchen has no toys lying around — instead, it has two cages filled with colorful parakeets!
The Lieberman kids know the routine: The door has to be closed first so no birds escape, then they can open the cages to introduce us to their feathered friends. And what a lot of friends they have!
Visitor Eliyahu Appel skips and jumps with delight as Yanky Lieberman opens the larger cage and coaxes a bird into his hands. His two-year-old sister is less excited — she shrinks back and cries as another parakeet zooms over to sit on Mommy’s shoulder. But the Lieberman kids are clearly very comfortable with the birds. Even ten-month-old Esti crawls right over and doesn’t seem the least bit fazed by the flapping, feathery creatures.
Four-year-old Yanky is a pro with the parakeets, and he and 11-year-old Yitzchok Tzvi demonstrate the proper grip needed to hold them — firm enough to keep them safe and calm, but gentle, to avoid squeezing delicate parakeet bones.
Not surprisingly, the girls are a little less enthusiastic about handling the birds, but they also know lots about their life stories and how to take care of them.
How It All Began
Until COVID-19, the Lieberman family had just children, like most other families. But during those long and boring months of lockdown, they discovered a fascinating interest.
At a time when no one shopped except for food and bare necessities, Mr. Lieberman purchased one “fun” item — a birdfeeder for the backyard. Stuck inside with little to do, the kids began to look forward to visits from the feathered visitors who began to frequent their backyard. The birds who came to feast at the feeder added much-needed color, life, and variety to a challenging time in their life
They enjoyed the birds so much that they decided to invite some inside. Their first two parakeets, purchased from a pet shop, were Blue Bird and Yellow Bird, sometimes known as Perri and Keety.
Everyone enjoyed their new friends, but soon they suffered a painful loss.
One Shabbos morning, Yanky, then three, came to visit the birds and announced, “The blue bird is sleeping!” No one had the heart to tell him that the blue bird had died in the night. On Motzaei Shabbos, Blue Bird received hespedim and a solemn funeral.
Parakeets are very friendly, sociable birds, so left by herself, Yellow Bird began to get depressed and lonely.
Meanwhile, the Lieberman family threw themselves into another important project: making sure that, even as Shabbos came in earlier and earlier, they were always ready on time. When Chanukah came and the kids had successfully gotten ready early for Shabbos every week, the family was treated to an “Early Bird Special!” On a surprise family outing, they bought a new companion for Yellow Bird — Chirpy.
Chirpy has loads of personality. He’s very acrobatic, too, performing backbends and all kinds of entertaining stunts, and Yellow Bird came back to life again — for a while. In time, Yellow Bird, too, sadly passed away. Left by himself, Chirpy spent hours talking to himself in the mirror.
A Growing Flock
The Liebermans were sad to see their birds constantly being left alone. Later that winter, a neighbor was giving away some parakeets, so the Liebermans acquired another whole parakeet family — Mr. Blau, Mrs. Green (who were — you guessed it — blue and green), and four of the couple’s children. They also bought a second cage, this one with a very special addition — a nesting box. The nesting box is a wooden box filled with a soft bedding, usually wood shavings or a soft cloth, that feels similar to where a parakeet would sleep in the wild. Having a nesting box encourages parakeets to lay eggs.
“Mrs. Green was the balabos from day one,” laugh the Liebermans. She claimed the nesting box for her own and pushed all the other birds away.
“Nobody liked Mrs. Green,” the kids tell me. “We didn’t like watching her being mean to the other birds.” More than once, the kids found smashed eggs on the floor of the cage — Mrs. Green seemed to carelessly lay her eggs without a safe place to keep them.
Just like with people, one or two parakeets with bad middos can create an unpleasant environment for everyone. One of the other birds, “The Blue Bird,” began to compete with Mrs. Green, and there was often bickering in the cage
Mrs. Green often tried to escape. About a week before we met them, she managed to get out the door and was never seen again — but the kids say they aren’t sorry. The cage is a happier place now. Chirpy acts like everyone’s favorite uncle, feeding all the babies and playing with anyone whose attention he can get.
The most thrilling moment came one winter morning when one of the kids spotted something small, oval, and smooth — an egg! “You can’t tell when a parakeet is preparing to lay eggs,” explains Yitzchok Tzvi. To everyone’s amazement, one egg became two, and then someone would spot another and another…. Each egg became an occasion for excited mazal tovs, as the Lieberman children crowded around with a flashlight to check on the progress of “their” eggs. They had to beware of Gelli, though, who would become aggressive if she suspected any threat to her little family. Parakeets lay eggs every two days, Yitzchok Tzvi informs us, for a week or two. Each batch of eggs is called a clutch. Sadly, not all the eggs from each clutch will hatch into healthy parakeets. As the first eggs hatch, the older birds often trample the eggs or the younger birds. After the mother lays eggs, Sarala explains, she stays with them in the nesting box, spreading her wings over them to protect them as best she can. Once the eggs hatch, the father is in charge of keeping everyone fed (yep, parakeet fathers are very involved dads. They even clean the nests!). At first, he brings food to the mother parakeet, who feeds the scrawny, pink parakeet chicks. Once the parakeets are a little older, the father also feeds the chicks himself.
Parakeets are also expert mechanchim. Have your parents ever insisted you make breakfast or put away laundry yourself so that you learn how to do it? Well, parakeets teach their children that way, too.
They communicate by nudging each other with their beaks and cocking their heads. That’s how Mom and Pop teach their parakeets important life skills.
For example, when it’s time to learn to fly, the father parakeet hops from perch to perch and then jumps to the ground. He’ll demonstrate the “flying path” again and again, till the chick works up the courage to try to try it, too.
One time, they noticed a chick crying anxiously. He seemed to be hungry, but the father wouldn’t feed him. Instead, the father hopped out of the nesting box over to the food, and poked it with his beak. Then he reentered the nesting box and repeated the routine. The baby was hungry, but it was time for him to learn to eat on his own, so the father didn’t give in and feed the chick — he just taught by example until the chick caught on.
The chicks currently in the nest are about four weeks old. They’ve just moved into the adult cage and are doing great!
The Liebermans’ parakeet collection has grown. Some were hatched, others came by through different means. One day, Tzippy, one of the birds, managed to fly out of an open door. A short while later, Yitzchok Tvi spotted a whitish parakeet on the roof of a nearby house. He was sure they’d found Tzippy! Climbing on a stool, he used food to entice the bird, which turned out to be a different parakeet that must have escaped from someone else. This bird is their “Hashavas Aveidah bird.”
They placed an ad in a local magazine, trying to find the owner, and were thrilled when someone called. Unfortunately, it turned out that they didn’t have that person’s bird. They were happy to give him a bird from their flock, but they still hold onto the Hashavas Aveidah bird — its owner may still turn up to claim it (hey, anyone reading this live in Lakewood and lose a parakeet?)
The Liebermans love to share the joy that their unique family brings them. Come visit them next time you’re in Lakewood — you’ll learn a lot, but watch out, you may leave with a parakeet in hand!
The Liebermans tell us about lessons they’ve learned from taking care of the parakeets.
Exuberant Yanky learned about the mitzvah of tzaar baalei chayim and has become very gentle when handling the birds. All the kids learned the importance of feeding the birds — who are dependent on humans for their food — before they themselves eat breakfast. “Totty feeds them every day before he has his coffee,” says Devoiry.
Other halachos come up, too, like tzad (trapping). If a cage is accidentally opened on Shabbos, they are not allowed to close it, since that would be trapping the birds inside. If the cage is open, they can’t even shut the door to the room on Shabbos!
All the kids feel upset when they see fighting in the cage. “It makes us realize how not nice fighting really is,” says Yitzchok Tzvi.
Dassi, 13, says the most important thing she learned was never to have birds! “They make a big mess,” she explains. Yitzchok Tzvi agrees about the mess — “I learned how to vacuum really well,” he says.
Caring for Them
If you’ve been begging your parents for a pet, take note: Parakeets are pretty easy to take care of. They need:
Fresh food and water daily. They eat a variety of different seeds, but they leave behind a big mess of empty shells. Like people, it takes parakeets time to adjust to a new food, so before Pesach, the Liebermans had to slowly introduce their non-chometzdig food… and the parakeets were the first to eat chometz after Pesach!
Their cages are wiped clean once or twice a week.
They need a chance to stretch their wings, so the Liebermans let them out of their cages to fly around the playroom on a regular basis. They like their cage so there isn’t usually too much trouble trying to get them back in. In fact, they liked it so much that when the Appel kids asked for a parakeet to take home, it took some time before Yitzchok Tzvi and his mother, working together, could coax anyone to leave the cage!
Parakeets can be noisy! If you want them to quiet down, toss a blanket over the cage, and they’ll think it’s night and go to sleep.
Different colors and textures are stimulating for parakeets. They especially love swings. They do peck at stuff, though, so don’t be surprised to find beak marks all over your shiny new toys!
Meet the ‘Keets’
Mrs. Green was the original “mama” bird, overprotective and possessive in the cage. While most birds shy away from people, she had no respect for us and would peck our fingers if we got too close. She had a habit of perching in the food dish, flapping her wings and making a big mess with the seeds. We had to build a makeshift barrier to keep some food away from her, to make sure all the parakeets could access food.
Mrs. Green’s daughter is named Gelli, which means yellow in Yiddish, for obvious reasons. She is the mother of all the parakeets that hatched in our house. Their father is Mr. Blau, who works hard feeding and helping his wife and kids.
The Blue Bird never got along well with Mrs. Green. He lived for a while at a neighbor’s house when they wanted parakeets too but couldn’t find any in the pet shop, and is currently chirping happily in the Appel home, where it goes by the nickname Paracute.
Tweety was a gorgeous yellow bird, named after the popular yellow cartoon character. She was the partner of “The Blue Bird.” The day “The Blue Bird” went to stay at a neighbor’s house, Tweety flew away in search of her husband.
The next set of hatchlings, Toby, Rina, and Dina, hatched during the first week of day camp and were fully grown by the end of the summer. Their names were chosen by our Mommy’s campers. “Toby” is white, like a “to be” — Yiddish for dove. Rina sounds a little like “g-reen,” and Dina just goes with Rina!
Chirpy and Yellow Bird were buddies way back before the other ‘keets joined our home. Once the new parakeets arrived, Chirpy felt left out for a while, but he soon became the most popular bird in the cage. He’s named for his outgoing, friendly personality, and he’s the most sought-after shidduch candidate!
Yitzy and Tzippy: Our first babies to hatch… we’ve watched them with excitement and fascination! Yitzy is white and is the first white bird we owned. Tzippy, who was yellow, flew away.
The new babies: The newest “mishpachah” members were hatched around Rosh Hashanah time and were just learning to fly around the time of this visit. The oldest is a lemon-lime color. The next is very child-friendly and likes to be held. The youngest one has a loud voice, which she uses to protest if she does not want to be handled. All three love to stick together, eating, playing, and sleeping side by side.
Dear Family Leiberman,
It’s amazing how devoted you are to your Parakeets. What a great home to land up in.
Thanks for sharing such interesting information with us.
Parakeets throughout the year…
We give the parakeets a chance to enjoy the outdoors… until it gets too hot. When we see them spreading their wings, we know that they are hot. Beside for giving them shade, we cool them off by spraying water mist.
Do you ever feel like bundling up in a cozy sweatshirt on a cold winter night? Our parakeets cuddle together to keep cozy and warm!
Know how when you hear the thunder rumbling, you run indoors for shelter? When we hear rain, we gotta make sure the birds are inside and safe!
What should we name these babies?
The winning suggestion receives a pet parakeet!
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 887)
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