I do not myself understand how anybody can bear to hurt little birds, they are such endearing creatures; but I have seen it with my own eyes, and am obliged to believe it. Bad example will go a great way. Boys, and men too, will do what they see others do, without stopping to think of the great truth that God sees them too. But, then, good example goes far also; and the person who is careful not to do wrong has the comfort of knowing that he is showing others the right way. While I write this little book, I am praying to the Lord to make it the means of persuading many young readers to be merciful; and that their good example will persuade many more, who may not see the book; and so good will be done, greater than you now think.
I have a cockatoo. A friend brought him from India, and a funny bird he is, but terribly noisy. He soon began to bark like Fid, and to growl like Bronti; to cackle like the hens, and to imitate every loud noise that he heard. We hoped, if he had a good teacher, he would learn to sing, instead of making such a riot, as he whistles uncommonly well after his master. So we went to buy a Canary bird, and you may be sure we bought two; for it is very cruel to shut up a bird alone in a cage. The cockatoo is not in a cage, but on a stand, dancing and chattering all day. We put our canaries into a very large cage, with a good-sized pan of fresh water every day, clean gravel, and plenty of seed. Nothing could be happier, or tamer, than these little things; but one day the hen got at some green paper, which she pecked at through the wires, and the stuff that coloured it killed her at once. We got another directly in her place, and there they are in the sunshine, on a table close by me, splashing the paper on which I write with the water; for they delight to plunge into it, till they are wet in every feather. Nothing is more necessary to animals and birds than plenty of fresh water. My pigeons have a pan of it to wash in, and it wants changing several times a day; and you do not know how much birds in confinement suffer if that is neglected. A glass hung outside, if always kept full, is good to drink out of; but a bath in the cage is the great luxury.
Perhaps you will ask, Has the cockatoo learned to sing? No, I am sorry to say, he is as noisy as ever, and not at all musical. We keep him quiet by giving him sticks to break, and knotted cord to untie; and when he has been good I take him on my lap, and rub his head and wings, which he greatly likes. I never yet saw the animal, down to a little mouse, that would not be fond of those who treated it tenderly; and the pleasure of being loved is so great, that I only wonder how anybody can neglect to win the love of the creatures which were made for man’s use and benefit. There is a wonderful deal of happiness among them, showing how, as the Psalm says, the Lord’s “tender mercies are over all his works;” and a little kindness makes them so familiar, that we are always reminded how sociable they were with Adam in the garden of Eden; and how happy they and we should all be together now, if sin had not entered into the world to destroy the beauty and blessedness that were upon every thing when God first made them, and saw that they were all “very good.”