The first eight found a mate
PEABODY - The colorful birds were in a fit, fluttering through the dark, gray basement as Deborah Sauchuk and David Koeplin gave chase. The nets swooped back and forth, and one by one, the parakeets were captured and put in cardboard boxes.
The birds belonged to Ramon Medrano. About two years ago, he bought eight parakeets from a PetSmart and built them a house, a 72-square-foot mesh cage in the basement of his Elliott Place apartment. The parakeets bred, and soon there were a lot more. The door to the cage was left open so the birds could spread their wings in the basement. Medrano believes he had more than 90 birds.
About a week ago, health inspectors were called to the apartment, and they ordered Medrano to get rid of the birds. During an inspection of the house, officials also noticed that electrical wiring and insulation in the basement appeared to have been eaten by the birds, so Medrano was ordered to vacate his apartment for two weeks so the problem could be fixed by the landlord, Koeplin. Medrano left, but the birds remained in the basement.
Sauchuk, a next door neighbor, fretted about the birds. As an animal lover with four cats, she wondered who was taking care of them. She filled a small plastic tub with crackers and carrots and a tub of water and went to the basement.
Sauchuk said she cared for the birds for three days until she and Koeplin, the owner of the building that Medrano has lived in for 17 years, decided to take them to a facility run by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
"I'm a wicked animal lover, so I told David that something had to be done about the birds," Sauchuk said. They loaded a truck with the boxes and headed to Noble Family Animal Care and Adoption Center in Methuen.
Michael Keiley, the manager of the center, said he wasn't surprised at the number of birds brought in.
"We've had our share of animal hoarding cases," Keiley said. "This year alone, there have been more than five. We had a case of 52 cats recently. Usually, these hoarding cases involve people with mental illnesses.
That did not appear to be the case with Medrano, Keiley said.
"This appears to be a poorly chosen hobby," Keiley said.
Some of the nesting boxes that Sauchuk dropped off contained dead chicks, some of which were decomposing.
Medrano, who lives in a small one-bedroom apartment, said he grew up in the Dominican Republic caring for large numbers of animals. He said the birds may have come to the attention of authorities because a neighbor noticed them or a tenant contacted them about the upkeep of the building.
Medrano said he bought a large bag of feed every two weeks and included cabbage and carrots in the bird's diets. Medrano said he kept their living space clean.
Three birds were adopted from the shelter yesterday, and Keiley said the remaining birds will be divided between his and other area shelters.
Sauchuk said she returned to the basement late last week, after it had been cleaned out, and noticed that two birds were still there, burrowed in a crevice in the concrete. She took the young birds to her apartment."Well, I got two birds out of all this to go with my four cats," she said. "Maybe I'll start a collection."