When I contacted Christy Hensrude at Zazu's House, she wasn't sure she wanted to have a story in The Herald. She operates the quietest, noisiest macaw sanctuary in our state.
The cacophony comes from almost 100 parrots who call the place home.
If you live in the Maltby area, you've no doubt driven by, but you've never seen, the hidden compound. Christy and her husband, Scott, own Precision Collision with 15 locations. They built a lovely home on their property and a special-needs building attached to a zoo-like outdoor aviary, plus a main flight area that looks like an indoor horseback riding arena, except in this arena, there are a dozen real trees for perching.
It's an impressive home for parrots, the huge, colorful, screeching birds seen in movies perched on a pirate's shoulder.
"People get macaws with the greatest of intentions," Hensrude said. "Then they get divorced, move, lose their health or home, or die."
Macaws can live to be 80 years old. Folks don't realize the commitment they make to the bird when they get one for a pet, she said. Hensrude takes in unwanted and abused birds that she said she would rather see flying free in South America.
More than 10 years ago, the Hensrudes, who have five children, went to a pet store to get one son a turtle.
"We walked out with two macaws," she said, Howard and Zazu.
Howard turned out to be a girl after a DNA test, the only way to determine the sex, Hensrude said.
"Scott wanted them to be free to be birds so he added on to our house," Hensrude said. "They got a room of their own that had walls of glass so they could see outside."
The couple helped smaller birds find their way to The Farm ministry in Snohomish for visiting children to enjoy. In early 2006, they were asked to take some larger birds from a rescue organization that was closing.
Hensrude, who attends Wooden Valley Baptist Church in Bothell, said she prayed about rescuing the birds. She wanted to make sure her husband was all right with the idea.
Scott Hensrude was onboard and built the aviaries. Folks found Zazu's House by word of mouth, from other sanctuaries, pet stores and through veterinarians. In 2008, it became a nonprofit organization, Hensrude said.
Nicole Vetter, a friend of Zazu's House who lives in Snohomish, said the Hensrudes are incredible people.
"They have invested so much of themselves giving a wonderfully stimulating and safe environment to these exotic birds with nowhere to go," Vetter said. "They do not sell, buy or breed birds. When a bird comes to them, it is with the understanding they may have that bird for the rest of its life."
One of their newest members is Francine, who enjoyed the lodge-like main room of the Hensrude house. The macaw was picking her way on the outside of a cage, bar by bar.
Francine is getting special care, Hensrude said.
In the 2,000-square-foot, special-needs room, with outdoor flights for nice weather, rows and rows of birds, some 30 of them, were sitting like schoolchildren on wooden perches.
They eyed me with their walnut-shell-crushing beaks like I was a big, old cracker.
"Nice birdy," I said under my breath, trying to be one with the door.
Anxious to move along on the tour, I walked with Hensrude across the compound to the main flight. Some 50 birds were beyond a foyer, secure behind a chain-link wall.
City Girl wasn't allowed to enter their park-like home.
A volunteer worked inside with birds as colorful as a maypole. Several snoopy ones flew to the fence to examine the visitor. Two parrots landed on Henrsude's shoulders and wouldn't let go.
I wondered where they kept the earplugs.
Egads, it was noisy.
Hensrude said she gets calls every day from those who need her to take a bird off their hands. She only finds a home for a bird if it's stressed after months in the aviary and has no interest in being in a flock.
When someone brings in a bird, Hensrude will ask them to pick up a broom. Half a dozen volunteers, some who dropped off birds, help out. The needs at Zazu's house are enormous, estimated at $3 or $4 per bird per day for food, heating, veterinary care by Dr. Elizabeth Kamaka in Mountlake Terrace, toys, housing and maintenance.
For more information, visit www.zazushouse.com.
One family left a 50-year-old bird, and donated a wood burning stove. A new bird was placed because its owner died. Hensrude rescued a macaw named Cracker who had been kept in a cat carrier. It had tumors under its wings because it couldn't spread its wings in the crate.
Followers deliver cornbread and pepper treats that the birds gobble. Hensrude shops for fruit, vegetables, 50-pound bags of nuts and almonds.
The birds love lasagna, she said.
Some demand attention. Hensrude said they are like perpetual 2-year-olds. Sweetly, some find a buddy to hang with and shun humans.
Overseeing the aviary is Zazu. He does an amazing thing, Hensrude said.
Whenever a new bird arrives, Zazu regurgitates food to feed them. It's the parrot way of making a fellow bird feel welcome.
Then Zazu flies back to perch with his best buddy, Howard.
Zazu and the Hensrudes see no end in sight for their caretaking ways. They have approved permits in hand for another flight on the compound.
Kristi O'Harran: 425-339-3451; email@example.com.
Raise a wing
The needs at Zazu's House, a macaw sanctuary, are never ending. Estimated costs are $3 to $4 per bird per day for food, heating, housing, veterinary care, toys and maintenance. For more information, visit www.zazushouse.com.
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