Housing your Pets in a Public Space

The Three-Cans, David, and I are moving off of the little rock we’ve called home for the last few years and onto a slightly bigger rock (island) just a short boat ride away. We’re excited for our move for many reasons, a big one being that we will now be housing Paco, Paz, and Pepe out of the public eye and in our own private space.

When we adopted the Three-Cans two years ago, we made the decision to build their aviaries in the tropical garden of the resort we reside on. David manages the island, which is why we have lived on-property for the past few years. We did not have the space necessary to house the birds in our private apartment, so the resort’s owner kindly allowed us to build their enclosures outdoors. It seemed like the perfect solution for everyone – we had an unbelievably beautiful spot for the toucans to live and the resort got a new attraction for the tourists to enjoy.

Toucanland aviaries

Unfortunately, having not been in this type of situation before, there was a lot I failed to consider about this opportunity. And I can honestly say now that if I had really understood all it would entail, I would never have chosen this for us humans or the birds.

I don’t wish to sound ungrateful or overly negative. We have so much appreciation for the resort and its owner for accommodating the Three-Cans on this little rock for the past two years. But because one of my main goals with this website is to share what I learn with others, I figured I’d list out some of the challenges associated with housing your pets in a public space, should anyone be considering it or be curious as to some of the reasons why I do not recommend it and therefore will never do it again.


I have been truly shocked by the behavior of my fellow human beings throughout this experience. We built a rail around the aviaries in hopes that it would keep people a safe distance away from the enclosures, but it is nowhere near enough. It is a perpetual source of stress for me, as I am constantly having to police the area (I can watch over the aviaries from my kitchen window) for people harassing the birds. I can never go out for the day without being worried about what is happening in my absence.

people visiting the toucans

I have been absolutely stunned to witness people screaming/yelling obnoxious sounds at them, throwing things at them (rocks, big almond pods from our tree, orange peels from their drinks, etc.), shoving their cameras and flashes in the Cans’ faces, smoking, and crawling over the rails to further harass the birds by pounding on their aviary walls and sticking things like straws through the wire. It is not just unsupervised children either (though they are the bane of my current existence) but adults of all backgrounds and ages, teenagers, you name it.


Do Not Feed the Birds

Besides harassing and frightening the birds, my biggest concern is keeping people from feeding them/giving them hazardous and poisonous items. Toucans have very specific diets and can get sick very easily if fed the wrong thing. They also have a tendency to swallow anything small or interesting. If someone were to give them something dangerous (ie. nails, screws, candy wrappers, mints/gum, straws, chapstick, etc.) they could choke and die. We have signs asking people not to feed the birds, but that doesn’t stop them from trying at times. As much as I try to guard the birds, I still find orange peels, straws, maraschino cherries, chips, and the like around their aviaries. This is why they have moats and high walls around the animals at zoos – it’s not the people they are protecting but the animals from the people.


I never realized how much I value my privacy until I had none. Every time I go out to care for the birds – multiple times per day doing training, cleaning, feeding, and enrichment – I can never count on being peacefully alone with them. Tourists stroll up to the aviaries and want to chat and ask me a constant stream of questions, regardless of what other activity I am engaged in. Even the people who don’t wish to converse make me feel uncomfortable, just standing there staring at the Cans and, by association, me. I have come to understand and relate to the unengaged boredom zoo animals have with those who visit them.

on display

The lack of privacy is particularly challenging at times when you just want to focus on your interactions with the birds without distraction, such as during training sessions, vet appointments, and other emergencies. There are also plenty of times when you just want to take care of your birds without worrying if you look presentable or not. When I wake up the Three-Cans at 5:15 am in my PJs with no makeup on, it is really unpleasant to run into people – even more so when they want to engage you in conversation.


I realize this sounds like a petty complaint, but I think it’s worth noting. In the beginning, I really enjoyed educating people about the toucans (at least those not asking the annoying questions I’ve come to loathe) but after two years of giving the same responses to the same questions each and every day so frequently, sometimes within minutes of my last response, over and over again, it gets tiresome. There are many times I wish I could hang a Do Not Disturb  sign off my neck just so I can stop playing the same sentences on repeat, as though I’ve been previously recorded like some animatronic version of myself.

in the aviaries

People generally tend to ask the same handful of questions (a lot of which are answered on the sign in front of them) and while their interest is piqued, mine has long waned as I drone on, repeating for the 718th time what the toucans eat. It’s not the fault of the curious onlooker, but more my decision to put my birds (and therefore, myself) in a public space, which means I can never enjoy my time with them alone. People think I’m a paid zookeeper, here to answer their every wondering, but I’m just a woman who wants to play with her birds over the next hour and a half without constant interruption and having to conduct conversations that exhaust me with their monotony.


This has been a particularly difficult one for me and has unfortunately instilled a bit of a defensive edge to my demeanor when strangers approach me and start pummeling me with questions about the birds. I wrote a post on it awhile back called, If You Judge, Investigate  and I often wish I had a printed copy handy to thrust into people’s judgmental palms.

While I share these types of peoples’ sentiments in regards to not liking to see birds in cages, what I cannot justify is their immediate harsh criticism about a situation they know nothing about without doing the smallest bit of research (for example, reading the sign in front of them). I have had people condemn me out loud, directly in front of me, under the guise of explaining their position on people (in this case, me) keeping animals in captivity to their children: “Some people are just very selfish, sweetie, and take away animals’ freedom.” I have had plenty of people approach the aviaries and immediately say to me with unhidden disgust, “Don’t you even feel bad about what you’re doing to these animals?”

Pepe the Toucan

As someone who spends 5+ hours of my time each and every day, working hard to enrich the lives of these birds, this can be tough to take and, at times, downright infuriating. Yes, I do my best to explain to them the reality of the situation – I didn’t import them here, we adopted them out of a crappy setting; This is not their natural habitat and they unfortunately can’t be released – but it gets really old, really quickly having to defend myself so vehemently to people who have no clue. If they were truly animal/bird people, they could clearly see that these birds live in spacious, clean aviaries with tons of enrichment, including a caring human giving them loads of attention. These are not abused, neglected animals and it is upsetting to me having people suggest as much.


Anyway, I do apologize for the trip to Negative Town! While this experience has not been entirely undesirable – I have been lucky to meet a few wonderful people while out at the aviaries – it is not something I will repeat again for all of the above reasons. It has really only been sustainable for this abbreviated stretch of time and we are all looking forward to moving on. We have great things ahead and lots to look forward to – privacy, bigger aviaries for each Can, and much more. I’ll still be posting daily on our Facebook page and here on the blog with new and interesting developments in our goofy toucan lives. Now – time to get packed!

Paco the Toucan's box

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19 thoughts on “Housing your Pets in a Public Space

  1. I can fully understand the constant fear you felt for your birds from others not understanding you felt almost a prisoner to protect your birds 24 hours a day not a good situation, best to buy a house and privatise the situation, best of luck in new ventures, I enjoyed your bird adventures birds are smart and amazing when you understand them. I have a DYH Amazon that was mean at 5yrs but now mild and loving after trusting me he is in his 20s now and likes electronic baby toys that make noise when he pushes the buttons with his feet or beak you should try with your toucans.

  2. Hi there,

    Earlier today, I saw a gif of a beautiful toucan hopping down some stairs on that cheezburger website – turned out it was from one of your videos, a few of which I watched, and one of them led me here. I love the way you write in the birds voice – and that’s exactly how I picture these guys talking.

    Sorry to hear about how people have acted, though I’m not at all surprised, and I do hope that you managed to have some good, enriching encounters in the midst of the negative or unwelcome ones. I can’t relate to having your bird time encroached upon, but I certainly can relate to how judgemental people can be about “owning” a bird. I have a beautiful blue and gold named Sammy (about whom I post on Google+ a lot), and have occasionally had to defend my keeping her to people who think they know better.

    Beautiful birds, and I hope you’re happier in the new place!

    • Thank you so much for your kind note, Roger, I really appreciate you taking the time to write and for wishing us well! It is so nice to hear from people like yourself. 🙂 I send bird love right back to you and Sammy! All the best, Chrissann

  3. So you keep exotic birds at a resort and restaurant with a lot of foot traffic and then are annoyed when the public tries to be polite and show some interest in them by asking questions? If you wanted to spend some alone time with the birds, you should have kept them somewhere not visible to the public. Those who harass the birds should have been kicked out.

    • You’re right, bozo. It was naive of me to think I could house my birds in a public space and expect people to treat them with respect. It was my first experience in this type of thing and as you see, I have learned it is not for me. We didn’t have a choice due to space restraints to house them privately at the time, but have since moved away and the birds and I are enjoying the privacy we always desired.

  4. Great to hear you’re moving to a bigger and better property with more privacy. 10/10 for your level of tolerance with the ‘public’. I love your photos … completely jealous of your birds, which we cannot have as pets in Australia.
    Thank you for the time you put into your Facebook page!
    Best Wishes

    • Hi Ann,

      Aww, thank you! I appreciate your note and feel lucky yo have such great bird friends out there in the world sharing our adventures. 🙂

      Best to you,
      Chrissann & the Cans

  5. Hi Chrissann and precious Cans,
    So sorry to hear you have experienced these terribly intrusive,
    disrepectful and obviously uneducated types. I do not have any of these beautiful feather babies but as an avid animal lover supporter of all creatures (lately animals much more than humans) I love to read how you provide for, entertain and love your Can fam! I wish you many blessings, happiness and peace in your new home. Thank you for sharing your life’s passion! You have a wonderful gift for writing. Your work and your posts are appreciated and always bring a smile.
    God’s blessings, Gwen

    • Hi Gwen,

      Thank you so much for your kind words and understanding. 🙂 It’s wonderful to meet such caring people like you – thank you for sharing our lives with us!

      Best to you,

      Chrissann & the Cans

  6. I field similar “duh” questions when I take my parrots out in their pak-o-bird (I saw Paco has one as well) including the ever-intelligent “are those birds real?”. I can definitely understand where you’re coming from, Chrissann. Good luck on the move and I’m looking forward to following the continued adventures of the Three-cans 🙂

    • Hi Adrienne,

      Haha, yes – do you reply, “really?! you can see them too?!” Lol. Thanks for sharing my pain and for sharing our lives with us. More good times ahead! 🙂

      Best to you & your flock,
      Chrissann & the Cans

  7. Darling, loved this post, love all your posts but this one the most as I can feel your pain and be right there with you. Your new place is going to be fabulous 😉

  8. I’m a zookeeper and this perfectly describes the daily challenges of most keepers! I also used to take care of toucans and have an enrichment idea. Looks like you have concrete floors in your holdings, try a bucket of wiffle balls. I’ve seen toucans throw them one by one intently watching the balls bounce on the floor before picking up the next one to throw.

    • Hi MC,

      Glad you could relate – I always dreamed of becoming a zookeeper and this has definitely shown me some of the challenges associated with that position. Hats off to you! 😉

      Thank you for the enrichment idea – mine love wiffle balls too, but prefer to place them in their water bowls and thrash them around in there. Goofy-Cans!

      Best to you,
      Chrissann & the Cans

  9. I am utterly astounded at some of the things you have written. I am almost embarrassed to be human if this is how some of my fellow humans behave. I don’t have the kind of set up you have but I do regularly take various members of my parrot family out on walks on their harnesses. The number of times people go to stroke them, to be told by us not to stroke them as they don’t like it or will bite you. This then becomes a challenge to try and quickly stroke the bird and withdraw their hand before getting bitten; all to the obvious annoyance of the birds. Now I don’t take the vicious birds out for obvious reasons so they rarely do go to bite that quickly so the member of public has won – so they do it again! It just beggars belief!!! I do hope after your move, you can leave your 3cans without risk of harm or annoyamce. I am very envious! Good Luck!

    • Hi David,

      Yes, it was quite a shock to me as well and admittedly, made me lose a bit of faith in humankind. It’s a shame it has to be this way and a shame to hear you’re not able to take your feathered crew out for walks anymore. I appreciate your story and it’s nice to be able to commiserate with someone who understands.

      Here’s to happy times ahead, thank you for following our adventures! 🙂

      Best to you and your flock,
      Chrissann & the Cans

  10. I love your toucans…love the daily photos. I can understand where you’re coming from. Keep me posted on the move. Good luck!

    • Thank you, Christine, I appreciate your understanding! We will certainly keep this blog and our Facebook page updated as usual, so stay tuned. 🙂

      Best to you,
      Chrissann & the Cans

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