Westminster Resident Venette Hill on Running a Bird Sancutary

Venette Hill. Photograph by Priscilla Iezzi.

In 2003, longtime parrot owner Venette Hill and her husband, Dan, founded The Lily Sanctuary, a nonprofit rescue organization in Westminster. The group rehabilitates and finds homes for parrots that have been traumatized or whose owners are no longer able to care for them, as well as those in danger of being euthanized. The Hills and their volunteers care for 23 parrots, from African grays to huge scarlet macaws. “They’re very high maintenance,” Hill says, “but they’re wonderful.”

What makes them so high maintenance?
There are things that could kill a parrot that wouldn’t phase another animal. They’re very sensitive, so energy is everything. If you’re angry or depressed, they’ll reflect it back, they’ll act out. They’re like toddlers; they need 24/7 supervision.

What is the goal of The Lily Sanctuary?
The idealistic goal is to give the parrots new families. We try to help them get past their anxiety and relearn trust so they can go to a forever home. But if they can’t make that transition, they will always have a home here.

Have you always loved parrots?
No. I loved animals, but I’d never been around parrots, so I couldn’t see any reason to get excited about them. I thought, “You can’t cuddle them, and you can’t kiss them,” but I learned those things are untrue.

Is it fun being around so many parrots?
The macaws call my name, but they don’t just say Venette. They deliberately will mispronounce it. They’ll say “Vernette” or “Venetta” and look right at me. They do it just to crack me up.

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