TNN reporter Saba Bangash interviewing Raza Shah, a bird keeper, in Peshawar.

By Saba Bangash

PESHAWAR, 29 June: Bird keeping is not a popular hobby in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, mainly due to superstitious belief that keeping birds, especially pigeons, may bring bad luck and the practice is considered to be a sin by many.

Unheeding to local belief is 40-year-old Raza Shah, who has made a name for himself as a highly regarded bird keeper. People from across the region visit him for treatment of their ill birds, which he provides without charging any fees.

It all started when a little bird with a congenital anomaly was brought to him.  “Its feet were twisted by birth. I broke one of its legs, and bandaged it. After six days, the foot was cured. When I did the same thing with the second foot, it worked again” explains Shah. “Once the bird started running, it was the happiest moment of my life.”

Photo by Saba Bangash
Photo by Saba Bangash

Now, half of Raza’s home is designated for the birds, while family members live in the second half. His collection includes mostly parrots of different breeds, such as Lovebirds, Cocktail, Cockatoo (which could be valued up to Rs. 1.2 Million) and Macaw amongst others. He also keeps many pigeons.

He raises birds not just as a hobby, but for commercial aspects as well. For those interested in joining trade, he advises not to start with purchasing expensive parrots. “Start with cheaper breeds such as Lovebird.

These birds reproduce rapidly and if the keeper takes proper care of their food, medicine and well-being, a healthy grown up pair can be sold for Rs. 5,000.”

Raza is dedicated to maintaining proper care of his birds. “I look after my birds better than my children!”  He said.

Photo by author
Photo by author

He further explained that once his son became concerned that keeping birds caged may constitute a religious offense, and brought at home a Mufti to verify.

“Once the Mufti saw the kind of facilities and care I provide for my birds, his opinion changed. I told the Mufti that even if I release these birds, they would likely fall prey to a predatory bird, or be captured by an untrained person. The Mufti agreed that I am not committing any sin by keeping these birds,” he told TNN.

Mr Shah said birds have very specialized needs and require adequate care and handling. Lack of this awareness causes many people to drop out of this profession.