How do you run a rehab centre? How much funding does the government provide?
The short answers – on a wing and a prayer and, very little.
I have been asked this question so many times, especially the question about funding sources and the assumption we get government grants. So, let me give you a peek into the workings of a rehab centre, specifically Le Nichoir. So what do you do when you find a bird in need of attention? Enter Le Nichoir. The phone call that you make to the centre will hopefully be answered immediately, unless the staff are busy as baby birds can be very demanding patients. If the bird needs human help, you will be invited to bring it to Le Nichoir. On admission, we try to gather as much information as possible, especially since the centre is obliged to submit an annual report to both the Provincial and Federal governments. To be allowed the privilege of doing rehabilitation, Le Nichoir pays an annual fee to the Provincial government. Ironically, Provincial government officials refer calls to the centre but provide no financial help. The Federal government has made a small student grant available annually. Generally, this represents six weeks of wages at the minimum salary with the remainder made up from the centre’s budget.
The bulk of the money is raised from the annual dinner auction held in the spring. A few volunteers put in a very great number of hours to bring this about, and what an evening it is! Of course it could not occur without the incredible generosity on the part of all the donors, and the goodwill of everyone involved in Le Nichoir. Another source of income for Le Nichoir is through the donations of those people either visiting or bringing birds to the centre.
By far the greatest expenses are always salaries, and the hardest portion of the budget to raise. Other expenses include food, not just your ordinary food items, but exotic ones such as; frozen mice, known as mice-icles, frozen fish, aka fish-icles, live fish, dried kitten chow which, when ground up, is the best base for many bird diets, fruit, seeds, meal worms and several R.C. Hagen bird products. Le Nichoir also needs to buy veterinary products and services, insurance, pay Hydro and Bell. This is just a partial list but you get the picture. Early each year the team of volunteers who organize the centre, get together and plan where the money will be spent and what projects will be undertaken. Each year is different and it is sometimes hard to cover all bases, but so far, this centre has pulled it off!
Admitting birds, caring for them, responding to the public, raising funds and keeping the centre vibrant is one part. The other is knowledge. By attending conferences, workshops and belonging to chat lines on the internet for rehabbers, we are able to keep current with advances in many areas including; nutrition, disease management, legal concerns, public education and staff training. But this all takes time and often a toll on the volunteers. Once winter rolls around and the birds have headed south, we too try to take a break. Not for long as there is always something that needs attention.