Canaries have kids flocking to Fort McMurray barbershop

·2 min read
Shukri Safadi is the manager at Max Barber Shop.  (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC - image credit)
Shukri Safadi is the manager at Max Barber Shop. (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC - image credit)

Some might say they got a trim at a Fort McMurray barbershop because a little birdie, or two, told them to.

Max Barber Shop has a new attraction drawing the attention of local kids: canaries.

Shukri Safadi, manager of Max Barber Shop, spent months training the birds, making sure they would come to him when he whistled or held out a piece of food.

He's been a bird-lover since he was a kid, and he got the inspiration after his friend, who breeds canaries, invited him over.

"It clicked in my head that I should try to get two baby canaries," said Safadi.

He hand-fed the birds for about four weeks each. He trained them to come to him by whistling and luring them with gum.

The two birds, Lemon and Pepper, are social and Safadi wanted to make sure that if he got birds, they wouldn't be caged up all the time.

"They go in and out of the cage whenever they wish to," said Safadi.

Initially, Safadi trained the birds using broccoli, but it was difficult to have on hand at the store all the time. One day, when he was grabbing a piece of green gum for himself, the birds flew to him right away. Now he uses gum to call the birds to him.

"They want it so bad," said Safadi.

Jamie Malbeuf/CBC
Jamie Malbeuf/CBC

The birds are not only companions, but they are also improving business.

"I have a lot of families they come just to see the birds and play around with the birds," said Safadi.

Sometimes the bird will land on the customers while they're getting their hair cut.

"They're pretty much therapy birds," said Safadi.

Safadi said the animals tend to help kids relax, and draw their focus away from the haircut. He said there's been a 40 per cent increase in kids coming into the shop since they brought in the birds.

"There's some kids they don't trust the sound of the machines, the clippers. They can be scared of scissors," said Safadi, adding that the birds can be a good distraction

Jon Tupper took his son for a haircut, without knowing Max Barber Shop had birds inside.

When one landed on his son's head, he "just let out this big smile."

Now he takes his three kids to the shop twice a week to see the birds.

Jamie Malbeuf/CBC
Jamie Malbeuf/CBC

His daughter started taking books about canaries out at the library so she could learn about them.

"If we go for a haircut, first off the kids'' faces light up and they all want to come," said Tupper.

Seven-year-old Lillian Tupper said the birds helped cheer her up after she went to get her COVID-19 and flu vaccines.

"I needed to be cheered up by them," said Lillian.

"Sometimes they just plop on your head like it's no business."

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