Looking for a destination ‘off-the-beaten-path’ plus a way to give back while touring Delhi? I’ve got the perfect mix of both and it’s conveniently located across the street from one of the city’s most famous landmarks.
Known as Charity Birds Hospital, this modest medical facility provides free emergency services to birds of all kinds. The 100% free treatment center is an undertaking of Shri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir and has over the years been more popularly referred simply as Jain Bird Hospital.
Jain Bird Hospital’s efficient office can be found in a dedicated building within Digambar Jain Temple. Visitors are welcome during normal operating hours set roughly at 8 am to 8 pm. Curious travelers looking lost need only make eye contact with any persons relaxing under shaded trees of the temple grounds before being appropriately directed. In keeping with religious following, shoes must be removed before entering the hospital.
Upstairs on the second level you’ll find a waiting room where friendly but little English-speaking attendants greet all that peer inside. Tours through the facility are self-guided past rows of cages where birds are separated by species in surprisingly spacious metal environments. A research lab, and even an intensive care unit are also on-site. As vegetarians, Jain followers take their own religious principles to heart. Trays of fresh vegetables and seeds for recovering birds look delicious enough for humans to eat!
Jain Bird Hospital is unique in that it only accepts birds for patients. It can handle a maximum of 60 injured birds per day. A religious aversion to killing guides the medical treatment here where the most common birds which are brought to the hospital are sparrows, parrots, domestic fowls and pigeons, and peacocks. Birds brought in generally suffer from paralysis due to electrocution or get injured by preying birds or ceiling fans. Other ailments include eye infection, respiratory blockage and skin rashes. Birds are treated, bathed and eventually released.
Residents can also find helpful information on how to better care for pet birds. However, it’s advised not to bring in personal pets for treatment as the rule states any bird admitted to the hospital is not returned, rather set free after recovery.
Entry to the charitable bird hospital is via a side gate kitty corner from Red Fort’s rickshaw and bus stand. You’d think it’s ideal location directly adjacent Old Delhi’s Red Fort would make this notable charity a frequently visited spot among travelers, yet Jain Charity Bird Hospital is far from attracting the tourist crowd as injured birds of India aren’t the first thing newly arriving tourists think about. Don’t be surprised to count yourself as the only visitor, foreign or domestic, wandering about the premises. Do use caution inside as without the aid of shoes, bare feet are at risk of easily slipping on tile floors covered in a slightly disgusting crunchy mixture of water, seeds, and unmentionables.
Monetary gifts are accepted via a colorfully painted donation box which sits prominently in the reception area. There is no minimum requirement for donations, nor a demand for such; only the satisfaction in knowing you’ve made a small difference in the life of the next bird seeking a helping hand.