Buying a Quality Pet Bird

Purchasing a pet parrot requires a considerable financial investment and is a life long commitment to provide companionship and care. Make sure you are up to the challenge of owning a parrot before you purchase one. Once the decision is made to buy a parrot, you need to make the best possible choice to ensure that the relationship is a rewarding one for both you and the bird. Purchase your bird from a source which has given your bird the right start in life. Do your best to ensure that it is a healthy, secure and well socialized bird. Finding a “quality” breeder or pet store can help you avoid a bad experience.

Questions you should ask when you interview a bird breeder or pet store before you purchase your bird. The answers should be used to determine who to purchase your bird from.

General

  • How many birds do you own or care for and what species are they?
  • How long have you been breeding birds and how long have you been at this location?
  • If a pet store, where do you get your birds from?

The answers to the above questions will vary greatly among different establishments. Some breeders specialize in one or several species and are experts on those species. Another important factor is the person to bird ratio. Can the establishment take proper care of the birds with x amount of people. If not, you may be purchasing a bird who is ill and/or not properly socialized. These birds will may be nervous, unaccustomed to change, unaccepting of new foods, unaccustom to being handled, and not trained. These birds will require more time to adjust to their new surroundings and will require the care of an experienced bird owner to help them overcome their poor beginnings.

A company that has been in business at a particular location for many years may have gained a reputation that can be investigated.

Diet

  • What kind of a diet do you feed your birds and how often do you feed them?
  • What vitamin supplements do you use?
  • What brand of formula do you use and what method of handfeeding do you use?
  • How do you wean your babies and what types of weaning foods do you offer?
  • At what age do you wean your babies?
  • Do you use water bottles and/or bottled water?

Look for establishments that feed their adult and baby birds a wide variety of foods that should include pellets, fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, beans, pasta, and grains. Only a small portion of a birds diet should consist of seeds and nuts.

Vitamin supplements should only be used on the advise of an Avian Certified Veterinarian.

Make sure your baby bird was raised on a nutritional balanced handfeeding formula. Some homemade recipes may be missing certain vitamins and minerals which can cause a bird not to reach its maximum growth potential. Nutritional deficit formulas may cause organ diseases. Purchase hand fed baby birds who were spoon fed or syringe fed as babies. Parent raised birds will need to be trained and socialized, so make sure you are prepared for that kind of commitment before purchasing one. The Gavage feeding method is inserting a feeding tube into the crop and pumping the formula into the feeding tube. This method of handfeeding is quick and does not require the bird to swallow his food which results in birds who have never tasted food and must be taught how to eat. These birds are seldom handled and are not used to human interaction and will require extra training, socialization, and taming.

Birds who use water bottles are less likely to get bacterial infections. The bottles offer a safe and effective way to provide clean drinking water throughout the day.

Choose your bird from an establishment that DOES NOT give you an exact weaning date. Each bird is an individual who must be allowed to wean at his/her own pace. Baby birds should be weaned using the “Abundance Weaning Concept” which is defined as ” offering a wide variety of nutritious foods and having them available to the babies at all times”. .while continuing the hand- feeding process until the baby refuses formula.

Health

  • Have you ever had any major health problems in your establishment and have you ever had a bird die?
  • Who is your veterinarian and how often do you have your birds examined?
  • What tests does your vet routinely perform and are your birds vaccinated?
  • Do you provide a written purchase agreement/contract? If so, does it provide a health guarantee?
  • Do you smoke?
  • What precautions does the pet store take to protect the birds form the transmission of disease form the public entering the establishment?

Whether a pet store or breeder who has been in business any length of time, they should have had some kind of problem develop. If the establishment says “NO, I have never had a problem or had a bird die,” I would be very suspicious. Baby birds are delicate creatures who do not have a completely developed immune system, and they can succumb to all sorts of problems ranging from birth defects, bacterial infection, genetic defects, and aspiration just to name a few. You are looking for a business that has honesty and integrity. Having had a past outbreak of disease, or the loss of a bird may not be a reason not to purchase a bird form a particular establishment. How did they handle the outbreak and what steps are they taking to prevent future outbreaks should be your concern. Are necropsies preform 100% of the time?

An annual check-up provided by an Avian Vet is a must for birds. This provides not only provides baseline records but establishes a health history at a place of business. A closed aviary is one of the safest places to purchase a bird from.

Purchasing birds from places of business who regularly perform tests for polyoma, Beak & Feather, Psittacosis, CBC, throat and vent swabs, will increase your chance of purchasing a healthy bird. Remember, there is not a test for every avian disease. A vaccine for Polyoma is now available so remember to ask if the bird has been vaccinated. An annual booster is needed to continue to protect you bird from contacting the virus.

Only purchase birds from businesses that provide written contracts. Make sure a health guarantee is provided in the contract. You should have at least 3 days to have the bird examined by an avian vet of your choice. Make sure the contract provides for what recourses you have based on those findings such as, reimbursement for vet care, refund, or another bird.

Birds should never be exposed to cigarette or cigar smoke. Purchase your birds from businesses who have a no-smoking policy.

Care

  • What size cages do you house your birds in and what type of perches do you use?
  • What kinds of toys do you provide?
  • How much time do you spend with your birds and how do you socialize them?
  • Do your birds get natural and/or artificial light, and how many hours of sleep do they get each night?
  • How often do you trim nails and wings?
  • What method of wing clipping do you use and how long do you allow the birds to fly before the first clip?
  • How often do you clean your cages and what disinfectants do you use?
  • What methods do you use to train your birds and do you teach them the “step up/and down commands and how do you discipline your birds?

Large cages with natural perches provide the best environment for housing birds. Cages should be large enough to provide plenty of exercise. Perches should of varying diameters and of the right size ranges to provide plenty of exercise and comfort for feet. Improper perch sizes can cause medical conditions of the feet to develop over time.

Toys provide entertainment and satisfy the birds natural chewing desires. Several toys should be in each cage. Chewable wood toys help keep a birds beak in good condition by wearing the beak down thus preventing the beak to become overgrown.

Birds that are well-socialized are taught to be independent and are taught what behaviors are acceptable and which behaviors are not. These birds have been exposed to change and accept change with little or no stress. They and are not only used to being handled, but have come to expect and enjoy interaction with people. Well socialized birds are less likely to exhibit behavioral problems later on. Look for birds who are accustomed to the same amount of attention that you can provide.

Natural non-filtered light provides vitamins and helps maintain feather luster. If natural light cannot be provided then artificial full spectrum lighting must be provided. Birds should be given the opportunity to receive 12 hours of sleep each day. This doesn’t have to be 12 continuous hours. My birds are given the opportunity to sleep 12 continuous hours but prefer to take an afternoon nap instead.

Toe nails should be trimmed every 6 to 8 weeks. Wing clips are preformed as needed. Baby birds should be given enough time to learn to fly before the first wing clip. They need enough practice to develop chest muscles, develop co-ordination, to safely make turns, and to make safe landings. The smaller the species the faster the lessons are learned. Larger birds require more time to prefect flying techniques. Lovebirds and Parakeets may need only one week while a large Macaw may need a few months to fly with confidence.

A clean environment is essential to good health. Cage bottom paper should be changed at least every other day, preferably daily. A thorough cage cleaning should be preformed weekly and a monthly scrubbing, disinfecting should be done. Food dishes should be cleaned daily. Cages, perches, toys, dishes, should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected in between each and every bird in the cage.

Purchase your bird from places of business that teach the “step up/ and down” commands and use positive reinforcement as a teaching technique. Rewarding desirable behaviors and ignoring unacceptable behaviors is the best method of training your birds.

Specific

  • What species is the bird and what is the price?
  • What is the clutch number? Egg no.? Hatch date?
  • How much does the bird weigh?
  • Do you sell unweaned babies? If not, when did the bird wean?
  • What weaning method did you use?
  • Is the bird sexed? If so, by what method?
  • What are his/her favorite foods? Toys?
  • Does the bird have any negative habits that you should be aware of?
  • Can I visit the bird while weaning, before taking the bird home?
  • What kind of educational literature, materials, and continued support do you provide?
  • Is the bird banded or microchipped?

Price should not be the mitigating factor in determining whom to purchase your bird from. Get as much specific information as you can about the bird that you are interested in. This informmation should also be recorded and be given to your vet during the initial exam. Handfeeding, vaccinations and veterinarian care, training, and socialization all add to the cost of raising a healthly well adjusted baby bird. A *bargain* bird may cost you more in the long run when unexpected problems occur.

Purchase a weaned baby from a place of business that does not sell unweaned babies to inexperienced people. These types of businesses are more interested in the dollar than the welfare of their birds. If they don’t care who pruchases their birds then in all probalility they don’t care about their birds either. Make sure your bird was not forced weaned early and that they used the “Abundance Weaning Concept.” Visiting the bird during weaning will give you the opportunity to contribute to the birds socialization, and give you time to get to know your bird, and to learn how to take care of him/her.

With new laws on restricting the ownership of exotic pets, I recommend purchasing birds who have leg bands and/or microchips. Even if your state doesn’t require leg bands or a permit to own birds today, it may require them tomorrow, or you may move to a state that does require identification of domestic parrots. Documentation to prove that your bird was domestically bred or legally imported is a must to protect your rights to keep your pet bird.

Learn all you can about the particular birds personality including any negative behaviors. This will ensure that you and the bird will be compatible. Purchasing a bird is a long term commitment that should not be taken lightly. Make sure you are not disillusioned and know exactly what to expect with regards to screaming, mess, talking ability, time commitment, and long term costs associated with toys, food, and veterinarian care etc.

I give birdcare booklets to my clients which includes a “Data Sheet” that lists all pertinent information about the birds diet, health record, personality, sleep schedule, favorite foods and toys, and grooming record. My customers are given my home phone number and are told they can call us day or night with their questions. The majority of my customers are now personal friends too. Continued on going support is a must. You will not be able to remember everything during all of the excitement. As much information as I have included in my birdcare booklet, I am always finding new information to include so I am continuously updating it. You should be able to ask questions long after the sale is made.

Most important of all, is to verify that all of the information that you receive is accurate. Also, did the salesperson interview you? Make sure they are just as careful who they place their birds with as you are about who you are going to purchase your bird from.

Make phone calls to verify references and contact their veterinarians. Remember they are not going to give you names of dissatisfied customers to contact. If possible, make an unannounced surprise visit. If this can’t be achieved then make an appointment to visit or have someone else visit the premises and inspect the birds and cages. Don’t be disappointed if you are not allowed in the breeding facility. The general public is usually not allowed in because of the risk of transmitting diseases, frightening pairs off the nest, etc. They should be able to provide you with an observation window or photos of the facility.

Trust your instincts and use all of the information that you have gathered to make an informed decision not an emotional one.