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Where to Get Your New Bird

Written by Karine, TaffyWduck, and Nicole, Oh Mowsie

Once you have weighted all the aspects of bird ownership and decided that, indeed, a bird is right for you, your quest for the perfect friend is far from over. Many people know they WANT a pet bird, but have no idea where to begin the search for the ideal companion. Here are a few tips that may turn out to be very helpful in choosing which bird will be lucky enough to go home with you. Typically, selecting the right bird is not as easy as going into the first pet store and taking whatever bird they have and assuming that you've made a good decision. So here are the few steps that I believe should be followed to ensure that you find the very best bird. Here are the two aspects that will be discussed in this section: where to purchase your bird and how to select your bird.

Where to Buy Your Bird

Your options are to either get the bird from a pet store or a breeder. All these options have their advantages and disadvantages so lets look each of them.

Pet Store

Before you take a look at the birds, you need to verify a couple of things to make sure that this pet store is good enough for you to trust them and buy from them. Keep in mind that not all pet stores are bad, some are even better than some breeders. Typically, family run pet stores with a smaller staff and a smaller selection have the animals' interest in mind more so than your large chain stores who are more apt to buy their stock from Breeder Mills. Its best to avoid the larger chain stores for that reason alone. Breeder Mill birds (birds bred in large breeding mills in mass quantities) are generally of ill health. Their chances of receiving health care from the staff at the pet store if needed is less likely than if they were in a smaller pet store with more one on one attention from a more caring staff. Here are the few details you should evaluate before choosing to buy from any store:

  • Is the store clean?
  • Are the animals in clean cages/tanks/pens?
  • Is it over crowded (a million birds in the same cage etc.)
  • Do the birds look sick/sleepy?
  • Are there dead animals in the cages/tank?
  • Is the staff friendly?
  • Is the staff ready to help answer your questions?
  • If the clerk you approach cannot help you (i.e doesn't know about birds), can he refer you to another staff member who is able to?
  • Do they let you interact with the birds so you could be able to pick the one that seems friendlier to you?
  • Are their parrots well behaved?
  • Do they have quality food available (pellets/seeds/veggies)?
  • Are they in contact with an avian vet so they can provide you with proof of health?
  • Do they know the history of the birds (ie: how old they are, if they're been to see a vet, when they were weaned?)
  • Are the birds fully weaned?

Advantages:

  • It's often closer to your house.
  • They seem to "always" have birds available.
  • They have a lot of birds to choose from.
  • They have accessories/food.
  • Since they are often closer, it's easier to go and ask questions.
  • Some might be willing (and able) to provide services like wing and nail clips for you if you can't do it yourself (less $$ than vets)..

Disadvantages

  • They might be in it for the money (therefore doing anything for a sale).
  • They always have birds no matter what the demands are.
  • They are not always willing to provide you with a guaranty.
  • They often have the birds on a seed only diet.
  • They can't spend as much time socializing with their birds

Breeder

Just as any pet store, you'll need to verify the reputation of any breeder you purchase from. The last thing you want to do is buy from a "backyard" breeder. A backyard breeder is a person who breeds her birds just because they happen to be male and female. This person has very little knowledge about birds and is breeding only for the potential money (100$ per baby seems like a lot of money.) Breeding parrots isn't very lucrative and most breeders will tell you just that. Backyard breeders do not seek medical attention and often have their birds on very poor diets. If you suspect a breeder of being a backyard breeder DO NOT BUY FROM HIM/HER. Here are some questions you might want to ask before buying from a breeder:

  • Ask them how long they've been breeding.
  • What do they wean they babies on (pellets/veggies/seeds).
  • Are theirs installations clean.
  • Do they allow you to see your potential baby's parents.
  • Are they in contact with an avian vet so they can provide you with proof of health.
  • Are they willing to answer any question (present or future) that you might have concerning bird care.
  • Are their birds well socialized (even the breeding pairs).
  • They shouldn't be willing to sell unweaned babies. If they do, they are bad breeders so do not buy from them.

Advantages

  • They provide you with personalized service.
  • They have more time to socialize their birds (friendlier bird!).
  • They often make sure to wean their birds on a diversified diet.
  • They are willing to answer any questions you might have (at the moment of the purchase and after).
  • They have a limited number of birds available, so they have time for each of them.
  • A breeder oftentimes charges less for their birds (no retail markup).

Disadvantages

  • They aren't always qualified.
  • They might be backyard breeders.
  • They don't always have birds available.*
    *That isn't really bad though, because if you really want a bird you can wait until the right one comes along!
  • It isn't always easy to find a good breeder.

Adoption Options

Perhaps you have already owned birds in the past and have decided not to go the "retail route". Instead, you'd like to rescue a bird in need. *Its recommended that you have some prior experience with birds if you plan to rescue, simply because they can be a little more demanding with possible medical needs, taming requirements and psychological baggage, however they can also be the most rewarding. There are many places to find a bird in need of a good home, and once again, there are things to consider when thinking of adopting that potential new bird.

Rescue Center

This is like the humane society or ASPCA, you can call them from time to time to find out if they have birds available. In the United States, there are many Rescue Centers devoted specifically TO re-homing parrots. They have stringent adoption guidelines however, so it's unlikely that a first time bird owner would be a successful candidate. If you meet their requirements however, you may just find yourself with a wonderful new pet. Depending on your location, these adoption centers can be easily found by doing an internet web search. Often times, they even have "pet profiles" available online as well, where you can see what pets are up for adoption and find out a little bit about them to help you decide if you'd like to adopt. One of the more famous organizations is Mickaboo in the Bay Area in the United States.

Animal Shelter

Sadly, many parrots and pet birds are either seized or just given up to Animal Shelters. These are non-specialized, local associations that take care of many different types of animals. They're non profit organizations and they can't afford to keep birds for long because of their specific needs. Getting a bird from a rescue center isn't for everybody and I don't recommend it for first time bird owners. The birds there often have problems that need a lot of time/love/care to deal with, but then again some shelter birds make wonderful pets. You just have to make sure you choose a bird that suits your level of experience. Here are the things you want to check before you adopt a rescue bird:

  • Is the shelter in contact with an avian vet so they can provide you with proof of health? (Most don't)
  • Keep in mind that while it is normal for rescue centers to have plucked/crippled/psychologically troubled birds but there shouldn't be any obviously suffering, dead or dying birds.
  • They should have a quality diet available (seed+pellets+veggies) even for the most difficult birds.
  • The birds should be in spacious cages, not overcrowded.
  • The staff should have a good knowledge of birds or should be able to direct you somewhere where you can get answers to your questions. (at a shelter, most staff will only have working knowledge of birds).
  • The place should be clean and there should be no contact between birds and other animals (such as cats and dog, they should be in completely different rooms).

Advantages

  • You are giving a loving home to a bird in need.
  • It is often less expensive at first*
    *Some rescue birds end up having very specific needs and costing a lot of money -- this doesn't make them less wonderful friends, but you have to be prepared to put in a little more money than expected.
  • You aren't encouraging the overbreeding of pet birds.
  • You are probably saving the bird's life.
  • You will probably have the satisfaction of overcoming the difficulties of dealing with a troubled/abused bird.

Disadvantages

  • You can't always find out the history of your bird.
  • You may end up with a very demanding bird.
  • Vet care is even more important for rescue birds.
  • You have no idea what kind of diet your bird has been on for most of his life (which might result in underlying liver problems).
  • There is very little chance that you will find the exact color/mutation you like.
  • You have to be ready to commit to that bird because it is very stressful for a bird to be rehomed again and again.

How to choose your bird

Once you found the ideal place for you to buy your feathery friend, all that is left is to choose the best bird for you. First you want to spend time with the different birds available look them over real good, to make sure they are healthy, and then here are some of the points you should consider:

  • The bird shouldn't be deathly afraid of you, he should at least look curious about you, if not friendly.
  • If you approach the bird with your finger, the bird should not jump all over the place, desperately trying to escape. Then again don't expect the bird to be all happy about that ugly thing coming to wards him and step up already.
  • You should look for the bird that is the most active of the bunch, if all the birds are sleepy, all puffed up at the bottom of the cage (given it's not late at night) good chances are all of them are sick, do not buy any of them.
  • If they are missing feathers (given that they aren't very young chicks or molting) or if they are being picked on by the others, chances are that they are sick.
  • If the bird is chirpy, playing and being generally active and curious, that's very good and you should investigate this bird further.
  • If one of the bird seems overly interested in you, wants to go on your finger/shoulder, whistles to you and does everything to catch your attention... well I think we have a winner!

Other Options

Perhaps going to the shelter is not an option for you. Some people can't bear the sense of depression they feel upon entering facilities like that, but still want to adopt a bird. Consider looking in your newspaper's classifieds section for birds who need a new home or are for sale. Again, the selection may be limited, but you may get lucky! The same screening that goes into selecting a bird from a breeder, store or from a shelter should go into screening a bird who comes from a private party, whether this bird is given to you by a friend who can no longer keep this pet, or from an add you saw in the paper.

  • Is the home clean?
  • Is the cage clean?
  • Does the bird appear healthy and alert?
  • What kind of diet has this bird been on?
  • How much socialization has this bird had?
  • Why are they parting ways with this bird?
  • Does this bird have any behavioral issues you need to be aware of (ie: plucking/screaming)
  • What is the health history of the bird? Does he/she come with proof of exam or vet visits?

Advantages

  • You are more apt to learn the history of the bird.
  • Bird is likely to have some socialization.
  • The satisfaction of saving this bird from a shelter or other fate.
  • Bird often comes with cage/accessories.
  • Is often cheaper at first than purchasing through a store or breeder.*
    *Generally hasn't been exposed to other birds so the likelihood of having a contagious avian illnesses is less than if bought from a store, breeder or getting one in a shelter setting where there are other birds around it (provided it comes from a one bird home).

Disadvantages

  • If the bird was abused or neglected, there may be health or behavioral issues to deal with. (cheap at first but vet bills may add up).
  • Generally re-homed birds are not as young so these birds may be a few to several years old and more set in their ways.
  • Cage and supplies may be adequate and may need to be replaced.
  • Food may have been inadequate so the bird may need to be converted to a healthier diet. That can be a challenge for those who are inexperienced.
  • May have to wait to find an ad in the paper.
  • Less likely to find the mutation or breed you desire.
  • First come/first serve basis bird may not be available when you answer the ad so time is of the essence. Also, there's not a lot of time to "think it over". If you want the bird, you'd better take it because generally other people are interested as well and it may not be there when you come back for it.

In Closing

Whether you chose your feathered friend from a pet store, breeder, rescue organization or from another means, remember that with the proper care, he or she will likely be a companion for many years to come. ALL new birds coming into your home should be quarantined from existing birds that may already be in your home, in a separate room, for a minimum of 30 days. This is to ensure that any illness your new bird may have been exposed to have a chance to manifest themselves without risk to your existing flock. Oftentimes, the stress of being re-homed will manifest symptoms of illnesses that may have been laying dormant. Birds are masters at hiding illnesses so watch your new bird for symptoms. A vet check up, whether you have other birds and are quarantining or are welcoming a single bird into your home is also highly recommended. This is so you can assess the health of your new pet and give you the peace of mind of knowing you and your companion are off to a great start!

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