Bird Keeping Dos (and Don’ts)

Retailers who educate their customers on the basic dos and don’ts of bird keeping will help ensure that both bird and owner are happy.


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The statement “knowledge is power” may be used in many industries, but for the pet industry it is absolutely essential. Pet owners cannot be expected to keep any pet properly without knowing and understanding that pet’s needs, both physical and mental. Although rules can certainly be bent, some bird-keeping rules should always be followed.


Do Feed A Varied Diet
Pet owners need to ensure that birds are eating a varied diet, instead of only one type of food or food mix, and this includes pellets. It is important to check that birds are not picking out parts of the seed mix to eat. If they are, the owner will have to mix foods, increasing nutrition items (such as vegetables) and decreasing the favored food (sunflower seeds, perhaps), which is often high in fat and bad for the bird in large amounts. Bird owners should make any diet changes over a long period of time and be sure the bird is eating plenty of the new food; otherwise a bird may starve itself to death. Retailers can help owners be successful by teaching them how to get birds interested in new food items, using techniques like putting new food in toys, hanging it from the top and eating it in front of their bird.


Do Choose The Right Habitat

When preparing a bird’s home, make sure the cage is large enough for the bird to flap their wings freely, and be sure to include at least three different sized diameter perches. In the cage, make sure the water and food dishes are kept clean by scrubbing them with soap and water at least three times a week. Smaller birds should have a beak conditioner and cuttlebone, which will need to be replaced when dirty (or every six months). The cage should also have at least three types of toys, which should be changed out every month or two and replaced as needed. New dishes and perches need to be purchased every six to eight months, and the bottom of the cage, its tray and its grid should be cleaned every week. Everything the bird can get to, especially the cage bars, should be cleaned at least once a month.

The bird’s cage should be placed where there is a lot of indirect light, like near a window, and not where a door can open nearby suddenly and startle them. It should be placed at eye level or lower for parrot species, and preferably higher for non-parrot birds such as canaries and other finches. Place the cage in a room where people hang out the most.

Birds have an extremely sensitive respiratory system, so it’s important to keep the air clean around them. Bird owners should avoid using any types of sprays, such as insect repellents or disinfectants, around or near birds. If possible, they should also avoid Teflon-coated pans because if they burn, they release fumes that are fatal to birds.


Do Educate Customers

Customers should be told that birds are not quiet pets. And don’t sell a bird to someone who is looking for a clean pet; birds are messy eaters and are not a good choice for customers who hate vacuuming. Retailers should also help customers understand that birds are intelligent creatures. They need to be kept in a mentally stimulating environment and given attention on a daily basis. Be sure to sell a book about parrot behavior to anyone who is buying this type of pet, especially a medium- to large-sized species.

Don’t sell a pet bird to anyone who doesn’t seem willing to learn and care for the bird properly. Try to talk the customer into a different species of bird, or even another type of pet, if it becomes clear that the bird they are interested in won’t work in their home. Successful bird retailers don’t just teach customers how to care for them properly, they also make sure the bird and the new owner will be happy and work well together.


Robyn Bright has a master’s degree in parrot biology and more than 25 years of pet retailing experience.

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