Breeding Season

Retailers that breed birds or encourage customers and employees to breed birds can help cultivate a steady supply of livestock to sell in their stores.


For a pet store to sell birds effectively, it must offer a variety of species in different colors and at various price points. There are, of course, some clear favorites among bird owners.

Most of the birds sold in pet stores are in the finch or parrot families. Canaries and zebra finches are the most popular non-tame birds, while parakeets (budgerigars) and cockatiels are the top two parrot species kept in the U.S., according to the 2009-2010 APPA National Pet Owners Survey. Sometimes, the biggest challenge facing retailers that sell pet birds is finding the livestock to sell. Fortunately, there are a few channels through which retailers can find healthy, great birds to stock.

Local breeders are one of the best ways to obtain great birds. Retailers can find breeders online and through bird clubs and shows. While there are some breeders who will not sell to pet stores, most will, especially to retailers with which they’ve cultivated a relationship. Sometimes storeowners can help establish such a relationship by agreeing to buy all the birds a breeder makes available to them.

Retailers may also find customers to be a good source for livestock. Pet stores that encourage customers to breed birds–or even supply customers with birds to breed–are particularly well suited to tap in to this supply.

Of course, retailers who want to help customers breed birds must be knowledgeable on the subject. Retailers can learn about breeding by talking or working with breeders. There is a great deal of information available in books and on the Internet. Obtaining information from more than one source or website is always the best way to be certain that the information is up to date and correct. Perhaps the most effective way for anyone to learn about breeding birds, however, is to do it themselves, which ultimately can be another great way for stores to get more birds to sell.

The easiest birds to breed in the finch family are zebra and society finches, while parakeets and cockatiels are considered the easiest in the parrot group. This works out well, since these species are the most popular and least expensive caged birds sold in pet stores. These species are also good for new breeders, as they don’t require much space and regularly have more than one or two babies per nesting, unlike larger parrots.

Still there are many factors to consider when breeding bird. For example, it is generally best to let birds choose their own mates, although the smaller parrots like parakeets and cockatiels, along with many finch species, are easier to pair up than larger parrots.

How successful a breeding pair will be also depends greatly on the age of the birds and their environment. Although parakeets can breed at as young as seven to eight months of age, it’s best to wait until the female is at least a year old and the male more than 10 months old to try to breed them. Cockatiels should be a year old. Most finches can breed at six months, but it’s best to wait until they are a bit more mature, preferably at least 10 months or older. Medium to larger parrots take longer to hit sexual maturity. It is usually best to wait until conures are two years old or, for larger conures, three years old. Macaws may be five to six years old before they are interested in breeding.

Pet storeowners and managers may want to encourage interested employees to breed some of the smaller bird species. Having had the experience, employees can better educate customers on how to breed birds. By offering to buy the babies from customers and employees, retailers can help offset the cost of breeding the birds, and the store will have a great local supply of birds to sell.

Robyn Bright has a master’s degree in parrot biology and more than 35 years of pet retailing experience.

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