Written by parrots  |  03. February 2005

FACTS TO KNOW BEFORE PURCHASING A BIRD BY SHERYL EISNER I have worked in the pet industry for 16 years. I have hand fed many birds and also raised small birds, such as parakeets, lovebirds, and cockatiels. Birds are wonderful companions, capable of expressions of love, humor, and intelligence... far more than you can imagine. Although most of us would like to see birds come to a home thru adoption...the fact remains that many of us have or will purchase a bird. I hope the following information helps. First of all, PLEASE consider whether you are actually ready for a bird. Birds are intelligent and wonderful companions. However, as we all know they are demanding. Do you have time in your life to prepare veggies and meals for the bird? Interact with a bird? Allow quality time out of the cage? Can you afford proper housing, food and veterinary care? Birds can also be noisy. Some screech, some shout and some pick a word or phrase and repeat it constantly. Just because some birds can speak it doesn't mean everything out of their little beaks will be pleasant. Birds are not the neatest critters around... WE Love our shop vac. Now please don't think I am trying to scare you away from getting a bird. I just like to give folks a reality check. Places like Parrot Haven exist because many people buy a bird just because it's pretty or because it may talk. Working in the pet trade I have seen countless cases of people looking to buy a "Talking" bird. I let them know what having a bird entails and to research it. NO PET COMPANION should be bought on a whim without the proper understanding. Nor should any be bought as a gift...unless the person is fully aware and expecting it. In the case of an intelligent creature like a bird the new parent should meet it. I have seen many holiday gifts come back in January because the person didn't really want it. BIRDS ARE INTELLIGENT creatures and going from place to place is not good. I saw a Moluccan Cockatoo go thru 3 family members' homes in a year. Why? Well, the original owner bought it for his wife because she had a mustache parakeet and always thought Moluccans were beautiful. Of course I tried to CONVINCE him to check with her...He was trying to surprise her for Christmas. It was a sweet gesture but she was intimidated by the size. the shouts etc. It wound up at TRAVELLING THRU HIS FAMILY AND FINDING A HOME WITH HIS COUSIN. Which is a good ending compared to some. Now that I have said all that, let's talk!! Before you buy a bird please do research. Decide what type of bird you want. Ask people in the club- any one of the club members can share information, advice and experience. Buy a book. Go on the Internet. Go to a shop that carries a large variety of birds. Each species has its own traits: For examples; Amazons and African grays are both capable of speech but have different personality traits. Cockatoos are cuddly but can be deafening. Conures and Senegals although about the same size are quite different... Know how to house the bird: Cage materials should be lead free and nontoxic. Proper cage size is important. A bird must be able to open its wings fully and then some. The tail should never hit the floor and the opening must be big enough to fit a hand and a bird without folding up. The more room the bird has, the better. The bars must be strong enough as not to bend from the bird. The bars must be close enough so the bird's head doesn't get stuck. Birds belong in cages with some kind of corners. Not round, corners make them feel more secure. Make sure the cage is also at least eye level so the bird doesn't feel like he is being preyed upon. Know the diet and APPROPRIATE TOYS. Get the names of avian vets. Next a breeder or pet shop? Breeders tend to be less expensive, and usually more personalized. PET STORES carry many species and usually have better warrantees. Please ask Lisa, Fran or a member for a reputable breeder or shop. Try to make sure the bird is close enough so you can check on its' surroundings for cleanliness, etc and if it isn't weaned yet, bond with it. Preferably don't have a bird shipped from out of state, unless you know the breeder or they come highly recommended. UNLESS YOU HAVE knowledge of hand feeding never buy an unfeathered or unweaned bird just because it is cheaper. Tragedies happen this way, i.e. BURNT CROPS, ASPIRATION, INFECTIONS... If you choose a pet store, go to one that specializes in birds or if going to a regular pet store ask for the Avian person. Ask questions. If the person is clueless or unwilling to handle the bird... this is not a good sign. Check the surroundings, the whole store, make sure ALL OF THE Animals look healthy and well fed, etc. Although being in a store with many types can be tempting ... Do not let them talk you into ANY PET. Also ask about warranty, age, etc. Once you have found the place to purchase your bird get the house ready with a cage. The cage should be in a busy area, however not near a door or in the kitchen ... because OF DRAFTS, FUMES AND SMOKE. Then pick out your bird. The following THINGS ARE NO GUARANTEE OF HEALTH but can tell you what to look for. Remember birds are usually prey animals and don't like to like to appear sick. If a bird looks sick it is fair game in the wild soooo if it looks sick at rest, be assured it is far worse than it looks 1- Look for a bird that is active and alert. Young birds sleep more than adults but should wake up when a new person is walking around the cage. They should appear interested. 2- Eyes should be clear and discharge free 3- Nostrils: Make sure there is no discharge, redness or scales. Scales can indicate mites 4- Top and bottom of beak should meet evenly. The beak should not be overgrown. 5- Feathers: Look for shiny healthy looking feathers. No bald spots or down showing through. Lutino cockatiels are sometimes bald behind the crest. Baby birds take a while to be fully feathered but if weaned should be fully feathered and not fluffy. Birds that are molting may look a little disheveled and occasionally birds have frayed tails. 6- Feet: Feet should be smooth, nails not overgrown. Toes should be intact. While older birds have slightly scaly feet, too scaly can be a problem. 7- Vent: Should be clear of fecal matter or matted feathers which could indicate diarrhea 8- Body condition: Get the seller to hold the bird on its back. The keel bone runs down the middle of the chest. In a bird in good condition, the muscles can be felt and the bone is not protruding. In an obese bird the bone can't be felt. This takes practice. When in doubt, ask or pass 9- Breathing should appear regular not strained. Wheezing, clicking or labored breathing is not good. 10- Make sure the bird appears calm with you and can be handled. A bird that shrieks or bites is usually not a good pick Next, read all warranty info thoroughly. Get hatch date, band number, sex if possible and medical records if any. Make sure that the bird can go to your avian certified vet. Immediately. If there's a problem the bird can be returned or treated at their expense. Once you have purchased the bird, if it is unweaned, do not let the store or breeder rush you into taking an unweaned bird home. Remember, they want the bird gone so they can refill its cage .Also tell them you don't want other shoppers handling your bird. Visit it frequently and check on it and bond with it. Once it is weaned and eating make sure you see the bird is being weighed and gaining or staying the same for a week or 2. If the bird is weaned when you get it, take it directly home. Keep it away from your other birds if any. Also, make an avian vet appointment. For the first day let the, bird get used to its new surroundings Most of give it love.

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