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Parrot Information
Buying a Bird General Information


Now you've done your research. You've decided that you can deal with at least most traits common to parrots (the good and bad) and you've found a couple of species that you think might make the perfect pet. What now? Of course, more research! You have several options when acquiring a new parrot:

Pet Stores: In some places there's a pet store in every strip mall. This makes them convenient. Unfortunately, staff members and store owners are not likely to be truly up-to-date on the latest bird information. They probably haven't checked their bird breeders' reputations and living conditions for the bird in-store are often not up to snuff. (This is not to say there aren't certain exceptions...) Also the bird care information dispensed at these places is usually not very accurate. Be very wary. Here you are may well pay more for a bird than other places, and you are not sure to get the most healthy, high quality bird for your buck.

Bird Specialty Stores: These are a newer option for bird buyers. They are pet stores selling only birds and bird products. Since their reputation and livelihood depends on the quality of their birds, you are more likely to get a good bird here. Also, usually the owner has a special love of parrots - which is why he or she went into the business. Therefore, the merchandise and information found here is more likely to be reputable. Often birds are hand-raised or even bred on-site, and even those from breeders come from well-researched sources with good reputations.

Breeders: Bird breeders, like those who breed dogs and cats, come in all "shapes and sizes." Many are wonderfully caring individuals who breed birds out of love. However there are a few who breed just to turn a dollar, so their scruples are usually not in the best shape. Make sure to visit your breeder before you buy. Look at the site, talk to the breeder, see the cages and see the baby area. Also ask for references and call those references before you buy!

Newspapers: This can be a potluck.Here you can find birds of all types and ages. If it is a baby you're buying, make sure to visit the breeding facility first. If it is an older bird, ask for a history (behavioral and medical). Be aware that older birds may have behavioral or health problems that you may not find out about until after purchase.

Rescue Groups: This is another fairly new option when getting a bird. These groups take in unwanted parrots (often with medical or behavioral problems) and adopt them out to people who meet strict adoption criteria. Often this involves taking bird-care classes (which is a great idea for any bird owner!) The problem is that you are not starting a baby out from scratch. The reward is that you are giving a home to a bird that doesn't have one - you are giving it a second chance. Also, once you adopt, you have the support of the rescue organization if you run into problems with bird ownership. When you go to buy a bird, remember to use your resources. Talk to your friends, your avian vet, or your bird club and see what places or people they can recommend when buying the bird you are looking for. If you have a specific place in mind, ask your sources if they have had bad experiences with this place. You may even want to check with the Better Business Bureau. Finally, when you look at a bird you are interested in, look for these qualities:

1) Facility: Make sure the breedery and the nursery (or bird store) look clean and tidy. It is preferred that bird cages not be stacked on top of each other, as this is a good way to spread disease. The more cramped a facility, the more easy it is for disease to spread, and the more difficult it is to quarantine sick animals. Look also at the perches, ground and food bowls. They should be fairly clean (realizing of course, that birds are very messy, so it is impossible for it to be totally clean). The birds should have access to fresh water and a good food variety. If the facility owner seems hesitant to give you a thorough "tour", you should be hesitant about buying.

2) Adults: The breeders should look healthy. They should appear bright and alert, and in good feather (realize that some birds pick their feathers or those of their mates. Also realize that birds kept in the natural sun may have a more "bleached" color than those house indoors or in the shade.).

3) Babies: Babies should have bright eyes (if open) and be fairly responsive (although very young babies to sleep a lot). Their bedding should be very clean and they should not be housed in cramped quarters. Their skin should be healthy and free from clinging handfeeding formula.

4) The Owner/Staff: Talk to the breeder or staff members. Find out what safeguards they have against the spread of disease. Ask what kind of "proof" they have that the bird you pick will be healthy. The person you talk to should be willing to divulge information and eager to prove to you the health of the birds they are selling.

5) The Guarantee: All birds being sold should come with good guarantee (this does not apply to rescue birds). The seller should guarantee in writing a full refund for a bird that turns up sick right after purchase. This guarantee should last long enough for you to take the bird to an avian vet, have it tested, and have the test results come back (remember: most vets will recommend a culture and sensitivity test. This test can take at least 5 days for a full turn around). Make sure to keep a signed copy of your receipt and guarantee until your birds post-purchase exam comes back "all clear."

Cage Considerations

Your bird's cage will soon become an important fixture in your home. With birds becoming ever-popular in the pet-trade, more and more cage styles are entering the market. Finding that perfect cage can be a daunting task. Because your bird will spend much of its life in its cage and you will be dropping a lot of money into its purchase, it is important to consider your cage choice wisely. The following are a few factors to consider when buying a cage.

Size: Choosing a perfect cage size can be tricky. The general rule is to get the biggest cage possible for your bird. However, you must juggle this with your home and financial specifications, as well as the safety of the bird. Your needs: Before buying a cage, consider how much space you can spare in your home (hopefully, if you have no space in your home, you will not choose to buy a giant Macaw!). Also, see how much you can afford to spend. Cages are expensive, but often you get what you pay for, so don't scrimp too much. You want to get the largest cage you can afford in money and space. Your bird's needs: These are the most important considerations when looking at cage size. At a minimum your bird should have enough room to fully swing its tail around and completely open up it's wings (when they're fully grown in). Because birds like to climb, hang, etc., it is important to get the largest size cage possible, even if it exceeds the tail/wings requirement. Before you go out and get your conure a cockatoo cage, though, read the next section as a word of caution.

Cage Bar Spacing: Although we would all like to see our pionus parrots in a cage built for a macaw, there are some risks in buying a cage that is too big. The spacing in between the cage bars can prove to be a serious hazard to some birds. If your bird can fit its head in between the bars, this could result in injury or even death! Because birds are trapezoid shaped (narrower on top that by the jaw-line) they can (and will!) squeeze their heads out between the bars of the cage if this spacing is too large. Once out, the width of the jaw-line will not allow the bird to pull it's head it. Serious injury may be the result when your bird tries to free itself, or if you try to help. If you have a smaller bird, make sure to buy a cage with this in mind. Your bird store, breeder or avian veterinarian can give you recommendations on bar spacing.

Cage-Bar Orientation: The direction or orientation of the cage bars is not something that buyers often consider when buying a cage. If you remember that your bird loves to climb, though, it will make sense that horizontal cage bars are the most desirable for the cage walls. At least two walls of the cage should be horizontal, to allow your bird to climb and hang, if she so chooses.

The Paint : The first (and most minor) consideration in regards to cage paint is colour. While this is probably not important to your bird, you will have to live with it, so choose a cage colour that goes well with your home and with your bird's colour! Custom cages can be painted in almost any colour these days, so have fun. The more important consideration is the type of coating your cage has on it. The older-type coating is a standard spray paint. This paint is usually safe and less expensive than other options and us usually a fine choice if you realize that you will have to replace the cage or repaint it in the near future. The second option is powder or enamel coating. This is a newer coating option where the cage is covered with a powdered colour. The cage is then baked until the powder melts all over the cage. When it is cooled and dried, the coating sticks into the "nooks and crannies" of the cage and leaves a smooth finish. These cages are easier to clean, chip less and rust less than their paint counterparts. This enamel comes in many colours and usually looks very nice on a cage. If the enamel does chip, there are services who sandblast and re-coat cages (make sure the company you use has done cages before - your bird club or veterinarian may be able to give you names of reputable people). The best option for a cage is stainless steel. Normally, coated cages are made from wrought iron, then coated. These stainless steel cages are left uncoated and have a smooth, silver finish. These cages are the easiest to clean, never chip or rust and are much less likely to harbour bacteria. However, stainless steel is considered unattractive to many, and it tends to be quite expensive.

The Welding: When you look at cages, check the welding spots. Make sure they are free from gaps (where does can get stuck) and sharp points. Look for areas where your bird could hurt itself or get hung up.

The Locks: Many parrots try to escape from their cages, often just for the challenge. When you buy a cage, check the locking mechanisms on the door and food hatches. Remember that simple latches are no challenge at all for a Cockatoo, Gray or Macaw. Keep in mind that there have been reports of parrots opening combination locks by listening to the drop of the ball-bearings inside (just like a safe-cracker) - so make sure you have some type of secure lock on your cage!

The Playpen: Many parrot cages are now equipped with gyms or playpens on top. This option is nice because it gives your bird a place to be when not confined to a cage, yet it does not take up any more space in your home. Still, it is important to remember that a bird standing above an owner's eye-level is less likely to "obey" (come down, step up, etc.) because they feel "dominant." If you are unsure of your bird's "obedience," or you have a bird that is a biter, screamer, etc., you may want to consider a floor-standing playpen, instead.

The Frills: There are many other options less important when buying a cage - but they are worth looking into. These include cage or seed guards (a plastic or metal "skirt" that fits around the bottom of the cage to catch mess), stands or cabinets on which the cage is seated .



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