March 1992. Reprinted with the permission of Sally Blanchard and the Companion Parrot Quarterly (fka -- Pet Bird Report)
Pet Bird Owners Tell Me
One of my greatest pleasures in life is talking to people who have purchased delightful hand-fed baby birds from quality breeders or pet shops. One of the greatest frustrations is listening to the stories of people who have purchased either sick or neurotic birds. Over the years, I have talked with hundreds of pet parrot owners throughout the San Francisco Bay area, the United States and even other parts of the world. In my conversations and consultations, I always ask where they purchased their birds. Often, since I deal with behavioral problems, I here stories of confusion and anger. I also hear wonderful stories about caring breeders and shop owners who are concerned about both the physical and psychological welfare of their birds and took the time to make sure the new owner had good information. After a while, I can usually guess how the story will turn out when a certain breeder or shop is mentioned. It becomes obvious who is selling healthy well-socialized baby birds. Certainly I do not know about all of the breeders or pet shops throughout the country. The fact that I may not recommend a certain seller can also mean that I do not know about their reputation. As I talk with more owners and breeders, I am delighted to add more and more names of quality breeders and bird shops to my list of those with excellent reputation. ls from respected people who know about birds so that they can make an educated decision on whom to buy a parrot from.
Physical WelfareOne of the most important considerations is the physical care of the parent birds. Are they housed in large enough cages? Is their environment kept clean? Do they have activity and exercise with perches and toys or play objects (blocks of wood, branches with leaves, etc.). Do they have adequate light, humidity and ventilation? Do they receive proper veterinary care when needed? Are they fed a healthy varied diet? It is amazing how many breeders still feed their birds a nutritionally abusive seed-only diet. Breeding birds that are not cared for and fed properly will not be able to have consistently healthy babies. In the last decade there has been a great deal of knowledge about breeding and raising babies - most of it gained through experience. Fortunately, there are many breeders willing to share that knowledge person to person and through writing and seminars. The necessary emphasis has been on the practical production of babies for the pet trade. I believe that it is now time to seriously balance information about physical production with concern for raising psychologically healthy chicks.
Positive Early Socialization
The breeders and shops that I recommend are ones that strive to provide their birds with quality emotional care. Breeders who are only concerned with producing chicks may overlook extremely important concepts that will later determine whether their babies are good pets or not. A baby raised by itself in an isolette for sterility and gavage (tube) fed for expediency will not learn the early life lessons that it needs to be a well-adjusted adult parrot. The personality and behavior of any animal is a complex combination of inherited traits and learning. Parrots learn many of their survival skills from their parents in the wild who encourage their natural curiosity as they learn to climb and fly. Babies are taught to eat and shown what to eat and what not to eat. They learn about safety and danger. Young birds produced in a breeding situation where everything is done for expediency and there is little concern for their emotional development and early socialization will often have psychological dysfunction as they mature. In some cases, the dysfunction may have a serious effect on a bird's potential to be a good pet. The breeders and shops that I recommend are ones that realize the significance of early socialization in producing quality baby parrots.
Teaching The Babies
In my travels, I visited some quality bird shops and spent time with many wonderful breeders. It is delightful to watch them feed and work with their babies. Raising baby parrots can be very difficult, time-consuming work. Work may not always be the operative word in this case. I have watched sheer delight on the faces of several breeders as they feed, wipe their babies' faces, or encourage them to play. These people are truly concerned about the lives of the birds that they have been entrusted with. They check out potential owners as if their baby birds were being placed with adoptive parents. Buyers are given a great amount of information about their baby and its care. Sources for continuing education are also provided. Babies are not sold unweaned and if they are, the new owner is given careful on-the-job training and comprehensive instructions in hand feeding. Babies are weaned to a nutritious varied diet. The quality breeder or shop gives a health guarantee and genuinely wants to know and help if there is any problem. Anyone, even the best, can occasionally sell a bird with a problem. The good ones work with new owners to resolve these problems. Many of the breeders that I talk to maintain a good relationship with their customers and enjoy hearing anecdotes about the antics of the maturing babies, just like any proud "grandparent" would.
Editor's note: (by Terry Beaudoin)
Although this article first appeared in a 1992 issue of the Pet Bird Report (recently retitled the Companion Parrot Quarterly) , it is still as relevant today as it was when first printed. In an in-depth conversation with Sally during both her April 1998 and April 2000 seminars (sponsored by Parrot Island), Sally expressed great concern over the loss of so many quality breeders. This is due to the proliferation of large scale production breeding facilities which have greatly benefited from the demand for their birds created by the ''WalMart-like'' pet warehouse stores. As mentioned in Sharišs article titled ''Selecting A Quality Breeder or Pet Store,'' at Parrot Island we have a select few birds available. We strongly encourage the following of both Sally's and our sentiments when purchasing a companion bird.
Also during these conversations Sally expressed the difficulties she has determining over the phone which breeders and stores actually ''practice what they preach.'' The prospective bird owner many times faces the same difficulty. Unfortunately many breeders portray themselves one way when reality is quite different. Keeping the above concerns in mind, one method which can help you determine a lot about a breeding facility is to express great interest (behave positively) in how many different species and babies are produced by that breeder. If they relate to you that they raise numerous species of birds and produce large quantities of babies this is an accurate identification of a large scale breeding situation. No one should support a breeder who raises their birds in what would be considered ''puppy-mill'' like conditions. If you are lucky enough to find a breeder who follows the ideas expressed in Shari and Sally's articles be sure to not only support them yourselves but refer others to them. This is one way to combat the trend in loss of quality breeders mentioned by Sally.