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Where Do you find the right bird?
Well, there are few little things you need to consider before you start choosing names and buying up supplies.
Like what, you say. A pet bird needs more than just a cage , a few toys, some food thrown it's way now and again. They are intelligent and interactive members of the family (or flock) and like, no-need, to be a part of that unit to be happy, healthy and productive.
This is by no means a complete list of considerations to be made as of course there are different circumstances for each bird owner- or potential bird owner.
This checklist will be of use to the novice bird owner seeking the addition to their family of their first bird, and to the veteran birder who already has a bird or 2 allowing them to live in their space.
First you need to evaluate your expectations for your new bird friend. Do you want a quiet companion to keep you company? Or do you want a chatterbox that will keep you entertained for hours on end? Are you looking for a cuddly snuggle-bug, or is a large and majestic bird more to your taste?
Got the picture? There are as many birds as there are people wanting them so it is imperative that you take the time to think about these things.
Ok- you know what you think you want in a bird. Now the hard part---
What does the bird want from you?
Housing is important. Does this bird need a large cage that takes up half a room, or a small tabletop model that fits easily into any room in the house?
While on the topic of space needed there must also be included the play gyms or climbing toys needed and enjoyed by many species. They are large and small, decorative or plain, easily broken down and made as permanent furniture. Consider what the bird will be doing on, or to it.
Alrighty then. You have figured out what you want in a bird, where to put it and what to let it play on.
Now on to the really hard part. Finding out if you are the right person for that bird!
Where do you live?
Are you an apartment dweller? Live in a modest, but not well insulated, town home in the city? Or are you in the suburbs with a yard and trees and neighbors at a comfortable distance?
Noise level of your new bird MUST be a consideration if you live in close confines or poorly insulated housing. You may love your new bird, but that doesn't mean the neighbors will!
Are you gone 8,10,12 hours a day for a long commute and hectic day at work? Are you a stay at home Mom or work from an office in your house?
These too are import considerations. If you are gone for long hours you must take great care to choose a bird species that is known to entertain itself and not require constant attention. This is not to say that a species that is known to prefer more attention and can be more demanding cannot adjust to your schedule, but it certainly makes more sense to consider this before, not after your new baby develops a problem from being left alone and lonely for long periods of time.
Budgeting for your new bird.
There are the initial costs of the bird to thin about of course. Paying for the bird from the breeder or pet store comes first, but then there are other hidden expenses, if you will. The cage and the toys to put in it, the food and treats and perches are important additions to any standard cage. Then there is the cost of the vet exam- and I highly recommend you do this as soon as you are able after your purchase. I give a health guarantee on my birds for 7 days, but only if they are taken to a vet within the first 48 hours of ownership. It is imperative that the bird be looked at and checked for infection, poor health, etc right away in order to be able to pinpoint where the problem came from. Once you take your bird form the breeders presence it could have been exposed to all manner of diseases and bacteria that may cause general ill health. The Stress of moving the bird to a new home and strange environs can cause a latent illness to surface and deferred exam by a qualified vet will only make it more difficult to find the origin of illness. As a breeder I cannot guarantee against anything that may have come from somewhere other than my stock and aviary itself and being seen by the vet in that 48 hours should be sufficient to establish the origin of an illness as being from my abode. Generally, an illness that was already there will show itself within a few days from the stresses of the move and new home. Remember , that is my policy and many breeders and even more pet stores carry no health guarantees at all.
Pet Store vs. Breeder
Ok- I mentioned buying the bird from a breeder or a pet store. This is your decision, but I would like to think that you are making an informed decision so I will help you along those lines too.
Not all pet stores are bad, and not all breeders are good. That is a general misconception that I want to quickly dispell. I have seen stores that were started because the breeder had run out of room in his/her home and needed to expand. On the inverse, I have seen breeders over crowded with dirty cages and ill kept birds that had plenty of room to provide better conditions- they just did not feel the need. Long and short of it is to research and ask questions. Then decide based on the answers, not on impulse. Do NOT buy a bird from a poor situation to save it. This only re-inforces the poor conditions and does not make the owner change any of his practices. And why should he? His birds are being bought as they are.
(For more information on choosing a breeder see the article below)
Final consideration for choosing your new bird is really very simple.
Do you have children? Are they older and planning to take an active interest in the care of the bird? Or are they babies or toddlers that may actually cause the bird harm (however innocently it may occur, accidents do happen!)
Having small children in the home does not mean that birds cannot be a part of the family unit. On the contrary, if you are watchful and careful, there is no reason that you cannot enjoy both the children and the bird. I myself have 3 children under 5 that interact and socialize with my birds from a very young age- usually before they are weaned. The kids are supervised and have been taught how to correctly handle and behave with the birds. No running with a bird, support the rear and cup the hand gently over the back while the bird is on your chest, never feed the bird anything unless Mommy gives it to you to give to the bird, and most importantly -NO SLEEPING WITH THE BIRD!
Ok- there you have a little thought provoking advice and some guidelines to help you make an informed decision. As I have stated previously, there are as many bird species as there are people who want one. Taking the time to look at the birds you like and consider not only their needs, but your ability to provide those needs will go a long way toward ensuring a healthy, happy and long relationship with your new bird.
How to Choose a Breeder
You have decided on the bird you want, nowhere to get it?
There are many breeders around with just about any type of bird you can imagine.
Here some things to consider when searching for a breeder from which to purchase your new bird.
Where is the breeder located?
If it is near to you within a reasonable distance to drive in a day then seriously consider this source. If it would be an over night trip then, unless you have extensive bird experience, I would recommend that you pass on that breeder. You can have birds shipped but make sure you have in writing what you will be getting and what you can expect in restitution should you not receive what you were expecting. I try always to deal with clients face to face. I have made mistakes and I am an experienced breeder and bird owner!
Location aside, next you need to check out the breeder and the facility.
This is not always easy- especially if you are an instant gratification type of person.
To help this step along I have this website and I do phone consultations as well as using e-mail to get to know my clients and potential clients.
When you contact the breeder, ask a lot of questions. I mean ask anything that comes to mind- about the birds of course. If you do not like the answer, ask again. If the answer sounds too simple or contrite, or if you are talked down to, find some other breeders in your area right away. Ask them the same questions and then compare answers. Remember that not all breeders do things the same way. This is not bad, but you will see enough similarities in attitudes, general health practices and basic care to know what you want to see in the person raising your new family member.
Go and meet the breeder in person. If they do not allow you in the breeding room, do not be offended. This is called a closed aviary and is not uncommon at all. They are not hiding anything from you, rather they are protecting the health of their parent birds and the new hatchlings. If you are asked to wash before handling any babies they have available, again do not be offended. It is not you in particular, but more the prospect of unwanted germs that may be carried from other birds and their accoutrements that the breeder is trying to keep at bay.
How do they raise their birds? Are they part of the family unit, or are they tucked away with only one or 2 people interacting with them? Are they around children, other pets, other bird species? If you have children, other pets or own other birds, than this type of early socialization is necessary to assure your new bird will adapt and fit in to the flow of your family life style. If you have an active life-style with a lot of coming and going, try not to choose a baby that has been in a relatively serene and controlled environment. Adjusting to a home that is in complete opposition to the one in which it was raised may lead to countless behavior problems that can arise later in life. There is much being discovered in the field of animal behavior and much that we do not yet understand about the part we, the owners, play in establishing these behaviors. Rule of thumb to follow- the more socialization as a youngster, the more able to cope with changes the bird will be. Again, this is not to say that a bird from an active environment cannot settle into a life of quiet and restfulness, or that a bird from an insular environment cannot adapt and open up to enjoy life in, and become a part of, a busy family. Each bird is different and sometimes, when the bond is right, well anything is possible!
Establish a rapport with the breeder. If you feel comfortable with them and trust them your chances of having a problem later on are greatly diminished. On the flip side of that is to trust your instincts. If you are not feeling comfortable, for whatever reason, then do not buy a bird from that person. Often you can pick up on something without ever knowing what it is that caused the dislike. Better safe then sorry and out a few hundred bucks and a bird too!
As I have said, not all breeders are good and not all pet stores are bad. It takes a bit of time to be able to discern the differences. Remember- if it seems too good to be true, it usually is. I am all for getting a good deal or finding a bargain, but in general there are no bargains that are just a bird being sold cheap. Find out why the deep discount and consider the logistics. If you want a baby bird and it is the last of the clutch and it is 3-4-5 months old- yes, the breeder very well may be ready to unload it at a discount, especially if there are more eggs getting ready to hatch. If a breeder is selling breeding stock for financial or personal reasons-well, think hard and ask for any breeding records from that bird, or pair of birds. Ask for health records and vet information as well. If any of this is not given, or given reluctantly, re-think the acquisition. This goes for the purchase of any birds being offered. If it seems like it just doesn't ring true- don't do it. If you chose to follow through, than be prepared for any problems that may arise.
Ok- that should cover the basics. Talk to the breeder. Visit the facility- not once, but several times if you can. Get to know them and see how they raise the birds in their care. Try to visit at different times of the day so you can see them doing different things in the aviary - feeding, playing, grooming. Ask questions and when you are done, ask some more. If they are reluctant to answer- or the answers seem pat and too much like what you wanted to hear, ask someone else! Via the internet you can get opinions from breeders and vets and birders all over the world. Use this resource to your advantage! Remember to trust your instincts on this.
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Too Many Eggs!
by Dawn Hanlon
Is your loving pet bird laying eggs without a mate? If so here is some important information and tips to get her to stop laying and go back to being your loving pet once again.
First you have to understand what makes a hen lay eggs. In the wild, birds lay eggs to continue the species. In most places this occurs in Spring, when the days become warmer and daylight hours increase. Often this time of year is accompanied by an increase in rainfall and an increase in fresh food stuffs with the growth of foliage and fruits. The birds know that when the eggs hatch out there will be a ready supply of new fruits and berries and other healthy tidbits for them to feed to their fast-growing chicks. Those are the basics of procreation, no matter the species.
Now, how does this affect your single hen in her cage in your house? Well, breeders like myself create conditions that are optimal for breeding in our aviaries for year round hatching. To imitate nature we provide artificial lighting that simulates the sunlight, fresh foods, and high humidity levels. Also available are warmer temperatures and nesting material. You may be imitating these same things a little too well and stimulating breeding or egg laying in your own home without realizing it.
To stop a single hen from laying, and therefore regain your loving and adorable sweetheart, you have to take a look at her surroundings. Is there a full-spectrum type of lighting in the room such as a fluorescent fixture? Or large windows that let in sunlight during the longest and hottest part of the day? If so, this could be a major contributor to the egg laying. Try keeping a shade over the windows or only partially open, to cut back on full light exposure. Try not turning the overhead light on until later in the day. By limiting light exposure to less than 12 hours a day you will replicate the Fall shortening of days. In many cases this is enough to break the egg laying cycle.
If you feed your birds fresh foods, and I strongly recommend this practice for all bird species, you may be giving her signals to breed by letting her know that a large and never ending food source is available. This is a very attractive setting for any mother with hungry mouths to feed and a very strong factor in the reproduction cycle. Do not stop giving the fresh foods, but give them less frequently or in smaller amounts. The natural reduction of fresh foods available in the wild stimulates the birds to stop breeding so imitating this in your home should be as effective.
What type of nesting or cage lining do you use? If you have a cage grate, a lining of newspaper (preferred for disease control), or wood chips should not make a difference. But, if you have no grate, you may notice that your hen is shredding the paper or wood chips and making a little nest-like area in a corner of the cage. Try changing the type of cage material you use as well as moving the cage perches and toys around. A change in environment will often pull the hen out of breeding mode.
Along with the cage material you should check to see if she is trying to feed a particular toy, or if she has a "special"; place on a perch that she uses as a "mate". If so, remove this article at once.
Lighting, food availability, nesting material and a "mate" have been identified as possible contributors to excessive egg laying. It may be one of these things that is the cause, or it may be a combination of these. Only persistence and observation will tell you just what you need to do to stop the egg laying.
If your hen is laying eggs, do not remove them as she lays. This stimulates her to continue laying to replace the lost egg(s). Let her lay her clutch and sit on it as she will. After several weeks she will tire of this activity, especially when no babies begin hatching, and you can safely remove and dispose of the infertile eggs.
Why not let her lay eggs? Well, there are several reasons to prevent excessive egg laying. The least of which is to get her to stop being a nippy, protective mother and have her become your sweet and adoring pet. But, there are health issues that can arise with excessive egg laying as well. Loss of calcium and other much needed nutrients can lead to osteoporosis, or brittle bones. Flapping her own wings could cause a bone to break! Another problem is starvation. Even though she is eating, if the food is not high enough in protein and fat and other needed nutrients, she can effectively starve to death. Her metabolism is on high when she is producing eggs. This is a very intricate body function that takes a lot of energy and nutrients to manufacture eggs.
Another very dangerous aspect of excessive egg laying and depletion of nutrition is the increased chance of egg-binding. The hen may not be able to pass an egg for various reasons. Low humidity, being too young or having laid too many eggs causing scar tissue to form in the egg tract, or being too weak from laying too many eggs in too short a time are just a few. This is a life- threatening problem and if you do not know what to look for, or what to do to help, your hen could die before you even realize there is a problem. Egg binding is an extreme example of what could happen, but the dangers are very real and need to be considered seriously.
Getting a mate for your bird is not the answer. Just because she lays does not mean she wants to breed, it only means that instinct has recognized the correct conditions for breeding and has taken over.
By examining your hen, her surroundings and her diet, you can very effectively stop this behavior. In so doing you are helping not only her, but yourself as well. Her health will improve, her mood swings will stop and you can look forward to a long and happy relationship with each other once again.
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YOUR NEW BIRD
Well, now that you have chosen a bird what do you do with it?
If I have done my job you now have in your possession a lovely bit of fluff to call your own who is eager to please and spend a lot of time with you.
Now you have to do your job.
Make sure that the cage you bring your new baby home to is large enough to allow the bird to stretch his wings to their full extent and to flap without tangling in the bars.
Next check the distance between the bars. If you have a new cockatiel or lovebird the bar spacing should not be more than 5/8 inches and the bars should not be easily bent or moved by you. Your little dear may never bite you, but those bars are not so lucky and that beak is capable of bending the bars .If they are too thin he can get his head stuck and then--- well, you know what could happen.
And while on the subject of bar spacing please check the grate at the bottom of the cage. I prefer not to use grates but if there is one please make sure that the space all the way around the grate is the same as the cage bars. In many cases it will be larger around the bottom and the bird can, and will, get his head down there for a tasty morsel dropped between the grate bars. I have had this happen and my little dear did not make it.
Perches are another big decision. Make sure there are lots of places to sit and that they are different diameters. I like to use different materials for the perches to give the feet a change and give them some exercise.
I wean all of my babies to Mazuri brand pellets and Kaytee brand seed mixes. You will have gotten a small bag of what they are used to eating when you received your bird. The Mazuri can be obtained through me or at any Purina brand distributor. You can find Kaytee products- I use Nutridiet and Fiesta- at your local pet supply store.
Fresh foods vs.pelleted and seed diets-
You will find there are many opinions about the need for fresh foods and seeds when your bird is on a pelleted diet. I feel that the opening of the seeds is a good exercise for the bird as well as an activity that occupies them much as it would in the wild. I give my birds fresh fruits and vegetables several times a week- not that they eat it, but I put it in there! My birds also love birdie bread-a muffin type mix made from corn bread mix- and just about anything else you think your birds may like. Just do not add honey as it can harbor some pathogens that can make birdies very ill. Another thing that my birds enjoy is hardboiled eggs. Let the eggs boil for at least 30 minutes to make sure they are done and then put into a food processor, shell and all, with some whole wheat or raisin bread or what ever else is lying around the fridge. Corn and carrots are always a welcome addition. Warm oatmeal is another treat the birds seem to enjoy on occasion. I offer it and they eat it usually. As with any other living thing, you can offer but you cannot make them eat it. Not all my birds like all of these, but these are the things that most seem to prefer. You will, in time, find out just what your sweetie prefers.
Vet Care -
The final thing on the list for you to provide is proper veterinary care. It is not always possible to find an Avian certified vet but it is possible to find a vet with bird experience and willing to learn more to help your pet. If you live in the Baltimore area there are several Avian certified vets in the area that come highly recommended. For those of you in the DC/VA area there are also several vets that are available to you. There are some good things to be found in a major metropolis! Make sure to ask your vet as many questions about his or her experience with birds and their illnesses/health care. If you are not satisfied with the answers talk to another vet. Keep interviewing until you find a vet that you are comfortable with and that you would trust to take care of you in an emergency. Then you will know that you have found the right vet for your bird.
I recommend you have your bird checked by a vet within the first 48 hours. This ensures that you will find out about any possible health problems and treatment can begin right away. It also lets me know if there is anything that I need to look for in my aviary.
If you should find that a bird purchased from me has an illness contact me immediately. Upon conferring with your vet I will either reimburse the vet bill or replace the bird with another from my aviary.
If you have any questions about the care of your bird or any other aspect of owning a pet bird please do not hesitate to call !