by Heike Ewing Ott
Many avian enthusiasts have noticed a trend of more and more parrots going to second and third homes. What is causing this trend, and is there anything that the bird community can do to help keep birds in their first homes? An experienced breeder shares her thoughts on this subject.
In 4 years of selling parrots, I only had 3 birds returned, and as far as I know no one has gotten rid of any of my birds, because I had a clause in my contract for anything larger than a cockatiel that said they HAD to offer me the bird back first, at a percentage of the purchase price depending on how long they’d had it.
Why? I think it’s because I was clearly and graphically honest about the responsibilities and the disadvantages and problems associated with parrot ownership. If somebody came to me thinking they wanted a Gray, I explained that these birds are high-strung, not cuddly (in general), and tend to bond to one person only. If someone wanted a conure, I explained about noise, level of activity, and relatively poor talking ability, and so on….
I would talk to people about their lifestyle, ages of children, other pets, etc., and try to guide them to the most appropriate parrot for them…even if it was one I didn’t have. I lost some sales, and some sales that might have been a CAG or TAG became a conure or even a cockatiel, but some of these also became loyal customers for supplies and recommended me to others. I thought the trade-off was worth it, especially when I considered the needs and emotional health of the parrots.
So, my point is, I think that breeders and pet stores bear some, if not most, of the responsibility for much of the “used bird” phenomenon. They are eager to sell the parrot, especially if it’s an expensive one, and they don’t WANT to talk about the downside of parrots, or a particular parrot.
Thus, the new owner is not prepared for biting, moodiness, messiness, noise, a bird who attacks everyone in the family except their “chosen” person, who may not be the person that wanted the bird, cage-cleaning, etc. Most of my customers came back to me and said something like “Gee, it’s not nearly as bad as you said it might be…” They were PREPARED for worst-case scenario, and determined to get that parrot anyway. Thus, I had very few returns or people who were overwhelmed, dissatisfied, surprised, etc.
It’s my personal opinion that any person who sells living things for a living has a responsibility to try to make sure that living thing is going to a healthy, safe environment that is prepared for the negatives of that animal as well as the positives, and under-stands how to care for it properly. It’s also my opinion that most pet stores do a lousy job of it, and so do some breeders.
I have many times refused to sell a bird because the prospective owners had inappropriate expectations, wanted a bird only to “talk”, wouldn’t feed pellets and fresh food, or didn’t intend to keep the wings clipped. Yeah, it takes time, it sometimes causes lost sales, and it’s a pain in the rear, but it does seem to cut down on “used” birds.
I can honestly say that my primary concern was always the well-being of the bird, and oddly enough I think that was part of the reason for my success until the (then) husband shut me down. I also wouldn’t sell a bird with too small of a cage or no toys, and I provided all new owners with a referral card to my avian vet that gave them a discount on their first visit (had a deal with the vet), and had ALL my babies checked out by said vet prior to selling them. When I would take 20 or 30 babies in at a time for well-baby checkups, it cost me less than $10, sometimes $5, a bird to do so.