Over the course of my career as an avian practitioner, I have been exposed to a number of sad circumstances involving the acquisition and sale of pet birds. During the course of the transaction, you will be required to provide careful attention to a number of important factors, and in this context, I would like to make some suggestions that will be of use to you.
Deal with a quality breeder/pet store.
This cannot be emphasized enough! The avicultural community has multiple reputable bird breeders and pet retailers – the challenge is finding them. Reputation is highly essential. In each given neighborhood certain names of breeders/pet businesses come up repeatedly as excellent sources of birds. Occasionally if someone is hunting for a certain sort of bird that may not be very frequent they may need to venture outside their home state. The trick is to deal with a well-established source with strong references. Although a long-established reputation is preferable there are very determined, successful breeders that may have been in business for a relatively short amount of time. Local bird groups, checking with local avian veterinarians, and visiting local pet shops are all excellent options for locating reputable suppliers of birds. There are certain large-scale companies that will advertise in national magazines devoted to bird fanciers. Collect as much information as you can on the possible sources. Make a list of questions you want to be answered, then consult with the breeder or store employee until you feel comfortable doing business with them. It’s possible that purchasing birds from quality suppliers will cost more initially, but in the long term, the assistance you’ll receive after the sale and the care that went into raising the birds will make the investment more than worthwhile.
If it’s too good to be true, it probably is!
There are frequently dubious sources of birds that offer them at prices that are significantly cheaper than the going market rate. Be wary of those who try to sell birds from the comfort of their motel rooms, flea markets, or “on the street.” These birds are frequently trafficked illegally and may even have been stolen at some point. If you have any doubts about the legitimacy of the issue, contact the USDA office in your area. Check the leg of the bird for a closed band if the seller claims that the birds were hand-raised and you want to believe them. When they are young, these full metal rings are fitted around their legs, and even as their legs get longer, the band will not able to fall off. The older birds that have been through the process of being quarantined will receive the usual USDA band, which is a C-shaped band with three letters and three numbers on it (such as ABC 123).
If the bird purchased does not have a band, you should be wary of it. Sometimes bands are removed from birds since they can be bothersome to the legs of the bird, but there should still be some kind of record provided. When a band is removed from a bird by a veterinarian, it is best practice to record both the type of band and the number of the band. This information ought to be recorded in the patient’s medical record as well as the material that is provided to the patient. Even though some breeders choose not to band their birds, it is still important for them to keep records so that the progression of the bird may be tracked.
The purchase of a smuggled bird comes with the inherent danger that the bird is more likely to be infected with a disease. Newcastle Disease is a viral disease that affects the nervous system and can harm birds of all kinds. This disease causes widespread panic among bird enthusiasts all over the world because it can hit any species of bird. Because of this sickness, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) established a quarantine system in order to prevent the disease from entering the country. There are still sporadic outbreaks, which are mostly attributed to illegally imported birds. A bird that was part of a group that was illegally brought into the Chicago region around nine years ago was the subject of my own personal diagnosis of the disease. This bird was a spectacled Amazon that had the crown of its head bleached yellow to make it appear to be a “baby double yellow-headed Amazon.” It was purchased for the price of $200 on the street. Wow, that’s quite the steal!! If such a bird were to be purchased and added to a collection of other birds, there is a significant danger that could occur. If the bird was exposed to other birds when it was infected with Newcastle Disease, the disease could spread. The sickness could then spread to these other birds, which could ultimately result in the development of neurological symptoms and death. If the USDA was able to track this bird to a specific collection, they would perform Newcastle Disease tests on every bird that had been exposed to it. In the event that any of these birds returned a positive test, all of the birds may be seized and put down. Psittacosis, often known as parrot fever, is another infectious disease that could be carried by birds that have been illegally imported into the country. This threat to human health could make anyone sick who came into touch with the bird.
Another thing to keep in mind is that there are times when birds are sold at a low price because the seller suspects that they have some kind of issue. You should ask the owner a lot of questions about the circumstances surrounding the bird’s surrender if the owner is giving it up. The majority of the time, these are valid causes, such as changes in lifestyle or personality issues, etc. However, there are instances in which it has been determined that the bird has a medical or surgical issue, and the person is attempting to “dump” the bird or birds because of this. When purchasing a bird that has been owned in the past, it is vital to collect all of the bird’s medical records, and the transaction should be contingent upon a physical examination being performed by a qualified avian veterinarian. If they are unwilling to have this done to them, then it is only natural that they would be unwilling to buy the bird.
Get it in writing/Obtain a guarantee.
“Get it in writing!” was a phrase that was frequently repeated by Judge Wapner on the People’s Court. This is of the utmost significance. It is the responsibility of the person selling the bird to provide a reasonable and fair guarantee that the buyer and seller must both sign. In the event that any unanticipated issues arise in the future, this document can be used as evidence in court. Maintain compliance with the terms of the assurance. If the guarantee specifies a period of time within which the bird needs to be evaluated by an avian veterinarian, then the examination needs to take place within that time limit. All too frequently, the situation has arisen when a new bird is brought in for an inspection because it has become ill after being in its new home for a period of time ranging from one to two weeks. The next question that has to be answered is when the bird started showing signs of illness. When it was bought, did it already have an illness? Did it become ill after moving into its new home? Who is accountable for the financial burden of the necessary medical care? When it comes to bacterial infections, the first one to two weeks after purchase cannot be definitively linked to a pre-existing ailment. This is because, during this time period, an infection like this could very easily arise in the new environment. If the bird had been examined not more than a few days after the purchase and there was an increased presence of bacteria, then the ailment was most likely present before the purchase. The purchaser is safeguarded by a written guarantee that includes such a time clause. This is due to the fact that a reputable breeder or pet store will stand by its bird in the event that such a condition is discovered, and they will assume responsibility for its care or replacement. Verbal agreements are not enough. Because there are many instances in which both parties claim that particular promises were or were not made, it is in everyone’s best interest to have them spelled out explicitly and agreed upon at the time of purchase. Because there are numerous forms of avian diseases, including some of the most dangerous viruses, it is in the best interest of the customer to have as much support as possible from the breeder or pet store.
The sale should be contingent upon an examination by an avian veterinarian.
When we were talking about buying a previously owned bird that was being sold for an extremely low price earlier, we made a passing reference to this fact. An examination by an avian veterinarian is highly suggested for any bird that has recently been acquired. To ensure that the bird being purchased is in good health, a comprehensive physical examination should be carried out, and a number of different tests ought to be considered as potential next steps. In the event that any issues are discovered during the preliminary examination, the breeder or pet store should be consulted in order to determine the proper next steps. They may decide to treat the bird themselves, they may decide to have the purchaser treat the bird and they will pay for the medication, or they may decide to have the bird returned to them in the event that the problem is more severe. Be certain that the assurance contains a clause that specifies an inspection by an avian veterinarian as well as the actions that would be taken in the event that a problem was discovered.
Pay close attention to the seller’s advice.
When it comes to birds, there are some individuals who may believe that they know everything there is to know about them, but it is important to listen to any information that the breeder or pet store has to share about the bird. If they are hand-feeding the bird, they need to offer the recipe (or at least specify the type) that they are using for the hand-feeding process. They need to talk about the feeding schedule that is now being followed, as well as a weaning strategy that will be implemented when the bird is to be converted to self-feeding. In the event that the bird has already been weaned, the purchaser needs to be notified of the type of food and any additives that are currently being provided for the bird. For instance, if the new bird was used to eating seeds and was instantly switched to eating pellets in its new home, it might die of starvation because it is not used to eating pellets. Allow the bird to become accustomed to its new surroundings by feeding it food it is used to, and then, if you feel it is ready, switch the bird’s diet to one that is more nutritionally sound once it is thriving in its new home. Before taking the bird home, it is a good idea to compile a list of questions or concerns that you want to discuss with the breeder or pet store. They need to show respect for any questions that are asked of them by responding to them in depth and taking the time to do so. Because of the excitement of taking the bird home, it is a good idea to write these questions down because it is possible that important questions will be forgotten.
Baby Birds/Hand feeding birds.
The purchase of a recently weaned bird or the practice of hand-feeding a young bird carries with it the risk of failure for individuals who are not familiar with the specific challenges associated with these species of birds or who are not well prepared for those challenges. The pleasure of raising a young bird is unlike any other. The birds are kind and affectionate, and they have a strong connection with their human companions. Some people believe that the bird and its new owner might form an even stronger attachment if the bird is fed by the new owner by hand. On the other hand, if it is not done correctly, hand feeding can be quite hazardous, and some breeders and pet retailers will not sell any birds unless they have been weaned. Even if the new owner does not actually undertake the hand feeding, a weaned baby bird will still build a close attachment with its previous caretaker. If someone is adamant about hand-feeding a newborn bird, they should be prepared to make a long-term commitment to the endeavor and educate themselves on the right technique to ensure the bird’s safety at all times. The following is a discussion of some worries and difficulties that have been experienced in connection with the acquisition of young birds.
- Is the bird really weaned?
On occasion, a young bird will be sold with the description “freshly weaned;” nevertheless, when the bird is introduced to a new environment, it may become “apprehensive” and regress to “babyhood,” in which case it would not feed on its own and would rather be fed by hand. Keep an eye on how much food the new bird is eating. Sometimes it appears as though the bird is eating, but in reality, it is probably just playing with the food. If the bird does consume seed, it is possible that it is only breaking the hull and not actually eating the seed. It’s possible that a pellet eater is only smashing the pellet into powder and not actually eating it. Examining the droppings is the most accurate method for determining the amount of food that was consumed because everything that is consumed must be expelled. It is important that the droppings contain a significant amount of feces. Before you take the bird home, make sure you look at its droppings at the breeder or pet store. Gain an understanding of the bird’s typical droppings, both in terms of their appearance and the number that they produce. A change in the number of droppings or their appearance could be an indication that there is a problem. If the bird’s droppings are completely white or include very little fecal content, it’s possible that it’s not getting enough to eat. If this is the case, then the bird will probably need to be hand-fed again until it starts eating on its own. This may take some time. In the event that this happens, you should seek advice from the breeder. Do not make the assumption that the bird will continue to eat well in its new environment just because it has been weaned. Pay careful attention to the manner in which they eat. During their time in practice, avian vets have likely seen multiple situations in which newborn birds have been admitted to the hospital in a serious condition and appear thin due to the fact that the bird was not eating enough on its own. The owner either isn’t paying attention or doesn’t have enough experience to properly evaluate the eating habits of the bird, which is causing these unlucky birds to starve to death.
- Purchase a scale.
If a young bird is acquired, a scale is almost certainly going to be one of the best investments that can be made (or an adult bird for that matter). When it comes to recently acquired baby birds, it is practically a requirement to assist protect the financial investment. The weight of the young birds should be determined each morning with their crop emptied before they are fed at the same relative time. You may find scales that are both high-quality and affordable, and they should be able to deliver precise readings in grams. Although it’s normal for your weight to shift slightly from day to day, you should be concerned if you notice a consistent downward trend in your weight. A decrease in the bird’s weight when it is being weaned is to be expected; however, a significant decrease may suggest that the bird is being weaned too rapidly. These weights need to be recorded, and trends should be taken into consideration. During the difficult transition from being hand-fed to eating on its own, it is important to monitor newborn birds in a number of different ways. Two of the most effective methods include checking the droppings and the bird’s weight on a regular basis.
- Practice hand feeding with the breeder/pet store
If a person wants to feed a bird by hand, they must ensure that they are capable of doing so in the correct manner; otherwise, they run the risk of injuring the bird, causing illness, or even causing the bird’s death. It cannot be emphasized enough how crucial it is to practice hand-feeding the bird under the careful supervision of the breeder before the bird is taken home and done so without assistance. It would be excellent if the breeder or the pet store would allow the new owner to prepare the food, check the temperature, and feed the bird under their direction a few times until the necessary skills are formed, especially if the new owner is a newbie to the procedure of hand feeding the bird. It is recommended that, initially, the breeder use the exact same formula that the bird was reared on (although this can be modified later if desired) and that the consistency be the same as well. If there is a rapid shift in the diet or the consistency of the food, the bird may become recalcitrant to consume it. It’s possible that the bird won’t eat if the temperature of the food is too hot or too cold compared to what it’s used to. Again, the breeder should be consulted regarding the temperature ranges. Another word of caution: if the food is too hot, there is a risk of burning and damaging the crop. As a result, it is important to check each syringe after it has been drawn up to ensure that it is not too hot. This is especially important to do if the food was microwaved because microwaves produce uneven heating.
It is recommended that the actual hand feeding be carried out under the instruction of the breeder. This will allow the bird to acquire accustomed to specific positions and the handling that occurs during the feeding process. If the bird is placed in an unfamiliar posture during feeding, or if the feeder’s hand is held in a manner that is unfamiliar to the bird, it may refuse to eat. Performing this action in the presence of the breeder will make it possible for them to provide help with the appropriate method that the bird was used to use when it was being hand fed. It is possible for the bird to aspirate food into the trachea or lungs if it is handled improperly or if the crop is accidentally overfilled. If this happens, the bird could pass away abruptly or get aspiration pneumonia. Because of this, proper training provided by the breeder is essential to ensure the bird’s continued good health.
- Obtain a copy of the feeding schedule and the amount fed
It is the responsibility of the breeder or the pet store to disclose the type of diet, the amount of food provided at each feeding, and the frequency with which the bird is fed. In addition, a suitable plan should be put together so that there is a protocol on how to wean the bird once it begins eating on its own. This will ensure that the bird is not harmed during the process. If the breeder was giving the bird 30 cc of food three times a day, and now that the bird is home, it is only taking in 10 cc of food twice a day, this could be a potential concern, especially in young birds that are not yet eating anything on their own. Even if the bird was able to eat on its own or was doing well with just one feeding per day, the stress of being in a new environment can cause it to become so upset that it may not eat well enough to keep its condition up even though it was doing so previously. In a circumstance such as this, it may be necessary to increase the number of times the bird is fed, or the bird that has been “weaned” may need to be hand-fed until it becomes accustomed to its new environment. Again, keeping track of the animal’s weight and feces are an excellent technique for determining the amount of food consumed. Make it a point to ask the breeder or the employee at the pet store as many questions as you can about the bird and the feeding routine or plan they have for it. Maintain communication with them in the event that there are any challenges or worries so that the bird’s health can be properly monitored and cared for.
Isolate any new bird from your collection for at least 30 days.
People frequently make the error of not isolating a new bird when they add it to their collection, which is one of the most common mistakes that people do. When a bird is moved to a new environment, there is a significant chance that it will spread disease to other birds in the collection. This is because, in the event that disease-causing organisms are present in the bird at the time of the move, the bird may shed these organisms, which can then be passed on to the other birds in the collection. Given the existence of fatal avian diseases, this is a risk that should be avoided at all costs. When the new bird is exposed to the environment and is under stress, there is the possibility that it will pick up a condition that is already present in one of the other birds. This is another factor to take into consideration. This condition may be at a level low enough such that it will not cause disease in a healthy bird that is not stressed, but a new arrival with diminished resistance could be at risk for contracting the disease. Even if a newly purchased bird had been given a clean bill of health by an avian veterinarian, it is still imperative that it be isolated for the prescribed period of time. This is because some conditions may be undetectable or maybe incubating only to develop 1-2 weeks after introduction into the new environment. Isolating the bird for the prescribed period of time is the only way to ensure that it remains healthy. Additionally, it is important to separate any little birds, such as cockatiels and parakeets. People have the impression that these relatively small birds can be put with others as soon as they have purchased them. These birds are very susceptible to the presence of serious diseases. Another thing that should make people worried is the high likelihood that these birds would carry parasite ailments like Giardia, which can easily be passed on to the other birds in a collection if they are kept together. It is recommended that they be examined prior to being introduced to other birds. As part of this inspection, a FRESH fecal sample should be examined to see whether or not any parasites are present.
The requirement of complete isolation for a period of thirty days does not just entail placing the bird in a separate enclosure. The bird should be housed in a separate room, the utensils used to handle it should be washed separately from those used for the other birds, and when the bird is handled, the handler’s hands should be completely washed before moving on to handle other birds. It is quite upsetting when birds in a collection become infected with a disease that originated from a newly imported bird and which could have been avoided if correct husbandry practices had been utilized. There have been several cases in which people who should have known better spread diseases to their birds as a result of the thoughtless introduction of a new disease-carrying bird that appeared healthy on the outside. These cases have occurred on multiple occasions. The duration of thirty days is advised because, if the bird suffers from a sickness condition, it will probably recover from the illness within this time frame, particularly because it is being stressed in its new surroundings. This is the rationale for the suggestion. It is not enough to have the bird in the vicinity of other birds and then isolate it when it shows signs of sickness. This is because in many disease conditions, the shedding of the disease organisms occurs before clinical signs of disease are evident. This means that having the bird in the vicinity of other birds is not sufficient. Unfortunately, even after completing this isolation period, it is not possible to guarantee that a bird will not be a possible source of disease for the other birds in the flock. There are several types of birds that are able to conceal the fact that they are carriers of diseases such as psittacosis. Other disorders, such as Proventricular Dilatation Syndrome, are capable of lingering in birds for extended periods of time and causing outbreaks of the disease many years later. Nevertheless, the best that can be done is to eliminate as much risk as possible, which is why the 30-day period of isolation is absolutely necessary. It is my sincere hope that the impressive level of avian research will be maintained over the coming years. In this way, veterinary practitioners will be able to continue to have access to innovative diagnostic tools and treatments for the diseases that wreak havoc on the population of pet birds.
If you, a member of your family, or a friend are thinking about getting a new bird, I hope the information in this post will be helpful to you. If I was successful in frightening you even a tiny bit, then I will consider that mission achieved. Having birds as pets comes with a significant amount of responsibility and are not something that should be done lightly. Before deciding to take on the responsibility of caring for one of these great companion animals, you should make sure you are well informed about the various potential risks involved and that you are well-equipped to handle them.
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