1. Have at least a general idea of what you’re looking for. Know the species, mutation, and sex you prefer. You should also decide beforehand if you want just one or a pair. Do you want a youngster or an older bird? Will you keep it as a pet, or as caged birds?

Animal Scene Note:

Doing your research beforehand and knowing what you want saves time for everyone concerned.

2. Be conscious of a breeder’s time. Believe it or not, most of them are very busy people. In addition to bird care, speaking with potential customers, and participating in bird groups or clubs, many hold down full or part time paying jobs. Ask the breeder if it’s a good time for them to talk when you call. They’ll be more amiable to answering questions and taking time with you if they’re not right in the middle of chores for the
birds, or attending to their personal needs, or maybe even taking a little time to relax with friends or family.

Animal Scene Note:

Being courteous and considerate has many rewards; the breeder will not only be more disposed towards helping you decide, you may even make a friend you can consult about your hobby.

3. Don’t ask for a tour of the breeder’s aviary. It’s not that a breeder has a dirty bird area or is hiding poorly kept birds. Most breeders who are strict with raising birds have learned a lot about aviary management and attempt to practice reasonable hygiene with their birds. We learn about nutrition and health requirements and attempt to provide a wholesome and complete diet. It is our job to protect our birds from unknown diseases or germs, and to spare them the stress of having visitors interrupt rest times and disturbing
breeding birds.

Many breeder birds get nervous when someone other than their customary keepers are present. If startled, some birds may attack a mate, come off the nest, or destroy a clutch
of chicks. While birds have been bred in captivity for centuries, they are still not considered a domestic animal. They are also most often a prey animal in the wild and their first instinct when threatened or startled is flight or fight, with flight usually being the chosen option. Many species that could be found in American aviculture in the past are no longer available. That’s why breeders are protective of their flocks.

Animal Scene Note:

We’re aware that some online sources recommend that you inspect the premises, but you need to ask permission as you can upset the birds and cause irreparable damage to a breeder’s operations if you insist on blundering about their aviary. While you will want to know if the breeder observes good hygiene practices and treats his or her birds well, you’re better off asking for references from fellow hobbyists or previous customers. There will always be unscrupulous people in any hobby, and personal references from people you know and trust are better than clumsy inspections.

4. Ask for price quotes. These may vary widely. Breeders with a solid reputation, show awards, unusual mutations, or all of the above can and will command a higher price than
ordinary stores. Breeders who give health guarantees may also charge more for their birds. Breeders who use veterinary services, vaccinate their birds, and test for species-specific health concerns may likewise be pricier.

Some hobbyists just raise occasional offspring to sell or give away. Some breeders will give a discount for group purchases. An inexpensive bird may be good bird and be in perfect health, but if your intention is to go into breeding yourself, pick the best quality from a reputable breeder.

Animal Scene Note:

Good reputations and excellent breeding practices will usually cost you more, but some hobbyists can also do the same yet charge less. It depends on the person concerned, but be mindful of the fact that investments in birds do not come cheap, and a good reputation is beyond monetary estimate.

5. Ask about a health guarantee. Remember, though, that you are responsible as the purchasing party to quarantine and test the birds after arrival at your home or aviary and
provide excellent care of your purchases once you have brought them home. The new bird is especially vulnerable to stress reactions and illnesses during the transition time from the breeding facility to its new home.

You should know, though, that sometimes breeders supply no guarantee with their birds. Good breeders who do this are not attempting to escape responsibility for replacement or refund should anything go wrong. Some of the larger or rarer species may breed infrequently, and the offspring will be spoken for well in advance of their actual hatch date. Also, once an exotic bird leaves the breeding facility, the breeder hasn’t a clue if their directions for care quarantine, or shipping will be followed as they have outlined. Talk with the breeder if something does go awry with your new purchase.

Moving to new quarters is a stressor for the new bird, as well as for others you may have. They need quiet time, a healthy diet, and time to adjust to their new owners and environment. If you place the bird/birds directly into your own collection, don’t expect a breeder to refund your money if the new bird becomes ill or dies, or if some of your others do. It is your responsibility as the purchaser to protect your existing birds as well as the newcomers from the organisms that can cause problems for either. What may be lethal to one species may not be in another. The suggested quarantine time will vary from breeder to breeder. Remember, quarantine means no shared air space.

Animal Scene Note:

If a large or rare breed of bird is involved, the breeder cannot guarantee its health because genetics and environment play key roles—and these are mostly out of their control. You should follow the breeder’s directions as carefully and closely as possible, and if the bird/s is/are to be shipped, choose a reliable shipper with a reputation for
caring for animals.

6. If a problem arises, speak with the breeder directly. Most of us want a positive reputation and are willing to work with you if problems occur. It’s possible for a breeder to have a problem and not even know it. Be respectful and deal with them directly to work it out.

Animal Scene Note:

ll too often, the knee-jerk response is to post a long, whining, angry rant on Facebook, with the breeder’s name hinted at—or worse, with the breeder tagged! Don’t do this; not only is it legally actionable, it’s also extremely rude. Use your head and calm down;
try to settle things with the breeder first before going ballistic on social media.

This appeared in Animal Scene’s January 2016 issue.