by Rodney Money
Here are the options in the USA where people get their pet birds. I did not include shelters and second hand opportunities though; just where you would be more likely to find a parent-raised or handfed baby. Also, I will explain their level of tameness of the birds, care, the knowledge of the people who either work or run the establishments, and any other thing I can think of.
1. Large, retail petstore chains: (ex. Petsmart, Petco, Pet Supermarket, and other franchises, etc.)
This is the absolute worst place you could find a bird to call your own. Both Petsmart and Petco get their birds from the Kaytee Preferred Birds program which has two facilities located in Florida. They are also establishing one in Las Vegas. Of the two in Florida, one handles parent-raised small birds such as finches, budgies, and lovebirds which they buy from various mass production breeders, and one that mass produces larger parrot species for intention of handfeeding. All the breeders and babies are fed a medicated diet that includes vitamins and minerals, as well as antibiotics including Doxycycline for bacteria growth. The great use of these antibiotics will weaken the immune system and make the future successful use of antibiotics questionable. Kaytee does not care about the emotional development of their birds since they already have a contract with Petsmart and Petco stating they need to produce a quantity of chicks and not a quality of chicks to keep up with the high demand of sales. All the birds are shipped from Florida or Las Vegas, so you might as well be buying a wild-caught bird from Africa, Central and South America, or Australia. These birds are then quarantined for three days or put out on the floor when stock gets low. The stock room where the birds are quaranteed is a poorly lit dungeon only having human contact during feeding and cleaning. When at the store the birds are fed a very poor seed diet which leads to fatty liver disease and death (so with their weak immune systems, the stress of being shipped, and fatty liver disease, people wonder why their parakeet from Petsmart died in just a week?) The birds when placed out on the floor, especially the smaller birds, are cluttered together in cages with improper food, perches, and little to no toys. The so-called "experts" are usually teenagers in High School or college who could not tell the difference between a cockatoo and a macaw. The only time the birds are handled is if a customer is interested, because the employees and their employers do not want to risk damaging their merchandise. Handfed babies are fed Kaytee Exact Handfeeding formula which is hard to digest in the bird's crop. Employees and Employers are not worried about socialization of the babies; their only concern is to feed them as quickly as possible so they can bag up more fish, the true highest profitable merchandise, for customers. The only way to stop this travesty of mass production of chicks is education to the public to stop buying birds at retail pet centers.
2. Local Small Business-owned Pet Stores:
The knowledge of the staff varies greatly depending on the expertise of its people. Even with a very knowledgeable and educated staff, it is near to impossible to socialize each and every bird and care for their emotional needs. Employers and Employees have their minds preoccupied with cleaning cages, feeding birds, stocking, handling accounts, and simply dealing with customers; because first and foremost, it is a business. Many pet stores handfeed their own babies, but even the best bird stores forget that they need to continue socialization and establish a constant routine of playtime after they wean. Pet stores is where I see the vast majority of sweet, handfed babies turn wild after weaning.
3. Large-scaled Breeders:
Very similar to the suppliers of babies to the large retail pet chains. Large-scaled breeders mass produce large amount of babies for profit. So unless they have a staff that dedicates their entire time to feeding, playing, and socialization, the emotional needs just can not be met simply due to the sheer numbers of birds. These breeders are contracted to pet stores, other breeders for future stock, and other clients to provide a quantity of birds for future or present profit. Not all large-scaled breeders have inhumane practices. Steve Hartman of Hartman Aviaries and Gail Worth of Aves International not only care about their babies, but also the wellbeing of their parents also. Large-scale breeders also have the means to establish breeding stocks that could develop the possible domestication of parrots through line breeding. Also, mutations and other genetic changes could be studied in a more controlled environment.
4. Small-scaled Breeders (like us):
Many of these breeders are hobbyists, though some can make a living and breed for profit. These breeders tend to have a intimate relationship with each baby that they raise. This intimacy could lead in studies of developing co-parenting. Personally, I believe that this is the best place to find a new, loving feathered family member as long as the breeders breed in a moral way with not only thinking of the well being of their babies, but also their parents. Small-scaled breeders tend to keep their pairs within their homes unlike large-scaled breeders who breed in either large flight aviaries or warehouses.
© TLA 2009