7 questions to ask when buying a baby bird
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
A frantic new bird owner recently posted pictures of a pair of 7-week-old macaws, asking for advice on how to feed and care for them. Macaws at that age aren’t even close to being weaned, but the seller probably persuaded the buyer that hand-fed birds bond more closely to their people.
That’s a dangerous myth. Few new bird owners have the expertise to hand-feed, wean and socialize an unweaned baby bird. While cockatiels and lovebirds are typically weaned by the time they’re 6 to 8 weeks old, weaning age for larger parrots ranges from 14 weeks to 6 months.
Knowing the right questions to ask a bird breeder or seller before bringing home baby can save you time and heartache, not to mention a young bird’s life. Once you’ve chosen the species that’s right for you -- pet birds vary widely in temperament and behavior -- keep your wallet deep in your pocket until you’ve given the seller the third degree and received appropriate answers to your questions. Here’s what to ask.
1. Where do you get your birds?
Your baby bird should come from an experienced local breeder or a reputable avian specialty store that buys from such a breeder. Be wary of bird stores that claim to get their babies from many different breeders. Avian diseases are highly transmissible, so the fewer breeders a store works with, the better. Keep in mind that a shop may not reveal the name of the breeder. This is often at the breeder’s request, because they don’t want strangers in their home -- especially if they are breeding expensive birds.
2. How many birds do you sell per year?
A breeder or shop that sells considerably more than 300 birds per year should be greeted with a raised eyebrow. Bringing up baby birds requires extensive time and attention to ensure the best feeding, socialization and health of the birds. Some retailers hand-feed babies themselves while others buy only fully weaned babies.
3. Can you provide references?
Breeders or store employees should be able to supply you with references from other buyers as well as from the avian veterinarian who cares for their birds. Don’t just ask for references; call the people and find out if they’re happy with their purchase and if they would buy another bird from that source. Call the veterinarian and ask if the breeder or store provides good care to its birds.
4. What can you tell me about this species?
Employees at specialty bird stores should be able to give you the lowdown on all the birds they carry, from characteristics to care.
5. How have you socialized this bird?
Baby birds should be handled, played with and talked to by humans, even if the babies are being raised by the parent birds. Exceptions are birds not meant to be handled, such as finches and canaries.
6. Is this bird weaned?
Don’t fall for the line that hand-feeding an unweaned baby will strengthen your bond with him or for the sales pitch that an unweaned baby costs less. The time spent hand-feeding and the risk that your unweaned baby will die aren’t worth it.
7. What’s covered in the sales contract or post-purchase warranty?
A good sales contract requires you to have the bird seen by a veterinarian of your choosing within 48 to 72 hours of purchase; spells out terms of replacement or compensation if your bird gets sick or dies; and may require you to isolate the new bird from other birds in your home for a defined period. Don’t buy without a written sales contract and warranty, and make sure you’re comfortable with the terms before signing.
Keep pets cool
in the dog days
Q: It is so hot! I’m sweltering, and I imagine my dogs are, too. How can I help them stay cool?
A: Staying inside with the air conditioning as high as you can afford is probably the best bet for flat-faced breeds such as bulldogs, boxers and pugs, but many dogs love basking in the sun or splashing in water. Here are some tips to help keep them safe from heatstroke or sunburn.
Apply pet-safe sunscreen before they go outdoors. Dogs (and cats) can get sunburned, especially on the ears and nose, or if they have a thin or light-colored coat. Look for pet-safe sunscreen at pet supply stores or online, or use any PABA-free sunscreen. If your dog will be playing in water, use a sport-type sunscreen that offers some water resistance. (No sunscreen is waterproof, and the FDA requires sunscreens labeled “water resistant” to be tested and state whether the sunscreen remains effective for 40 or 80 minutes while the wearer is swimming or sweating.) Don’t forget to apply sunscreen to the belly if your dog likes to sunbathe on his back.
Heatstroke is the most common summertime pet emergency. Your dog might seem like he’s having fun playing on the beach for hours on a warm day, but he’s at risk if he doesn’t have access to shade or fresh water. Offer him water frequently, and mist him with a spray bottle of cool water. Again, flat-faced dogs are at highest risk. On a humid day, especially, panting to cool themselves becomes less effective. They should not spend long periods outdoors on warm days without shade or water. Signs of heatstroke include continuous panting, dark red gums and weakness or collapse. It’s an emergency, so don’t wait around to see if he gets better. Cool him with water and get veterinary help immediately. -- Dr. Marty Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
pet bio samples
-- Want your pet to contribute to science? Mars Petcare (which, besides candy bars, makes pet food and owns chains of veterinary hospitals) is seeking biological samples -- blood and feces -- from 10,000 dogs and 10,000 cats for a biobank. Researchers will use the samples to sift through genomic patterns and study what triggers disease in healthy pets. The goal is to improve pet health span and quality of life. Pet volunteers will donate blood and fecal samples annually over 10 years. In return, they will receive veterinary care, genetic testing and activity trackers. Pets must be healthy, between the ages of 6 months and 10 years and clients of certain veterinary facilities, including VCA and Banfield. For more information or to sign up, go here: marspetcarebiobank.com/pet-owners.
-- Planning a late-summer vacay with the kids, er, canines? Take advantage of pet-friendly hotels this National Dog Day on Aug. 26. They include the Logan Hotel in Philadelphia, which provides pups with a bed, bowl, dog treats and downtown pet guide; the Asbury Hotel in Asbury, New Jersey, has a pet concierge and is near the beach, parks, shops and the boardwalk; and The Point at Saranac Lake, New York, a lakefront Adirondack estate that rolls out the red carpet for dogs of all sizes and, better yet, has no pet fee and few restrictions on where pets can go.
-- Herpers, from nature-loving kids to enthusiastic biologists, will appreciate the colorful United Snakes of America, a scientifically accurate poster of 163 snake species found in the United States and Canada. Species are drawn in “a friendly manner” and include the eastern hognosed snake, Concho water snake, glossy swampsnake and scarlet snake. Common names used are drawn from the summer 2017 Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles database. The poster comes in two sizes -- 18-by-24 inches or 36-by-48 inches -- and is $18 (normal size) or $50 (huge size). Available from topatoco.com/products/romo-snakes?_pos=1&_sid=71970cdd8&_ss=r. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts. Veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker is founder of the Fear Free organization, co-founder of VetScoop.com and author of many best-selling pet care books. Kim Campbell Thornton is an award-winning journalist and author who has been writing about animals since 1985. Mikkel Becker is a behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/Kim.CampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.