Catering for exotic pets in your product mix: birds
From dogs and cats to bunnies and guinea pigs, our furry friends make up the majority of the UK’s pets, and indeed, pet retailers’ customer base. But they’re not the only critters that need love and attention. That’s why, we’re dedicating a series of guides to our feathered, scaled and six- and eight-legged friends; from tarantulas to tortoises, and everything in between. Today, find out what you should be stocking for avian pets.
How you cater for bird-owners will, of course, depend on the type of bird they keep. In the UK, the most common bird pets are birds of prey, such as falcons, and exotic birds within the parrot family, such as cockatoos and parakeets. However, as birds of prey are regarded as hunting companions, rather than pets, and ownership is heavily regulated, parrot-type birds are what we’ll be focusing on.
Parrot-type birds are simpler to care for and ownership is much less regulated. Most of these birds are very active and so large enclosures are important here; again, birds should be able to comfortably walk around and fully extend their wings, so it’s important to stock a range of sizes when it comes to bird cages. Aviaries are another option, which can be kept in or outdoors. If kept outdoors, aviaries and cages will need to be heat-able for the winter months.
As birds may peck at or “chew” cage bars, it’s important that any metals are non-galvanised or zinc-free, as this can be toxic to birds.
In terms of food, pellet-based mixes should be the basis of birds’ diet, but seeds, nuts and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables are great as treats! Fresh greens, tropical fruits, berries and root vegetables are all parrot friendly. Where possible, it’s advised that fruit and vegetables should be organic and pesticide-free, as well as raw to ensure they retain essential nutrients.
Millet spray and honey sticks are also great, but it’s important to remind customers that they should be used as occasional treats and not part of a bird’s regular diet.
It’s important that birds have plenty of stimulation, so toys and mirrors are important. Bird-safe toys can be as simple as branches and wooden “trees”. Bird-friendly wood types include apple, pear, magnolia, ash and dogwood. Hanging toys, mirrors and climbing nets are also good choices to offer stimulation.
Birds also love water, so bird baths can be a big hit both for fun and for hygiene. Many bird owners have also found that their feathered friends love to be spritzed from a spray bottle!
Paw-some tips for birds:
Parrots and budgies are much happier in groups of two or three. Owners should buy pet birds together to bond them and prevent them from getting territorial.
Birds can become overweight too! Advise your customers to give their birds plenty of “free flying” time, in the house, ensuring that windows and doors are closed, fans are switched off, other pets are out of the room and any wires and metals that could be dangerous to birds are concealed and out of the way.
- Find an avian vet in your area who can answer any health questions if needed. Symptoms of a sick bird include: overgrown beak and/ or nails; fluffed up feathers; lethargy; watery eyes; loss of appetite; and limping.
- Birds should have plenty of toys, which should be switched out weekly. This prevents them from getting bored! It also gives owners a chance to clean toys properly.
- Birds have delicate respiratory systems and are particularly sensitive to chemicals. All cleaning products should be very mild and, in the best-case, chemical-free. Mild dish soap, steam, vinegar, and baking soda are all good options, as are natural extracts such as grapefruit seed extract.
Discover more about catering for exotic pets right here on the Pawexpo blog.