Lisa A. Bono, ACPBC
Owning your own business is a dream of many. Being able to combine your passion for parrots and the reality of having to work for a living together is a blessing. I love my job, I love my clients but, with that said, it is not always laughs and smiles. As an avian retailer and small business owner, I have my share of pet peeves — pun intended — and here are my top five.
1. Pet Store Vs. Avian Vet
Not bringing your bird to the vet and looking for an over-the-counter remedy to help is my No.1 pet peeve. As a professional member of the Association of Avian Veterinarians, I am listed in their directory of members. I receive calls from those wanting to know what to do with their fluffed-up bird that has been sitting on the bottom of the cage for days. I have even had people call me out to their cars to show me injured or sick birds. I cannot stress enough the importance of having a working relationship with an avian veterinarian. While I do have access to what I refer to as medicinal over-the-counter products, I feel it is irresponsible for me to even attempt to diagnose a bird in lieu of seeking appropriate help they need for their companion animal.
2. Not Supplying Necessary Toys & Housing
Toy companies go through great lengths to bring us new and clever toys to keep our parrots mentally and physically stimulated. In the wild, parrots are constantly chewing on woods, seeds, fruits and nuts that help to keep their beaks in shape. We need to keep this in mind when they are in our homes and offer items that are similar.
Different sized birds need differently sized toys, and not all toys fit all species. Not only can a small toy be dangerous to a larger bird, but the toy could be destroyed in seconds. A toy appropriate for the bird’s size and species will help better maintain a healthy beak length. Many people think that a groomer or a vet is the correct way to keep a companion parrot’s beak in shape when, in reality, the bird should be given the opportunity to maintain his beak himself, and a vet should be used as the other option for trimming should the bird’s beak need it.
Not too long ago we did not have the vast varieties of cages and manufactures that we do now. The standard parrot cage in the ’90s was a simple 18-by-18-b-27-inch cage with a plastic base. The more fortunate birds lived with people who had the money to spend on the harder-to-find large cages. Today, we have choices in size, shape and so many colors it is hard to choose! Yet, there are some people who seek out a small cage to fit in a confined space they have. I don’t care how much money is being flashed in front of me — a cockatoo does not belong in a cockatiel-sized cage. I have refused sales of inappropriate cages for larger birds, as well as not selling larger-sized parrot cages with large gauge and space bars for smaller birds because the larger bar spacing and gauge can pose an injury risk if the bird’s head becomes stuck. A cage is designed to be a bird’s safe haven. Pet birds should be able to flap their wings, swing from toys and climb around freely without the fear of becoming entangled or having a wing caught in the cage bars. It is for their safety and health that they are provided with an appropriate cage.
3. Window Shopping
Many people will come to a store to check out products. Perhaps they want to see the size, color, or how the product performs. If you are investing in a cage, carrier, or recreational center, it is nice to see them in person. I applaud people for doing their homework before making a big purchase. The frustrating part of being an avian retailer is when people gather all the information they need and walk out empty handed only to then purchase the product online from an anonymous online store with the click of a mouse. The problem with this is twofold.
One being that when people do this, the small mom-and-pop store that took the time to purchase the product, perhaps drive to pick the product up, put it together, explain to the customer about the upgrades and perks of the product, show the different options it has and how to arrange it, now made a sale for another store. This is not how the small stores stay in business. Secondly, when your product arrives from the secondary online retailer, if parts are missing, broken or wrong, and they might be able to get a hold of a live person to correct the problem. Where do they come? Back to the store where the clerk was so helpful to see if they can correct the other retailer’s issues. If you are not supporting the helpful clerk and the store, why would you expect them to take more time to correct someone else’s problem? Sadly this happens more often than people like to admit. Window shopping can affect your local retailer’s success.
4. Dismissing Advice
Many of the clients I see are new bird owners who either just purchased their bird or have had them for a few short months. Many of them have never read a magazine, book or article to help guide them with their avian companion. Most do not have a vet either. They tell me their bird loves their dog, shares coffee in the morning with them or is allowed to roam the house while they are at work. When I try to gently interject or explain to them why their choices are not the best for the safety or health of their bird, I am sometimes me with an eye roll. They believe their knowledge of dogs or cats can cross over to into avian care. Some people are appreciative that I take the time to make safe food lists, write down vet information or just spend time discussing various issues. Others just ignore what I am trying to say, and I never see them again until they need help.
5. Incorrect Food
Avian nutrition has come a long way since I started keeping birds back in the 1970s. Everything has come a long way, actually. You can have the nicest cage, the best avian veterinarian, the newest toys and all the love in the world; however that means nothing without proper nutrition. The body needs a healthy diet that includes vitamins and minerals to boost the immune system, support normal growth and development, and help cells and organs do their jobs. Research has shown that a poor diet can cut a parrot’s life short and can cause disease, illness and, ultimately, death. A parrot on a sunflower-only base diet will not be as healthy as one given a pelleted diet supplemented with fresh vegetables and some fruit. It is important to keep trying new foods and incorporate healthy foods. Just because a parrot likes sunflower seeds, that is not an excuse to just feed just that. To put this into perspective, I like chocolate — imagine if that was my only food group!