|KEEPING BIRDS HEALTHY
IN PET SHOPS
.By Jo Cooper
A RETAILER can keep birds healthy in a pet shop the same way they are kept healthy in a home or at a bird farm, except that it is more difricult to control the environment. There are five essential steps for maintaining healthy birds. (1) start with healthy birds; (2) keep everything as clean as possible, (3) don't overcrowd the cages, (4) feed them correctly, and (5) treat for prevention of disease when necessary.
"The most important place to start is your source of birds," Jim McClure, owner of the California Pet Shop in Southern California and a bird raiser himself for 25 years says, "Know the person you're buying from. Some pet shop owners buy birds off the street. Some guy walks in off the street and says, 'Hey, you want to buy a half moon parrot for $20?' The shop owner knows how much he can sell it for so he takes it, no questions asked."
You may think you'll turn a quick buck, but if that bird has been smuggled or is carrying a disease, it may cost you every brid in the shop; or, the
authorities could close you for 30 days or more. There is a good margin of profit today from wholesale to retail bird prices. You don't need to buy birds frm questionable sources to
make your bird business pay off. Start off right by buying birds from a reputable bird dealer.
Keep the cages and your bird area spotlessly clean. This practice is not only good for the birds, but good salesmanship. You wouldn't buy cookies in a dirty bakery case, would you? Barbara McClure of the California Pet Shop says, "I try to vacuum twice a day. When people buy birds, they have to envision them in their living room or den. Tthe first thing they say is, "Oh, I like them, but they're so messy." You don't want them to think of the mess. If they go to your bird section and see a mess
on the floor, they are not as likely to buy."
If you have a floor without carpeting, mop it daily with disinfectant.
Use clean newspapers for the bottom of the cages. A local pet shop owner said, "I get newspapers from two or three customers who bring them in for me so I know the newspapers haven't been sitting in a garage or been sprayed with anything. A good shortcut is to pre-cut your newspaper, several thicknesses at a time, to the size of each cage.
The cages should be cleaned every morning. Be careful when handling the paper not to touch the droppings and carry disease from one cage to another. Wash the water cups well. A two-sided sponge such as the type recommended for Teflon works best for getting into the corners. It is best to have a change of cups and perches so that once a week they can be soaked in bleach water.
|Barbara McClure vacuums the bird section of her shop twice daily, believing that a clean area will encourage customers to buy birds.|
Remember that perches must be completely dry before you return them to the cage. Always disinfect the entire cage after you've sold the birds that were living in it before you put
new birds in.
Don't overcrowd the cages. You'll lose more money in birds than the cost of an additional cage. Be sure you use the right size cage for the size of the birds. All pet stores sell bird books as well as birds, so when you have a slow day, or before you add birds to your shop, take the time to read them. These books will tell you the correct size cage to use and describe the proper care for each species. If you hire a new salespersonb whgo has had little experience with birds, suggest he or she read these books, too.
"I know a story that sold a customer the wrong sieze cage, and the tiny finches squeezed out between the bars before the person got them home," said one pet shop owner.
Feed your birds properlyh. Don't try to svae money on seed, and \use the freshest seed availalbe. Even among expert bird raisers, there are two schools of thought about seed, the "blowers" and the "dumpers," those who blow off the shucks and those who dump all the seed and replace it. especially in the pet shop business whre you can get your seed wholesale, don't just blow off the seed dishes. This means more mess on the floor or even a possibility of spreading disease by blowing the seed into another cage. Give your birds in the stor fresh seed every day.
"With finches," a pet shoop owner siad, "I have to change their seed twice a day. I'd rather do that than have them go all the way down to the bottom of the seed dish."
Treting for prevention of disease is necessay if you are the least bit wry of the bird's condition. If you buy birds that you know have been
r\aised here in the United States form a reputable bird dealer, you should not have to medicate them,. Just give them about a week for the transition period. Birds need to adjust
to their new environment. Many are accustomes to large aviaries and musts adapt to a smaller cage. Unfamiliar sounds and people also frighten birds at first. A holding area is
ideal for all new birds.
If you know the birds have a history of E. Coli or Salmonella (bacterial infections), you should treat them with NFZ Soluble (Nitrofurazone), 1 teaspoon to a quart of water, for seven days.
If you are buying from a new source, or if the birds have come form another country, even if you purchase them from a well-known quarantine station, it is probably safer if you treat them for psittacosis. Some veterinarians suggest that you put all new birds on CTC as a psittacosis treatment. Dr. Ralph Cooper, well-known avian pathologist warns to use it only when necessary. And, he said, "If you treat with CTC, you should include a mold inhibitor such as Calcium Proprionate or Gentian Violet in the feed mixture to prevent the occurrence of crop mold. I also suggest a good multple vitamin product." Several successful pet shop owners agreed that they regularly use one tyhpe of millet seed impreghnated with CTC as a preventative measure against psittacosis. The product is easy to use for parakeets, finches, canaries, ricebirds, cockatiels, or any small birds who will eat it.
According to the Veterinary Public Health Unit in Berkeley, California, this type of seed is effective in eliminating latent psittacosis from samall birds, provided the drug is fresh
(check the expiration date on the container) and a full course of treatment is completed. the medicated seed must be the only food provided for a 30 day period. Coarse sand or
find gravel and fresh water should be provided at all times.
It is important to remember that the use of antibiotics in the water will not eliminate latent psittacosis infection from either parakeets or parrots.
The treatment for large psittacine birds (parrots, macaws and cockatoos) is more difficult because at this time there are no commercially prepared medicated feeds available for use for larger birds. You must prepare your own cooked mash and add the drug to it. this takes extre time and trouble, but of course the larger birds are worth a lot more money.
For larger birds the treatment time has to be extended to 45 consecutive days. As to the small birds, no other feed should be provided except gravel and fresn water. the recommended formula for the mash is 2 pounds of rice, 2 pounds of scratch feed, to 3 pints of water. This mixture may be cooked in a pressure cooker, autoclave, or similar cooking utensil until soft, but not mushy. Then empty it into a large mixing container and allow it to cool to room temperature. This must be prepared fresh for each day's use.
After the mash is cool, you add a crude chlortetracycline known as American Cyanamid's S.F. Mix 66 (available from American Cyanamid Col, P.O. Box 400,
Princton, N.J., or your local feed story).
Sprinkle the dry S.F. Mix 66 over the surface of the mash in your large mixing vessel. Mix well ujntil the antibiotic is completely distributed and no lumps of soy bean meal are visible. Next, weight out brown sugar equal to the amount of S.F. Mix 66. This improves the taste, but be sure to add it last, or the mixture becomes too sticky for further mixing.
provide a packed cupful of the medicated mash for each bird. The firz day the birds may not eat a great deal, but thereafter they usually eat enough to assure adequate intake of the antibiotic. As a guide, a bird should consume an amount of feed equal ot 1/4 to 1/5 of its body weight daily.
A special diet may be necessary for nectar-feeding psittacine birds, such as lories and lrikeets, which feed on nedtar and fruit. A special liquid diet has been worked out to include the proper amount of CTC for these birds. 4/6 water,
1/6 honey, 1/6 canned food (Nutrament or Metracal). To this add pure CTC fresh daily
in the amount of 500 milligrams/lieter (0.05%). Boiled rice and/or dry kibbled dog food can be added to improve the taste and as a source of additional nutrients. Feed this 45 days
with no other food except water and gravel.
Bird diseases are transferred in the air, from bird to bird, and in the droppings. "Unfortunately," a veterinarian said, "pet stores are a good place for diseases to spread." He suggested that pet shop owners use standard clean-up procedures, keep the cages clean, get rid of droppings every day, keep baths and water clean, and wash the place down with a disinfectant t regularly. The ideal way to ensure selling healthy birds is to have a holding area, separate from your shop, where birds are treated (or watched carefully) before they are sold, but most shops can't afford this arrangement.
Another problem in pet shops is the customers. Be sure you not only display several prominent
"DO NOT TOUCH THE CAGE" signs, but that you watch
and listen for fluttering birds when small children (and sometimes ignorant adults) run their fingers across the cage or bang on the cages to make the birds move. this is tramautic for
birds and is known to even cause death in some cases. Be sure to lock your cages, too. There are always a few nuts who think everything should be free, even caged birds.
The placement of your bird section in the shop is important to ensure healthy birds, too. The best place to show them off may not be the best place for the birds. Avoid a draft from the air conditioner and never put them in direct sunlight.
A good reputation for healthy birds and a low mortality rate pays off in word-of-mouth advertising in the bird business. It take more time, and a little more money to sell healthy birds, but it's worth it. The old "ounce of prevention" is not only worth a pound of cure, but money in the bank for pet shop owners.
by Ralph Cooper, 12-29-07
Jo became interested in pet birds during the time when our Veterinary Laboratory was engaged in fighting the Newcastle Disease epidemic which began in November of 1971 and was finally erradicated in July, 1974. Because if had been introduced by infected carrier parrots, and spread by them, especially by smuggled birds, we became interested in and familiar with all pet birds, especially psittacines, (parrots).
As a result of our mutual interest, Jo wrote her book, Handfeeding Baby Birds, and this article which she sold to the Pet Age magazine for $175. In addition to the text, she offered several photographs which had been taken by her daughter, Peggy Rae Hunt. For reason of space limitation, the magazine only used two of them, the ones you see at the top of this page.
I have added two of the additional photos below which I found to be interesting.