HORSE TRADING WITH BIRDS

by Linda Greeson

I have heard many tales of the dealings of the old horse traders in my great grandfathers time. They delighted in telling tales of their wiley ways of judging a horse, and chuckled over success in passing off a locoed or old horse on some unsuspecting purchaser. The sleaziest used car salesman of today has nothing on those old fellows. Over the years I am beginning to believe that trading in birds is the modern equivalent of the old horse trading.

First, I must make it "crystal clear" that in my bird breeding career I have made many wonderful friends who I would trust with my pet African Grey or my last dollar.

In this business of buying, selling, or trading birds the problems that arise are often not actually the result of dishonesty or misrepresentation on the part of the owner or buyer, but a question of interpretation of the words and phrases we commonly use. The description of a bird as "tame" can have many meanings. To some a bird who tolerates your approach to the cage is tame. To others much more is expected. Many birds are devoted to only one person and will have nothing to do with anyone else. Breaking this bond with the original owner can be a lengthy and possibly painful   procedure. Don't hesitate to inquire "Tame with who?"

There are times when a bird can be too tame to fit into your life style. We fell in love with a gorgeous Tritan Cockatoo who fits this category. He loves attention and petting, but demanded that attention constantly like a spoiled child. Neglect for even short intervals resulted in screaming temper tantrums. It took weeks of hand feeding him scrambled eggs and other selected goodies before he finally condescended to eat the normal diet of our birds from a feeding bowl.

We purchased a tame Yellow Naped Amazon from an owner who boasted about her ability to sing opera. Rosita, the nape, really does sing four bars from Carmen in a lovely high soprano. What the owner failed to mention is that Rosita daily starts her concert well before daylight and continues to repeat the same four bars until the sun is well over the horizon - then not another note until the same time the next morning. She is set up in the aviary with Paco, a quiet fellow, but even Paco screams at her in annoyance during her pre-dawn recitals. Our guest room windows look out on Rosita's home. Needless to say we have no problem with visitors staying with us too long.

Another beloved family pet, whose owners parted with him with genuine tears, seemed to be the sweet, tame bird they so enthusiastically described. They neglected to mention one little habit - that of giving ear splitting shrieks at three or four in the morning, this a regular occurrence. Perhaps this habit was not the real reason they were forced to part with this pet, but in good old horse trading style somehow it was never mentioned.

And then there was Derrick- purchased by us as a mate for a Yellow Naped hen. He was described as tame and talking, and oh, how he talked! He chattered and laughed and called out constantly in a high pitched, shrill voice, barely takingtime out to eat. He is now happily established in a local nursing home where he continues to chatter and laugh for the delighted residents who visit him for brief intervals. We just could not handle Derrick all day - but he is tame and talking.

Many people are forced by circumstances to give up a much loved bird and are really more interested in finding a good home for their pet than in getting a high price. But beware of the bargain bird that has changed homes too frequently.

For the breeder seeking proven pairs the pitfalls are even more numerous. They may even indeed be male and female who have proven their ability to produce, although even this is not necessarily so. On examination by the Vet one proven hen we purchased turned out to have no ovarian follicles at all. She was physically incapable of ever having produced a single egg. The proven pair may produce eggs quite regularly, but in spite of dietary supplements will just as often eat the eggs just as fast as they are produced.

There are proven pairs who will faithfully incubate their eggs and then promptly destroy their chicks. Others are just incurably bad parents. Others, justifiably sold as proven pairs, may have produced just one chick several years ago or habitually produce chicks dead in the shell. Some have been fine and prolific breeders for many years but are now becoming too old to continue. Remember, those lucky birds do not show their age! The term proven breeders is used very loosely by many in the bird world. Common sense tells us that unless very unusual circumstances exist, the breeder selling only a few of his pairs is not going to offer his prolific, problem free birds. Even to the experienced eye, healthy looking bird may be harboring disease that only becomes evident under the stress of change to a new environment.

We recently purchased a large group of apparently healthy Macaws from a breeder closing down his aviary. As per our custom we had the new birds examined and cultured by our Avian Vet. Surprisingly, all showed heavy growths of Salmonella, E Coli, and Pseudomonas. For ten days, twice each day, we had to catch and restrain these huge birds for injections of antibiotics, and thought less and less of our terrific bargain as the days passed. We now request evidence from a vet of recent clean cultures before making any major purchases, no matter how enticing the price.

One of this same group proved to have chronic liver disease. Not being real horse traders ourselves we gave the bird away with a full explanation of her problems and viewed the loss as a learning experience.

The words "hand fed" are again used to apply to many varied methods and very different results in the adult bird. A chick allowed to remain in the nest until almost ready for weaning can honestly be described as hand fed. The chick removed at a very early age bonds to the human feeder, not to the parent birds. It grows up with no fear of humans who have supplied it with food from its earliest memory. Chicks fed in large numbers by a quick push of  the syringe, often through the bars of the cage, are hand fed. The personality of the adult bird resulting from this type of feeding is entirely different from the one who has been handles and played with lovingly at each feeding. True, they are all hand fed - but what a difference the extra time and attention makes.

How is the novice, or even the experienced breeder, going to survive the pitfalls of the bird trading world? There is no one easy answer. Perhaps for the prospective pet owner the best advice is "Don't fall in love with the bird too fast!"

Consider your purchase as seriously as you would that of a  new car. Your bird is a longer term investment. Deal only with established, reputable breeders. If paying money in advance, ask for references and take the trouble to check them. There is on record an incident of a Blue and Gold Macaw being paid for in advance, and in its stead a blue Parakeet arrived at the airport. Request a bill of sale with a complete description of the bird , his band number, and the name, address and signature of the owner. This may help to avoid the unpleasant surprise of finding you have spent your money on an illegal bird.

Whenever possible insist on a written guarantee dependent on a favorable health report by an Avian Vet. It is usually required that this examination be done within twenty four hours of the purchase of the bird. Proceed with caution, being aware of the "unsaid facts" that may be involved in your purchase. In addition to the caring, wonderful people there are a lot of those horse traders out there in the world of bird traders.

 

 

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