Recently someone approached me with the question, “What is a Bird Breeder?”Responding to a question of this sort, entails some profound thoughts to answer adequately, fully and correctly, which I am sure I will be unable to accomplish totally.
Avian breeders can and quite often consists of individuals or families with only one or two pairs of birds. However, most breeders will have several pair of birds of a few species. Of course, there are the “big operations,” some of which might have thousands of birds, with possibly hundreds of species. Setups such as the latter, through necessity, must have many support employees and quite frequently has a certified Avian Veterinarian on staff. However, it is the former that I wish to address.
Many call these people “Back Yard Breeders” or “Hobbyist Breeders.” I must state, unequivocally, I do not know any Back Yard Breeders who do not have a profound love, many, which hold them in awe, for birds. It is, and by its very nature must be, a labor of love.
These breeders do, and must, endure much. My guess would be that there are many more who are unable to recover the cost of food year from year, than not. Also, many go for years without vacations, or at the very least only expect and plan for just a few “getaway days” now and then. They put their social life on hold. Or at the very least it will be totally geared around, stealing an hour or two here and there, when meeting the hand feeding needs and schedule. They accept all this as their choice. They choose to do this because of their love of and desires to have birds.
First and probably most important, many Avian Breeders are now breeding birds that are extinct or endangered in nature. This is the result of loss of habitat and over harvesting, to meet the demands of the pet trade, of many species in the past. These breeders are and will be the only link by which many of these very species will remain intact.
Secondly, without breeders, there would not be a legal supply of birds to fulfill the needs of the pet trade. With the current importation legislation, there are no longer the thousands of birds imported to meet the demands as in past years. The supply of imported birds were the wholesale markets for most pet shops. These same shops, now, must rely on the breeders to meet their needs.
Often they will become breeders by “accident.” With an interest of birds, they purchase their first one as a pet either from a pet store or breeder.
After having this pet for some time, a friend will give them a bird they caught in their back yard. Usually this will be little Budgerigar or Cockatiel. Now they have two birds. Sometime later they decide to buy another bird or two, or possibly another friend will give them one that they also caught from their yard. It is about this time that they will decide to set up a “Breeding Operation.”
Unknowing, they became exposed to the “bird fever” by accepting the bird from the first friend. This “fever” will intensify until it becomes a full-fledged sickness, characterized by the symptoms of trying to buy each new species of exotic birds they see. Quite often, it is off to the Bird Marts to sell some babies, and they buy more birds than sold. This becomes quite costly. After many months, and occasionally some years pass, most will cut back on several species. They began breeding only the birds of their educated choice.’ Of course, this usually takes different setups.’
So it is back to designing and building new aviaries. This creates additional work and more expenses.
Most, if not all, bird breeders are people who strive for perfection in the art of Aviculture. They become a practitioner of Avian Medicine (many, much better than they might believe). A Nutritionist, who seemly, always researching for a better diet to maintain their birds’ health, with outstanding feathers in good color. An Operator of a Nursery with controlled temperature and humidity, consisting of a “baby room” and/or brooders. Either one takes frequent monitoring with much adjusting to maintain the desired results. Additionally they will also serve as the Nurse Maid, hand feeding baby birds every two hours or so, twenty-four hours a day.
There are also the Gofer duties. That is, going for the seeds or pellets from the supplier, going for fruits and vegetables at the produce market.
Then of course, the babies need some new toys, so its off to a pet shop for them. Trips to the Avian Veterinary come up when one cannot get a bird “turned around.” Cleaning chores of cages, aviaries, and nest boxes are some tasks that never seem to end! Many also spend hours on the “net” to become educated in new techniques and procedures, while also teaching others of the way they might handle various problems. Then there are the Bird Club or Associations’ meetings where one spends much time learning and teaching.
Some say, “breeders do not have healthy birds.” If that is true, from where do healthy birds come? Breeders are the only source of birds now days, whether they buy them direct from a breeder, or from the pet shops!
If for no other reason, which is not so, other than self-preservation keeping ones’ birds healthy is essential! Healthy aviaries are of the top priorities if one is to keep and breed birds. They avoid outbreaks of diseases and virus at any cost. An unattended or neglected sick bird can escalate to an aviary being totally wiped out.
When raising birds, the expenses are never ending. Beyond the initial expenditures encountered when purchasing the breeding stock, there is the cost of building or buying cages and nest boxes. Then of course they must supply these cages with feed and water bowls. Some may opt for an automatic watering system, which will cost even more. Depending on locations, heating systems and/or misters for cooling, will be required. The list goes on and on. Food? Naturally it must be kept in the food bowls. The birds eat all year, not just during the breeding season. Often it will take several years for a pair to bond and then produce. Also a pair may produce some babies for a year or so, then skip several years before having additional clutches. However, the expenses continue.
How do these Back Yard breeders recoup these expenses? By, hopefully, selling any baby birds, they can. Where and how do they sell? Numerous ways. Probably, foremost would be the Bird Marts. Referrals, from satisfied customers is also a large outlet. Then some also wholesale to pet shops. Additionally, advertisements in the newspapers and trade publications account for many sales.
Avian breeders, in spite of all these many pitfalls and drawbacks, do and will, continue to fulfill the needs of many. Their own, that of pet shops, and the thousands and thousands of people who love and want to own birds as a pet!