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Accessories Take Center Cage

Posted: March 17, 2011, 4 p.m., EDT

Developments in feeders, sleep tents and other habitat items cater to birds’ needs and boost the product category.

By Nikki Moustaki

A birdcage isn’t just a house, it’s a bird’s home, and no home is complete without the proper furnishings—or in a bird’s case, accessories. Without the right bowls, toys and perches, a cage is just an empty space.

“Customers frequently ‘study’ our cages and choose their purchases that way,” said Donna Garrou, owner of BirdStuff in Orange, Calif. “Occasionally, they will say, ‘Give me everything that’s in that cage.’ Some of the new foraging systems and creative toys need to be demonstrated for the consumer to understand their value.”

Toy boxes that hold foot toys and treats are trending right now, reports Kathleen Lance, co-owner of Bird Paradise in Burlington, N.J.
Toy boxes that hold foot toys and treats are trending right now, reports Kathleen Lance, co-owner of Bird Paradise in Burlington, N.J.
Photo by Cioli & Hunnicutt/BowTie Studio
Bowls and Feeders

Staple items that are almost guaranteed to be in retailer display cages include feeding and watering devices.

“Consumers are looking for dishes and bowls that are difficult or impossible for birds to throw,” Garrou said. “Some of the Smart Crock cups from First Prize Pet Products lock onto the cage and must be unbolted to remove. These are popular for birds such as African greys that love to bang and throw bowls. For birds that are less likely to search for a way to remove the bowl, they make an In and Out Crock that lifts off the attachment to make cleaning easy and fast.”

Kathleen Lance, co-owner of Bird Paradise in Burlington, N.J., said Tidy Seed is the newest innovation in feeders.

“These acrylic cups are the only self-contained feeders with a perch inside,” Lance said. “This feature prevents food from being thrown and also provides the bird a sense of privacy when eating. Tidy Seed feeders also come with metal-safe hooks that allow bird owners to attach the feeders to the inside or outside of the cage. We have placed multiple orders with the manufacturer, and each order grows in relation to the increasing popularity of this creative product.”

Popularity has been no stranger to foraging items in recent years. Foraging has been a hot topic in bird products, and bowls have joined the lines of tools for this activity.

“Consumers are using more foraging feeders as bowl replacements,” Garrou reported. “A number of the products from Caitec’s line, such as the Reinforcement Foraging Wheel, are excellent sellers.

“There is a brand new product from Avian Innovations called Satellite Foraging Bowls, which are designed to fit between horizontal and vertical bars,” she continued. “The dishes click into the bars, so they are easily removed from outside the cage and can be placed in a different area of the cage each day, causing the bird to have to go looking for its food. If enough of these foragers are used, bowls can be completely eliminated.”

Dr. Greg Burkett, board-certified avian veterinarian and owner of Diamond Avian Distributors in Hillsborough, N.C., and The Birdie Boutique in Durham, N.C., recommended using water bottles rather than bowls.

“Bottles are more sanitary and are easier to maintain; however, bottles need to be changed every 24 hours, and should be checked two to three times daily to be sure they are working properly,” Dr. Burkett noted.

Recent developments in bird feeding products include self-contained feeders that contain a perch on the inside, along with foraging dishes that click into cage bars.
Recent developments in bird feeding products include self-contained feeders that contain a perch on the inside, along with foraging dishes that click into cage bars.
Photo by Katie Ingmire/BowTie Inc.
Perches and Tents

When spring has sprung and breeding season commences, parrots’ need to chew and destroy intensifies.

“I sell more manzanita and grapevine perches in the spring,” Garrou reported. “These will last quite a bit longer, and I make a toy recommendation to go along with the perch.”

Jason Casto, director of marketing and product development for Super Pet, a division of Central Avian & Small Animal in Elk Grove Village, Ill., said the company’s line of foraging perches uses assorted foraging materials to challenge birds.

“These perches feature a tapered design to provide birds with different diameters of thickness for proper foot-grip health,” Casto added.

Some consumers, meanwhile, are leaning toward perches that cater specifically to their birds’ beaks and nails. Garrou said pedicure perches continue to be good sellers.

“Sandy Perches are popular because of the wide range of colors and the natural shapes,” Garrou stated. “For birds that have fast-growing or especially sharp nails, we recommend the Safety Pumice Perch from Sweet Feet and Beak. This perch can do a better job on the nails because it has a smooth surface for the pads of the feet, and the grooming area can therefore be highly abrasive without fear of injuring the foot.”

Spiral rope perches are also seeing good sales, according to Burkett.

“These provide another size, shape and texture, and the swinging spiral ropes encourage activity and exercise,” he noted. “When the cage is set up properly, the pedicure perch should be the highest; the spiral rope hangs in the center and allows for easy maneuverability from lower level perches to the higher perches within the cage.”

Of course, birds sometimes require breaks from the feet-and-beak entertainment that perches offer, and shelter-based cage accessories can help meet that need. Lance reported that bird sleep tents are very popular. 

“A sleep hut called the Hide N Sleep is unique in that it has a solid plastic floor and fabric [that] surrounds a wooden ‘pillar’ in the center, creating the sleep atmosphere,” she added. “This particular hut can be attached with a wooden-type wing nut from the top of the cage or from the side. The fabric does not contain any loose stitching and so provides peace of mind, especially for those birds that like to chew.”

Industry Voices

What are the top qualities your customers look for in pet-bird cage accessories?

“Pet owners want accessories that are durable. They also want them to be easy to clean and disinfect. They want good value for their money but are not necessarily looking for inexpensive products. They don’t seem to mind paying for good quality.”
Dr. Greg Burkett, board-certified avian veterinarian, owner of Diamond Avian Distributors in Hillsborough, N.C., and owner of The Birdie Boutique in Durham, N.C.

“Customers are looking for quality, functionality, durability and a solution. They want items that are easy to attach to a variety of cage types. They want accessories that are used to satisfy a specific need, like keeping the bird’s water clean and fresh or helping to prevent mess from flying outside of the cage.”
Emilye Schmale, director of marketing for JW Pet Company Inc. in Teterboro, N.J.

“The No. 1 thing customers want in an accessory is ease of use. Like the quick-lock crocks or First Prize bowls that easily rotate and lift out to clean. Being easy to clean is key. Also [key is] durability. With this economy, when people spend money, they want to be sure their purchase will hold up and last a while.”
Donna Garrou, owner of BirdStuff in Orange, Calif.

Toys and Baths

As with perches, toys are staple birdcage items that act as a source of entertainment to avian pets.

“The trend now is in toys with inexpensive parts, such as cardboard, paper, rope and ‘green,’ natural products, such as bamboo, raffia and palm fronds,” Burkett reported.

Foot toys have long been popular, and Lance said toy boxes to go with them are trending now.

“Fun-Max makes a variety of sizes in a toy box, which bolts to the sides of cages,” Lance added. “[The boxes] are perfect for holding foot toys and even special food treats. Toy boxes are particularly popular with caiques, who love to hang out at the bottom with their foot toys.”

Birdbaths are another activity-encouraging accessory. Emilye Schmale, director of marketing for JW Pet Company Inc. in Teterboro, N.J., said birdbaths are still popular, including the clear, domed style that hangs on the outside of the cage at the main or feeding door.

Display and Marketing

Manufacturers and retailers have devised ways to ensure customers purchase these birdbaths, bowls and other cage accessories and place them in the correct spot in a bird’s cage.

“We have done in-store demonstrations on how to set up a cage properly,” Burkett said. “Set a time, make an announcement via e-mail and with signs in the store, then have someone spend 20 minutes setting up a cage with all of the accessories and explain why the cage should be set up this way.

“Offer a small discount for those attending the class if they upgrade the accessories for their birds’ cages,” he added.

Schmale recommended the trade-up as a fun promotion to encourage bird accessory sales.

“The consumer brings in an old toy or accessory and receives a discount off a new one,” she said. “Old toys and accessories can be sanitized and donated to a local shelter. The consumer not only gets a discount on a new toy for [his or her] pet, but there is also the added benefit of creating some excitement and drive to provide toys for animals in shelters who need them.”

From dishes to sleep tents to toys, birdcage accessories can make great upsells to birdcages. Since many of these items are staples for avian habitats, they can not only help customers outfit their birds’ ideal environments, but serve to accessorize the bottom line.

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