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Avian Marketplace: Birdcage Optimization

Posted: Oct. 13, 2010, 5:20 p.m., EDT

Avian habitat trends include species-specific spaciousness, escape-proof locks and stylish designs.
By Cheryl Reeves

Just as a tailor takes a person’s size and style preferences into account when making a suit, birdcage manufacturers and retailers focus on a bird’s size and popular cage trends among customers when creating and selling cages.

Manufacturers noted that one size cage does not necessarily fit all same-sized birds. Small species, such as the finch, may need a larger cage because it is highly active. Another bird, such as one with a long tail, needs a taller, rather than wider, cage.

“For some small birds, the length of the cage is more important than the height, as flying is done side to side rather than up and down, and flying is their exercise,” said Carole Anne Michaelsen, the bird and small animal category manager at Rolf C. Hagen Inc. in Baie d’Urfe, Quebec, Canada.

Avian habitat trends include species-specific spaciousness, escape-proof locks and stylish designs.
Retailers report that matching a bird's cage needs to its owner's color preferences is a rising trend. Photo courtesy of JacobPrusakiewicz -Preuss Pets
While finding the right-sized cage can be challenging for bird owners with one bird, for customers who own two or more birds, cage purchases can become more complicated.

“We spend as much time as needed to determine a customer’s needs,” said Frank Miser Sr., owner of Magnolia Bird Farm in Anaheim, Calif. “For example, certain birds should not be housed together, such as parakeets and lovebirds. The lovebird is more aggressive and will fight with the parakeet.”

Many retailers reported that, in addition to spaciousness, a significant number of consumers are gravitating to easy-to-clean cages that come in a variety of designer colors and styles. Miser sees cage design as the big trend.

“Cage manufacturers regularly offer new designs that are geared toward the taste of the human, not the bird,” he said. “Some of the design innovations may be architectural to fit into one’s home design; others are the use of different materials, such as Plexiglas rather than bars. There may be differences in the style of feed cups and doors, and of course, powder coating.”

Industry Voices
How do you determine the appropriate cages in which to house and display certain bird species in-store?

“The cages we use in-store are the same ones we sell to our customers. Cage size is determined by the size of the bird. For example, a canary or parakeet requires half-inch bar spacing, while a macaw cage will have 1-inch bar spacing.”
Frank Miser Sr., owner of Magnolia Bird Farm in Anaheim, Calif.

“We display as simply as possible. Smaller birds (quakers, cockatiels, parrots) are in open petters. We also have larger cages designed specifically to showcase, and these offer up to three separate tiers and stand 7 feet high.”
Jeff Frankel, franchise owner at Petland in Cicero, N.Y.

“Everything in my store is colors. The store is designed as a Caribbean village with a river that runs through it. There’s full-spectrum lighting. Cockatoos are singly put out around the inside perimeter of the village. We also use King’s Cages Java Trees to display birds when they can be monitored by staff. Also, we have an awesome Hookbill Room where the birds are housed according to age and development and community flocks that can cohabit together. Canaries, finches and doves cohabit in flight cages. We have social aviaries and single ones. And we only put a healthy amount of babies in display cages.”
Debbie Preuss, co-owner of Preuss Pets in Lansing, Mich.

“[We put] one clutch of parakeets (four or five birds) to a cage; no more than two conures together. We have a Bird Room that is viewable through two picture windows. With permission, customers can go in to interact with the birds. The main attraction, though, is our cockatoo, which is displayed in a large stainless-steel cage that’s filled with the best new treats and toys on the market.”
Terri Martin, owner of M&D Bird Farm in Harbeson, Del.

Matching the bird’s cage needs to the pet owners’ color palette is becoming trendier, retailers agreed. 

“I’m finding more customers interested in color selection,” said Terri Martin, owner of M&D Bird Farm in Harbeson, Del. “They want the cage to match the color scheme at home.”

She cited King’s Cages as a quality manufacturer she stocks for its rich choices of design and color.

But when faced with a customer who is more focused on looks than a bird’s needs, Martin said, she advocates for the bird by appealing to the owner’s aesthetic objectives.

“I tell those who are swayed more by how the cage looks than the needs it satisfies that their birds will never be beautiful because the wings will fray if they don’t have the proper space,” she said. “Customers usually respond to that because in addition to the cage style, the bird’s beauty is so important to them. Then they buy the right cage. It can still be a cage that fits with their décor. But my first concern is the bird getting the proper cage. This is a living being we’re talking about here.”

Moreover, retailers reported, cages that feature upgraded escape-proof locks are valued by customers who want peace of mind when they leave their birds unattended while at work.

Ginny Schlacter, sales representative for A&E Cage Co. in Burlington, N.J., said her company offers cages with a new locking system for the front and feeder doors.

“The spring-loaded design features a knob on the outside of the feeder door that the cage owner turns to open or close the door,” she said, “and it, in turn, locks the door so the bird cannot open it from the inside.”

She added that the new front door half-moon lock has so far proven to be pick-proof by even the cleverest birds.

Also important, according to Michaelsen, are specially designed perches to fit with cages.

“To include multi-grip perches that are designed to provide multiple grip positions, allowing the bird to get the maximum exercise for its feet and promote circulation and help prevent foot problems, is innovative now,” she said.

As for features that ease cage cleaning, Michaelsen said little details, such as shields that prevent waste from falling into feeding dishes and that are also removable from the outside, are examples of more cage innovations.

At the Petland store in Cicero, N.Y., franchise owner Jeff Frankel said his policy is that a bird’s quality of life always comes first.

“We insist people provide the proper habitat or we won’t let them buy a bird,” Frankel stated. He added that his clientele is rural and responds to affordable options, so he stocks a lot of small and large cages made by Prevue Pet Products because he likes the selection and quality.

Another retailer who goes to great lengths to serve a bird’s best interests is Debbie Preuss, co-owner of Preuss Pets in Lansing, Mich. She said she always interviews people interested in buying birds.

“When selling birds and cages, education is a forerunner,” she added.

Jeff Frankel, franchise owner at Petland in Cicero, N.Y.
Jeff Frankel, franchise owner at Petland in Cicero, N.Y.
Preuss said her store has a class/consultation room where customers are interviewed, matched with appropriate birds and educated on cages and overall health care.

“For example,” Preuss said, “when people are starting out with babies, we convey that they shouldn’t use a play top until a bond has been established. Increasingly, people end up buying two cages: a dome top for when they are not home and a play top for when they can be there to supervise.”

She said her favorite cages include Avian Adventures, Animal Environments, Prevue and King’s, and noted her store’s education process includes seminars on cage care to maximize product longevity and ensure a clean, healthy environment.

Like Miser and Martin, Preuss said she’s noticed more customers seeking cage designs that match home décor.

Above all, quality control at all levels is essential when selling cages. According to several manufacturers, if a retailer wants repeat business—and to stay in business—reliability matters.

“If you are a retailer who is selling a $2,000 cockatoo, don’t be afraid to tell the customer that they need a $700 cage,” said Richard King, president of King’s Cages International in East Brunswick, N.J. “Some people want the ego trip of having a big bird but fail to consider the expense.

“Don’t just make the sale,” he continued. “Have standards: Educate the help, put the bird first, refuse to let customers walk off with a cheap cage that is either too small or contains toxic materials and is not species appropriate. And always keep in mind that the birds are depending on you to protect them.” 

*This bonus content is a continuation of the Bird Marketplace article “Birdcage Optimization,” which appears on page 54 of the November 2010 issue. Please refer back to the magazine for the full article. Click here to become a subscriber.


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