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Avian Marketplace: Pretty Birds, Soaring Sales

Posted: September 3, 2013, 10:00 a.m. EDT

Avian grooming products and services are making a bigger splash in the pet retail marketplace.

By Ramona D. Marek

Companion birds possess the same grooming instinct of their wild cousins but rely on their owners to provide a rich variety of products for appropriate feather, nail and beak care to maintain their appearance and health.

Avian professionals suggest basic at-home products that offer ease and convenience to owners and their birds starting with daily baths for feather care. The simplest product is the basic birdbath that birds use on their own.

Pretty Bird
The Shower Bird Perch’s 6-foot hose connects to an existing showerhead at bath time, and the sprayer’s misting setting can be adjusted to a bird’s comfort level. Idea Factory

Donna Getty, owner of Parrot Perch in Vancouver, Wash., said birds will bathe in the water dish, sink or shower. Her top seller is the Quick Lock Bird Bath by Lixit Corp. in Napa, Calif.

"I like it because it attaches to the cage and is shallow and wide, making it great for smaller birds,” she said.

For larger birds, and those that enjoy a spritz or shower, experts said the most accessible product is the handheld trigger spray bottle.

"Owners should acclimate their birds to the water spraying action,” Getty said. "Some birds like the spray from the top, some like the spray from the bottom, and some birds, like the blue and gold macaws, act like water is acid. Never spray directly in the face.”

A variation of the spray bottle is the pump spray bottle (the pump may be manual).

"Zoo Med [Laboratories Inc.] makes a very nice sprayer that is battery operated, quiet, durable and fun,” said Dr. Greg Burkett, board-certified avian veterinarian and owner of Diamond Avian Distributors Inc. in Hurdle Mills, N.C. and The Birdie Boutique in Durham, N.C.

Eric McGinnis, co-owner of M & D Bird Farm in Harbeson, Del., said Rinse Ace shower perches and bird bathers work well because the bird bather is adjustable and gentle, and offers an alternative to spray bottles.

The Rinse Ace Shower Misting Bird Bather is the newest product release from Idea Factory in Menomonee Falls, Wis.

"The quick-connect hose technology is exclusive to Idea Factory’s products and offers a convenient solution to caring for a bird’s delicate skin and feathers,” said Patty Mueller, company CEO/president.

"The 6-foot hose simply connects to your existing showerhead only at bath time, and the sprayer’s misting setting can be adjusted to a bird’s comfort level. When bath time is over, just disconnect the hose and the showerhead returns to normal operation. The rain setting at full coverage is also great for rinsing and cleaning bird cages.”

When bath time requires more than water, bath sprays and shampoos are available.

"Rain by [Harrison Pet Products’] Healx is an excellent bath spray that can be used as a daily mist, if necessary, to reduce dust and dander; it also aids in maintaining healthy skin and feathers, and makes preening easier, especially during molting,” Dr. Burkett said, adding that Rain is displayed at the counter as an impulse item and they use bottles in-store so customers can see the product in use on the store’s birds.

Getty, McGinnis and Dr. Burkett said shampoos should be used seldom on birds.

"Shampoo should not be used as a routine bathing method—this will remove the natural oils from the feathers, causing them to lose the ability to insulate and keep the bird warm,” Dr. Burkett said. "I recommend shampoos only in the cases of excessive dirt and oils in the feathers or certain skin diseases to remove odors from the feathers and skin or for similar conditions.”

When shampoos are used, McGinnis likes Smithfield, R.I., Mango Pet Products and East Brunswick, N.J., King’s Cages’ products.

"We use and recommend King’s Feather Shine Shampoo and Mango’s various shampoos because we found they are very low impact and do not leave residue on the bird’s feathers,” McGinnis said. "Birds preen their feathers, so every one of their feathers typically goes in their mouth at one time or another, so anything that leaves a residue on their feathers would be ingested.”

For avian enthusiasts who keep chickens as pets, Lixit Corp. offers a feather care conditioner spray, said Sonia Wertz, sales manager.
"Chicken grooming has become very popular, and we have also introduced a Chicken Bathing Powder, as chickens do like a ‘dirt’ bath; in backyards, a dirt bath may be hard to find,” she said. "With the powder bath you can make a simple box, or use a shallow litter pan, fill with the dust, and let the chickens go at it.”

Nail and Beak Care
Because bird nails and the outer layer of beaks continuously grow, maintenance is necessary and often can be accomplished with the same product.

"Sweet Feet & Beak’s Thermolite concrete perches are great as a primary perch,” McGinnis said. "They help keep nails filed down, and many birds rub their beaks on the substantial mounting base.”

Getty’s top-selling grooming perch is Sweet Feet & Beak Safety Pumice perch that is smooth on two sides.

"The pumice perch is lightweight, safe for feet and attaches to vertical bars so it can’t be installed wrong,” she said.

Parrotopia Sandy Perch Products in Grants Pass, Ore., released the Sandy Perch forked branch, said JoAnne Laganowsky, manager.

"The double perch gives more area for parrots to groom their nails and beaks,” Laganowsky said. "We still use the only FDA-approved materials but added more colors and sparkles.”

For beak care, "Polly’s Pet Products makes terrific edible perches, toys and mineral blocks that are excellent for helping birds keep their beaks healthy,” Dr. Burkett said.

The bird experts discussed several types of nail clippers on the market—small scissors, guillotine-style and human nail clippers. But they all advised against the average owner using them because of the danger of cutting into the quick and the bird bleeding to death. For experienced owners who do trim their birds’ nails, the most important thing, regardless of style, is that the implement is sharp, said Getty.

Avian Grooming Services
Avian specialists expressed the maxim that the average bird owner not attempt deeper aspects of grooming, which include nail trimming and filing, wing clipping and beak filing.

"One of the most stressful things that occurs in a bird’s life is getting groomed,” McGinnis said. "It is better to delegate that to a third party, like a professional groomer, so the bird does not have a negative connotation associated with the owner.

"Every beak length is different, and there is a vein that runs through the beak,” she continued. "Unlike a dog or a cat, a bird can bleed to death from a toenail or beak cut too short because birds have a minute amount of blood in them.”

Additionally, "An incorrect wing clip can have deleterious effects both physically and psychologically,” Dr. Burkett said.

Grooming services not only provide safe and healthy grooming practices for birds but also give peace of mind to owners. They provide an opportunity to educate owners about bird care and stimulate sales.
With each grooming customer comes the chance for add-on sales while they wait for their birds. McGinnis said his store averages about 15 customers a day. Dr. Burkett said he has approximately up to 115 appointments weekly as well as walk-ins. Getty said an average day might bring anywhere from two to eight grooming customers a day.

When asked what percentage of grooming customers buy extras such as toys, food, treats, etc., McGinnis said 80 percent of customers buy extras, Dr. Burkett said 95 percent or higher, and Getty said about 75 to 80 percent of her grooming customers buy add-ons at the time of grooming. <HOME>


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