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Avian Marketplace: Variety is Key When Selling Bird Perches and Swings

Posted: Sept. 26, 2012, 5:15 p.m. EDT

Education is the driving force behind this product category’s sales.
By Lindsey Getz

Perches and swings are “necessity items” that all owners should have for their birds, yet this is a category where a customer may need some education. Many bird owners keep a single perch in the cage, but a happy and healthy bird should have multiple perching options and, when possible, those options should be varied, according to industry participants.

A Variety of Perches
“Perch variety and condition are often overlooked when it comes to the companion bird’s health,” said Melanie Allen, avian product specialist for Rolf C. Hagen Inc., headquartered in Montreal. “Since a bird spends all of its time on a perch of some kind, it’s important to offer a variety to either curtail or prevent achy feet and thus prevent health problems. At Hagen Avicultural Research Institute (HARI) we recommend that pet birds have at least three types of perches in their cage or exercise area.”

Perches and swings for pet birds
Displaying perches next to toys can help remind customers of their importance. Photo by Sherri L. Collins/Bowtie Inc. at Nature Pet Centre
The placement of the perches is also important, noted Barbara Hobbs, owner of The Feathered Nest in Williamsburg, Va.

“Birds prefer to sleep at the highest point of the cage, so when placing a variety of perches for them to use, it’s important to remember to have one at the very top,” she said. “This is often something that bird owners overlook. They remember to have a perch by the food and water but forget the bird’s other needs.”

Birds also need some entertainment when perching, noted Jack Lance, owner of Bird Paradise in Burlington, N.J.

“There’s not much to do on a perch but to move left or right,” he said. “So you also have to think about what’s surrounding the perch. Are there activities for the bird to do? You need to think about attaching some things to the perch that they can play with.”

The Peekaboo Perch Tent from Super Bird Creations in Grand Junction, Colo., is made of soft fleece and designed to serve several purposes. It has hanging items that give the bird something to play with while perching and offers a swinging motion, which birds may find soothing, according to the company.

“The Peekaboo Perch Tent helps minimize the bird’s stress and gives them a sense of security,” said Deb White, company owner. “And this particular tent design has a built-in perch so that the droppings fall to the bottom of the cage.”

Industry Voices
What’s the most important thing you tell your customers about perches?

“Because perches serve several purposes, it’s really important that customers get the right ones. Getting the right perch for the diameter of the bird’s feet is critical. There are different size perches for different size birds and it’s not always cut and dry, so customers should talk to a retailer that can help them. African Greys don’t have big feet, for instance, but because of their size and needing balance, they should still be on a large perch. These types of things are important to the bird’s health.”
Barbara Hobbs, owner of The Feathered Nest in Williamsburg, Va.

“The most important fact customers should know is ‘size does matter!’ A perch should not be too thin that the bird’s toes overlap underneath the perch. On the other hand, if a perch is thicker, it should be of material that the bird can grip like a natural branch.
“A smooth, very thick perch can be very difficult for a bird to grip and, in the case of a clipped parrot, this can lead to spills. When it comes to flighted birds like canaries and finches, it’s important that a cage does not have too many perches or no space between them. The birds need room to fly.”
Kelsey Hopper, livestock manager at Pisces Pet Emporium in Calgary, Alberta, Canada

“There’s a whole menu of things that a pet store should tell the consumer. Most important is that the bird needs multiple perches—definitely one next to the food and water dish. You also need to think about a source to get to the perch. Remember that babies in particular may need help getting on to the perch.”
Jack Lance, owner of Bird Paradise in Burlington, N.J.

Depending on what type of bird a customer owns, they should also know that perches aren’t only for a cage. Caitec Corp. of Baltimore offers a new training perch that allows users to interact with their bird while being protected from both droppings and bites.

The Percher is a hand-held or free-standing device that allows a bird to perch and be trained, said Terry Gao, the company’s president. It is made up of four component parts—perch, cone, handle, and base—that twist and lock together, allowing for multiple configurations, he noted. And because it is portable, users can enjoy their birds anywhere, Gao added.

The Health of the Bird
It’s important to educate current and future bird owners on the importance of perches as a means of promoting good health.

“This is an area where the customer needs a lot of education,” Bird Paradise’s Lance said. “Some think that the old-fashioned wooden dowels are still the way to go—when you’d just stick a broom stick in the cage. It’s important that the customer is educated as to what works best for the bird. While people like the plastic perches because they’re easy to clean, that is not a natural material to the bird and they don’t really like it. We also don’t recommend concrete perches because it absorbs the moisture out of the bird’s feet.”

Perches are definitely important to bird health; those with ergonomic design offer relief to the bird’s feet from being in stationary perch grip, Hagen’s Allen said.

A new flat perch that is designed to distribute weight over the complete foot area for maximum comfort comes from Polly’s Pet Products Inc., in Bonaire, Ga. The U.S.-made Comfy Clam is safe and even edible, according to the company.

“The perch contains kelp, iodine, and calcium, which is beneficial in several ways,” said Kimberly A. Knick, CEO. “Kelp is an excellent mineral supplement for birds and is prized for its iodine content. Iodine is essential for normal thyroid function, which is missing in most birds’ food diet. And most veterinarians recommend calcium for caged birds.”

Making the Sale
Having perches in use in store cages can go a long way toward making a sale.

“If you can set up perches and swings for the customer to see, that’s ideal,” said Kelsey Hopper, livestock manager for Pisces Pet Emporium in Calgary. “But putting multipurpose perches and swings in the toy section might also make people more inclined to purchase them. Customers always think of toys as being important but forget about different kinds of perches and swings. Remind customers these items are important, too, and should always be included and even changed around to keep the birds occupied.”


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