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Avian Marketplace: The Best Nest

Posted: December 16, 2013, 10:20 a.m. EDT


Help customers create the perfect bird habitat with the right cages and accessories.

By Laura Doering

Providing a safe place to house a pet bird inside the home is one of the most important purchasing decisions a bird owner must make. This big-ticket item must meet the bird’s needs and the owner’s expectations. With so many shapes, sizes and configurations to choose from, selecting the right cage can be challenging, especially for the first-time bird owner. As a retailer, knowing how to best match bird to habitat can help customers successfully navigate the cage and cage accessory aisle.

Back to Nature
The pet industry continues to develop and manufacture more natural product lines, and this trend has carried over to pet bird housing and housing accessories as well.

"Anything natural is a big seller for us and, in general, for the bird market,” said Paul Demas, project manager for Hauppauge, N.Y.-based Penn-Plax, which manufactures cages and cage accessories for a variety of pets. "People invest a lot in their pet birds, not only the initial investment of the bird itself and housing, but also emotionally, and they get very attached to their pet birds. As a result, consumers want to offer their birds the best, including natural products.”

Penn-Plax’s line of natural bird toys and cage accessories, such as its Leather & Fruit Kabobs and Monster Kabobs, are made of wood, loofah, palm leaves, sisal, bamboo and other natural materials.

Avian Cages
Bird is the Word

"They are available in different sizes and styles to fit the needs of different birds, while satisfying their need for habitat enrichment,” said Demas.

Prevue Pet Products in Chicago has also had success with natural products.

"Our top-selling cage accessories are from our New Naturals toy line,” said Richard Savitt, CEO of the company. "We have instituted being green and eco-friendly when designing this line. These are handmade and created from 100 percent natural and eco-friendly materials. They are primarily composed of coconut shells, heveawood, bamboo or mangrove woods, seashells, cotton, banana or sisal rope, and other natural and wholesome shapes and materials.”

"This product line offers birds a rugged, rich, textured landscape,” Savitt added.

A&E Cage Co. in Burlington, N.J., uses retired coffee trees, commonly referred to as javawood, to create its popular Forest Javarium cage, which gives it a more organic look compared to traditional cages, according to the company. It also features transparent Perplex front and sides, which helps contain birdcage fallout.

"The Javarium has been moving very well,” said Brent Ayres, a sales representative for A&E. "They are easy to clean and contain all the fallout mess; the bird can’t throw seeds out. A lot of my customers take [the Javarium] to bird shows and marts, and use them to house their baby birds for sale. The customer can see the birds but can’t grab at them. Everything also comes with the Javarium cage, including cage bedding, bowls, perches and toys.”

Multiple Selling Points
Kathryn Joneson, retail associate for Bird Is the Word in Batavia, Ill., said that owners of smaller birds prefer cages that can be moved around the house easily, while those with medium to large parrots prefer cages that offer a play top.

From Dowel to Wow

Many cages come with a standard dowel perch made of solid pine. However, most avian veterinarians and pet-bird enthusiasts suggest switching out dowel perches with ones that offer more surface variation and widths to promote healthy feet and legs, as well as to replicate a more natural perching surface.
Toys and nice perches remain top sellers as far as cage accessories go, said Kathryn Joneson, a retail associate for Bird Is the Word in Batavia, Ill.
"Most cages come with dowel perches,” she said. "We always recommend switching them out with more natural styled perches, like grapevine, ribbon wood or manzanita, which are especially good for birds’ feet and leg health. Most of the people who work in our store have pet birds, so we can easily match the right perches with the right type of bird.”
Tiffany Latino, owner of The Bird Shop in Sacramento, Calif., said that her most popular cage accessories include rope perches and bolt-on, natural-style branches.
Brent Ayres, sales representative for A&E Cage Co. in Burlington, N.J., said that javawood perches and toys are his company’s top-selling cage accessories.
"People like javawood because birds can’t chew it up, and it’s easy to clean and all natural. Each piece is unique, and the varying diameters work a bird’s feet. They are much better than dowel perches,” he said.—LD

"They can go with a smaller cage if the bird is going to spend a lot of time outside of it,” she said.
 
MidWest Homes for Pets, a manufacturer in Muncie, Ind., attributed the success of its Avian Adventures cage line to its design.

"Our cages are easy to assemble with interlocking panels and no-tools assembly, which also makes it easy to convert our largest cages from dome top to play top quickly and easily,” said Tara Whitehead, marketing manager. "The high-performance casters allow our cages to be moved easily from indoors to outdoors and from room to room, which is a coveted feature for bird enthusiasts.”

"We take into account home décor, size, color and activities, such as play tops when considering a new design for our models,” Prevue Pet Products’ Savitt said. "For example, our Corner Cage provides generous living space for birds while fitting perfectly in a room corner to save space.”

The Corner Cage also features a top playpen and a bottom storage shelf to increase overall space without taking up more room, and its caster stand allows an owner to easily wheel it around, Savitt added.

"We look for cages that are easy to put together, easy to clean, have larger doors and multiple feed cups,” said Tiffany Latino, owner of The Bird Shop in Sacramento, Calif., who added that many veterinarians now recommend using a separate, smaller cage, placed in a quiet room or area of the home, for a bird to sleep in.

"Some of our customers follow that recommendation,” she said. "I think it is a good idea, especially for young birds.”
 
Built to Last and Safely Made
With so much pet bird information available online, bird owners today are more likely to be aware of some of the potential health hazards specific to pet birds. As a result, customers are more inclined to look closely at a cage’s design.

"People want safety,” A&E Cage Co.’s Ayres said. "We make sure our paints are lead and iron free. Many of our customers also come to us because they want a sturdy cage. Every cage we make is screwed together, and all of our bars are welded, not drilled, which makes a difference.”

Staff at Bird Is the Word help customers make more informed decisions when it comes to buying a cage instead of basing their decision solely on price.

"You have to ask them what their initial investment is going to be,” Joneson said. "They can buy a bigger, durable cage upfront and they don’t have to replace it later on down the line, or they can buy a smaller, less-durable cage that they’ll have to eventually replace.”
 
Owners of larger parrots should look for more durable cages because these birds can destroy a less-durable cage rather quickly, Joneson added.

"If someone is getting a bird for the first time, they’re looking for help most of the time,” she said.

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