Where should I buy from?
There are essentially three sources of birds.
First, from pet shops; second, from breeders; and third, from owners who
have to give up their pets. I see very few green cheeks for sale
by their owners, which says something about how successful they are as
pets! Buying a "second-hand" green cheek is especially complicated,
and it's important to get to know the bird and the owner well before you
commit to the purchase.
Many pet green cheeks are sold at pet shops.
Personally, I would recommend buying from a breeder. For one thing,
breeders often charge much less for their birds, as much as half the average
pricing of pet shops. This is because they're the wholesalers.
Also, a breeder will know more about the baby - it's hatch date, what the
personality of the parents is like and so on. Although by no means
always true, it is also often the case that breeders are more knowledgeable
about birds and more willing to help you out with your questions.
Having said that about breeders, there are some
very good and knowledgable specialty bird stores out there.
How do I tell the difference between a good breeder
or pet shop and a bad one?
Really, it's less important to choose between a
pet shop or breeder than it is to choose the RIGHT pet shop or breeder!
I think one of the most important things should be that the seller genuinely
cares about the birds. If a person cares for the birds, they will
feed them right, house them right, and only sell birds to people who are
going to provide good homes.
When visiting a pet shop or breeder, it's important
to ask questions. The seller should seem knowledgeable about birds
and willing to answer any question you might have. Don't be afraid
to ask questions about the seller, the seller's birds, or their diet, housing
The birds' environment should be clean. Birds
are messy so you can expect some mess, but there shouldn't be dropping
piled up on the cage floor or caked on the perches. There should
be clean food and water available in the dishes. The diet shouldn't
consist of only seeds.
Very importantly, trust your instincts. If
you feel uncomfortable with a seller, go ahead and look elsewhere.
What's with all these "hand-feds", or "parent-raiseds"
Most baby birds are taken from their parents' nest
at a young age, usually around 2-3 weeks. From then on they are hand-fed
by people. They become adjusted to humans and learn to look to them
for companionship. A parent-raised bird is one which was left in
the parents' nest through weaning. Usually, these birds are not tame
and would rather not associate with people.
However, even hand-feds aren't necessarily tame
and friendly. Even a hand-fed bird may be shy of people if it hasn't
been handled routinely.
Some babies are hand-fed with spoons, others with
syringes, others with gavage tubes, and still others with other methods.
The feeding method is less important than how much handling a baby recieves.
However, with that said, spoon-feeding takes the longest time so the baby
will get a certain minimum amount of handling just while being fed.
Most people syringe-feed and it can be a fast or slow method depending
on the feeder. I would avoid sellers who routinely gavage-feed their
babies. A gavage tube is a rubber tube that is inserted down the
bird's throat - the food is squirted directly into the crop. The
baby never even gets to taste the food, and the whole feeding process takes
only a few seconds. Large breeders may gavage-feed to save time -
but saving time means they aren't spending much time on handling the babies
to make sure they're tame and friendly!
How do I choose the right baby?
First and foremost, the bird should be friendly
and fearless. Green cheeks are not known for being shy, least of
all the babies. If a hand-raised baby is shy of being handled by
anyone, that's a big warning sign! A well-raised baby green cheek
is always happy to meet new people, including children.
It is natural for baby conures to want to nibble
on your fingers in an exploratory way, and some may do it hard enough to
be painful. This is something to be expected. But, babies should
NOT be aggressively biting.
The baby's feathers should be clean, smooth and
shiny. "Stress bars" are black markings crossing the feathers.
They are a sign of stress during that period of the feather's growth.
A very few stress bars are normal, but a lot of stress bars are a sign
of a lot of stress as the baby was growing up.
Last, choose a baby you connect with, one that you
like a lot and one that seems to like you a lot. This is important!
How old should the bird be?
The ideal are to bring home baby would be a week
or two after weaning. Most green cheeks wean around 8-12 weeks.
The bird should remain at the seller's for at least a week after weaning
to make sure he is fully capable of eating on his own.
You should not buy an unweaned baby unless you are
an experienced hand-feeder. There is no truth to the myth that a
baby will bond to you better if you hand-feed it. A newly weaned
baby will bond to you just as easily as an unweaned baby. And hand-feeding
has it's dangers - it is all to easy to injure or even kill a bird with
a simple mistake.
Some sellers encourage buyers to visit the baby
as it's growing up. This is a great solution - it allows you to handle
and "bond" with the baby before weaning, without the dangers of taking
on the hand-feeding process yourself!
Don't be afraid to buy an older baby or even an
adult bird, either, so long as the bird is tame, friendly and gets along
well with you!
How much should I expect to pay?
This depends a lot on where you're buying your bird
and whom you're buying from. A hand-fed, weaned baby from a breeder
will cost, on average, about $100-$250, commonly around $150-$200.
Pet shops are more, and that same hand-fed, weaned baby may cost up to
$500. Although sometimes you may see unweaned babies or babies from
large-scale breeders for under $100, please keep in mind that you almost
invariably get what you pay for! You are hopefully going to have
this bird around for many, many years - a little extra money spent at the
outset for a much better bird will be more than worth it!
What about health guarantees?
No matter where you're buying from, you should get
some sort of health guarantee. Most allow you a period of days to
get the bird checked by a qualified veterinarian, with a promise of a refund
if there's anything wrong. Others are different or more complicated.
I do not recommend buying a bird that doesn't come with a health guarantee
- you may be stuck high and dry if it turns out there's something wrong.
Ask your seller about the health guarantee before you commit to the purchase,
and get it in writing!
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