1. I am interested in _______________ species. What is your favourite quality of that species, and what is a difficulty of owning the species?

With so many bird species from which to choose, most breeders work with species they enjoy and are happy to share some of their favourite qualities of that species. That said, every species has its own unique quarks about them — i.e. some are noisier than others, some are more dominant or more submissive, some have higher levels of dander on their feathers, and some have really runny droppings or specific nutritional needs different from other species. Ask your breeder to share one or more difficulties to owning the species so you can ensure this is something you have prepared to work through. This also helps establish whether the breeder is just “in it for the money”, or truly trying to ensure their babies are in a home where the buyer is appropriately educated and prepared.

2. What are the birds in your aviary fed? What will my baby be weaned onto?

Look for a breeder who offers a variety of healthy options to their flock, especially regular fresh veggies, cooked lentils and cooked grains. While some seed is certainly okay, a seed-only diet is not adequate nutrition for any bird, let alone those whose bodies are under the stress of laying eggs and raising young.

3. Are the birds in your aviary disease-tested? How often? Are there any other steps you take to ensure the health of your flock?

Good breeders care about the health of their aviary and take steps to protect it. Look for a breeder who disease-tests their entire flock at least once every 2-3 years (ideally annually), for the “four major” avian diseases. Further, good breeders operate a “closed” aviary, not allowing visitors to see their main breeding room or their breeding pairs. While it may seem like they are hiding something, this practice is actually intended to reduce stress (breeding birds are often untame and therefore new human visitors to their environment causes great stress), and prevent the potential for disease and illness from entering the facility by way of a visitor’s clothing. Finally, good breeders will quarantine any new breeding stock or pet birds entering their facility until they can ensure that the new bird is healthy and free of disease.

4. Can you offer recommendations of cage size, bird-safe perches and toys, and other accessories I will need to get started?

A good breeder cares about setting their clients and their birds up for success and will, at the very least, be willing to discuss over the phone/email some things to look for when choosing supplies for your new feathered friend. Many good breeders will go a step further and offer links to specific items they approve, or giving their opinion on items you have picked out online.

5. Can I see photos and videos of your past babies? Do you have anywhere I can read testimonials from other bird owners who worked with you as their breeder?

This question establishes credibility. With birds becoming increasingly popular as pets, and often fetching a high price tag, there are more scams out there than there are reputable sources to purchase them. In the past month alone I have read six separate stories of unassuming and trusting buyers handing over hundreds or thousands of dollars to someone they met online who claims to have the bird of their dreams. By the time the buyer realizes they have been scammed they are at a loss with no way to report the individual who suddenly disappears from all online correspondence.

How can you avoid this unfortunate situation?

Firstly, ask for photos — lots of them! If the breeder has a Facebook Page, scroll through the posts and see if there is any longevity to them. Does the dating on posts go back just a month or two, or do they have posts dating many years back?

Secondly, ask for a phone number at which the breeder can be reached, and actually call it! Good breeders are happy to answer some questions over the phone. Scam artists avoid any phone contact and may refuse to give a phone number, give a disconnected number, or give a WhatsApp number instead of a real phone number.

Finally, ask if there is anywhere you can read reviews from other families who worked with the breeder. Some breeders have reviews on their website, and others have them on their social media pages. A good number of reviews, and reviews that have actual written content to go along with their star rating, are signs of a legitimate business and not a scam.