Breeder/Aviary or Pet Store
Generally speaking, getting a pet bird from a reputable breeder is the best option. It may be harder to find a bird this way, and potentially more expensive, but generally a bird from a good breeder will be well worth it. However, you need to also beware of careless or unethical breeders. Personally visiting a breeder is best, since it gives you a chance to see the conditions in which their birds are raised, and you can also get a sense of how the breeder handles their birds. If the birds are crowded and kept in unclean conditions, look elsewhere! The volume of birds moving through pet stores increases the chance of being exposed to infectious disease, and many pet stores do not interact much with their birds so the birds may be skittish.
If you are looking for a parrot, try to find a breeder that hand-raises babies and continues handling the babies after weaning (see below). However, some pet stores do raise and sell hand-raised babies, and as long as the baby birds are raised in good conditions (with proper infection control procedures), and regularly handled, a really good pet store can be a good alternative if you cannot find a good breeder.
Advantages of Hand-Raised Birds
If you are interested in a parrot, the try to find a hand-raised bird. Hand-raised birds are taken from their parents and hand-fed by humans, which helps produce tame, human-oriented pet birds. A hand-raised bird is most likely to be a cuddly, tame, and easy to handle bird. Hand-raised birds should be weaned before you take them home, but make sure the bird was still handled regularly after weaning. Some breeders invest lots of time in hand-feeding the babies but then don't handle the birds much once they are weaned. As a result, the bird may become skittish and hard to tame again.
Note: a recent study showed that daily handling sessions with parent-reared amazon babies produced birds that appeared to be quite tame. Some experts believe that this method might produce better-adjusted birds in the long term. Hopefully more studies will be carried out to determine the long term effects of parent-raised vs. hand-raised birds.
Get a Weaned Bird
Very important! Some breeders believe that unweaned baby birds will bond closer to their new owners (and unethical breeders are probably glad to pass on the demanding work of hand-feeding!). However, weaned birds still bond very readily to people, and a young bird that was handled frequently after weaning should still be tame and easy to handle. Hand feeding is very demanding and inapporpriately prepared forumula can cause a number of health problems. As well, weaning can be very stressful for baby birds, and predispose them to illness. Moving a baby to a new home around this time just adds to the stress. It is also difficult to accurately assess the health of an unweaned bird, which not only makes choosing a bird more difficult, but also means that medical problems may go undetected for longer than if the baby is with an experienced breeder.
The Older Bird
Older bird adoptions can certainly be successful, but there is lot of pontential for problems. An older bird that is not tame will be very difficult to tame and turn into a social, cuddly pet. A tame older parrot may be very bonded to its previous owner and many not be as tame with a new owner; at the very least it may take time and patience to get such a bird to fully trust and start to bond with you. Also, when adopting an older bird you might be inheriting serious behaviour problems which may be difficult or impossible to fix. If adopting an older bird, make sure you know what you are getting, and be prepared to accept the bird as is.
Your bird may have a metal band around one leg. These are a form of identification and are marked with a code that identifies the origins of the bird. Domestically bred birds have a closed band (there is no split in the band) that is slipped over the leg when the bird is small. Open bands are found on imported birds, and have a split since they are applied by closing an open band around the bird's leg.
What to Get in Writing: The Purchase Contract
Although a purchase document/contract might be quite informal, you should be sure to get certain things in writing:
- Make the purchase conditional to a vet check. Arrange to have your avian vet examine the bird, with the condition that you can return the bird if health problems are apparent.
- Hatch date, band number, scientific name, and sex of the bird if known.
- Amount paid and method of payment.
- Conditions of sale and under what circumstances the bird can be returned.
- If your bird is imported, make sure you get all the documentation. If you ever need to move your bird, you may need these papers.