We, as bird owners, are always in need of those 'last minute' supplies for our feathered friends. Not all shops cater to the needs of avians, however, and when we do find the occasional store that advertises as being "for the birds" we sometimes find that the shop is less then satisfactory. How to find a good store that you feel confident in buying from? There are two common shopping choices ... online or a "brick and mortar" store. When it comes to the brick and mortar type, here is a general guideline: When you enter a bird store assess the general physical aspects of the store. Then carefully observe the way the employees relate to parrots and customers’ alike.
A Comfortable Ambience
Some of the best shops I have been in are the ones that exude friendliness toward both birds and customers. Many of these same stores have dedicated customers that come in just to visit, or even help socialize the baby birds from time to time. Some stores even encourage such an atmosphere by placing chairs around the area, and bringing the birds out on stands to interact with the customers. In one I have witnessed some of the regular customers enthusiastically helping a store "newbie" make a toy selection, or recommend a certain brand of food. These are not only good social experiences for parrots and humans alike, but good learning experience for both parties as well. When I have a friend that is interested in getting into bird keeping, I take them on a field trip to my favorite local store where they can interact with the birds and gain knowledge from the staff.
The Store Environment
The physical environment of a good store is one that is clean and has good lighting, as well as a comfortable temperature and humidity level. Cleaning that is done as a part of the daily routine is essential. Do not expect a store to be immaculate at all times because, of course, birds are messy creatures. A good shop strives to stay on top of the stores condition on a regular basis. If you are worried about the cleanliness of the shop, visit several times a day staggering your visits so you can observe the environment at different times. Do you see anyone cleaning? Are those hulls on the floor recent, or have they been there since 2 p.m. yesterday?
A good representation of a quality store is to look at the bird's cages. Are the cages clean, do the birds have access to fresh food and water? Do they have toys to play with, and a couple of perches? Are cages stacked upon on another in a haphazard manner in attempt to save room? (Quality manufactured stacking cages are acceptable). Another thing to examine is what kind of clientele the shop has. Does the shop just sell avian supplies, or do they offer boarding services, physically sell birds, or both? If the shop sells and boards birds then make sure to note if the boarding birds and store birds are in a separate area. What about the babies that are still on a hand feeding regimen? Where are they kept? It is a good practice for hand feeding babies to be away from traffic and not allowed to be handled by the public.
One of the best things about a quality bird store, in my mind, is the staff. You can walk into the shop and get educated opinions and advice from the staff about a number of avian subjects. Bird owners, much like their birds, enjoy "flocking" together (pardon the pun, couldn’t resist!) and sharing stories, joys, triumphs, and heartbreak with other bird owners. A knowledgeable store employee can assist with the purchase of items for your bird, recommend veterinary, grooming, or even boarding services. Not only is a knowledgeable store employee a benefit to the shop and customers, a well- ersed store employee is a benefit to the community. An employee that can educate customers on a regular basis is doing a good service and potentially improving the lives of many birds living at home. Unfortunately, many people are still stuck with outdated avian information, and supplying them a source of new and updated information can increase the quality of their animal's life.
If you are lucky enough to have several stores in your area, take time to visit them all and pick the one that best suits your needs. You will be investing a lot of time and money into the shop, with the purchase of bird, cage, or even just regular items such as enrichment and toys and you want to ensure your money is going towards a facility that you can support and recommend to others.
Take Advantage of Online Bird Stores, too!
Shopping locally offers advantages, but what about those of us who do not have a local source, or perhaps are needing a more cost-effective way to obtain our bird supplies. That is where shopping online proves advantageous. The best online bird stores offer a huge array of essential bird supplies and wonderful accessories, some of which are not available through your local sources. And they can often save a bird lover money. These stores, while not able to provide face-to-face interaction, do provide years of experience and more products than most brick and mortar store can inventory. The best stores have knowledgeable and willing owners that will spend as much time with you as needed to be sure that you acquire the right products for your bird(s).