Take Care When Selling Your Birds
by Ginger Wolnik
Copyright 1995. All rights reserved.

First published in Finch and Canary World, volume 1, number 3, 1995.

So many birds, so little time! Whether you raise birds for fun or profit, or just need to find a new home for your pet, you have an obligation to find a responsible new owner.

It is important to screen potential buyers. Find out why they want your bird and what they already know about the needs of that species. Are they looking for a pet or a bird to breed? Ask if the bird is a gift for someone else. As a rule, pets make poor surprise presents. What will happen if the recipient cannot keep the bird? They might assume that you would take it back and give a full refund. If this is not your policy, make sure they understand this!

Many children make wonderful bird owners and this interest can last a lifetime. Just make sure a parent understands that they are ultimately responsible.

If you advertise, realize that you could attract compulsive buyers. When people call me who have never owned a canary, I often mail them information and ask them to think about it. They must understand what is involved. I lose some buyers, but those who call back know what to expect.

I recommend providing buyers with written instructions on basic care. Also give the new owner at least a week's supply of the bird's usual food. Make sure they know where to get this food, or discuss acceptable alternatives. Show new owners how the bird expects to find water because some birds may not recognize different styles of tubes or drinkers as water sources.

Decide what your guarantee or refund policy is. Realize that you do not have to give any guarantees. After all, you are not a business and cannot control how they treat the bird once it leaves your home.

Provide a written receipt with a band number or description of the bird. Let the buyer read the band number on the bird and see that it matches the receipt. This protects you as the seller and makes a good impression that you care.

Giving a bird away may actually make it harder to find a good owner. Some people just like the idea of getting something for nothing. Charging at least a small amount will separate them from those people who really want a bird. Don't give away a perfectly good bird to someone even if they convince you they would love to have one. After all, if someone cannot afford the bird, how will they be able to afford a proper sized cage and quality food?

Disclose minor defects such as a missing toe. Do not sell a bird with an illness or serious problem. Even if you explain the problem, you risk ruining your reputation.

Sooner or later, you may encounter someone who you feel should not have a bird. Even if you promised them your bird, you do not have to go through with a sale if you do not think they will be a responsible owner. Be prepared for the buyer to get angry. There is probably no way to avoid ill feelings, but your self- esteem will be higher in the long run if you stick to your standards. Tell a friend, preferably a bird owner, about it and you will undoubtedly get support for your decision.

The usual result of these efforts is a prepared owner and a well cared-for bird. I have gotten letters, even Christmas cards, from customers telling me how satisfied they are with their new pet. One of the most rewarding aspects of bird breeding is learning that you have a happy bird and a happy buyer!

Bird Seller's Checklist

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