Ok, now you have decided what kind of bird you want and where to look for it. What else should you watch for? Look at the feather condition of the bird. If the feathers are broken, chewed or missing leaving bald spots, pass up that bird. Don’t listen if the sell says “He’s just molting”. This is one of the most common excuses used by owners of feather pickers. Many feather pickers will pick for the rest of their lives. Worse yet, the bird could have PBFD “Psittacine beak and feather disease.”This disease is always fatal and very contagious to other birds. A bird that is healthy and going through a molt, may be slightly ragged looking, but you should be able to tell the difference. Healthy molting birds usually have a couple of pin feathers showing on their heads. Look for these! If you don’t know what to look for, take someone with you who does.
Look in the eyes. If the eyes look cloudy or watery, stay away. This could be an onset of a disease or a chronic condition that is ongoing. Likewise, look at the vent area. If it is matted with feces, stay away. This is a good sign that the bird has been having diarrhea problems, which is also indicative of disease. The nares (nostrils) should also be clean and dry and have no matted feathers surrounding them.
Examine the beak and feet. Look for any crusty or flaky areas. Some flaking of the beak material is normal, but if it is pronounced, don’t buy the bird. Crusty areas can mean many physical problems in the works. Don’t buy the bird. Don’t forget to count toes. If the bird has only a couple of toes missing, you probably won’t have any problems. You may, however, be able to knock a few dollars off the price. Normally, if the birds beak is slightly crooked, you will have no problems. Be concerned, however, if the beak is very deformed. You may be making trips to the vet several times a year for trimming. Also if the bird is a female and you plan to breed her in the future, beak deformities can sometimes inhibit her ability to feed offspring.
Look at the droppings of the bird. The feces should be darkish-green and well formed (like worms). The urates should be white. There should also be a slight amount of urine, which should be almost clear in color. Some pelleted diets on the market can cause changes in the color and texture of the droppings. Again, try to be informed and when in doubt, call a vet and ask questions before the purchase.
Find out what diet the bird has been on. Make sure it is a well-rounded healthy diet. If not, you could have a heck of a time getting the bird switched over to better eating habits.
Ask for a guarantee. Most sellers (if reputable) will give you some kind of guarantee. Usually, it is only for a day or two so that you have time to take the bird to a vet to get a check-up.
Ask for a health check-up to be done. This normally would only be a quick routine check-up because in the bird business, sellers couldn’t realize a profit if they were to have the bird checked for everything that could possibly go wrong. Ask if you can talk to the seller’s veterinarian. Ask for references from others they have sold birds to. If they have nothing to hide, you will be given the information you request. You may also ask to meet them at your vets office and have a Pre-Purchase exam done at your expense. It could cost you some cash, but in the long run, it could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars.
Why and when should I quarantine? If you own any other birds, even a finch or parakeet, you should quarantine them. Quarantine should last for, at the very least, 30 days. During this time, you watch the bird for any signs of illness caused by the stress of the new environment. Sometimes you can purchase a bird that appears healthy at the time of purchase, only to discover it has a disease or chronic condition that only shows at the time of stress. Moving to a new home is a stress on a bird. Some take it much better than others, but there is still a time of adjustment. If the bird is ill, it will usually show up within the first 30 days after the move. Definitely watch for all the signs of illness during this period.
If you have not found an avian veterinarian by this time, now is the time to do so. Keep the phone number in an easily accessible place. Now may also be the time to find a bird sitter for the times you will need to be away from your bird.
If a pre-purchase exam was not done, you should now decide if you will do a post-purchase exam. Which birds should you have examined and how much should you spend? Many people tend to buy 2, 3 or more parrots and have them all tested thoroughly by the vet. Then they decide it would be fun to have just one little bird too. This is great! The only problem is, that if they only pay $25-$75 for the small bird, they feel it’s too great an expense to have the same testing done. Unfortunately, some of these people are very sorry later for that mistake. They could lose the large birds just as easily from something the small bird is carrying as if the large bird was sick in the beginning. Make your testing decisions wisely. If you aren’t going to spend the money to test the little one, maybe you should forget the purchase.
Now you have a beautiful tame bird and it loves you and your whole family to bits! It’s healthy and happy. Do you now forget all the worries and live the rest of your life in bliss with your new family member? Nope!
Remember earlier I mentioned that birds can live up to 100 years or more? If you happen to be purchasing one of these fantastic wonders, you have to think to the future. Let’s say you buy a bird that is 6 months old. Let’s assume you are 35 years old. Get the picture? If you feed the bird well and all goes as planned, you will possibly be 135 years old before “Polly” passes on.
Time to write a will. If you already have a will, it’s time to add the bird to it. Most likely your children and grandchildren will all get a shot at loving “Polly”. If you know your children/grandchildren won’t want “Polly”, you may want to set up a pre-arranged adoption with someone you know will. If this is also out of the question, you could set up a pre-arranged sale. Most states won’t allow you to ask that the bird be put to sleep upon your death.