Saturday, August 2, 2014

Money saving tips for bird owners

We are all feeling the crunch of the economy nowadays. We want to do the best we can for our feathered family members, but need to watch our pocketbooks as well. Here are a few tips I have learned over the years that have been beneficial to both my birds and my budget:
1.  Incorporate fresh foods in your bird’s diet. Not only are fresh foods healthy for your bird (and you too), but economical as well. If you enjoy being outdoors, think about planting a garden. My husband has a wonderful garden that provides seasonal fresh foods all year long for us and the birds. At the market, purchase fruits and vegetables in season to take advantage of lower prices. Summer foods that are in season now for example are corn on the cob, cantelope, yellow squash, zucchini, cucumbers, peaches, nectarines, figs, okra, papaya, mango and watermelon. When preparing meals for your family, put aside a few healthy items and incorporate them into your bird’s meals.   
2. Defrosted frozen vegetables are a nice addition to the diet and usually run about 99 cents per pound. We also use defrosted blueberries here which our birds love!
3. Learn to sprout. Serving live, fresh, growing food is one of the best things you can do for your bird. We use a simple wide mouth canning jar with a screen lid and purchase items from the bulk bins of Whole Foods. Pre-mixed sprouting blends are expensive to buy and have shipped. Make your own for a fraction of the cost. Some items you can sprout are hard winter wheat berries, mung beans, lentils, buckwheat groats, hulled sunflower, whole dried green and yellow peas, and safflower.
4. Don’t fall for the hype. There always seems to be some new super food or supplement out there that claims to cure everything. Or someone with lots of seemingly good information, but at a closer look what they are really doing is providing slanted information to sell their products.  Keep your money in your pocket, be careful of what you read and really think before you buy. This also goes for following advice from online message groups which can be dangerous or make your bird sick. If you have a question regarding your bird’s care, it’s best to ask a qualified avian professional such as an experienced breeder or avian vet. Common sense also goes a long way. If you would not feed an item to a young child, it is probably not good for your bird.
5. Utilize your husband! If your husband is handy with tools, you can save a lot of money!  Have him cut toy parts from untreated lumber or safe natural branches, drill some holes and you have a bird toy for a fraction of the cost of store bought. I don’t bother with coloring wood pieces. If I want to add some color, I add some plastic beads or recycled parts from other toys (see number 6). I've also seen some wonderful homemade play areas that were built for a fraction of the cost of storebought. 
6. Recycle parts from old toys. Keep those chains, quick links, beads, wood pieces, etc. and use them to make new toys or to add interesting elements to homemade toys.
7. Stretch your toy budget by getting creative and making your own toys from common household items. Straws, paper cups, coffee filters and small cardboard boxes can make inexpensive, fun bird toys. Visit your local craft store for unpainted popsicle sticks, natural wicker wreaths and baskets, wood pieces, plastic beads, etc. There are lots of ideas for inexpensive, homemade bird toys online.
8. Check out thrift stores. I purchase sheets to cover cages for a fraction of the cost of new at a local thrift store. Some people have also told me they found good deals on bird appropriate baby toys at these places. Just be sure to sterilize these types of items well before giving them to your bird and be sure they are safe.
9. Measure your bird’s food! This technique is used by professional bird trainers and is an effective way to manage your bird’s eating habits. Overfeeding your bird leads to wasted food (and money) and selective eating. Seed diets got a bad rap because of this. Bird owners were feeding their birds a big bowl of seed every day, and the birds would only eat one or two of the items from the mix, which led to malnutrition. Now, I want to make it clear I am not saying to starve your bird!! Slowly start cutting down on the amounts offered and take note of how much your bird ACTUALLY EATS. For example, my Meyers parrot used to be very wasteful with her pellets. When I started offering just enough to cover the bottom of her dish instead of filling the bowl, she stopped wasting them. She always has pellets available, just a lesser amount. When I started measuring the seed portion of my parrotlet’s diet (he gets about a teaspoon a day of a high quality mix), I found he not only ate the entire mix, but started eating his pellets and fresh foods as well, resulting in him CONSUMING a more well rounded diet.
10. Buy some bird skewers!! Oh my gosh, I love my bird skewers! I hang fruit and vegetables on them, and use them as a base to hang homemade toys or to build a new toy from recycled toy parts. These really cut down on food waste since your bird cannot pick up a chunk of food and then drop it through the grate. Some foods that your bird may not touch in his dish, become a fun item to check out when hung on a skewer!
11. If your bird seems “off” get him checked out by a vet. Although you are probably thinking how does spending money at the vet’s office save me money? Bringing your bird in at the first sign of a problem, will save you big in the long run. If a bird is just showing signs of illness, usually this can be taken care quite easily if addressed right away. Perhaps it is a bacterial or respiratory infection starting up or maybe a simple yeast infection. For the cost of an office visit and some medication, you can get a potential problem knocked out right away. This is much less expensive than waiting and then having to bring your bird to an emergency vet clinic in the middle of the night. Or having your bird become so ill that he has to spend several days recovering at the vet’s office: Cha-ching!!
12. Check out your local feed store. The feed stores near me carry quality bird food at very reasonable prices. They also special order food for me. If I tell them it is an item that I buy on a regular basis, they will stock it so they have it in the store when I need it. If you are feeding multiple birds and want to buy food in bulk bags, this is definitely an avenue you should check out.
13. Make arrangements for bird sitting BEFORE you need it! If you know you are going to be traveling, start looking NOW for someone to take care of your bird. I cannot tell you how many last minute phone calls I get around Christmas time from people needing to find a place to board their birds. The best and least expensive option is to have a trusted neighbor, friend or family member either come to your home every day or keep the bird at their home while you’re away. If they have pets too, maybe you can work out an arrangement to swap petsitting services for each other at no cost.
14. Take advantage of websites that offer free shipping. If they have minimum order requirements to qualify for free shipping, plan your orders accordingly. Dr. Foster & Smith offers free shipping on orders of $49 or more. My Safe Bird Store is another great site. They always have some kind of sale going on and free shipping on orders totaling $100 or more. I refer all of my customers to these two sites for bird supplies.
15. Love and attention goes a long way to keeping your bird happy and healthy. Take your bird to the shower with you. Bring him with you to ride in the car when you run errands. Let him hang out with you while you unload the dishwasher or fold clothes. Bring him outside (either in a safe travel cage or teach him to wear a harness) and let him get some fresh air and sunshine. Teach him some fun tricks. Turn on a movie and just relax and cuddle your bird for a while.
I have to say, the longest lived, healthiest, most well adjusted birds I have met did not have owners with lots of money. They did not get high priced special organic foods or have the most expensive toys. They did not live in custom, stainless steel cages. Their owners did not obsess over their care. These birds instead were basically treated like family members. They were fed a simple diet comprising mostly of fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy “people food”, a little bit of quality seed mix and maybe some pellets. Some birds got a vitamin supplement sprinkled over their fresh foods or in their water once or twice a week.  If they needed to go to the vet, they went. Nothing special there. But their owners loved them dearly and spent lots of time with them. I think that counts for a lot in regards to our bird’s well being and is something we sometimes forget about in this age of information (more on this in a future article).
Love and common sense doesn’t cost a thing J

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