Saturday, January 07, 2023

Avian Industry Is Thriving: Cruel & Inhumane Hobby?


The purpose of this essay is to share a newbie parakeet owner's experience as I dealt with a difficult birth of four parakeets ending in four of dead babies, leading me to conclude the hobby may be cruel and inhumane.

Perhaps this experience can help prepare other newbies under similar circumstances.

A secondary objective is to serve a repository of best practices for avian pet owners. While the intended audience is newbie pet owners and the Avian Industry. I welcome professional breeders and experience owners to share best practices pointers.

But why restrict it to birds and not dogs, rabbits or lizzards,, you might ask.

Corporations and governments often use Jeremy Bentham’s utilitarian logic aka “cost-benefit analysis.” to put a dollar value on human life. From government dead panels to the infamous Ford Pinto Case.
In the Ford Pinto case. the design allowed its fuel tank to be easily damaged in the event of a rear-end collision, sometimes resulting in deadly fires and explosions. While Ford was aware of the design flaw, it refused to redesign it. Instead, Ford decided it would be cheaper to pay off possible lawsuits for resulting deaths. Mother Jones Magazine obtained the cost-benefit analysis that it said Ford had used to compare the cost of an $11 repair against the monetary value of a human life, in what became known as the Ford Pinto memo. While Ford was acquitted of criminal charges, it lost several million dollars and gained a reputation for manufacturing "the barbecue that seats four."

In the case of pets, Veterinarians use the word euthanasia to refer to humanely ending a pet’s life in order to stop or prevent unnecessary suffering due to an incurable medical condition, including seniors. Typical dog euthanasia is in the several hundreds range no counting the hundreds or thousands of dollars to diagnose and treat the underling disease.

For birds, euthanasia can be a DIY project.

Then there's the cost to vet ratio: a dog can go from a few hundred dollars to thousands, and vet welfare check nay start at $80. Whereas a parakeet may go for $60.00 and vet costs for $60-$80

Even Scriptures note the little value humans place on birds: "Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?" (Matthew 6:26) and "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.

Several objections have been raised o the utilitarian logic of seeking “the greatest good for the greatest number.” We have all heard about the Irresponsible pet owner mistreating dogs. We don't hear about Irresponsible bird owners because birds are invisible.

The Avian Industry Is like the Jet Printer Industry - they give the printer away so they can make the money on ink. Avian Pet Owners should be aware of the total cost of ownership (TCO) and the Industry should be more transparent. It's surprising the Humane Society has not been involved.

"The avian pet industry is growing, though headwinds in product availability and price increases present challenges to independent pet retailers." Writes Ethan Mizer in Pet Product News

“There are not a lot of specialty bird stores left in our area, or really around in general nowadays. So any place that does cater to that specialty bird market is seeing a pretty big boom, as far as sales are concerned, between cages and food, toys and other bird products. Sales are quite good as far as equipment is concerned. I have trouble keeping cages in stock because of the amount of cages I go through.” said Ryan May, head bird keeper for NJ Exotic Pets, a pet store in Lodi, N.J.

“I’ve seen actual sales of bird products steadily climb since the pandemic started,” May said. “Now, things have subsided somewhat … but it created an open door for a lot of people into the hobby. It’s really brought back a whole new energy into the bird-keeping hobby. Bird product sales have been quite high.”

Besides cages and accessories, pet owners should factor in veterinary costs: roughly $80.00 for a wellness visit. Meaning that if everything looks good, the first visit may cost two times what they paid for the bird
"My vet, a very well reviewed center that specializes in avians and exotics, charged me $93 for a "check up" for my GCC which involved weighing, observing of behavior, looking into mouth, eyes, nose, vent, checking of wings, feeling of tummy. I'm not discounting the importance of a vet check, but all of these things I can (and do) do myself, albiet without the training/experience that a vet has, and the vet literally spent only 10 minutes with her. For $93. My visit did not come with any testing, and the "basic" package of tests was $300+." Writes Avenue veteran.

For a minute, forget the price of a veterinary visit and consider our own experience over New Year's Day: Had we been lucky enough to book an Avian Veterinary on an emergency basis when Salty Seaweed was nearly gone, the Veterinary surely would have recommended we put her done. Miraculously enough, we enjoyed Salty's presence for another 48 hours.

It almost seems like Sunny Jewel and Ocean Coral sacrificed their first newborns to pave the way for a more Humane treatment. As a result, we now have a scale, an incubator, a special nesting house & several heating elements to guard against the inclement weather in the Pacific Northwest.
have information focused on what to do if the birds were to mate plus a list of the additional equipment required. As an engineer with a minor in biomedical, I tried my best to handle hatching of four new parakeets during the Holidays when the weather was at its worse, but failed.

Salty Seaweed seemed to be Thriving 24 hours before she passed

Looking back, had PetSmart or the Avian Infustry been more transparent, I'm sure that at least Hot Tamale and Salty Seaweed would be alive today.

This happened to my baby within 24 hours. After she was fed baby formula & taken out of the cage

When we purchased Sunny & Ocean, we signed an agreement with PetSmart that read more like the purchase of a toaster and not a living organism. It would have been nice to have a simple "What to Do" to handle fertilized eggs during the winter
Breeding Nest that can be attached inside or outside the cage:  inside makes impractical, outside needs to modify the cage

Breeding  Nest  mounted outside the cage.  Sunny took to it in a few hours, started decorating it


Incubator can be used as temperature- control warming/breeding  nest

Sunny Jewel & Ocean don't seem to like the heated perch

You can lead a parakeet to a nest, but not force her to nest.  Sunny quickly took to warming nest covered with cloth.  She looked at the thermally-controlled card board one & didn't like it.

She has been exploring the thermally controlled wooden warming/breeding nest for a couple of days.  She's peeked inside, but quickly gets out.

Sunny has been watching the hanging wooden breeding nest for a few hours.

Specifically, I would like the Avian Industry:

Selfie with Salty

1.  To be transparent about total cost of ownership

2.  TOC notwithstanding,  go on record that contrary to utilitarian logic. pets are living organisms, not assets that can be disposed of at will

3.  Recommendations for potential bird pet owners as to what to do in case birds breed, including equipment such as breeding nests, avian ICU.  incubators. hygiene and so on.

4.  Instructions, perhaps videos, showing how to perform a wellness check: Something a vet charges for a consult when all is well.

5.  Fund a vet center for newbie bird owners whose birds are breeding so they can call free-of-charge and ask basic parenting questions 

Heating Element next to Sunny & Oceans favorite perch 


1.  How many fertilized eggs hatch?

2.  How many hatchlings make it to one month?

3.  How many survive to four months?
Temperature-controlled breeding nest

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