The WORLD, February 1996 Vol. III Issue 1 and May 1996 Vol. III Issue 2by Diane Grindol, Avian Images, Pacific Grove, CA
Topics: Pet-Care, Birds
After dogs and cats, birds are the most popular pets in the United States. There was an explosion in their popularity beginning around 1980 to the early 1990s. That popularity has evened out, and the source of pet birds has changed from imported birds to tamer, healthier, domestically raised chicks. With so many people owning birds, there is a definite need for pet sitters who can offer knowledgeable care of birds.
Nuts and Bolts of Bird Sitting
I spoke recently with a pet sitter whose business is about 25 percent bird care. Shawnon Hararah of Pet Watchers in Campbell, California, shared some of her experience with me. She says her clients usually have one or two birds, some have three or four, and a few keep birds in aviaries. For rates, she has three categories of bird (small, medium and large) and charges the same fee for a large bird that she charges to care for a dog. Aviaries are also priced on a small, medium or large basis with the fee to care for a large aviary being comparable to her charge for pet sitting a dog.
Shawnon educated herself about birds because she owned one. She read books and spoke at length to her avian veterinarian. Some things she learned as she went along. She knows how to handle major emergencies, such as a broken blood feather, and has a good relationship with the local avian veterinarian. She has a separate sheet of paper besides her standard contract, which she uses for bird owners. On this she makes good notes regarding the bird’s care. Does the bird take regular baths? Does it have clipped wings? Does it go outside? Shawnon is a strong advocate for birds spending time in the sun to absorb vitamin D. In addition, she is also aware of the possibility of disease transmission between birds. Vaccines have not been developed for major bird diseases yet, and some bird diseases are transmitted by airborne particles that can cling to clothing or shoes. As a precaution, Shawnon changes shirts between bird sits. She stuffs a “used” shirt in a plastic bag and washes it when she gets home. When caring for a client’s bird in her own home, Shawnon is careful to isolate it from her own pet.
Shawnon finds that she does a lot of client education for bird owners about diet and care. She is always on the lookout for “gifts” to leave clients, like catalogs of quality bird products, pet newsletters, vet business cards and subscription forms to magazines, etc.
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