This article was previously published in Bird Breeder magazine and is reprinted here with permission of the author.
Successes and Disappointments
by Laurella Desborough
To prosper in bird breeding, successes and disappointments must be reviewed and carefully analyzed. Bird breeders should ask themselves these questions: What kind of production did your pairs give you? What kind of medical problems did you encounter? Was your marketing strategy successful? Did you sell all that you produced? How can you best prepare for the year ahead? What are your goals?
First, review the production records of each pair. Were there specific problems, such as infertility, disease or pair incompatibility? Sometimes what appears to be a medical- or disease-related problem is actually a management problem. Insecure perches, inappropriate diet, housing pairs of quiet or nervous species next to noisy and dramatic species can result in infertile eggs, broken eggs or damaged chicks. To improve the production of each pair, all contributing factors must be thoughtfully considered. Keeping records on each pair enables breeders to have greater oversight on the situation, and gives us the opportunity to improve future outcomes.
Second, has production outstripped sales? If so, review marketing practices. Have you kept a record of where your sales originated? When new clients call, do you routinely ask where they have heard of you and record their answers? Keeping records of buyers' calls helps you know which advertising is working and which is not. (Keep in mind, advertising that works well in one region of the country may not work in another.) How can you reach new clients? Referrals work great; you can find ways to increase referrals by making it desirable for present clients to refer new clients. Web sites also work well for advertising, if you update them routinely. How do you successfully deal with your competition? When you offer what your clients need, they will more likely want to do business. Providing sufficient and correct information on each bird sold is helpful. Likewise, providing continuing advice and support also increases buyer's confidence.
Review which conferences and seminars you attended the year and make plans for future conferences. Three major conferences being held in the U.S. this year are: The Midwest Avian Research Expo (MARE) taking place in Michigan this July (www.mare-expo.org/); The American Federation of Aviculture (AFA)Convention (www.afa.birds.org) taking place in Los Angeles during August; and the Convention of the International Aviculturists Society (www.funnyfarmexotics.com/IAS/) occurring in Florida during late fall. Attending one or more of these events can only add to your knowledge of aviculture and increase your professionalism.
Speaking of professionalism, have you renewed your subscriptions to the major avian magazines? There are a lot to select from: Bird Talk, the AFA Watchbird, OnWings, and The World of Birds. Specialty organizations keep you up-to-date on our favorite avian species. It helps you to be a member of at least one specialty organization. More importantly, every breeder should belong to at least one national organization: the American Federation of Aviculture, the Avicultural Society of America (www.fortunecity.com/millenium/paddington/899/asaclub.html), or the International Aviculturists Society. The national organizations keep you abreast of the breaking news on legislation and developments within the Conference on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) that ultimately affect exotic bird breeders.
Share your knowledge with others. You have probably shared advice or discussed ideas about birds with others interested in birds. Why not sit down and write an article about some aspect of the birds you keep or the husbandry practices within your aviary. Bird magazines are interested in information about birds. You have it. Share it. Call your local bird club and offer to give one talk this year. You will need to prepare slides, organize your topics for the talk and do some test runs to make sure you are projecting your voice and covering the details of your topic. Call a teacher and offer to give a brief talk and show birds to a local school class. You can even do a little research and provide some important information on deforestation and species loss at the same time.
Many people feel shy about talking before a crowd. If you are shy or nervous about speaking in public, join a local Toastmasters group to help prepare you for this social adventure. Presenting a speech at a grade school class is an easy way to start. Give it a try. Bring along your bird(s) to break the ice.
Do you raise unusual or relatively rare birds? If so, participate in a cooperative breeding program with one or more pairs of these birds. You will be making a contribution to this species' future. Keeping records of genetics and pairing unrelated birds will become more important as many of our wild-caught breeding birds die off due to old age. Finding a mate for a single bird will be a lot easier for people who are participating in cooperative breeding programs. To find out more about these programs, contact the American Federation of Aviculture (AFA) or the specialty organization for the species, such as the Amazona Society or the American Lory Society. By working with others you will increase your own enjoyment and success.
Finally, what about the birds in the wild? Many species are threatened with habitat loss and extinction. Why not decide this year to help generate a future for these birds by donating funds and pledging support for the organizations that are working to save the species. Activities of these organizations include working to preserve habitat and collecting data on avian species, involving local people in saving their wildlife and setting up breeding programs on site and in captivity to preserve the species. Check out the organizations, each one is doing important work that deserves our support: American Bird Conservancy (www.abcbirds.org); RARE Center for Tropical Conservation (www.rarecenter.org); Wildlife Preservation Trust International (www.wpti.org); and World Wildlife Fund (www.wwf.org).