Good Business Good Aviculture


For most aviculturists whether they raise birds for fun or livelihood, their avicultural pursuits are affected by breeding profitability. Few aviculturists can fund their breeding programs solely from a savings account. In fact, quite a few breeders over the last decade, some rather prominent, couldn't sustain the costofoperatingtheiraviaryandeventually got out of aviculture. The size and quality of an aviary is, in some part, very dependent on its ability to make money from breeding. The more "profit", the larger, more diverse the aviary. To the extent that an aviary "loses" money, the aviary will be down sized or remain constant, and frequently cost-cutting steps are taken such as spending less on veterinary fees, equipment and disinfectants to run the aviary and the like. These cost-cutting steps might not be in the best long-term interest of a breeding program.

To the extent the quality of an aviary is dependent upon the revenues of the breeding program, discussion of good business practices go hand in hand with good aviculture. The more money an aviary produces the more money is potentially available for conservation. Consequently, all aviculturists need to consider their "bread and butter" avian breeders - those regular producing species that cover the basic cost of operations. I frequently look at my personal aviary in two parts: one for conservation, the second for paying expenses.

Watchbird is an excellent source to learn about the first part of the aviary (conservation). However, little is written regarding the second part of an aviary


(related to providing for the basic cost of operations). For the better part of two and one-half centuries aviculture has been the privilege of Dukes, Earls, millionaires and other cultural elite who didn't worry about operating their collection at a profit. In many regards aviculture is still considered an elitist avocation. The truth of the matter, at least in the United States, is that aviculture is comprised mainly of the every day person who has a few birds in the backyard. These can be teachers, truck drivers, accountants, policemen, even chefs and virtually all other demographics. For the everyday aviculturist, those without inherited fortunes, economics of aviculture isn't piratical, it's fundamental to successful preservation of species.

An aviary, if it is to be established for the long-term, must consider the "bread and butter" production that covers daily operating and feed cost. The most frequent mistake I see is novice aviculturists buying birds that are more expensive than they realistically can afford. It goes back to the elitist tradition in aviculture. Frequently, aviculturists are judged by the rarity of the birds they have in their collection and the size of the collection - not their success at breeding. Can you imagine a bank being judged on the size and beauty of its vault versus its financial condition? When the novice aviculturists consider initial purchases, they should concentrate on building their "bread and butter" stock to provide the groundwork (financial security) for their future aviary. As odd as it seems, frequently the "bread and butter" stock


is also the least expensive and offers the greatest profits. The profits from these early purchases can then be funneled into your breeding program through trades for birds or outright purchases. By buying prolific easy to breed stock initially one can build up financial reserves without going on a limb for purchases of birds that put your whole program at risk if you were to lose one.

Consider the recent dilemma of a friend. He purchased a pair of Moluccan Cockatoos for a good price. Lucky for him they bred rather quickly-in about six months. Less fortunate, they cracked their eggs (a notorious Moluccan trait). Second clutch, six months later, the babies were killed. A few months later the male killed the hen, again a trait commonly associated with Moluccans. He purchased a second hen (not at a bargain price) with subsequent mate trauma, and he invested another $200 - $300 in vet bills. Then two years down the road he had eggs again, and again the eggs were crushed. He invested in an incubator. So it goes. This is neither an isolated occurrence nor uncommon. He now has almost $3,000 invested in the pair of birds he "originally" got as a good deal. He has vet fees, over two years without production, expensive heavier cages and the like. Not surprisingly, he also is having a hard time supporting his cockatoo collection.

In a second example, two people in my club both paid $250 apiece for a guaranteed sexed pair of mature Quaker Parakeets (Monks). In each instance these birds laid within 45 days of a nest box being put on the cages. Twelve months have not elapsed, yet each has had three clutches of five babies (average) and can expect one or two more by the end of the year. Each pair of birds, if the production continues, will have produced five clutches of five babies at a retail value of $150 per baby. The income will be $3,750 for each breeder for the year. In other words, in two years they each will have earned $7,500. My friend with the Moluccan Cockatoo still hasn't earned dime one, yet he is still putting money out to maintain the birds. The novice breeders on the other hand, at the end of two years, can go out and buy two or three pairs of Moluccan Cockatoos with the profits made from the Monks.