Margaret Fletcher, my canary colleague at work, hung this note at my work station while I was on supper break last night!
All of us have heard the old saying, "Buyer Beware". For that reason, we often purchase birds from local breeders that we know quite well and are comfortable with their aviary operation. At other times, we might make a purchase from an unknown breeder or a pet shop or even an importer.
But whether we know the breeder or not, we need to find out as much as we can about the birds and their health prior to purchase. Is it coming out of a licensed quarantine facility? Does it wear a traceable band? If banded, get the band information and do some research. Thanks to the Internet, show reports are readily available even from other countries.
In addition to general questioning, ask questions about the birds health and when possible you or at least your delegate needs to examine perspective birds for subtle abnormalities in behavior and appearance prior to purchase.
Begin By Examining Perspective Birds From A Distance!
Begin your examination by examining the perspective bird from a distance. In its relaxed state you will notice out of condition or sickly birds sitting around puffed up while healthy birds are tight feathered and actively moving about with a cheerful attitude. How the feathers are held to the body is a good general assessment of overall health as sickly birds will puff them out when they are chilling. Making this assessment from a distance is very important, as even a sickly bird will perk up out of self defense when you approach the cage to disguise their vulnerability from predators! Now cautiously approach the cage, look at the feet and perching and are the legs a normal color for the variety? Are the droppings on the cage floor normal?
Gentle Stress Test
Now gently raise your hand toward the bird to challenge it a bit. Healthy birds often fly away from your hand but some birds from unhealthy lines will freeze in position and partially close their eyes (squint) when challenged. These birds should not be purchased as they will likely not produce healthy offspring and are high risk to die prematurely.
Minimal Hands On Exam
If you have the opportunity, with the sellers permission, gently hold the bird up to your ear and listen for any clicking or heavy respiratory sounds. Likewise these are not good birds to purchase. Always remember that canaries can die from a stressful exam and those that do are likely marked SOLD!
This reminds me of one of my favorite stories. I once took about a dozen birds to my regular dog vet to get a health certificate. He is great with my malinois and very through. He immediately singled out one of the canaries, caught it and began going over it thoroughly with his stereoscope. Even peering in its ears and nares. At the conclusion of his stressful exam, he put the throughly examined bird back in the cage. And it just laid there like it was dying. I promptly said: "I hope you don't have to handle any others!"
He quickly filled at the health certificate and I promptly took the birds home. I am sure he was afraid he would be getting a call from me but in this fortunate case, the stressed bird fully recovered. The point of this story is to observe the birds from a distance, challenge it gently up close, and handle it minimally.
If you decide to purchase, find out how many hours of daylight the birds are use to having. Make sure that when you house them that they get slightly more hours of daylight and not less as you do not want to cause them to go into a molt.
Also quarantine newly purchased birds away from your other birds for preferably six weeks. During that time, completely take care of your original stock before caring for the quarantine birds to avoid cross contamination.