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Tips For a Successful Pet Bird Shop…Your Employee Tool Box

Tips For a Successful Pet Bird Shop…Your Employee Tool Box

By Wyld’s Wingdom

As a pet shop owner, giving your pet bird department staff the best tools for dealing with a wide range of customers and situations is an effective way to keep customers coming back and reduce staff turnover. Confident, well-trained employees will appreciate their work environment and pass on their positive feelings to customers.

It’s a good idea to develop an employee handbook that outlines policies and procedures. An employee handbook can address rules, expectations, and the ways in which employees should represent your business and brand. This is the first step in developing effective retail associates who are reliable and responsible.

Developing an employee training program can save time down the road when bringing new staff on board. Take the time to create your training protocol once, and each new employee will receive the same consistent information on store basics such as opening and closing procedures, cleaning and pet bird care, handling sales and returns, stocking and inventory, and the customer interaction techniques outlined in the previous sections. The manual can cover greetings, collecting information, assisting customers through conversation, etc.

Product knowledge and general pet bird care knowledge are other areas that will require training for your bird department associates. If you have birds in your store or department, your employees should be trained on the basic information about the species you carry. Customers will look to sales associates as the “experts”, so they should be able to answer questions and provide information about various bird species.

Encourage employees to familiarize themselves with inventory, and make educational resources on bird species and care available. Holding regular meetings or training sessions before or after hours will give you an opportunity to go over popular products and how they can be introduced and explained to customers. Role playing is another effective way to work through product knowledge and how staff can effectively listen to customers and direct them to the products they need. Regular meetings will also keep everyone up-to-date on new products, new displays and promotions, and industry news.

Consistent mentoring and training of employees can often give staff a sense of ownership and accountability, which ultimately adds to your pet store’s success.

Pet Bird Care – Bird Beak Basics

Pet Bird Care – Bird Beak Basics

By Wyld’s Wingdom

Bird beaks are complex and vary from species to species, based on feeding habits.  This vital organ is made up of bone, vascular layers, Keratin, and dermis and continually grows.   Keratin is the same protein found in fingernails, hooves and horns, so you can get an idea of how beak growth occurs.  A bird’s beak can grow from 1 to 3 inches per year, depending on the species.  The part of the beak closest to the bird’s head contains nerve endings and blood supply, while the tip of the beak is more like a fingernail and doesn’t feel pain.

The bird naturally keeps growth in check by wearing down the beak through normal activities like feeding, grooming, chewing, using the beak for climbing and rubbing the beak.  It’s generally thought that a healthy bird will wear down the new growth of the beak so that it always looks the same.

Birds can have an overgrown beak as a result of limited activity, but it can also be a sign of trauma, abnormal development, nutritional deficiencies, liver disease or virus in certain species.  An overgrown beak can be trimmed using a Dremel tool, clippers or scissors, and care must be taken to not trim too much, causing pain and bleeding.

Pet bird owners can promote healthy beaks by providing birds with proper nutrition, pet bird chewing toys  and  perches to rub the beak on.  Bird owners should keep an eye on the beak and look for cracks, lesions, discoloration and overgrowth.  Please consult a veterinarian or avian specialist for guidance about any abnormalities of the beak.

How to Introduce New Foods to Exotic Pet Birds

How to Introduce New Foods to Exotic Pet Birds

Healthy Pet Bird TreatsA varied diet is important for pet birds, but sometimes birds can act a lot like stubborn kids when it comes to trying new foods.  As with children, it’s best to start introducing a variety of foods when the bird is young.  Morning is the natural foraging time for birds, and can be the best time to try a new food.  Incorporate new foods into the dish with the bird’s usual diet to encourage him to try it, or prepare a dish of the new food and put just a few of his favorite treats in the dish.  This will force the bird to forage through the new food to find the treats, and hopefully will taste the new food in the process.

Try offering fresh foods raw or cooked, warm or cool, etc.  You may find that your bird prefers one way over another.  If the bird doesn’t eat new foods in the dish, try hanging or clipping chunks or leaves in the cage to encourage nibbling and gnawing.  Birds are attracted to bright colors, so try to incorporate fresh, vibrant foods to entice the bird to investigate.

Birds may try new things when in a “family dinner” setting.  If everyone is eating pasta, cereal or veggies and the bird sees everyone enjoying it, he may just want to try it too!  Be patient and try various things, and no matter what, always provide your  bird with plenty of healthy pet bird foods and treats.

Vitamin Deficiencies in Exotic and Pet Birds

Vitamin Deficiencies in Exotic and Pet Birds

There are many opinions out there about bird nutrition and what compromises a healthy diet for pet birds

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.  Some experts recommend seed supplemented with fresh fruits and vegetables, some will add pellets into the mix, and some recommend a diet of only pellets.  This can become confusing for pet bird owners.

Avian nutrition research is an ongoing process, and although the bird food industry has been instrumental in developing basic nutritional guidelines, new discoveries are always being made.  One fact that most experts agree on is that a diet that consists of seed only – especially the sunflower seeds and peanuts that many birds prefer – is not nutritionally complete and can result in a vitamin deficiency.  vitamin A deficiency is common in pet birds and often goes undiagnosed.

Preventing a vitamin deficiency can be tackled by feeding a formulated pellet diet, supplementing a seed diet with vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables, or by adding vitamin and mineral supplements to the bird’s diet.  Some supplements are designed to be added to the water dish, while other powdered vitamin supplements can be sprinkled over soft, fresh foods.

Some fresh foods that are rich in vitamins include dark, leafy greens such as kale, which contains vitamin A and calcium.  Broccoli is full of vitamins A, K, B2 and C, and birds often enjoy holding a stalk of broccoli while eating the florets.  Sweet potatoes are a great source of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and potassium.  Birds love mashed sweet potatoes and this is a great way to introduce this healthy food at a young age.

Why Attend a Pet Industry Trade Show?

Why Attend a Pet Industry Trade Show?

Wyld's Wingdom Trade Show BoothMaybe you think that the time, expense and energy needed to attend a trade show isn’t worth it.  But, what you may not realize is the wealth of information, education and connections that are available to trade show attendees.

Trade shows feature hundreds of exhibitors, showing off the very latest in pet products.  Taking in a trade show marketplace allows you to spot new trends, compare products and vendors and take advantage of special pricing that vendors make available to show attendees.  It’s also a great opportunity to build relationships with vendors and reps and find out what’s up and coming in the pet industry.

Education is another great benefit of attending a pet industry trade show.  Education programs and seminars are designed to offer attendees effective business strategies, as well as pet-related knowledge.  You can choose from topics such as Building your Mom & Pop business, Social Media Marketing, Blogging, Hiring Effective Employees, Merchandising and much more.

Networking at trade shows is not only fun but also a great way to make lasting contacts to grow your business.   You get to meet others with your passion for animals and the industry.  Consider attending a Pet Industry Trade Show  – it will give you renewed energy, new ideas and business skills and all of the resources you need to put some great business-building strategies in place for the year to come.

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Wyld’s Wingdom will be at SuperZoo 2016, Aug. 2-4, booth #2173  Stop by and say Hi!  We would love to see you!  If you can’t make a show this year visit www.wingdom.com.

Stocking a Great Bird Department

Stocking a Great Bird Department

As pet retailers, it’s important to fully stock your bird department to cover the basic needs of a wide variety of birds. Bird owners will initially need to purchase the basics for their new addition, but will purchase food, toys and accessories throughout the lifetime of their bird. Your bird department should feature new products as they are developed and reach the marketplace, in order to meet your customers’ demands. Bird owners are always on the lookout for new and exciting toys, treats and information that will keep their birds happy and healthy.

Tiel Scrollwork CageYour bird department should offer a selection of cages and carriers in sizes for small to large birds. A bird’s “home” is one of the most important basics for bird owners, and having various styles and sizes to choose from will attract bird owners from the start. Along with cages, you’ll want to offer bird perches and stands for all sizes and types of birds. Bird owners may be looking for acrylic, wood or rope perches or cage top stands.

Vitakraft Large Parrot Honey SticksFoods, treats and avian health products are repeat purchases that are vital to a successful bird department. You’ll want to have a selection of formulated diets, gourmet blends, seed, insects, soak & serve meals and hand feeding formulas, along with vitamins and supplements. Most bird owners love finding treats for their beloved birds, so stocking the latest in avian treats will make repeat purchases easy. The same goes for toys. We know that birds need a revolving supply of toys to challenge them and keep them interested. Your bird department should offer a variety of innovative and colorful toys to meet the needs of different bird species.

Parakeets - A Complete Pet Owner's ManualBooks, training aids and DVDs/CDs are also essential to round out your bird department. It’s important to be knowledgeable about caring for birds, and to have great resources to share with new bird owners. Educated bird owners know what’s needed to keep their bird happy and healthy, and will return to your well-stocked bird department on a regular basis to provide the very best for their pet.

The Benefits of a Clean Environment for Birds

The Benefits of a Clean Environment for Birds

Benefits of a Clean EnvironmentBirds stay healthy through a combination of a balanced diet, a happy psychological state and a clean environment.  Keeping a sanitary cage minimizes the bird’s exposure to potentially harmful bacteria, viruses and other potentially harmful organisms.  Routine cleaning of the bird’s cage should include washing water bottles/bowls and food bowls daily, especially those used for fresh foods.  Uneaten fresh foods should be removed from the cage before they start to deteriorate.  An extra water bottle and dishes can be kept so that the dirty one can be removed and replaced while it is being cleaned.   The cage bars and perches can be spot cleaned to remove droppings and food on a daily basis as well, with just a quick wipe with a rag and warm water. The cage and accessories, including bottom tray, perches and toys should be cleaned weekly.  Brushes specially designed for cleaning cages and water bottles can come in handy for removing stubborn residue.  Cleaning should be done by washing with a mild detergent and warm water, and then using a safe disinfectant recommended for bird cages and accessories.  All disinfectant should be rinsed off so that no residue is left.  This is also a good time to rotate the bird’s toys to avoid boredom and check toys to make sure they are still safe.

Lining the cage bottom with paper that can easily be changed on a daily basis keeps the bird’s exposure to potentially harmful organisms, droppings and spoiled food to a minimum.   Bird owners should also be careful to limit exposure to other birds that may have compromised health.

Helping bird owners understand that keeping a clean environment for their bird is the first step to preventative health is one of the best ways to educate your customers.  Providing a healthy, balanced diet and the right amount of stimulation and socialization for the bird adds to its overall health and well-being.

Healthy and Fun Additions to Your Bird’s Diet

Healthy and Fun Additions to Your Bird’s Diet

Providing your bird with a nutritionally balanced diet is of utmost importance.  Seed mixes and pellets form a great foundation for your bird’s diet, but birds benefit from a variety of other foods as well as enjoying the new flavors, colors and experiences that fresh foods bring.  You can feel free to add a variety of fruits and vegetables to the bird’s diet, such as lettuce, green beans, parsley, corn, broccoli, carrots and cauliflower.  Fruits that birds enjoy include apple chunks, banana, melon, mango, oranges and other citrus fruits, grapes, pineapple and berries.  Some types of birds can also eat “people” foods like low-fat yogurt, low-sugar cereals, and proteins like a little shredded chicken or turkey.   Birds also benefit from the protein in cooked legumes (but raw legumes can be toxic to birds, so be sure to cook beans thoroughly).

ChefAlfalfa sprouts are another good treat for birds, but be sure to wash any store-bought produce to remove traces of pesticides that may harm your bird.  Birds love nuts, but remember that they are fatty and birds that start selecting only the nuts to eat because they are tasty are not getting a balanced diet.  Plain popcorn, pasta and whole grain breads round out the list of nutritional foods you can add to the pet bird’s diet.

Of course, there are some foods that are harmful and should never be given to your bird.  These foods include apple seeds, avocado, caffeine, rhubarb, chocolate, alcohol, mushrooms, onions and excess salt.  Keeping these exceptions in mind, remember that generally any fresh foods that are healthy for people are enjoyed as part of a varied, balanced diet by birds.

How to Select the Right Sized Cage

How to Select the Right Sized Cage

Where a pet bird spends its time can have a huge impact on its well being.  Helping customers select the proper sized cage for the bird’s enjoyment and safety is the first step to keeping a happy and healthy bird.  A general rule of thumb is that for large birds, the interior living space of the cage should be at least 1.5 times the bird’s adult wingspan – in depth, width and height.  So, if a Sun Conure’s wing span will be 11 inches, the cage should be at least 18 inches wide, high and deep.  Of course, more space is always better for the bird, as long as the bars of the cage are appropriately spaced to avoid injury.  Some smaller birds benefit from a flight cage that will allow them to really move around.  Generally, having more space horizontally makes sense, as that allows more room for flight.

Does this cage make me look FAT???For small birds such as Finches, Parakeets and Lovebirds, bars should be spaced no more than 5/8” apart.  For medium birds such as Conures, Senegal Parrots, and Cockatiels bars spaced from ½” to 7/8” are appropriate.  Large birds such as African Greys, Amazon Parrots, Cockatoos and Macaws should have cage bars spaced from 3/4” to 1 3/8” apart.  Having properly spaced cage bars allows the bird to climb while reducing the risk of injury.

Having the right sized cage is important for birds, as they will spend much of their time eating, playing and observing life from their home.  You can also recommend play areas and perches for bird owners to set up in safe areas outside of the cage for additional stimulation, exercise and interaction.

Top Things Every Bird Department Should Know

Top Things Every Bird Department Should Know

Customer Service:

All employees are the face of a business and are key to molding a customer’s initial impression.

  • Keep an eye out for customers who look confused or are in need of help.  Being proactive will show customers you are ready and willing to serve them.
  • Make your customers feel welcome.  Smile and greet them when they come in.  Ask them questions and make them feel included in other conversations you may be having with fellow staff or other customers.
  • Listen to your customers.  Ask them questions and listen to what they have to say.  Hone in on their needs and wants and convey your desire to help them make the best decision possible when picking out a product or pet.
  • Customer service doesn’t stop when a customer has left the store.  Follow up with a customer by sending them a thank you note after a purchase, calling to see if the new product or bird they purchased is working out, or remembering their last purchase when they make a repeat visit.

Layout:

Make sure your store is well organized and easy to navigate.

Signage:

  • Proper aisle signage will help keep customers in the store longer and will help them navigate through your aisles.
  • Proper shelf and product signs will catch your customers’ eyes and will keep them informed on your products.
  • Make sure your signage is neat and easy to read as well as fresh and bold.

Displays:

  • Display related products by each other to remind customers of items they may have missed and suggest variations amongst a product family.
  • Put the items that are in high-demand and are fast-moving in your best display areas.  This suggests to customers that you have the products that they are looking for.
  • Be sure to take advantage of the display space at the checkout by placing last minute purchase products like toys, treats, and gift items there.
  • Change out your displays every week or two to give your store a fresh look and let your customers know you are on top of your game.

Cleanliness:

A customer may not remember a clean store, but they will most certainly remember a dirty one!  Keep your store clean and organized to ensure return customers.

  • Make sure your aisles are clear of clutter, your products are in the proper places on the shelves, and your pricing stickers and signage is up-to-date.
  • Pay special attention to floors, countertops, and other areas that are most frequently seen by customers.
  • Remove damaged items and return misplaced items to their proper place.
  • Dusty products indicate that product is old and unwanted.  Keep your products and shelves dust free.
  • Keep your displays and shelves fully stocked and well organized.  Have employs monitor this throughout the day depending on your stores’ busyness.
  • If you have birds (as well as other animals) in your store, their cleanliness and health will tell a lot about your store to your customers. Be sure to keep your animals healthy and well groomed and their cages and toys disinfected and clean.
  • A customer does not want to see or purchase an unhealthy bird.  Observe each bird daily and record its state of health and any changes in behavior.  Changes may be the first (and sometimes only) clue that a bird is sick or unhealthy.
  • Trash cans, whether containing a soda can or animal excrement should be out of site and smelling distance to your customers and should be emptied often to maintain a cleanly, healthy store.
  • Keep an eye on animals that are out of their cages (especially if you allow the public to bring in their pets) and be sure to clean and sanitize as needed.

Bird Education:

All employees should be properly educated on the different products you carry and the birds that the products benefit.  They should also be knowledgeable on the birds that are at your store.  Customers see you as an expert.  Make sure you are one to keep their business.

  • Employees should know the following key information about birds:  origin, growth rate, eventual size, age, gender, environmental needs, diet, and behavior.
  • Be as informative as possible when answering a customer’s questions.  Direct them to other resources (books, tip sheets, websites, etc.) to help aid them in their education.
  • It is alright to let a customer know you don’t know the answer to a question, but still provide them with assistance by following up with a co-worker or another reliable resource.