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| Selling Baby
The Avicultural Society of America
Q: I am hand-feeding my first clutch of Congo African Grey Parrots and I have seen them offered at a wide range of prices. How do I decide on the right price for my babies?
A: The price you charge should be dependent upon two factors: 1) how old they are when you sell them and 2) who you sell them to. Without understanding this, pricing your birds may seem confusing.
Factor #1 is pretty straightforward. For example, 12-week-old babies sell for more than 2-week-old babies because of the time and effort involved in hand-feeding them for 10 more weeks.
Factor #2 is the confusing one and is often misunderstood by many hobby breeders. There are several different levels of the market that you can sell your babies into: retail, wholesale, and broker. There are different prices for each level in order for the businesses at those levels to earn a profit. You can sell your babies at any level, but you should price your birds accordingly.
Brokers are businesses that buy from breeders (broker price) and generally sell (wholesale price) to pet stores. Pet stores buy at wholesale prices and sell at retail prices. At each level, the price is increased in order to make a profit for the services that are provided by that business. Therefor, broker prices are less than wholesale prices which are less than retail prices. Locally, for African Greys, these break down as follows: broker $350 - $500, wholesale $600 - $750, and retail $900 - $1200. The prices vary according to age (as in Factor #1) and immediate supply and demand. You may have seen African Greys in the paper or at the local "bird mart" for sale to the public at wholesale prices. This is an unwise practice, but it's a free country, so you decide your own prices and who to sell to. Before you decide, however, allow me to offer some thoughts on the subject, and please consider your decision carefully to avoid any negative consequences.
So what services do brokers or wholesalers provide? They offer a service to both the retail stores and the breeder. A good pet store may buy one or two African Greys per month, but they also need Finches, Budgies, Cockatiels, Conures, etc, a greater variety than most breeders can supply. So, rather than dealing with a large number of breeders, most pet stores opt for one or two brokers to supply the variety of birds they need. Brokers, in turn, can buy all or most of a breeder's production to distribute amongst their pet store clientele. This can save the breeder a lot of time, expense, effort and exposure.
Selling direct to the public is considered retail. Individuals who sell retail should price their birds accordingly (at or near local pet store prices) in order to avoid dragging down the prices at every level. After all, if a pet store cannot sell their birds due to local competition from breeders, they will only buy birds when they can find them at a low enough price to compete, and then, down goes the price. The same process occurs when breeders under-cut the broker's wholesale price to pet stores. If the brokers can't compete, they will be forced to lower their prices also. This scenario is all too familiar here in southern California. Breeders often complain about dropping prices without understanding their role in it.
As aviculturists, we need to understand that it is important to support retail pet stores, not compete with them. They are an important way for new people to enter the bird hobby. Usually, the first place a potential new bird owner goes to find a bird is to the pet store. If all that person sees is a few Budgies and Zebra Finches, or worse, no birds at all, he or she may never become interested in owning an African Grey. Pet stores are available and open to the public every day. They provide accessibility and convenience and offer an opportunity to introduce new people into the bird hobby by keeping birds in front of the public's eye. The pet industry is also a much stronger ally in maintaining our right to keep birds in captivity and the fight against animal rights groups.
If you decide to sell to private parties, it is also important to offer a fair guarantee, as well as assistance to the new bird owner should any problems or questions arise. I often talk to people who have purchased a bird direct from a breeder or at a "bird mart", then had a problem and could not get help from the breeder. This is as bad for aviculture as it is bad for the birds. Because we are dealing with live animals, we have a responsibility to see that the new owners will be properly assisted in caring for it. The retail price also reflects this increased obligation. If you can not take this responsibility, don't sell direct to the public. If you can be responsible, go for it! Many people prefer to deal directly with the breeder because, as the breeder, you should know more about the birds you sell. You don't have to compete on price. This is called "value added" because you are offering something extra to the consumer.
But beware, by selling to the public, you are also opening yourself up to theft, as shown by the recent and on-going rash of aviary burglaries locally. By selling to a pet store or to a broker, you will avoid exposing yourself to this risk.
And finally, I'll never understand why breeders hold back their production until the next "bird mart" thinking that they'll get a few dollars more, only to lower the price and dump them at the end of the day. Bird marts have their place, but they shouldn't be used to dump birds, below value, to the general public. Before you drop the price, consider some alternatives such as selling your birds to a broker or pet store, or offering large quantity discounts. It is far better to work within the system than to compete against it. Can't find a broker? There are no less than fourbrokers advertised in this very bulletin. You may not even need to haul any birds to the next "bird mart" and in the end you'll make more money.
(Reprinted with permission from the September 1997 issue of the Avicultural Bulletin of the Avicultural Society of America.)