Most of us have heard the sad stories about puppy mills. Hundreds of miserable creatures huddled in crowded cages - their only purpose in life being to breed. However, most people have not been exposed to the avian equivalent, the bird mill.
Bird mills are facilities which are used to mass produce parrots for the pet trade. Almost all pet stores, especially the larger chains, purchase their parrots from some form of bird mill (such as Kaytee Preferred Birds, which supplies PETsMART).
Picture courtesy of www.theangryparrot.orgMost bird mill breeding facilities resemble warehouses. Breeder birds, many of them former pets, are kept in small cages with nothing more than food, water, and a nestbox. They are never handled or given any mental stimulation. Confinement in such conditions leads to neurotic behavior in many breeder birds.
Not all breeder birds are compatible with each other. If introductions are not carefully done with acute observation and possible intervention - and they rarely are in bird mills - one or both birds of a prospective breeding pair can be seriously injured or killed.
If a pair does successfully breed and a female lays fertile eggs, they are removed from the nestbox and placed in an incubator. Chicks are not allowed any contact with their parents. Assembly line-type tubes are used to put food directly into the baby birds' crops. This tube feeding makes it very hard for a chick to be weaned later on because the chick associates eating with a tube instead of food.
Some bird mills wean baby birds using a technique called deprivation, or forced, weaning. During deprevation weaning chicks are refused formula with the assumption that when they get hungry enough they'll eat solid food. Deprivation weaning can result in malnutrition, starvation, and permanent behavior problems and alot of cases death.
Most bird mills wean chicks to cheap seed-only diets in order to save money. This can cause serious health problems and often make it difficult for the birds to be converted to a more nutritious diet later on.
The birds the mills are unable to wean are often turned over to inexperienced pet shop employees, who in turn sell the fragile creatures to uninformed buyers. These unfortunate birds usually starve to death or die at the hands of misdirected people attempting to handfeed them.
Another practice in bird mills is the prophylactic use of antibiotics as a substitute for good sanitation. This can have terrible short term as well as long term effects on the birds: broad-spectrum antibiotics destroy the beneficial flora and fauna residing in birds, leaving them even more susceptible. Fragile organs can be damaged and some birds have built up resistances to certain types of antibiotics.
The less obvious result of production breeding in bird mills is young parrots that have not been handled or socialized. These chicks often develop serious behavioral problems as they mature and make horrible pets. Across the country bird rescue groups are overflowing with abandoned birds - no doubt most the result of production breeding in bird mills.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Unfortunately, the Animal Welfare Act doesn't cover birds. So, unlike puppy mills, the USDA has no authority over bird mills. But there are still a few actions you can take against bird mills:
Never buy a mass-marketed bird from a chain pet store! These companies will not stop mass-producing and selling birds until it is no longer profitable to do so.
Encourage pet stores to provide the same adoption services for parrots that they do for dogs and cats instead of selling birds in their stores.
If you see a bird being neglected or abused, report it to your local humane organization or animal control agency; or contact the local law enforcement office or nearest humane agency. see videos below <to stop music player click on right side>