Shakespeare wrote that the empty vessel makes the loudest sound. That’s certainly true of a hungry bird squawking for a refill of its vittles vessel. But while that screeching may bring seed to mind first, the caged containers that hold the food and water shouldn’t be an afterthought.
In fact, an empty feeder or waterer may be a sign that it’s time to replace them with something newer and better. And there’s plenty of receptacle products on the market for you and your customers from which to choose if you opt to follow the advice of the experts and expand such offerings in your store.
A Step Up
The first lesson you need to impart to your clients? Those cheap plastic waterers and feeders that were included with your aviary are due for an upgrade.
“Just because it came with the cage doesn’t make it the right option. Consider that the cups and the places designed to hold the cups on the cage could be wrong for the individual bird. For instance, some birds, like parakeets and cockatiels, prefer a lower feeding station, while other species, like canaries and finches, prefer eating higher up in the cage,” said Jane Morehouse, graphics manager and product research and development coordinator for Kordon LLC.
“The biggest trend we’ve noticed lately is that customers want to purchase versatile and quality accessories to help make the most comfortable homes for their pet,” said Jason Savitt, president of Prevue Pet Products in Chicago. “But don’t leave it up to the customer to figure it out. Guide them and curate a positive and informative shopping experience by suggesting the right feeders and waterers—from ceramic, metal and plastic types to open, hooded and multi-functional designs.”
Educating shoppers about the right receptacles to buy and where to place them in an enclosure is a priority for Sue Coyne, assistant manager at Pet Stop in Shawnee, Kansas, which carries feeders and waterers by Prevue Pet Products, JW, Lee’s, Lixit and MidWest Homes for Pets.
“It’s important to carry a good variety of these products for different species,” Coyne said. “Employees should also be well trained so they know what to recommend and why.”
Less Mess, More Fun
Put another way, be prepared to suggest solutions to common waterer/ feeder problems—like spillage that can waste food, breed germs and leave a mess of shells, seeds and water on the floor.
“Some birds prefer to eat from an open cup or bowl, so it’s smart to stock these. But cleanliness and controlling seed mess continue to be driving concerns for bird owners. This is where hooded and mess-control feeders can help,” said Savitt, whose company makes a line of Bullet feeders and waterers with hoods.
Other products designed to decrease debris include JW’s Pet Clean Seed Silo Bird Feeder, made with a guard that stops seeds and shells from spilling out; the Mess Less Hanging Feeder by Featherland Paradise, with a 360-degree feeding perch along with extra perches above the feeder; and Ware’s Bird Central Station, an easy-fill control feeding station that hangs from the center of the habitat.
Marissa Kactioglu, project manager for Penn-Plax, Inc. in Hauppauge, New York—a company celebrating its 60th anniversary next year—has pinpointed another trend.
“Consumers are on the lookout for fun products that mimic a bird’s natural environment,” Kactioglu said. Hence, Penn-Plax has created a line called Garden Cups— feeders and waterers disguised as common fruits and vegetables like apple, orange, pumpkin, corncob, and tomato.
“They’re a proven novelty for many consumers who want to add something fun to their bird’s cage,” she said.
Send in the Replacements
Convincing patrons of the need for multiple sets of feeders and waterers is wise, too.
“A bird’s need for foraging enrichment calls for using different types of dishes you can fill with fun foods like fruits and veggies and place in a different spot in the cage every day,” said Melanie Allen, avian product specialist with Hagen Avicultural Research Institute in Mansfield, Massachusetts.
Speaking of foraging, Sweet Feet & Beak offers a hanging Foraging Feeder that boasts colorful, indestructible plastic foraging cups.
“Bird owners need to know that having extra food and water dishes is a huge convenience,” Allen said. “With busy schedules, it’s easy to forego the changing out of bird dishes daily if a pet bird has only one dish for water and one for food. By having replacement dishes, preferably dishwasher-safe kinds, the receptacles can get rotated, which leads to a cleaner bird environment that helps prevent bacterial growth.”
Many agree that the latter point is particularly important.
“Anything and everything can end up in an open water dish—from feather dust to fecal matter—which can lead to disease and infection. That’s why it’s best to recommend a stainless steel sipper-tube that self-seals with a moving ball at the end,” said Morehouse, citing Kordon’s Oasis Bird Bottle as an example.
Other alternatives to open cup waterers include bottle-type waterers, such as the Lixit’s Wide Mouth Bird Bottle and Living World’s Combination Water Fountain or Feeder.
Dishing Store Secrets
Displaying and merchandising feeders and waterers isn’t rocket science, but a little careful planning can help. Coyne, for one, prefers to mix in waterer and feeder merchandise with bird toys and other accessories.
“They’re in a section directly adjacent to our cages for sale,” Coyne said.
As always, a practical tactic to make the register ring is to use what you sell in your livestock cages.
“When shoppers can observe the birds in your store using a certain feeder or waterer, it becomes an easier decision for them to purchase that item,” Kactioglu said.
But if you choose to do so, aim for an extra clean presentation. That means rotating and cleaning in-use food and water containers regularly.
“Monitor the conditions of these items closely, and replace anything that looks old, worn or outdated,” Kactioglu added.