On the priority list of important SKUs, food and water receptacles are likely low. Typically included in a cage setup, they’re often plastic, flimsy and forgettable. But poor design and materials can often lead to waste, mess and unhealthy conditions.
That’s why it’s wise to stock an assortment of feeders and waterers, many of which could serve as necessary replacements for the default sustenance vessels that originally came with a given aviary, according to experts. The good news is that there’s plenty of choices in this space today.
“Feeders and waterers are now designed in all shapes, sizes, colors and styles to suit your bird’s needs,” said John Lance, owner of A&E Cage Company LLC, the Burlington, New Jersey-based pet cage and supply company that launched in 2005. “Different species of birds like to eat in much different ways, so it’s important to have a variety of watering and food bowl needs, including apparatuses being made with more durability for longer usage and that are dishwasher safe.”
That typically means metal or ceramic food bowls or crocks for larger species and sturdy plastic hoppers or silos for smaller breeds. As for waterers, bowls, bottles and tubes rule the roost.
Feasting and Foraging
Two trends Lance has observed is an influx of more colorful materials that blend in well with home decor, as well as an increase of bolt-on cups, which reduce food and water spillage. He says these cups are made to either hang on the bars of the cage or can be secured tightly to the bars using a metal plate
and a wing nut or screw.
“Since birds have a natural instinct to forage and feel like they are finding their food and water, providing those necessities in their cage that they can retrieve themselves can eliminate any stress or boredom your pet might experience,” said Lance, whose company is known for its Jungle Cups—colored, stainless steel bowls available in three colors.
Sweet Feet & Beak, a Cleveland, Georgia-based bird products manufacturer now in business 25 years, offers a tweak on this trend: an indestructible plastic Foraging Feeder Cup with multiple hanging options that eliminate side mounting, further reducing mess.
“What’s driving this trend is that bird owners want to maximize the entertainment factor of every product in the cage to keep them happy and fulfilled,” said Jason Bohannon, online sales manager for Sweet Feet & Beak. “With our cups, the bird has to work to raise the lid up the chain to get its food. This provides a more sterile and safe feeder option and adds entertainment value to their feeding experience.”
Jason Savitt, president of Prevue Pet Products in Chicago—previously Prevue Hendryx, founded in 1869—says pet stores can clean up on consumers’ rising demand for tidy aviaries.
“Increasingly, customers seem to be more aware of and looking for products that help with mess control and ease of cleaning,” Savitt said. Consequently, Prevue Pet Products makes an array of ceramic and plastic hooded cups, including models with detachable hoods and attached perches for proper positioning while feeding. “A hooded cup helps deter birds from flinging and spitting their seeds outside the cage and helps protect food and water from debris and droppings when the bird climbs high or plays on top of their cage.”
If your clientele prefers bowls, Mark Roth, owner of Bird Fever, a pet bird retailer in Indianapolis, has a tip.
“We recommend placing a food bowl on the bottom of the cage for messy birds. But you’ve got to educate shoppers carefully on proper bowl placement, such as never directly underneath a perch,” said Roth, adding that he enjoys strong sales of the Tidy Seed No Mess Bird Feeder, a boxy acrylic attachment that fits inside the cage. Roth also sells a fair share of new plastic bowls by Caitec that perfectly fit enclosures by the now defunct California Cages.
Drinking in Better Options
In the H2O department, Roth’s patrons also tend to gravitate toward upright water bottles that release droplets on demand, “which are handy for birds that like to make soup in their water bowls,” he said.
Jane Morehouse, graphics manager and product research and development coordinator for Hayward, California-headquartered Kordon LLC, parent company of Oasis Pet Products (known especially for its multivitamin supplements), is a big proponent of sipper tube-type water bottles.
“Open water dishes are bacteria farms that allow food debris, feather dander and fecal matter to contaminate water. Bottles provide a closed system of water delivery that supplies sanitary water held by a vacuum,” said Morehouse, citing the Oasis Bird Water Bottle as an example. “Birds used to open dishes will transfer easily to the water bottle concept.”
To avoid lost sales in this subcategory, “cross-merchandise as much as possible and have a front-and-center display within an enclosure for customers to see,” Lance suggested.
If you sell birds in your store, it’s a no-brainer to display any new feeder/waterer wares right in the cage.
“But if you don’t sell live birds, set up a cage with various products you want to promote and feature item-focused signs like ‘We recommend the Oasis Bird Bottle,’” Morehouse said.
“Also, make sure you stock cages that include a good feeder and waterer as part of the kit,” Roth said.
This avoids irritating patrons who may return later with complaints about needing to upgrade the food and water receptacles.
“We recommend also carrying cups that fit the cages you sell and stocking replacement and additional cups,” Savitt said. “Many bird owners like to have an extra set while one is in the dishwasher, or they like to provide more food, treat and water stations in larger cages for multiple or bigger birds.”
Lastly, be careful where you place these products in your store.
“Don’t mix them in with toys—they only get lost in the array of color. Instead, display all feeder and waterer options with caging accessories,” Savitt added.