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November 4, 2016

Skeptical about bird receptacles? It’s important not to overlook merchandise mainstays like feeders and waterers, which every bird owner needs.

In fact, many customers are willing to pay more for an upgrade that improves on the cheap vertical vessels of edibles included in a starter cage—provided you can upsell them on the benefits of a higher quality and more convenient waterer and/or feeder.

Dish Niche
William Kalichman, owner of Bill’s Birds in Davie, Florida, believes this is a subcategory that bird owners don’t flock to in droves, but it can pay off if you carry a healthy assortment of brands and models.

“There hasn’t been a lot of innovation in this space in recent years, but there are at least more choices available and plenty of user-friendly designs,” he said. “Our most popular product is a stainless steel bowl that clamps onto the side of the cage, which is ultra-durable, inexpensive, convenient and compatible with most cages. Plus, the stainless steel products are easy to clean and rewash in the dishwasher.”

Plastic crocks with quick-release attachments are nearly as in demand at Bill’s Birds as hooded ceramic cups, “which offer the benefit of less spills and mess,” Kalichman noted.

Mary Wyld, owner of Wyld’s Wingdom, Inc., a wholesale distributor in Norfolk, Virginia, has noticed some attention-getting new designs and plastic feeders for smaller breeds that are “whimsical and appealing to the shopper for their fun aspects and colors, especially some of the new products from Caitec. There is a trend to get past the ‘same old-same old.’”

For example, Caitec offers a portable window perch feeder with suction cups on it “that allow your small bird to dine while enjoying a view of the great outdoors—and it doubles as a play area, complete with toy and swing,” Wyld said.

Caitec also recently launched several other new SKUs, including its Auto Water Seed Feeder, with a stylish and curvy green plastic base and attached perch, and several products within its “Mess Less” line. These items include a shielded feeder with a bold, red shield attached to the feeder bowl to prevent spillage outside the cage; a hanging feeder with a decorative large plastic feeder base and three cute yellow perches above it; and a combo feeder, which features twin blue bowls attached to an arm that extends the bowls further into the cage to decrease mess.

Preventing a Mess
Indeed, neat and clean seem to be the marketing concepts manufacturers are emphasizing above all else. This is supported by the popularity of products like Tidy Seed’s No-Mess Bird Feeder, designed to do away with scattered hulls and seeds thanks to its trough-like compartment, and Fatpet’s Splash Proof Bird Feeder, which boasts an automatic feeding trough with a stand perch. Aside from “scatterless design,” other amenities currently in vogue include “chew proof,” “high-gloss finish,” “universal mount,” and “dishwasher safe.”

Manufacturers have had success trying to infuse fun and foraging within a feeder. Caitec offers an array of options in its Creative Foraging line of durable polycarbonate products, ranging from its Foraging Wheel, Food Tumbler and Foraging Ball and Kabob to its Space Circles, House of Treats and Foraging Sphere. Bird owners fill the compartments with everyday feed or treats and watch contentedly as their pets work diligently to open, move or access a food compartment.

“Creating a foraging environment so that birds explore more around their cage and within toys to find their food provides mental stimulation as well as exercise, which you should encourage to your customers,” Wyld said.

Other companies are also trying to cater to increased demand for treat receptacles, among them Petmate with its JW Pet Treat Stick Holder, fashioned to carefully keep debris and fragments from dropping outside the enclosure.

When it comes to waterers, the tried-and-true upright water bottle has yet to be improved upon, although Super Pet offers a different take on the “wet-my-beak” approach via its Habitat Defined Enrichment Pod Gravity Waterer. This product features compact, customized and refillable water pods.

Mostly, however, the classic plastic or glass tube rules the roost here, including products like JW Pet’s Insight Clean Water Silo Bird Waterer, Lixit’s Glass Bird Bottle and Kordon’s Bird Water Bottle. Stainless steel coop cups by Prevue Pet Products, Hagen’s Living World, Pro Select and others also have a habit of moving quickly off the shelf.

Store Secrets
New and improved waterers and feeders don’t automatically “sell themselves,” so be prepared to promote and recommend specific merchandise to bird owner shoppers, especially newbies.

“Avoid just hanging merchandise up—always engage the customer to learn how they currently feed and what their needs are,” Wyld noted. “Educate them on the great inquisitive nature of birds and the importance of creating different feeding stations and locations around their cage as well, as the instinctive nature of birds is to forage.”

Kalichman agrees that it’s crucial to educate patrons about feeders and waterers, “especially the need to replace food and water on a regular basis and thoroughly clean out these products.”

In addition, put your feeder and waterer inventory to work by showcasing them in your live displays.

“We do that in our store and are careful to rotate the products within the cages, too,” Kalichman recommended.

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