I opened Exotic Birds Unlimited on Halloween of 1981. Prior to opening the store, I spent two years in South America, exporting birds into the United States. What I learned from the trappers and the native people made me realize how much more I wanted to learn about exotic birds. When I came back to the U.S., I found out there wasn’t much written about these beautiful birds. So the quest began. I traveled all over Southern California area, going to every bird store I could possibly find. My travels led me to a little pet shop in North Hollywood and to an elderly woman who said, “The only way you’re going to learn about caged birds is hands-on experience”. Soon I started collecting birds. My first was an African grey. Then came a lilac crown Amazon, a double yellow head Amazon, and a green-wing macaw. I realized after a very short time I was becoming obsessed with these beautiful creatures. I was also starting to run out of room for all these birds. I sold my car and bought a van, so I could take them on any trip I went on. It got to the point where my family and friends thought I needed some counseling. When I told them I was going to open a bird shop, they really thought I’d gone to the BIRDS! In the fall of 1981, I opened up Exotic Birds Unlimited in a small shop of about 500 sq. ft. It took off right away. People were so intrigued about such a specialized store that only dealt with birds. In five months we moved to a larger store. Within a year we expanded again. Five years later, we started to see the decline of parrot type birds being brought into the country. I then realized another decision needed to be made. Do I get out of the business now, or do I start breeding birds for the pet trade? It really was a simple decision. I started collecting birds for the sole purpose to begin a breeding program. We were very fortunate. The birds began to lay eggs and before I knew it, I had hatchlings. It didn’t take long to see some birds were not very good parents. The cockatoos were the worst. They would feed one chick and not the other. I made the decision to pull the babies from the parents and hand-feed them. What do you feed a baby parrot? After two years of creating different recipes, and talking with other breeders for different ideas, I found a recipe that worked really well. I used it for quite a few years. Finally a commercially made diet came into existence which I’ve been using it ever since. Early on, I found that taking these birds from the nest at an early age made for a well socialized and very people oriented pet. Life was great! I’d be up half the night feeding babies, then go to work in the store all day, loving every minute of it. Then one day this beautiful blonde came in. She said she was looking for a hand-fed cockatiel. When our eyes first met we both know there was something there. Long story made short, three months later we were happily married and I was teaching her how to hand-feed baby birds. That was over twenty years ago. Debbi and I have been hand-raising baby birds, and three beautiful children; Jill, Sheldon and Aaron. We are a now a complete bird store. We carry everything from food, toys, cages, and birds. We provide grooming and boarding, and are available for parties and conventions. Our small, family owned and run business has 30 years of experience. So when you come in the store, I will be more than happy to talk about birds with you.
I’m Mama Bird. Give me birds and I am happy. I specialize in the hand feeding of all our babies. Some babies are fed from day one. It is so exciting because you never know when the egg is going to hatch and become a little “hatchling”. Once the little bird hatches, it’s time for the hatchling to be placed in the brooder and watched very closely. We’ve been so lucky to see nature at work. One time Jeff actually had a macaw hatch in his hand. Now the real work begins. I keep them in little bowls with soft tissue surround them, where they are cozy, soft and secure. This is the best way for all little creatures to begin their lives. I feed them every hour and keep them clean. Keeping the babies on tissue allows me to monitor their droppings. What goes in must come out, and paying close attention, I am able to watch the health of the baby. The first two weeks are quite intense. It is amazing how quickly they grow! When possible, we leave the chicks with their parents for 10 to 14 days. Parenting must come natural and pose no threat to the babies. We do have a few breeding pairs who are very attentive. But there are some pairs that don’t have that natural ability of parenting. So we have to take over. Once the chick is ten days old, Jeff takes them and we begin our part in raising them. Just like newborns, all they do is eat, sleep, and poop. However, their eyes don’t open until they are over three weeks. That is when they finally get to see the faces, and hear the voices they know so well and trust. By this time, the chick has outgrown the brooder, and it is on to a plastic container with a little stuffed animal to cuddle up with. They don’t sleep as much, and they begin to wonder about their surroundings and all the noises they hear. I focus on talking and touching them. The babies learn very early to feel secure and socialize with people. They spend time in our kitchen where all the action is. The grow accustom to life in the human world; barking, meowing, birds talking and squeaking, the vacuum, microwave, phones, country music, old “rock n roll”, television, and yes, occasionally they hear “rap”. Did I mention we have a menagerie of kids and pets? Before I know it, the fuzzy chick has pinned, and feathers are rapidly coming in. By now I have named him. I personally believe calling them by a name strengthens the bond. The baby is now getting bored with “my” cooking and is ready to try other things. Now the baby moves up quickly to living in a baby-friendly cage, and introduced to soft food and toys. Personalities are developing, and the babies love to play and explore, getting their beaks dirty and making a mess! I love this stage and spend a lot of time laughing at them, all part of healthy growing. When the chick is completely feathered out, it is now time to learn how to be a “big bird”. Jeff takes the baby to the bird store, where it meets the real world. Most of the time, the baby is sold. This is when the baby gets to meet its new family. As you can see, we don’t just raise babies. Jeff and our son Sheldon spend time educating people on the handling and care of their new pet. His goal is to help develop a strong relationship between bird and owner. Customers visit and spend time with the bird and are constantly learning themselves. By the time our baby goes to his new home, it is less stressful for both the baby and new parents. People always ask me, “How can you give them up?” We don’t give them up. We send a little piece of our family with each bird.