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A commercial aviary raises exotic birds for resale. A bird breeder also known as an avian breeder, can run a small, backyard aviary with only one breeding pair by themselves, or may operate a multi-million dollar purpose-built aviary with dozens of employees. A commercial aviary can sell retail to individual customers or run a breeding program to sell wholesale to established pet stores.
Who is this business right for?
Due to the requirements of breeding birds, most successful commercial breeders have a lot of experience (and success) raising birds as a hobby before attempting to run an aviary as a business. Operating a commercial aviary requires specific knowledge, time, and enough capital to build and maintain the aviary.
What happens during a typical day at a commercial aviary?
There is always something to do when you raise birds commercially. Breeders constantly need to clean cages and nest boxes, feed and water their birds, act as a nursemaid for new hatchlings, take care of the birds' medical needs, and order supplies. All of these tasks are in additional to the normal day-to-day requirements of running any type of business such as accounting and marketing.
What is the target market?
Depending on the size of the commercial aviary, the best customers are individuals looking to purchase a bird as a pet or large pet shops looking to buy birds in bulk. While retail customers will pay more for each bird, retail selling requires spending much more on marketing to locate customers.
How does a commercial aviary make money?
A commercial aviary makes money by selling birds to individuals and pet stores.
What is the growth potential for a commercial aviary?
The demand for birds as pets rises and falls, but because keeping a bird is more expensive than caring for other types of pets, the demand for pet birds is currently low. As the economy continues to recover, there should be more of a demand for birds.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful commercial aviary?
Running a successful commercial aviary requires the operator to have a wide range of skills from avian nutrition to medical care for birds. In addition, owners of a commercial aviary need to have basic business skills such as accounting and marketing. Some states require breeders of certain species or commercial aviaries which sell over a certain number of birds per year to acquire a license.
What are the costs involved in opening a commercial aviary?
The costs of starting a commercial aviary business vary depending on the size and type of operation you have in mind. The expense of setting up a small scale backyard commercial aviary breeding a single pair of parakeets is much less than a large aviary breeding exotic birds, but the possibility of turning a profit with a larger facility is much more realistic.
At the least, you will need at least to purchase one healthy breeding pair, two or three good sized cages, a nesting box, a brooder, hand feeding tools, food, and other supplies. This is besides the most costly part of raising birds: the avian vet.
A license: The requirements for raising birds for profit depends on your state. Most states in the US place limits on the type and number birds you can raise without a license. Licenses normally cost around one hundred dollars and are good for multiple years before needing renewal.
A breeding pair: A good breeding pair can cost several hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. It all depends on the species, the quality of the breeders, and the ages of the breeders.
A nesting box: You can find nesting boxes for less than one hundred dollars online.
A cage: Cages can range from less than one hundred dollars to thousands depending on the size. If your cage is outside, you will have to add the cost a heater and shade covering.
Food: Food should not cost over one dollar a day per bird. Make sure you buy quality food formulated specifically for breeders of the same species. Bowls, water dispensers, hand feeding tools, and treats are also part of the food expense but have only a nominal cost.
A brooder: A complete store-bought brooder box can cost over five hundred dollars, but if you have basic carpentry skills, you can make your own brooder for less than one hundred bucks.
An avian vet: This is the highest ongoing cost associated with raising birds. A quality avian vet charges hundreds of dollars for a typical check-up and serious injuries or illnesses can wind up costs thousands in vet bills.
What are the steps to start a commercial aviary?
Once you're ready to start your commercial aviary, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:
- Plan your business. A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are your initial costs, your target market, and how long it will take you to break even.
- Form a legal entity. Establishing a legal business entity prevents you from being personally liable if your commercial aviary is sued.
- Register for taxes. You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
- Open a business bank account. A dedicated checking account for your commercial aviary keeps your finances organized and makes your business appear more professional to your customers.
- Set up business accounting. Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
- Obtain necessary permits and licenses. Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
- Get business insurance. Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
- Define your brand. Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
- Establish a web presence. A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Where can I find a business mentor?
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
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What are some insider tips for jump starting a commercial aviary?
Start small and slow, even if you eventually plan on running a large-scale operation. Raising birds for profit is difficult, and it makes no sense to rush into the venture without testing it out beforehand.
New cages are much more preferable to old cages or retrofitting a structure into housing for birds. Viruses and bacteria can live for a long time even after cleaning, so keep your birds healthier by avoiding exposing them to old cages or structures.
How to promote & market a commercial aviary
The best way to promote your business depends on the size of your commercial aviary, and your intended customers. Large commercial aviaries who want to supply birds to pet stores should contact the pet stores directly. Established pet shops with a history of selling birds are generally not interested in purchasing from a new supplier unless the pricing or selection is much better than their current supplier. Smaller breeders can find the best results by advertising online, attending Bird Marts, and joining local groups of bird enthusiasts.
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How to keep customers coming back
The easiest way to attract new customers is providing the best service to your existing ones. Join and speak at local bird groups and offer advice to bird owners. Sponsor and attend local Bird Marts and become an active member of the community.
How and when to build a team
Although it is best to start small, there may come a time when you can't handle all the work by yourself. At this point, it seems logical to hire employees. But due to the slim profit margins, it may make more sense to attract free help through a local high school, bird group, or college. Large-scale operations with healthier profit margins may still wish to hire part-time workers to save on salaries.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
In most states, it is necessary to obtain an avian breeder license. Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a commercial aviary business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
For more information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, check out our informative guide, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
Commercial aviary businesses should consider requiring clients to sign a service agreement before starting a new project. This agreement should clarify client expectations and minimize risk of legal disputes by setting out payment terms and conditions, service level expectations, and intellectual property ownership. Here is an example service agreement.
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When dealing with bird breeders, it is always advisable to draft a standard contract regulating terms of conditions under which you may sell their specialty type of bird. This agreement is often referred to as a consignment agreement.
A consignment agreement can be used to show an example of how the bird is sold while maintaining an agreed upon payment that will be made to the owner. This allows visibility for both breeders as well as the animals which receive an increased rate of visibility in order to be purchased more efficiently.
It is advisable to provide customers with informed consent agreements to decrease legal liability in case of injury and to encourage transparency.
How much can you charge customers?
The sale price for birds depends on the species, whether a bird is hand raised, the local market, and how much your customer will pay.
What are the ongoing expenses for a commercial aviary?
The biggest ongoing expenses are vet bills, food costs, and electricity.
How much profit can a commercial aviary make?
A bird breeder can earn between $18,000 – $57,000 a year according to the US Department of Labor.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Commercial aviaries have the ability to earn more money by selling food and supplies to people who already own birds. There is additional money for people who are willing to care for customers' birds when they are out of town.