My favorite bird farm is quickly going out of business. Oh, they say they’re “downsizing”, that they’re “re-consolidating” their assets and “re-evaluating” their business plan but it’s really clear what’s going on. It’s a shame because they’ve been around almost 40 years. Beyond just having birds, feed, toys, cages and supplies, they had a huge open aviary with koi ponds and tons of free-flying birds living in a wild setting, they had a ton of interesting animals in a petting zoo, ranging from ostriches and camels to goats and sheep to turkeys and Brahma bulls. I say had because these things are largely gone. They’ve disposed of just about all of their mammals, sent to a farm somewhere. I was there last week and they had four turkeys, a donkey and a camel left. They also had a huge walk-in area in the back of the store for community birds, finches, canaries and the like, which was always stocked full of hundreds of birds. Now, most cages are empty and the ones with birds in them have just a few, mostly with discounted prices. To be honest, I walk into the store and wonder what the hell happened, it used to be an amazing place. The cages used to be full of a large variety of birds. They had a big cage of parakeets by the front door that had learned what the bell sounded like so every time someone came in, you’d get a cage full of ‘keets going “ding dong!” There were always many types of conures, from Green-cheek to Sun to Jenday, they always had something new and interesting on their front counter, now that spot is taken up by their latest “please get this bird out of here” deal. Last time we were there, it was a pair of Sun conures they were trying to push out the door. It’s not just the time of year, it’s the attitude of the store these days.
They say that sales are way down, which I can understand. The problem, though, really isn’t the economy, although certainly that contributes. I’ve watched the bird farm slide slowly from a really great place that offered lots of extras to, I’m sorry to say, a hole in the wall that really doesn’t offer half of what your big corporate pet store offers.
Now if you look at their website, which for the longest time was an unprofessional piece of crap, they look like they’re an amazing place to go and certainly, they used to be. You get the impression that they breed 8 different families of birds, but in reality, they really breed very little anymore. Beyond breeding cockatiels, parakeets and Congo African Grey parrots, they really have very little. Oh sure, from time to time they’ll have something else, typically some form of conure or Rose-breasted Cockatoo, but honestly, I can go to the local Petco and get a better selection of birds. Yes, stuck in cages in the back of the outdoor aviary, they may, from time to time, have a pair of macaws or cockatoos, once I saw a pair of toucans, but they’re either not-for-sale or not tame with high price tags, nobody is going to spend a ton of money for mean birds that cannot be handled. I’ve bought a conure from them and my daughters each have a cockatiel that we bought from them, we buy the majority of our food and toys and cages from them so you can’t say we’re not doing everything we can to support them, it just seems like they’re not trying.
One reason, to be honest, is the staff. As much as I like the people who work there, I don’t think they have an employee under age 50. They’re not excited to see anyone, there’s no enthusiasm, it’s “oh… someone came in, guess I’ll go take their money”. Yes, I know it’s a family-owned business, yes, I know these people have been there for decades, but it seems that just a few short years ago, there was some energy amongst the staff. Now, when you walk in, there’s rarely anyone at the counter and I can see two different things in their eyes, either “please hurry up and go away” or “please buy something so I have a job”.
It’s really a shame because this used to be the premiere bird farm in Southern California. Virtually every bird found in every commercial pet store used to come from Bracken. They were the go-to people and everyone loved their animals. Today, I doubt they have a single commercial contract.
Don’t get me wrong, if they’re trying to retire, I can respect that, they live on the property so I can see where they’re not going to want to sell the store to another party, but to go out like this, not at the top of their game but drifting off into oblivion, closing up shop, not with a roar but with a whimper… it’s just sad.