Mary Hardcastle, owner of About Birds in Pinehurst, had her first experience with birds in the 1970s at Parrot Jungle in Miami while on vacation. On a tour, she was given an opportunity to hold a scarlet macaw when it pinched her with its beak.
"I have loved birds ever since," she said.
Hardcastle, who moved to Magnolia in 1985, said she has been all about birds since her experience in Miami and attributed a couple of other instances that led to her opening her own business.
She became a bird owner when her husband bought her three pairs of cockatiels, which marked her first foray into owning and caring for birds. A second light bulb moment occurred when Hardcastle bought a scarlet macaw at an auction. From that moment on, she was hooked, she said. The macaw was also the first bird she ever hand fed, a practice she uses to this day when raising baby birds.
"I find that hand feeding baby birds is similar to raising children from birth to two years old, only it is done in 16 weeks with birds," Hardcastle said. "I do not incubate any eggs. I let the parents raise them for the first two to four weeks and then I take over and hand feed them."
Hardcastle and her business partner decided to open a bird-specific pet store in Pinehurst in 1999 under the name All About Birds. In the time since the store first opened, it has moved to three separate locations in Pinehurst before moving to the current location at 31847 Hwy. 249, Pinehurst, in 2008. Hardcastle also changed the name to About Birds after her business partner retired to signify the change in ownership, she said.
About Birds is a pet store where customers can find about 15 species of birds, bird food, cages, toys and just about everything needed to own a bird, Hardcastle said. There are a number of other services offered by Hardcastle, which include bird grooming, bird boarding and professional advice on owning a bird.
"Stress and tension in humans can often rub off on their birds," Hardcastle said. "So I also offer day care-type services for customers' birds to give them a break from their birds if need be."
At About Birds, customers can find any number of exotic birds for purchase. Hardcastle said if she does not carry a bird, she usually knows where to find one or someone who is breeding them. Hardcastle does some of her own breeding as well. Customers looking for homes for birds they plan to give away can also find help at About Birds, she said.
"I try to help people work through bird management and training and will also help people find new and good homes for birds," Hardcastle said. "I want the best for both the birds and the people. I love and care deeply about birds."
Customers drive business and Hardcastle said she has a loyal customer base with a number of return patrons.
"Having birds is like an addiction," she said. "A lot of times you can't have just one, you often want more."
What sets Hardcastle apart from other bird breeders and owners is the way she raises them, she said.
She never incubates the eggs, which is a practice used by many to produce more birds to sell. She allows the natural process to take place between baby birds and the parents, which she said makes the birds healthier and more personable. After the first month, she will begin hand feeding the birds.
"The birds need to know they are birds first," Hardcastle said. "I put the birds' welfare above the money aspect. It's better for the pet birds to do it my way, so that's why I do it."
About Birds services
- Bird grooming, which includes trimming of wings, nails and beaks
- Bird boarding
- Bird breeding
- Consultations for bird owners
- Retail sales such as birds, food, birdcages and toys
Birds found at About Birds
- African Grey Parrots
About Birds , 31847 Hwy. 249, Pinehurst 281-259-2700, www.marysaboutbirds.com, Hours: Mon. 11 a.m.–2 p.m., Tue. 11 a.m.–6 p.m., Wed.–Fri. 11 a.m.–5 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.–5 p.m.