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Why you should never buy an UNWEANED baby parrot

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Re: Why you should never buy an UNWEANED baby parrot

Postby friend2parrots » Wed Mar 13, 2013 7:35 am

i just wanted to address a few points that have been raised, regarding parent raised, vs. handfeeding.

first of all, I would like to mention that personally, if I ever want to get another bird at this point, I would go with a bird from a rescue because they are simply overflowing with birds that need homes. and if an inexperienced bird owner were to ask me where to get a bird, I would send them to a rescue as well, because theres absolutely no reason why a first time newbie bird owner who has never seen a bird in their entire lives needs to "start" off with a baby bird, because with sound training, any older rescue bird can become just as sweet a pet. however, sometimes a rescue is not always available, and it is necessary to go to a breeder.

so with respect to parentraised vs. handfed:

I favor the breeding philosophy that if humans are to breed birds, they must do so in such a manner that both the adult and baby birds involved in the process experience as close-to-wild conditions as possible. this is a minority viewpoint, influenced by Greg Glendell. i will explain why below.

Michael wrote:I think it has less to do with the feeding and more to do with the handling. Trouble is that most breeders who sell parent raised birds don't handle them. Since the parents are doing all the work, they don't bother.

i actually think its a fantastic thing if a breeder doesnt handle or touch the bird at all, but simply goes in for cleaning, and then, when its time for the baby to go to its new home, goes into the aviary, gets the baby out carefully and gently, and hands it over to the new owner.

what this gives the new owner is a chance at rearing a young wild bird, with ALL its birdness and its full wild instincts intact. so if someone were to ask me whether to go with a handfed or young parent-raised bird I would tell them to go with the second choice.


because despite the additional amount of time required to tame and train a parent-raised bird (sometimes it can take up to several months longer) the owner ends up with an a bird that THINKS like a bird. that means the following:

-when the so-called "terrible twos" come, it is not as severe as it is for a handfed.
-the bird thinks like a bird. it is thus easier to add birds to the flock, and have birds that get along with each other.
-it reduces, and can eliminate the birds desire to mate with the owner. why? because it sees itself as different.

thats the key thing. the reasons handfeds are appealing is because the handfeeding process (also known as "parental deprivation" ) forces the baby to imprint on the human hand and face. the parrot grows up thinking that it is a human. this psychology on the part of the bird might make it easier to handle, but it is only setting things up for disaster in the long run.

Michael wrote:However, having one that was handled since a baby does set things up pretty well for the future.

for the bird's future, handfeeding a bird often means a future of 30 to 90 years of thinking its a human when its not, constant attempts to be hormonal with the owner, and the refusal of the companionship of other birds, which is very enriching for them psychologically.
for the owner's future, it means an easy way into bird ownership in the beginning, but a lifetime of dealing with a bird thats overbonded to the owner because it thinks its the "same" as the owner. for the larger species, this can be very problematic, because it brings out all the worst of the bird's behavioral repertoire, in its efforts to get what it wants - to be mated to its caregiver, which of course can never is like Eurycerus pointed out above...

Eurycerus wrote:Also in my opinion having a parent raised parrot seems like it would reduce the sexual frustration if they realize they are parrots and therefore won't mate-bond with people.

this is true. while it is possible that a parentraised bird can be overcuddled and given excess attention, the fact that it thinks of itself as a bird acts as a psychological buffer, and prevents the bird from getting as mate-bonded to humans as a handfed. this means that EVEN when an owner bonds closely with the bird, the birds sense of self is strong enough to still remain a bird. what a wonderful thing. in my opinion, I can't understand why one would want to disrupt a bird's birdness through handfeeding, if the option for such an ideal outcome were there with parent raised!?

in the end, parent-raised works out better for both owner and bird, if you are the type of person who is willing, knowledgeable, and able to train a young wild bird. and it doesn't take long to learn what to do. there's fantastic information on The Trained Parrot Blog and The Parrot Forum, and in the various parrot behavioral guidebooks out there to guide the owner of a parent raised bird, so they can do everything right.

the handfed option is attractive to people for the reasons that breeders "market" : handfeds are "sweet", "cuddly" , and "loving" even without training (a similar disposition can be achieved in a parent raised bird with taming and training, but only after many months). the handfed baby's "sweetness" is marketable, yes, but it is an artificial state of mind induced in the baby bird that ruins its chances of becoming a behaviorally balanced adult. for these reasons, I would encourage everyone who is buying a bird from a breeder to go with parent raised, and I hope more breeders start following this route. Parent-raised is already the gold-standard in Europe for parrot breeding.

the parent reared school of thought can also help to reduce impulse purchases of baby parrots. unfortunately many impulsive buyers frequently give up on their parrots a few months to a few years later, because the "sweet" and "cuddly" baby parrot has turned into a behavioral mess. yes, they could have trained it, but the handfeeding process creates an illusion of tractability in a young baby bird that deceives the purchaser into thinking that things are going to stay perfect forever. whereas, a purchaser of a parent raised baby usually knows what they are getting into - the baby parentraised bird is SCARED of them, for crying out loud! - they are forced, as a result, to put in the time, effort,and energy into taming, and training the young creature to fit into a human household. by doing so, they are committing that much more to the bird, and getting a realistic sense of parrot ownership. the bird has a more likely chance of remainining within its first home, instead of constantly being shuttled from home to home.

Michael wrote:I don't think this is true at all. How owners handle their birds for decades plays a far more substantial role than who fed the bird when it was a baby.

the reason who feeds the parrot does play a substantial role is the following: handfeeding a bird causes it to imprint to humans. permanently. imprinting is an irreversible biological process. the bird basically thinks its a human. quality and consistent handling on the part of the owner can mitigate the initial and permanent damage caused by handfeeding, but sometimes the damage is unrepairable, and the owner just works around it, through various management methods. because the problems created by handfeeding never go away. nearly every single behavioral problem that owners of handfeds deal with - especially hormonal problems - can be reduced or eliminated in the bird ownership experience with a parent raised bird. of course a parent raised bird also needs to be handled to maintain tameness, but the handling means something different to the bird. why? because its psychology is different. it thinks its a bird, not a human.

Michael wrote:Ultimately it comes down to what owners do with their parrots. This is where education is essential. The biggest problem is that most people don't care enough to learn what to do and just get rid of the birds instead.

I completely agree with this. but I would not say that this is all there is to it. education, training, enrichment, etc. can help to correct the initial damage caused by the handfeeding process. but why go down the handfeeding route in the first place, when parent raised gives the owner the chance for a better lifelong scenario? and as for owners, of course, education is still necessary. but i think it is far more likely that a person who is patient enough to deal with a parent raised bird will retain that bird as a pet in their home, rather than give it away, because its not acting like the "sweet" bird they knew as a baby.

pennyandrocky wrote:the greater bond with handfed is a myth for breeder profit... breeders started this because of cost they sell birds earlier so they don't have to spend money caring for the babies instead they put that off on the people buying them. they also encourage more egg laying by removing the babies forcing the parents to replace them. .

this is the heart of the matter. this is why parrot babies are handfed. its to increase the productivity of parent birds, to increase sales. in the past several decades, money-oriented breeders who handfeed have produced more babies than they ought to have, focusing on quantity rather than quality, to fulfill the whims and fancies of impulsive buyers. who can resist that cute little baby face, when it WANTS to be in your arms? the handfeeding paradigm has created an overflow of birds, which, because of their various behavioral issues caused by handfeeding, combined with unknowledgable and impatient owners, has sent these handfeds into the rescues, where they are currently languishing today.

some breeders argue that they have to handfeed because their parent birds will otherwise destroy the chicks. but as research has shown, when the parent birds' living conditions are as optimal as they possibly can be, with ample space, room for flight, adequate diet, and a long resting period between breeding cycles, as well as a variety of other things that are too numerous to list here, even a so-called "destructive" parent that is hostile to mate and chicks can relax and enjoy the breeding experience, and raise healthy parent raised babies on their own with minimal involvement on the part of the human. basically, the happier the parent birds are, the more likely they are to raise their babies in a kind, devoted, and healthy manner.

allowing birds to parent raise thus requires the breeder to have lots of space and adequate resources to provide for the parent birds optimal well being. parent raising also does not bring in as much money for the breeder, because for many of the larger parrots, it takes months upon months between hatching and fledging. i admire breeders of parent raised birds because it shows me that they are not interested in productivity, and that they are putting the birds psychological needs first, before its marketability.

again, if someone were to offer me the choice of what kind of baby bird, I would go with parent raised (if parent raised is not available, then co-parenting), fully fledged and flighted, and raised in an aviary where it had the chance to fly. the Trained Parrot Blog and The Parrot Forum would tell me everything I would need to know to train it and make it just as "sweet" as a handfed - it would take me a little bit more time, yes - perhaps several months to reach the same level of handleability as a handfed - but that's a very small price to pay for a lifetime with an emotionally and behaviorally well-balanced parrot!! :)

in the end its like you said, education and training. but in the case of parentraised birds, they are starting off on a better psychological footing.

sorry for the long post everyone - I tend to be too longwinded :)

EDIT: for further reference, please see the following article by Greg Glendell:
Last edited by friend2parrots on Tue Mar 19, 2013 2:55 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Why you should never buy an UNWEANED baby parrot

Postby pennyandrocky » Wed Mar 13, 2013 8:52 am

yes it was a long post but i wouldn't say long winded. i read the whole thing it was full of great points. :thumbsup:
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Re: Why you should never buy an UNWEANED baby parrot

Postby Eurycerus » Wed Mar 13, 2013 10:26 am

Thanks for all your thoughts on the matter. I found it really interesting and thoughtful :)
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Re: Why you should never buy an UNWEANED baby parrot

Postby angelblue » Sat Apr 27, 2013 8:33 pm

When I bought my first parrot 12years ago the sales person tried to talk me into taking it home husband even considered it but I knew it was too dangerous for a novice.... I am just glad the store continued to care for her until she was ready...she is my best buddy. :amazon:
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Re: Why you should never buy an UNWEANED baby parrot

Postby William » Thu Sep 12, 2013 3:12 pm

I've learned a lot from reading this, thanks!

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Re: Why you should never buy an UNWEANED baby parrot

Postby KC Cameron » Tue Dec 03, 2013 11:51 pm

friend2parrots makes some good points. I would like to add some more.

We know human babies benefit from colostrum and breast feeding in many ways. It is such a leap to think birds may be similar?? I don't know - but it seems worth considering. . .

I would also like to point out hand feeding a budgie and hand feeding a Macaw are two different things. I have hand fed several Macaws, but a budgie would scare me because he is so tiny, and there is little room for error.

I have found this thread interesting. So many people with strong opinions based on other people's strong opinions that are based on antidotal evidence!

First, there are two different arguments going on here:
1) The first is that you should not bring home an unweaned parrot. This argument assumes the parrot should be weaned by the breeder, not the new owner.
2) The second argument is humans should let parrot parents do their job and wean their babies.

As for #1, I think most people do not have the time to hand feed a baby parrot. Nor do I think most new owners do their due diligence in learning how to hand feed a parrot. That being said, there are plenty of people who can and do, including myself and several other posters on this thread. I would take a conscientious, educated owner over a hurried breeder (not saying that all are hurried) any day.

Both my GW and U2 are extremely well behaved birds that can be held by many people. I weaned them both. Would they have been even better if the breeder weaned them? I don't know, but I'm inclined to say "no". Neither have any problems with not bonding. If anything, just the opposite.

Another issue brought up is hand-fed babies are more adorable and easier to sell. This disturbs me. I agree with it, but hand never thought of it before. We don't need people falling in love with a baby only for it to become abused and /or a rescue as an adult.

Some parents can kill or neglect their babies. Perhaps this is more about our ability to make a breeding bird content then blaming it on the bird. I don't know.

As for #2, I am inclined to agree with friend2parrots because it appears the most logical and well thought out argument. Being logic and well thought out doesn't mean it is true, but with the lack of any amount of real scientific evidence, I would favor it. I have NO experience with babies weaned by their parents, so I can only rely on logic, experience and the authority friend2parrots seems to have. I will read those articles listed in the near future.

Thanks friend2parrots!
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Re: Why you should never buy an UNWEANED baby parrot

Postby Nancy1129 » Wed May 14, 2014 9:12 pm

I think it really depends on the country,
I live in the US and I was born here but my parents speak another language

In my country everybody buys unweaned baby birds and raised them (hand feed etc)

So there's no such thing as an untamed bird, if you see a bird it would be 90% tamed and cuddly.

I honestly think it's a cultural difference since Americans tend to scare people off by saying how hard it is to hand feed a baby bird and it should only be done by professionals and experts..

I have 0 experience with hand feeding birds but my african grey was less than 2 weeks old when I got him and he is doing great..

It's not that hard actually u just gotta follow the rules and becareful
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Re: Why you should never buy an UNWEANED baby parrot

Postby Navre » Tue Aug 19, 2014 7:48 pm

I finished my CAG. I think we got her when she was on 4 feedings a day. I would probably never do this again.

I had gone to the breeder several times, and she showed me how to hand feed. After she was satisfied with how I fed, she let me take the bird to finish. This was in 1990. While we experienced no medical problems, and the bird fed, grew, and weaned successfully, I feel I was ill equipped to know how often to handle the bird at each stage. I was able to feed the bird properly, but not able to socialize her properly. The breeder had cautioned me about handling a down-covered baby bird too often. I probably didn't handle her often enough. She explained the dangers of disease, so I limited the bird's contact with other people, especially "bird people." I ended up creating a one-person bird.
While she was a wonderful bird who I miss to this day, she was VERY high strung, and nervous. I can't help but think that some of this was due to improper raising by me. She never did adjust to my son being born in 1992, and in 1995 when my daughter was on the way, we had to find her another home with a family member. The "good" news is that she seemed to forget about me after a fairly short time. I'd visit often, but other than speaking in my voice (you're okay" when something bothered her, "oh, oh" when something fell, and "Turk's a good boy" whenever she thought someone was mad at her) she became my sister-in-law's bird. She was happy in her house full of cockatiels. And while one cockatiel did lose a toe to her once, they generally got along. He became a she when she started laying eggs. Sexing was by surgery in 1990, and it seemed ridiculous to put a pet bird through that.

The other reason I would never hand feed a baby is because I feel the best companion bird will be one who chooses you. Whether it be at a rescue, a breeder, or a pet store, an older, or at least a weaned bird that shows some sort of bond with you right away will probably be a better place to start. The 12 year old Macaw in the pet store, on its 4th home, who bites almost everyone but lays his head on your shoulder and makes purring sounds is the bird to take home. (Assuming, of course, that you can commit to a Macaw)
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Re: Why you should never buy an UNWEANED baby parrot

Postby seagoatdeb » Tue Apr 19, 2016 1:08 pm

Every baby parrot i have ever lived with has baby bonded with me and then also did the adult bond, so they are very different in our houses than in nature. I had hoped my Male Meyers would bond with my husband, and i am still hoping that will happen, but I am getting the courtship dances, so it doesnt look likely. I really believe that the parents should feed the parrots in the beginning and then they should be handfed and weaned already by the time they are sold. This aritcle is great, thanks for posting it.
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Re: Why you should never buy an UNWEANED baby parrot

Postby joephone » Mon May 30, 2016 1:38 pm

This is no sense. I got my conure at 8 weeks and it bonded to me (hand feeder), not my wife. :budgie:
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