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Why you should never buy an UNWEANED baby parrot

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Why you should never buy an UNWEANED baby parrot

Postby pchela » Mon Jun 21, 2010 5:20 pm

There is a strongly held belief that says that hand raising and weaning a baby parrot will insure that it bonds to the hand feeder and will make a wonderful, loving, tame pet for life. As this is the only possible reason I can understand for a person wanting to buy an unweaned chick, I'd like to point out the falsehood of this myth. A baby parrot is raised for a certain amount of months by its parents in the wild. During this time it is fed and taught to eat, drink and socialize properly. When the rearing is complete, the juvenile parrot will branch out on its own, searching for other juveniles to socialize with and eventually for a mate. The bird leaves its parents and bonds strongly with another bird. The new relationship does not leave any room for the parents. When you hand feed a parrot, you are its parent. When it reaches maturity, more likely than not, it will choose another person in the household to bond with because its instincts tell it that's what it should do. So clearly, if you want a parrot to bond with you, you should not be its hand feeder. The idea that hand feeding a baby parrot will create a strong bond between the feeder and the parrot is false. It is much better to allow a good breeder to hand feed and wean your baby correctly. This insures a healthy, happy baby who will be free to bond with you. Let the breeder be the person the baby abandons when it is ready to move on!

I've offered one compelling reason to buy a weaned parrot but here are several more.

Aspiration
Hand feeding a chick may look simple but it is anything but. There are so many things that can go wrong. Aspiration occurs when formula is pushed into the lungs which can lead to pneumonia and death. All it takes is one push of the syringe and your bird can aspirate and will most likely die.

Crop Burn Many people are unaware that a parrot must have formula that is at the perfect temperature. It can not be too hot or too cold. If the formula is too hot, it can lead to crop burn. This means that the formula can scald the chicks crop and actually burn a hole through its esophagus and crop. This is usually fatal, but if it's not, the burn can become infected which can also lead to death.

Sour Crop On the other side of the spectrum, if the formula is too cold, the chick can not digest it properly. It ends up sitting in the crop where it turns sour and eventually becomes infected. An infection which is not properly treated can lead to death. The average person had no idea how to tell if the crop is emptying properly.

Beak Deformities
Improper pressure from a syringe being pushed into a chicks beak can cause permanent deformities including scissor beak.

Starvation Some chicks do not beg when they are hungry. Some chicks fight being hand fed even when they are starving. A novice would assume that the chick isn't hungry if it refuses feedings. In addition, a young chick can sit in front of a bowl of food and starve to death as many chicks will refuse weaning foods if they are not being fed enough formula. A chick who is hungry is distressed and will be distressed until it is fed formula. It will not go out and explore new ways of eating if it is in distress from lack of formula.

Overfeeding Younger chicks will continue eating until the feeder stops feeding them rather than backing away when they are full. Overfeeding can lead to an impacted crop which will require a veterinarian to correct. An inexperienced feeder will not be able to tell when a chick is full.

Illness Baby parrots do not have fully developed immune systems and everything that touches them must be properly sterilized. Neglecting to do so can result in a variety of diseases and illnesses.

Force Weaning
There are many people, including breeders, who believe that if you deprive a baby of formula, it will eventually get hungry enough to eat regular food. As addressed earlier, this is simply not true. An improperly weaned chick will develop behavioral problems that will last its entire life and can include excessive screaming, plucking, aggression and self mutilation among other things. A baby parrot must be abundantly weaned. The average person does not know how to abundantly wean a parrot. Any breeder unscrupulous enough to sell an inexperienced person an unweaned baby will probably advocate forced weaning and the people buying the parrots will have no reason to disbelieve the breeder.

Abundance Weaning is necessary for the life long health of a parrot. It is a balancing act that requires the feeder to know when to feed formula and when to offer fresh foods. It is not a matter of throwing some food in front of the baby parrot. The baby must be taught to eat the new food. The feeder must know what types of foods to offer and when to offer them. This is not something that a novice will know how to do. It is not a simple matter of reading what to do online or in a book. Weaning is an extremely stressful time for a chick and it must be done with care and an eye for any signs of stress, hunger or illness. Experienced breeders know what to look for and what to do if they find something wrong.

Experienced breeders can spot signs of illness or infection immediately and get the baby proper care before it is too late. They know the second a baby has aspirated and can take steps to save the baby before it develops pneumonia and they are less likely to aspirate a baby in the first place. They know how to properly handle a syringe while feeding to avoid beak deformities. They also know how to empty a crop if it becomes sour. If a novice tried this, they would almost certainly kill the bird. In short, an experienced breeder is, well, experienced. There is simply no way that an inexperienced person could identify and correct the numerous problems that occur when dealing with baby parrots.

On Breeding
Everything I've listed above also applies to breeding your own parrots. Breeding parrots takes dedication and patience and offers little monetary compensation in return. It is truly a labor of love. Newly hatched chicks must be fed every 2 to 3 hours for the first several weeks which means you won't be able to leave the house for more than an hour at a time or be able to sleep through the night. Cages with nest boxes, brooders, gram scales, syringes, formula and the vast amount of other specialized equipment you'd need to breed parrots is expensive. Breeding pairs are expensive and it is difficult to provide the perfect circumstances needed to allow a pair to breed in the first place. In addition, there are going to be parents and babies who get sick or injured and they have to be taken care of. Vet bills add up quickly. The amount of effort required to successfully raise enough parrots to break even (forget making a profit for a long time) is tremendous not to mention the amount of space you'd need to house all of these parrots and equipment. Even if you do eventually have a successful breeding program what will you do with the babies that don't sell? Selling high priced birds is not exactly an easy thing to do. In addition, with the amount of unwanted parrots in sanctuaries and rescues today, it seems irresponsible to add to their numbers by breeding more babies.

A baby parrot learns everything from its parents or it's hand feeder. Drinking water is not an instinctive behavior for a parrot, it is taught. Eating is taught. Socialization is taught. With the risks of hand feeding your own parrot ranging from instant death to severe, lifelong behavioral issues, there is simply no reason to try and hand feed and wean a chick yourself. Weaning one or two parrots does not make you an expert. Understanding what it takes to properly raise and wean a parrot takes years of experience after being taught how by an expert.

If I have not done enough to convince you to not buy an unweaned baby parrot, perhaps some of these tragic stories will.
http://www.itsagreysworld.com/misc/unweaned.htm
http://www.3featheredfriends.net/forums ... -6130.html

Do a google search for unweaned parrot deaths and you'll find many more stories like the ones I linked to.

If you already have an unweaned parrot and need help the best thing you can do is take the bird back to the breeder to finish weaning (even if it costs more money) or find an experienced breeder and beg them for advice and possibly even lessons on hand feeding and weaning. You may be able to find a pet store with hand feeders who can help you. If you are in an area where no experienced hand feeders are available to you, perhaps you can find a video demonstrating proper hand feeding and weaning techniques. At the very least, find a website that gives you in depth instructions on what to do. No amount of research can replace hands on experience. Here are some directories of bird breeders where you may be able to find help. If your area is not listed do an internet search to find breeders close to you.
United States http://birdbreeders.com/ and http://www.birdsnways.com/birds/breeders.html
Europe http://www.parrotpages.com/links/breeders-europe.shtml
United Kingdom http://www.unitedparrotbreeders.co.uk/ and http://www.robharvey.com/directory.html
Australia http://www.petdirectory.com.au/?page=di ... &section=3
Canada http://ca.dir.yahoo.com/Business_and_Ec ... s/Parrots/ and http://www.birdyboredombusters.com/links.html
South Africa http://www.ananzi.co.za/catalog/Homeand ... index.html


One final thought. If you are buying an unweaned parrot, you clearly want a pet. Whether you are buying unweaned to develop a better bond with your pet, or you want to save some money, consider this: How good a pet do you think a dead parrot will make?
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pchela
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Re: Why you should buy a WEANED baby parrot.

Postby bmsweb » Mon Jun 21, 2010 8:45 pm

I didn't think this was even a problem! I haven't come across any breeders who sell parrots that haven't been weaned yet (well not in Australia). When we were looking for Conures, the youngest one I came across was 8 weeks old and the breeder was planning on holding on to the bird for another week.

I just find it hard to believe actual breeders would sell you a bird that's not weaned. When I say breeder I'm not talking about someone who's birds happen to breed by pure luck.
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Re: Why you should buy a WEANED baby parrot.

Postby Banksie » Tue Jun 22, 2010 6:16 am

Here in the UK, pet shops have a condition in their licence under the Pet Animals Act 1951 as follows:

13. SALE OF LIVESTOCK
13.1 No mammal shall be sold un-weaned or, if weaned, at an age at which it should not have
been weaned.
13.2 In the case of non-mammals, they must be capable of feeding themselves


While this isn't a law as such, it prevents pet shops being able to sell "unweaned" chicks without having their licence revoked. I.e. if they sell unweaned baby birds they get closed down.

I can't find anything in UK statute law that restricts breeders from selling unweaned chicks, though. In fact, they are explicitly exempted from requiring a Pet Animals Act licence and therefore are not bound by the above condition. That said, I don't think it's common practice for breeders to sell unweaned chicks direct to an owner. It's a cultural/best-practice thing and I don't think the USA has really caught up yet. Perhaps it's the same in Oz as the UK?
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Re: Why you should buy a WEANED baby parrot.

Postby lzver » Tue Jun 22, 2010 7:48 am

I know there are breeders/pet stores out there that sell unweaned babies ... we've all heard stories on this board. I don't think it's a huge issue here in North America ... but I could be wrong.

Any breeder I know .... and at least PJ's Pets ... don't sell unweaned babies. I put down a deposit on Jessie when he was only 2 months old and still in the nursery. PJ's does not let a bird go home until it is eating on its own and maintaining/gaining weight.

Honestly, I wouldn't even know how/what to feed an unweaned bird. I'd be worried I'd do something wrong and make a baby sick or even worse than that.

When I get my next bird ... if I decide to get a baby from a breeder, it will most definitely be weaned before I even consider bringing it home.
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Re: Why you should buy a WEANED baby parrot.

Postby pchela » Tue Jun 22, 2010 1:06 pm

Unfortunately it is a very prevalent practice here in the United States. Another user said it's quite common in South Africa and we've had several board members from South or Central America who are trying to feed unweaned babies.
"I bet the sparrow looks at the parrot and thinks, yes, you can talk, but LISTEN TO YOURSELF!" ~ Jack Handy ~ Deep Thoughts
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Re: Why you should never buy an UNWEANED baby parrot

Postby birdvet » Sat Aug 07, 2010 5:25 am

Pchela: That is a very good post and gives some great explanations about the dangers of unweaned birds as pets, awesome job :senegal: .

Luckily in NZ it doesn't happen very often but I do have had the occasional client who is absolutely distraught and beating themselves up because they blame themselves for the death of their unweaned baby. These poor people did not know how to care for or hand rear an unweaned bird so it ended badly...tragic!! :cry:

On the topic of hand raising...I hand reared and weaned Walter (ringneck) and Edward (Crimson wing) and they are both super pets and well bonded with me. In the past I also raised and weaned a pet cockatiel and Rainbow lorikeet, both were well bonded with me. However, having said that, I think I've been lucky as I know many people who reared their birds only to have them bond with other family members....heartbreaking for the rearer!!

Of course, Johnny (Nanday) I adopted and he is actually the MOST bonded to me...almost inappropriately because he's convinced I'm his mate :D ...so yip, the bird I didn't raise bonded to me the most!!
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Re: Why you should never buy an UNWEANED baby parrot

Postby Kim S » Sat Aug 07, 2010 7:11 am

I have heard, and please correct me if I'm wrong, that it is actually not good for your bond with the bird to wean it yourself.
Young parrots are raised by their parents and live with them for a couple of months to a couple of years after they leave the nestbox. They then fly off to find a mate for themelves.
So they are programmed to leave the one who raises them and bond with another. Natures way of preventing incest I guess.

The point is, in the home situation, the bird will 'leave' the caretaker and bond with another person. Sounded pretty logically when explained at the time.
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Re: Why you should never buy an UNWEANED baby parrot

Postby zazanomore » Tue Aug 10, 2010 5:33 pm

I say it's just common sense.
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Re: Why you should never buy an UNWEANED baby parrot

Postby pchela » Tue Aug 10, 2010 6:15 pm

Thank you birdvet! It's nice to have affirmation from a professional vet.

Kim, you are absolutely correct about a bird being likely to bond to somebody other than the hand feeder.

zazanomore- sadly, not everybody feels as you do.
"I bet the sparrow looks at the parrot and thinks, yes, you can talk, but LISTEN TO YOURSELF!" ~ Jack Handy ~ Deep Thoughts
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pchela
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Re: Why you should never buy an UNWEANED baby parrot

Postby bmsweb » Tue Aug 10, 2010 7:49 pm

Kim S wrote:. . that it is actually not good for your bond with the bird to wean it yourself.

So they are programmed to leave the one who raises them and bond with another. Natures way of preventing incest I guess.


I'm interested to see how this turns out with us. I'm currently hand rearing our baby conures and it will be interesting to see if the one we keep bonds with me or another member of the family.
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