Don't Buy Unweaned Baby Birds

BABY BIRD OWNERS, please DO NOT take your babies home before they are COMPLETELY WEANED unless you are experienced baby birds. If you brought home an unweaned baby take it back to the breeder!

Before you go out and pick up an unweaned baby bird, realize that there is NO reason why an inexperienced hand-feeder should attempt to raise a baby bird. The idea that you can only form a strong bond with a parrot if you hand-feed them is simply untrue.

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Unfortunately, it is only too common for unethical breeders to sell unweaned babies to customers telling them that it’s "for your own good! Your bird will not love you the same way without being hand-fed!” In reality, their motivations are purely selfish. An unweaned baby bird that can be sold faster is a better investment for a breeder, plain and simple. Weaning and hand-feeding are both difficult processes, even for experienced breeders, so the less time they have to spend feeding, housing, and socializing a baby bird is more money in their pocket.

It’s no surprise that a good breeder will not even consider selling an unweaned baby unless the customer can prove that they have extensive experience with hand-feeding and the knowledge to identify and deal with potential problems - if they'll sell an unweaned bird at all. The worst breeders will shove new owners out the door with a little bit of formula and a “good luck with that!” attitude. To them, baby birds are commodities that net the most profits the faster they can churn them out. Luckily for them, too many inexperienced people are all too willing to buying a cute, fluffy unweaned baby, and have little to no knowledge of how to properly care for a bird in one of the most difficult and important stages of its life.

Baby birds die, become permanently harmed, or acquire terrible lifelong habits every day at the hands of well-meaning but inexperienced hand feeders. The causes are many, and most can be difficult to avoid given the finicky nature of baby birds. Some of the biggest problems that can occur with hand-feeding are:

baby parrot bird

1) Feeding complications:

Aspiration: Food can easily be pulled or pushed into a baby bird’s lungs and cause immediate death or infections like pneumonia.
Crop burn: Formula that is even a few degrees too warm can literally sear a hole right through a baby bird’s crop. If the bird does not die from the subsequent infection, life-saving surgery is often risky and expensive.
Crop stasis: On the other hand, formula that is a few degrees too cool can cause the baby bird’s crop to shut down. Food does not pass through it and can become impacted/rot causing bacterial or fungal infection.
Poor sterilization: Feeding utensils, syringes, mixing containers, and improperly stored formula all must be properly sterilized. If not sterilized properly after EVERY feeding, all of these can harbour and encourage dangerous bacterial growth.

2) Beak Deformities: 

Too much pressure during syringe feeding or beak cleaning can result in serious and permanent beak defects like scissor beak, overbites, etc.

3) Starvation: 

Weighing baby birds daily is extremely important to ensure they are not losing dangerous amounts of weight from underfeeding. It’s also critical to ensure that a baby is gaining enough weight and thus developing properly. Knowing just how much to feed AND how often is crucial because some chicks will not beg even when they are hungry. A novice may assume that a chick isn't hungry if it refuses feedings, but this can happen for something as inconsequential as a change in the brand of hand-feeding formula or the incorrect formula temperature. Additionally, others may fight being hand fed even when they are starving because they haven’t learned how to eat from a spoon or syringe. Finally, during the weaning process 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 (i.e. if they are being force weaned).

4) Overfeeding: 

Many 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 requires veterinary action to correct. It can also cause the crop to become unnaturally stretched over time and result in folds or pouches that trap formula, allowing it to rot and grow bacteria. An inexperienced feeder may not be able to tell when a chick is full, and so cannot accurately judge when to stop feeding.

5) Improper Weaning: 

Baby birds that are not properly weaned will not learn the behaviors that make them enjoyable companions. The novice owner has no idea how to react to a screaming or begging baby and so this undesirable behavior can easily become the norm for that baby as it learns to beg or scream incessantly into maturity. Others inadvertently teach their baby birds to bite by improperly responding to the first inquisitive attempts of a baby to investigate with its beak. Even teaching a baby to eat a variety of foods can be challenging for those who have no experience doing so. Remember, weaning is a process, not an event. The beginning of the weaning period varies widely among species. All babies are individuals and wean slightly differently from each other. If these differences aren't accommodated, the chick's behavior and demeanor can be adversely affected. The bird's attitude toward food, his emotional development and his natural progression to food-independence will be retarded.

Finally, it’s true that in general, the BIGGEST problem faced by inexperienced hand-feeders is the simple fact that they are unable to recognize signs of trouble. They do not know what issues like crop stasis looks like, or what the proper weight of a baby should be, or how to handle a baby refusing formula. Because baby birds are so fragile and vulnerable it can be mere hours to minutes (in the case of aspiration) before a problem is serious enough to cause death.

Given these facts it is apparent that the task of hand-feeding and weaning a baby parrot is best left to the professionals. And if the tens of thousands of adopted birds out there are any indication, even mature adult parrots are still capable of forming strong, loving bonds with their owners. An important fact for all parrot owners to understand is that what creates a true bond is NOT who is providing the formula, or even who a bird first lives and interacts with. In the end, a bird is going to bond MOST strongly to the person or people that put in the time and effort to build a respectful and trusting relationship with them.

So please, never ever consider buying an unweaned parrot. If you show up at a pet shop/breeder and the salesperson is trying to convince you to take an unweaned bird, it’s okay to say no! Even if you have put down a deposit OR were falsely told the baby was weaned, it is always better to stay safe and NOT encourage unethical breeding practices by giving these irresponsible breeders your money. Say no to unweaned birds, and help save the lives of thousands of baby parrots every single year.
Note :- due to a recent influx of posts from people who need help hand-feeding baby parrots, we've opted to make this post to explain what can go wrong when inexperienced people purchase unweaned birds. /u/budgiefacedkiller generously volunteered her expertise to write this PSA.

Author: Budgiefacedkiller
From Pam Bird

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