A must for hand feeding

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A must for hand feeding

Post by ziggy on Mon May 19, 2008 1:20 pm


One of the most common complaints I hear is about hand-fed birds, that they are not as tame as the owner expects them to be. Many people assume hand-fed means tame but this is not necessarily the case. There are a number of very important factors that determine the tameness of a bird.


If a breeder simply fills a bird up with formula a few times a day then plops it back in the broader; they will not be properly socialized. However, such birds are usually somewhat comfortable with human handling and can be tamed with proper techniques. First and foremost I tell people to buy a bird that is already quite tame. Obviously a baby might be a bit nervous around you because you are a stranger, but it should not be utterly terrified. Biting and trying desperately to get away from even the person selling the bird to you. Socializing is an essential part of raising parrots. Can you imagine what human children would be like if we just gave them a bottle many times a day, but never handled them other than feedings and never interacted with them? We actually know what happens to such children: they develop what is called an attachment disorder. They have difficulty making bonds with other human beings and often exhibit antisocial behaviors as teenagers and adults.

Birds are flock creatures. They need to be part of a group. Their instinct to bond with another being is an essential part of their psychological makeup. Many behaviorists now believe that the emerging issues with unmanageable, destructive pet birds are due to the poor socialization techniques during the first few months of life. Research your source before buying a bird. Question sellers about how they socialize the bird. If they donít know what you mean by socialize, it is better to look elsewhere.

Handling and playing with baby birds between feedings gets the bird used to human hands and teaches it about social interaction. Play is as essential to baby birds as it is to baby humans. I know that baby lovebirds crave attention. When you walk into the nursery they crowd up to the door begging for you to handle them. Ignoring this need does not make for happy, well-adjusted adult birds.

Timid birds

Some baby birds are a bit more timid than others. I have noticed dramatic differences in the personality of my birds even within the same clutch. Some need a little more caring a little more stroking and handling, to come out of their shell so to speak. I always make a point of taking these timid birds out by themselves and handling them away from their siblings. They become more secure after only a few days of this type of isolated playtime.

A New Bird in the Home

Donít mistake a nervous newcomer for an untamed bird. Imagine what it is like to come into a new home, away from all your siblings, in a new cage with strange new toys and strange new human faces. It can be very frightening to a baby bird. There is an adjustment period, and you need to respect this birds need to reorient itself to the new environment and new flock members (you and your family). It is best not to over stimulate the bird during this period. It is stimulated enough by the change. Handle him during quiet times when you are sitting and there is little activity in the home. Donít start walking all over the house with him on your shoulder of keeping him out of the cage for long periods. Make sure the bird knows where his food and water bowls are. Talk to it gently and calmly and move slowly. When you hold him, sit and stroke his head. Donít make sudden movements or get up suddenly. Tell the bird what you are doing as you do it: verbal interaction is always an important part of your relationship with your pet bird. I donít agree that the bird should not be handled for a few days, and in fact, I believe this to be a mistake. Simply handle you new bird with care and understanding. Return him to his cage after about fifteen minutes so he can eat and relax, then play with him again a little later.

The bad seed

You do occasionally hear about a bird that just doesnít want to be handled and is miserable when you try to tame him. Are there birds that just arenít appropriate as pets? I tend to think there may be. However, the cause is not clear. It could be basic genetics or it could be poor socialization techniques on the part of the breeder or hand feeder. However, even extremely aggressive, wild-caught amazons have been tamed into loving pets. It does seem that proper handling can work with many birds. If you are having and issue, it may be time to look for outside help. There are many avian behaviorists willing to come to your home and help you work with your bird.

Youíve fallen totally and deeply in love with that one special bird. It is soooo cute and sweet. Only thing is, it isnít weaned yet. The breeder or pet shop clerk tell you if you buy it now, you can ďeasilyĒ finish the hand feeding and your bond with the baby will be much closer because it will see you as a parent.

Does this sound familiar? It WONíT if you are working with a reputable store or breeder. Only irresponsible people will try to sell you on this idea. They are more concerned with their profits and losses than they are about you or the bird you are considering ďadoptingĒ.

A person who is inexperienced in hand feeding and the weaning process SHOULD NOT purchase a baby until it is fully weaned and has been eating on its own for at least one week to 10 days.

Donít let the breeder or the pet store clerk convince you that you will have a closer bond to your new baby if you finish the hand feeding process! If the breeder properly socialized the baby during the hand-feeding period, they will bond closely to any human even after they are fully weaned. This is just a lazy breederís (pet shop ownerís) way of getting out of dealing with one of the most difficult periods of hand feeding. The possibility of the baby dying during the stress of weaning and the trouble of hand feeding a bird who doesnít really want to still be fed but canít maintain their weight without it are greatest at this time. This is when the diseases present themselves. DO NOT fall in this trap. You are being conned!

Have you heard of a bill of ďgoodsĒ? Well, donít buy this one!

The weaning process needs to be monitored (weight gain/loses, food intake, droppings, etc.) This cannot be done properly by a person whoís had no experience with hand feeding.

Weaning is a stressful period for the baby as well as the hand feeder. When a baby is under the stresses of weaning at the same times as they have to adjust to a completely new environment and schedules it leaves their systems open to too many opportunistic bacteria and some viruses. If you purchase a baby who has not been completely weaned by the breeder, you are taking a chance with the babyís life being at stake. Nobody wants to lose the baby they have fallen so deeply in love with. The loss of your new baby would be hard enough to handle without the feelings of guilt you would feel from not knowing if you were in some way responsible for itís death.

In my opinion, if a breeder sells a baby who isnít weaned to an inexperienced person, the breeder is very irresponsible and doesnít care about the baby, the buyer or their reputation.

If you want to be a good and responsible bird ďparentĒ, PLEASE, DO NOT buy an unweaned bird. The bonding youíll have with a well-socialized baby will be the same as if you had been the hand feeder the last few days. The rewards of waiting greatly outweigh the risks of not waiting.

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