Comments from “The Science of Avian Health” Members and Breeders

Cockatiel feeding chicksArticle by:  Jeannine Miesle, M.A., M.Ed


Main Article: Hand-raised or Parent-raised: Which Is Better For The Birds? by Jeannine Miesle M.A., M.Ed.


Appendix II: Comments from “The Science of Avian Health” Members and Breeders

Member 1: Well said. It would be good for you to post this on the African Grey Parrot Asian Forum. I find it heartbreaking the amount of breeding that's going on and chicks being sold at a few weeks old to people who don't know the first thing about hand feeding let alone looking after a young bird.

My boy was co-raised by both parents and the breeder. He was fully fledged at 12 weeks old and a handful then. He's still a handful but a very independent handful. He is not bothered by changes in routine and eats just about anything I give him.

My first bird is the same. He wasn't taken away from the parents for about 10 weeks and then he was weaned by the breeder for a couple of weeks. He too was a handful but he is so adventurous, brave, and inquisitive, he really knows how to play and have a great time and accepts change easily. In fact he seems to relish change and sees it as a new adventure. It is so rewarding to see a bird display 'bird' behavior rather than a modified behavior because they haven't spent time with parents and siblings like many hand-reared birds.

Yes, mine is like yours. He enjoys new people and is friendly with them. He's not a cuddly bird by any means but likes your company. He flies like a jet plane around the house every morning then settles down to have his breakfast while I read the paper. He eats beside me every day. He even asks to go outside in his aviary that's just like Morgan and my other one, Flint; they were both parent reared. They say to me, “Do you want to go outside?” in such a sweet voice when they want to go in the aviary. We are so lucky to have such independent birds. Mine are not as cuddly as some birds I see but they fly to me, and I have no problems with them stepping up. I am just so happy that they are birds and not pets. (No offense meant to anyone else or any other bird, I know we all love our birds.

I remember getting into a very heated argument with one of my former investors about this very subject, swearing I was somehow cheating the customer. It has been my experience through hands-on work that baby parrots that are raised by their parents are healthier, easier to train, have better plumage and behavior. I’ve raised hundreds of conures, and every single hand-fed chick has turned into a screamer or has some sort of anxiety problem. On the other side of things, almost every parent-raised conure has been quieter and more calm (as a conure can be) and relaxed in day-to-day life. I’ve noticed this in cockatiels and Ringnecks as well.

Member 2: “I got her from a breeder and yes, she was hand-raised but not with a caring hand. This guy is a huge breeder and has birds of ever kind, so it’s more of a feed-and-go. So she isn’t very tame because no one ever spend time with her.” It’s not just the feeding that counts, it’s the interaction and loving environment that’s important. This is a good case for not hand-feeding. Birds that are parent-raised and given a lot of human interaction and love will turn out to be caring, loving adults, no matter how their fed. (Kim Martin; used with permission)

Member 3: I have recently had two clutches of baby budgies hatch at the same time. I lifted one clutch at the usual three weeks mark and with the other clutch just handled them every day (as often as I could through the day). I have to say I don’t actually see a difference in the friendliness of them, but I must admit the transition to ‘hard’ food appeared easier with the parent-raised babies. Whilst dependent on being fed for survival, the babies that were co-parented appear cuddlier, seeking the contact for reasons other than food. The hand-raised babies initially only want the contact for food. I still enjoy feeding the babies but now share the load with the parents. (Clair Bear; used with permission)

Member 4:

· There are times when hand-rearing is the only way to save a baby.

· Co-parenting should become standard in avian production,

· Abundance-weaning and full-fledging are crucial to the emotional and physical development of the birds.

· Forced-weaning and early clipping are cruel practices that damage the mental physical, and emotional health of parrots..

· Although there are some species in which co-parenting may not always be successful, every effort should be made to do so because of the benefits to the birds.

· Bird mills do not want to parent-raise because it will decrease their production, but they are producing inferior-quality birds; this is why many of them do not live long, are often sick, have birth defects, and don’t breed as well as parent-raised birds.

Member 5: “The chicks I hand-raised were much friendlier than those that were parent-raised without any human interaction. However, I did it for the love of birds and never raised more than I had time for. It took a lot of time and commitment to make sure that each chick got enough attention. I would spend the evenings playing with them – and that is what I enjoyed so much. There is no way anyone can do that if they have hundreds of birds.

What I have noticed is that many breeders who hand-raise chicks don’t put any time in other than forcing food down the crop using a crop needle. That, and cleaning up, was all the chicks ever got to do with the human caretaker. That will not result in tame adults. Hand-raised birds will never have experienced the nurturing of parent-raised birds. And since the chicks never experienced parenting , so many of them became bad breeders later. So – really – there was no point in denying chicks the nurturing care of their natural parents and denying their parents the joy and right to raise their own chicks.

Once I noticed that, I left the chicks with the parents to raise, but took them out every day for half an hour or so to get them used to humans. That worked well. Half an hour per chick sounds like a lot of time; but I used to sit on the couch with them and have all the chicks out on a blanket at the same time playing with them (or split them up in groups), and that worked well. Of course, this will never be possible for large aviaries, and that is the reason why the vast majority of “hand-raised” chicks available in stores aren’t really tame

I don’t like the crop needle that many breeders use because it is too fast. I understand its use if chicks or adults are too sick to feed, but that is all I would feel comfortable with.

I do believe that for the emotional and physical health of our captive birds, allowing them to be raised by their natural parents, but pulling chicks for at least half an hour a day for socialization, gives the chicks the best start in life. The only valid reason for pulling chicks out of the nest is if they are abused by their parents. That point alone brings us back to the very gist of this matter.

Many of the captive birds that have been “hand-raised” by humans have never been able to experience natural parenting, and many of them don’t know what they are doing when they become of breeding age. Some of them will figure it out over time; however, many of them never will and should be taken out of the breeding program as they will consistently damage their eggs (even eat them) or abuse their chicks (including killing them). In this case, pulling eggs or chicks out of the nest is necessary to save them. (Author’s note: If the parents had been allowed to raise their chicks from the start, they would likely not be damaging the eggs or chicks.JM)

Member 7:

I guess it's a controversial topic amongst psittacine owners, but from the perspective of someone at high volume wild bird clinic, I simply cannot fathom why anyone would choose to separate a parent and its baby, barring abnormal/emergency type of situations that would warrant it.

Robbing a young baby from its parents is absolutely not a hard requirement for a "humanized" bird.

In my line of work, I see approximately 2,000 fledgling songbirds a year that are inadvertently kidnapped from their parents. The parents mourn these babies... the babies get depressed and sad... many die, crying weakly in vain for their parents. It's heartbreaking.

To echo what's been said above, certainly logic and a compassionate heart should tell us that the natural parenting method should be the first choice as much as feasible.

Member 8

The best babyhood is with its parents until it is fledged and weaned... it's such a non-issue that they cannot be tamed at a later age. I have a 30 year old former naturalized, wild, born and raised macaw that is retired from his wild life due to sickness. He is a sweet heart and even better, he is calm, can deal with stress and he knows he's a bird so no crazy behavior. We did some years of study on his life when he was still living wild together with a partner and his nests were poached almost every year. The utter heart break they experienced when their young were gone was such a heartbreak. They would search and call out for them for days. It's beyond me how one would like to make a living with this as your business strategy while all rescues are filled to the brim.

Member 9.

Agree with your points 100%. I think most people grossly underestimate the emotional capabilities of birds.

I recently assisted the federal Fish and Wildlife Service with charging a couple for trapping wild house finches and selling them as pets on Craigslist. The people had successfully sold at least 2 dozen or so, but we were able to confiscate about half a dozen that they had.

Member 10: House finches have very close familiar bonds; they mate for life and are the most diligent animal parents I have ever seen, ever. They will even adopt babies that they know aren't theirs.

When it came time to release the confiscated birds, I filmed some of the release. I was hoping maybe it would make for moving footage, seeing a trapped wild bird set free, but it was actually very very sad.

Each of the releases birds, upon being let out, perched on a nearby branch, and proceeded to call out for their mate. Of course, the trappers didn't trap any mates together, so they were all separated from their respective partners.

When they realized they were outside again, which is where their mate last had been, they all began frantically calling and looking.

Weeks later, these birds are still looking and calling for their mates.

The birds are having no problem with survival, since they were born and raised outside, and they've joined a flock of conspecifics, but there is no question that they are depressed and heartbroken. I wish more people understood these aspects..

Author: People think they have no feelings, no emotions. But that is far from correct. They are sensient beings, with feelings that can be hurt very easily. In my research for this paper, I found that many pairs refuse to mate and lay eggs because of constant removal of the eggs or chicks. I don't blame them.

Member 11: I would like to see this posted in every bird group. I don’t say anything because I get attacked if I do, but I don’t support human raised birds when the parents are there and doing a good job. And when I hear of a baby sold to someone WHO HAS NO IDEA HOW TO FEED THAT BABY I get angry, then sad knowing the probable outcome for the bird. I blame the breeders who do this for doing more harm than good to that baby and know they aren’t a breeder I’d ever buy from. The should be shamed but I’m quite aware standing up for the birds gets you blocked or in fb jail and that is extremely sad.

Member 12: I had a finch that the parents would not feed and I was afraid he would die. So i started hand feeding him until I could see him gaining weight and looking healthier. Once that happened I put him in with my societies and he became so attached to them he stayed and I lost a potential hand reared friend. But he needed to be with his kind.

Member 13: Great article. My CAG Poppy was allowed to remain in a more natural environment by her breeder. We did get to meet her several times before we were allowed to bring her home. I didn’t realize at the time how exceptional her breeder really was. Thank you for advocating for our precious birds.

Member 14: This is absolutely the best thing I have read so far. If only I could get them here to understand. All they do is hand feed pull the babies as soon as possible from the parents so that they will lay more and they can make more money.

Author: I’ve read about breeders that just feed them and leave, not spending any time socializing them to humans. Now they have nothing; no parents and siblings to learn to be birds from and no human interaction.

Member 15: This is mind blowing. When I have my parrot he’s only 5 months old. He didn’t know how to play with toys, he didn’t know how to interact with other birds, he still doesn’t. I was very stressed about that and didn’t even notice he might be more stressed. He is still very needy. After reading this everything makes more sense.