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Think You Know Hand-feeding?

Three Concepts Demystified

By: Rick Jordan

Bird Breeder — For the Aviculturist

Note: Hand-rearing birds is not for the novice bird owner. If you don’t do it correctly, you can injure or even kill the baby bird. Only professional bird breeders and hand-feeders should hand-rear. These professionals continually educate themselves, work with avian vets and mentor under other experienced bird breeders to breed the happiest, healthiest birds possible.

Behavior and Weaning

One area of aviculture and nursery management that has really changed is our understanding of avian behavior. In the past it was assumed that parrots had to be reared in certain ways to make them good pets. This brought about the notion that there were ways to rear parrots that could then make them bad pets.  Although there is some truth to this, the methods that were agreed upon to raise good pets versus bad pets were oftentimes incorrect. Here are some behavioral rumors and the reasons they were not such good ideas.

Perception 1: Pet owners should acquire baby parrots while they are still hand-feeding so the pet owner can bond with the baby bird and, therefore, it will be a better pet for that person. 

  • This caused a lot of problems because people with no hand-feeding experience were buying baby parrots and didn’t know how to properly feed or wean them. In extreme cases, baby parrots died from mishandling, neglect, poor hand-feeding management, or lack of knowledge about avian nutrition or health. Further observations demonstrated that young parrots, even those that are weaned, can make good pets even if the new owner is not the one who hand-fed them.


Perception 2: Shipping or moving unweaned baby parrots from one breeder to another or to qualified pet stores is too stressful, and they should be weaned before being moved.

  • In actuality, feathered baby parrots that are of an age where they can thermo regulate their own bodies, but are not weaned, ship much better than older weaned birds do. This is because they do not stress out over the dramatic change in their environment as quickly as an older bird might. During and after weaning, birds become very aware of their environment and are more apt to become stressed when moved. 


Perception 3: Hand-fed baby parrots do not make good breeders. Or … birds that have been pets will not make good breeders. 

  • Over the years of observing young parrots during and after weaning, it has come to light that the socialization during weaning is what can make the difference between a good breeder and a bird that would make a better lifetime pet. Weaning young parrots in small groups is the answer to a more properly socialized bird later in its life. Even species that seem to be a problem for breeders if hand-fed, will become more stable and self-assured when weaned in groups. Cockatoos, macaws, Amazons, and African grey parrots alike benefit from socialized weaning situations. They can be mixed in groups for weaning or weaned in groups of like species.



POSTED: February 7, 2007 5 a.m. EST

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Think You Know Hand-feeding?

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Reader Comments
I am in total agreement with what is in this article with the exception of the part of the note concerning professionals. There are many "so called" professionals that raise nothing but hand fed biters. I'm not a professional and like many other hobby breeders I hand feed all of my hookbills with no problems. The "so called' professionals only educate themselves on a new way to make more money. Some of these "so called" professionals wil do anything they can including lie to stop anyone from becoming a hobby breeder because they know that we are slowly putting them out of business as word spreads about how tame a properly raised hand fed bird can be. A friend was totally amazed at how tame a LB was that he got from me and what a snuggle bug it was. When he got it in his hand he was holding it a little to loose so it ran up his shirt sleeve and made itself at home. It liked to ride around and sleep in my shirt pocket in my bird room. I have a Parakeet that I hand fed from 2 weeks of age that is spoiled rotten. She is a year old and has to supervise everything I do. She is fully flighted and has free run of the bird room when I'm in it. She gets extremely upset if I don't let her out when I'm feeding babies because she has to sit on my hand and make sure I do it right. My comp is in the bird room and she often supervises me when I type. She also loves to snuggle in under my hair and go to sleep against my neck. I have seen very few birds raised by professionals that were this tame or content.
Joe, Fayetteville, WV
Posted: 3/8/2007 5:23:16 PM
I do agree that one should not buy a bird if they still need to be hand fed. I didn't have experience in this and it is rough. I am still feeding the evening meal, but even though I keep vegies, fruit, pellets and water in several bowls, I wonder if she is getting enough food. I have taken her to the vet and they said it was normal to lose weight during weaning. Next bird will be weaned! Opps, I hope my husband doesn't read this.
Lettie, Memphis, TN
Posted: 3/8/2007 2:56:37 PM
Thank you for an informative article, interesting to learn about birds at a young age.
Stephen, Plattsburgh, NY
Posted: 2/23/2007 5:46:27 AM
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