Handraising a Bird Related Topics:
Which Bird Is For You?
Buying A Bird
When acquiring a new pet parrot, buyers are confronted with the offer of finishing the handraising process. Handraising, or handfeeding, means that the babies are taken from the nest and mother within the first days or weeks after hatching (depending on the species and the breeder's preference). Before baby birds are able to feed themselves, they rely entirely on their parents for food, warmth and comfort. Just like human babies, this is a time of bonding and learning how to be a good member of that society. When this crucial step in a bird's life is taken over by humans, the baby parrot learns to bond with and trust humans, while accepting their people parents as members of the "flock," to be loved, trusted and respected.
The theory in letting a new owner finish the handraising process, is to build trust between a bird and its new owner - to build a deep bond that should last a lifetime. It also helps the person who is selling, and handraising, the parrot, since this is a very time consuming process. Some sellers will even give you a discount if you buy the bird younger, and finish handfeeding.
This sounds like a "win-win" situation, right? Maybe not. Handfeeding not only takes time, but skill. It is not always as simple as having the baby open its mouth and dropping formula in. The food has to be at a good temperature, and you have to be sure the food goes down the esophagus (food-pipe) and not the trachea (windpipe), which could lead to a life-threatening form of pneumonia. This process is not only difficult, but it is messy and time-consuming. And then there is the issue of weaning. This is the time when the baby learns to depend on itself for sustenance. Very often, babies have to be coaxed into eating on their own. It is an important time not only for a bird's health, but its psychological well-being, too. A baby's weight must be carefully monitored during this process. Rapid weight loss is often a part of weaning, but the baby must be monitored so that too much weight is not dropped.
For those people who are nervous about even owning a first bird, or for those who do not have loads and loads of time or experience, handfeeding may not be a good option. Even a bird that is past its weaning can still bond to a new owner. With careful attention to behavioral care (which all bird owners need to do) and the establishment of bonds of love and trust, any bird can bond to a new owner. If you choose to handraise, make sure you have a good teacher you feel comfortable with. Take enough "lessons" so that you feel comfortable with the process, and make sure to practice several times in front of whom ever is teaching you the process. Later on, if you run into any problems with the process, or that of weaning, be sure to consult an avian veterinarian (preferably) or your breeder right away.
As a last note: do not let a seller talk you into handraising your bird if you do not feel totally comfortable. This process it too important to make mistakes at.