Parrot Breeders and My Experience

Bonnie and Alfie's older brother, Elvis (Green-winged Macaw)

Bonnie and Alfie, the Green-winged Macaws I work with at the Tropical Butterfly House, were bred by an experienced breeder, Mary, who I was lucky enough to spend the day with recently.

Other than it being a really fun day, especially meeting Elvis,  Bonnie and Alfie’s older brother, I learnt a lot from my visit. Mary and her husband, John, became friends with a breeder after getting their first bird from them, a Cockatiel called Minnie (who is now 25 and chirping as loudly as the day they got him!) and this is how it all began. When Mary and her husband took early retirement around 15 years ago, they began with a Green-winged Macaw pair and have expanded their flock to include African Greys, Black-headed Caiques, Yellow-thighed Caiques, Blue-bellied Myers, Blue-throated Macaws and Hyacinth Macaws. They also have non-breeding pet parrots including Umbrella Cockatoos and a Blue and Gold Macaw.

Hyacinth Macaws the male 'Bentley' is outside, protecting his mate 'Sky' who is peeking out of the window

Mary and John are able to devote all of their time to taking excellent care of all their parrots and they are clearly passionate about what they do. It’s Mary who does the majority of the feeding, though, and with just a couple of hours between feeding – it’s a 24 hour a day job! All the baby birds are also weighed daily to closely monitor their progress and are DNA sexed at just over a month old.

They had a special ‘baby room’ set up which was where the incubators and brooders were located and I was luckily enough to get to watch some African Grey and Black-headed Caique chicks being fed. After showing me the delicate process of preparing the food mixture, heating it to a specific temperature and hand feeding the babies, Mary was kind enough to let me help with feeding 4 week old ‘Sergei’ the African Grey chick!

'Sergei', 4 week old African Grey chick

As well as the ‘baby room’, Mary and John also had a Play Room – this was a special room set up for the parrots who were old enough to be outside of the brooder and included a play pen for them to wander about in, and large cages for when they started to fly.

In addition to the attention to detail that had been taken to ensure excellent care for all of their birds, I was really impressed by their attitude to selling young parrots. A prospective parrot owner is really well ‘vetted’ for suitability – all are met personally at Mary and John’s house, with weekly visits encouraged from when the parrots are still being hand fed. Mary said this was not only to start building a bond between the parrot and their potential owner, but also so that, as breeders, they could get to know the person and ensure they are FULLY prepared for the responsibility they are taking on.

One week old Black-headed Caique chick with a full crop after being fed

They provide thorough advice on healthy diets, suitable housing and all other aspects of care, and ensure the new owners have read books and researched for themselves too.  Once the parrot has moved to their new home, contact is maintained with the new owner – Mary explained almost all the people she has sold a parrot to continue to send e-mails and photos about their birds, and even sometimes visit with them. In fact, John and Mary care so much about the wellbeing of the birds they breed – they once REPOSESSED a parrot they had sold to some-one!

They got word from a friend that someone they had sold a Green-winged Macaw to had gone on holiday for 4 days – leaving no-one to care for the bird!! They visited the property and were let in by their mutual friend, they then took the bird home to take care of it – and on the owner’s return – presented them with a cheque for the amount they had paid for the bird and explained why they had taken it back into their care.

Cherry, Green-winged Macaw, one of Mary and John's pet birds

There are, of course, a LOT of parrots at rescues and sanctuaries who need a new home. However, it is down to individual choice whether to provide a parrot a home from a rescue or buy a parrot from a breeder – this blog is not to argue to the pros and cons of either! I just wanted to share my experience of visiting a wonderful, responsible breeder and urge that if you do decide to buy a bird from a breeder, that you make sure they care about the bird’s welfare as much as Mary and John care about the parrots they breed. If a breeder doesn’t show you where their birds are reared, where they are housed and doesn’t assess your ‘readiness’ to be a ‘parront’ – walk away!

4 comments

Catherine Donoghue

That’s very true I’ve rescued wild chicks who fell out of the nest or the nest its self.my 1st attempt at a rescue was a little raven it was close to fledgling and there nest was in trees way two high,we sad half the day and trough the night my dad sat with me I was 10 yrs so the next day when my dad taught his parents had given up on him we took him hope but my dad a non animal lover said this was on me ..I didn’t know what to feed him so taught worms like his mom .I didn’t know dishing worms were not safe live worms I force fed him poor bird cos I taught he must be starving .when I checked him first thing I was devastated to find him dead the worms had eaten out his cheat .I felt horribly about it ,the next were starving chicks they did great I never left there side and that was 30 odd yrs ago and there decendants land on me out side to feed its learned behaviour so after them I got a bit complacent the next chicks 2 springs later I was given a full nest of very small garden birds they were tiny all was going Well, there was a family emergency my uncle was dying so we had to leave for a night our daughter 7 at the time I felt was well able to feed the babies she did ok till she didn’t wake for there last middle of the night feed but fed them when she woke the sitter was helping and both had been helping with them since day 1 but the damage was done the missed feed had such a knock on affect it was an hour late and it weakened them by the evening they were struggling to feed at all by night they were dead .my daughter was devastated as was I and felt worce for how I put my child in the way of heart break shes 17 now and a 1st year vet student so proud and the money it will save me..we’re in a place in our lives for a macaw but finding a bird in Ireland is proving more difficult. How do ppl feel about having a bird shipped international I don’t know enough to know if it’s ok or will it screw up a young bird .???

Catherine Donoghue
Penelope Gasson

We are down under in NZ and have nowhere near the access to some of the great bird species we hear of on this website. But as Breeders we will never sell a bird until it is completely weaned and ready to go. We also will vet the ‘applicants’ and reserve our right to sell… as far as that difficult pang of seperation goes…. you must remember that the person who is willing to pay a top price for their bird is making a serious decision and will give that bird far more attention and love on the 1=2=1 basis than you can with all the other birds that you have to share your time with. We keep our prices high knowing that we can always bring our price down if we find a prospective owner who is ‘smitten’ with a particular bird that they cannot afford. Personally for the difference in price that we can drop, I would rather they put their money into the birds cage and requirements. But asking a high price in the first instance weeds out the ‘impulse-buyers’ for whom the novelty will probably wear off. This little creatures destiny is in your hands, but guess what, as much as it hurts there is a possibility that they can actually have a better long-term home than you can give them.

Penelope Gasson
shirley martin

I lot of people have asked me for u nweaned babies, but I would never sale one to anyone. They think it is easy to feed out the chicks, but it really takes experience , time and patience. I try to explain to them that this could hurt or actually kill the baby if fed wrong. I feel like if they really are what we call a bird person , they will want to have a baby that is well cared for . I try to give them all the information I can to make their new baby a joyful and loving experience for all involved .

shirley martin
Angel

I had a great experience with the breeder that I purchased my Greenwing Macaw from. And though I would be happy to provide a home for rescued birds from our area, I don’t like how strident our local rescue group has become.While I know bird ownership is not for everyone, and that bird needs are much different from other pets that people may have had experience with, I’m not a child. Nor am I irresponsible. I don’t need someone who thinks they know better questioning my every decision. And saying that I purchased my bird from a breeder sets off such a diatribe about “people who are only out to make a buck & don’t really care about the birds!” It’s not an enjoyable experience to interact with them. This is why they are stuck with so many birds. Not that they should just hand birds out to anyone who wanders in off the street, but less dictatorship and more cooperation would lead to loving homes for these rescue birds.Yay responsible breeders!

Angel

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