I am writing this post at the request of someone who once lost a baby African grey to what she calls ” total ignorance on my part”. She learned a hard lesson at the expense of a baby bird, and she wants no one else to make the same mistake.
She searched for, and found, a breeder who was willing to teach her how to hand feed so that she could take a grey home to begin bonding with it in the early stages of its life. A couple of weeks after she brought the bird home, she got it in her head that the formula was too thick for such a small bird, and began diluting it to the point where it was nearly the consistency of water. The result: malnutrition and eventual death.
Many new owners-to-be seem to believe that the bonding process with a baby bird begins during hand feeding.People think that a bond with their new bird will be stronger if they do it themselves.This is not true. During hand feeding, a baby bird learns about trusting humans in general, not just a particular person. A bird will go on to have the closest of bonds with the human being who takes her home to love and care for her for the rest of her life.
Many inexperienced people are taking birds that are too young home to do a job that is not for the unqualified.There are MANY things that can go wrong during the hand feeding process: aspiration, crop burn, crop stasis and bacterial infection, to name a few. You may have never heard of some of these terms, which is reason enough for for you not to consider hand feeding.You have to know how to recognize that the crop is not emptying as it should and what to do in that event. You need to know how to monitor the baby’s weight gain. You have to know when and how to begin weaning. It is SO much more than simply syringing food into a beak. Even the most experienced lose birds from time to time.
The process of weaning onto solid foods is even trickier. There is much damage that can be done to parrot whose sense of security is compromised during this crucial period in its emotional and social development. Aside from those risks, a bird that is weaned poorly may not ever develop proper eating habits. This will affect its health for the rest of its life.
An ethical and responsible breeder will not let you take home an un-weaned bird, and you should not demand the right to this experience with the bird you intend to buy. Any good that you feel might be done in the area of bonding through hand feeding yourself will be overshadowed by injuring (or killing) your bird during feedings, or by emotionally damaging him with improper techniques.This will certainly negatively impact your relationship with your bird.
Let those with experience raise your bird until it is ready to be delivered into your care. You can then bond with an emotionally secure and healthy bird that is ready for life in a new home.
Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.