Will I Have A Closer Bond With A BABY Bird?

Q: I read that you will have a closer bond with a bird if you get it as a baby. Will the bond be even closer if I hand feed it?

-Max W.,  Clarksville, TN

A: In the last 10-15 years, bird keepers have undergone a drastic and much needed transformation in the way they care for their birds. It is much more widely known that birds cannot survive on seed-only diets or live in tiny cages. The avian sciences have had huge advances, and veterinary care has also improved. The internet gives us instant access to everything we want to know, and it has changed the lives of millions of pet birds all over the world.

The problem with the internet, though, is that once something is published it is there forever: good or bad, right or wrong. Articles written 20 years ago turn up in a google search as readily as those written last year. Unless you actively look for the date it was published, you have no idea if the information it contains is current.

I have no doubt that you turned up several sources suggesting that getting a bird as a baby will create a closer human/parrot bond. Let me assure you, this is old school thinking which originated with breeders. Years ago the majority of parrot care books were written by people who bred parrots, and breeders were once considered to be the go-to people for bird information. These books, some written in the early 1990's, are still available and are still used by people researching parrot ownership.

In the current world, we know that parrots kept for breeding and parrots kept for companionship have very different lives. A parrot that is used for breeding purposes is typically left to procreate with its mate with little or reduced human interaction.
A companion parrot is encouraged to socialize with humans and will come to regard them as flock members. Breeders have different experiences with their birds than owners do. Without living with a companion parrot, one isn’t qualified to make judgments about their bonding practices.

Since parrots have become so popular as pets, it has given the world’s parrot owners time and opportunity to conduct our own parrot “studies” (without realizing that’s what we were doing) by comparing notes with our counterparts. We are finally getting practical information with which to work.

Bonding has nothing to do with the parrot’s age.

Bonding does not begin with hand feeding. At no point does a nestling look up at you and think you are its mother. You aren’t adored. You are the person with the food, and that is all. If someone else enters the room with a syringe full of formula, then that person will get the same attention and response from the bird. Parent raised chicks go on to be great companion birds as well, which tells us that hand feeding by a human is not necessary at all.

Once a bird has been weaned and is independent enough to feed itself, it enters a new phase in its development, and the hand feeding experience then becomes irrelevant. This new bird does not spend the day thinking about food and survival. It has wings, toys and a room out there beyond the cage to conquer. The hand fed bird is altogether gone, and you start over to build a relationship with this bird.

A few years later, as your bird reaches sexual maturity, a new bird emerges again. With each change your bird goes through, you have to relearn and adapt to a changing relationship. Your bird sees you a little differently and reassesses the purpose of your relationship with each change.

Bonding doesn’t start at any specific point in time. It is a constantly evolving endeavor. Bonding is entirely the result of accumulated experiences with you. Those experiences can start at any age, and your relationship will always be a work in progress.

Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.




I have gotten two Amazons, both when they were just 2 months old. My red-lored likes me well enough, but I’ve always just been the food lady to her. She does trust me more than other humans and always comes when I call her, so I consider that a win. Our bond is ever-evolving and each small step is exciting. My double yellow-headed Amazon has treated me like its bff from day one. I never imagined a bird would be so attached to me. She’s with me all day and never stops chatting with me. Finally, I also got a conure who arrived as an adult and was neglected, having lived in a tiny cage with lovebirds and a sunflower seed diet all its life. It took us months (and a lot of spray millet) to get to a point where he would come when called and wouldn’t bite, but the connection we have is somehow the most special, because it was very hard-earned. Anyway, just leaving my experiences since this was at the top of google search results. In summary, I agree that age has little to do with it. Some birds will choose you, others will be meh about you, and still others will warm to you, if you’re willing to put the work in. Good luck!

Marguerita dolman

Thank God for this article! I’m a brand new parrot owner with my 40 day old CAG still at the breeders. When I was visiting the nestling a lady came up and whispered into my ear “take it home NOW! You will bond with her and have a much better relationship with your baby”. The breeder immediately said that was none sense. Stunned and now questioning my breeder, I went home totally confused. The breeder loves her parrots and she knows her stuff so I let her voice dominated in my head that it’s none sense. But I could still her the lady’s comment, “take it home now!” I’ve been watching the one day miracle series and reading your blog since just Sept 6, 2015, and trust that you guys know what you are doing. I raised anew born horse who is now 7 yrs old and yes we have an absolutely awesome bond, but our relationship is always in flux, trust and respect come before love and I know that the wisdom bird tricks is giving is firmly planted in the best interest of the bird. We pet mamas (owners) think that the animal s there to love us. What I’ve learned thru experience is that I am just a trusted servant. My pets" which include chickens (which I just learned how to chop stick and clicker train, wow! That’s harder then it looks) are each individual’s, all with their own personalities. It’s my honor to be able to care for them. But all relationships are built on trust and respect period. Back to the baby African grey. Because "I want " it with me, does not mean that it is what’s best for the baby. I think that’s the hardest lesson I’ve learned over the years, that my wants DO NOT trump what’s best for the animal. Love means the CAG needs come before my wants. Thank you all who post. Your experience are were I can learn with out having to make some mistakes. Thank you bird tricks too. What an amazing source of help for us out here trying to do the right thing for our parrots. Also, my biggest challenge will be to not feed treats as a way of bonding when I bring little “Pearl” home. I’m planning to follow bird tricks advice to a T. I will fail once in a while, but hopefully not fail Pearl.

Marguerita dolman
Red B

So very true. I have had my Yellow Naped Amazon 27 yrs. our relationship is constantly evolving. My CAG’s are the same. Some years I can handle one and not another…..at first it upset me but now I know it is an ever changing process. So far the only one who has stayed pretty consistent is my little Black Headed Caique. I’ve had her the shortest amount of time – 7 years. Love them all and enjoy their unique personalities.

Red B

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