WHY CAN'T I BUY AN UNWEANED BIRD?
A commonly asked question when it comes to buying a new parrot is "Can I buy it as a baby and feed it myself? I've heard it will bond to me better". No judgment here, we can understand the allure of caring for your own little baby and how that could seem beneficial to some, but unfortunately this is not only bad practice from a breeder's perspective, but also not in the bird's best interest. Let's unwrap this topic.
What does the law say?
The Queensland Code of Practice for Pet Shops, published by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), aims to provide "advice on accepted standards for managing other animal species for sale at pet shops", and by extension we believe this is applicable to breeders also. In Section 11.1 it explains "All animals offered for sale should be weaned and fully self-sufficient (able to feed themselves unaided. Juvenile birds should be self-sufficient and fully feathered (moult permitting)."
Additionally, as a professional breeder and even as parrot owners, we are subject to the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 (you can read it here) and owe a duty of care to any animal that we are in charge of (ie. own). That means we are required to provide for any animal's needs that is in our care, including its food, water, living conditions and environment, treatment of disease/injury and that the animal is handled appropriately and correctly.
what are the health risks?
When young, unweaned birds are being reared by persons that don't have suitable equipment and/or expertise, you are risking both short-term and long-term health problems. Baby birds need so many aspects of their environment and husbandry "just right", to ensure they become healthy and well rounded companions for you. Hand-rearing baby parrots is a complex process with so many variables that can negatively affect the outcome of your bird, including:
Temperature controlled environment
Being kept in too cold or too hot of a brooder or enclosure can affect digestion function and stunt growth rates. Professional thermostat brooders which efficiently regulate temperature, can be a costly investment (from $400 up into the thousands) and unnecessary expense just for one or two birds.
Incorrect formula temperature:
Formula fed too hot can cause burns in the crop and inside the beak, and too cold can cause sour crop (bacterial / yeast infection). In the case of burns, a hole can perforate in the crop, allowing crop contents into the body as digestion slows and nutritional deficiencies result. Fatal if untreated.
Insufficient food volume and nutrients:
Baby birds can quickly starve to death in the hands of an inexperienced handler. Baby birds are used to a feeding schedule, formula type/brand, quantity and method of feeding, changes to this environment can cause developmental delays and food refusal due to stress. Professional hand-rearers know what volume of food is required for each feed, and ensure the bird is receiving enough formula and thus sufficient nutrients each day. Without this, the baby bird is at risk of developing Metabolic Bone Disease - a painful condition directly resulting from poor nutrition and a largely avoidable disease. It results from imbalances in vitamin D, calcium and other trace elements such as vitamin A. You can read more about MBD here.
Incorrect feeding processes:
Inhalation of formula called aspiration, where formula is fed into the trachea instead of the oesophagus. Causes infection and pneumonia, can kill within seconds in bad cases. Requires extensive vet intervention if bird is to survive, if at all.
Incorrect handling processes:
The crop while baby parrots grow, is very stretchy in comparison to a grown parrot's crop, in order to accommodate the larger volume of food per feed. As such, this increases the risk of aspiration (see above) if the bird is grabbed suddenly or held incorrectly, thus putting pressure on the full crop pushing the contents back into the beak and likely down the trachea.
Keeping them clean:
Formula feeding, whether with syringe or spoon, can be a very messy process for the untrained. It can leave baby birds caked in formula which dries like concrete, damages their feathers and potentially introduce bacteria that will make them sick.
Ensuring weaning to completion:
It is important that a baby bird is able to fully sustain its dietary needs on its own before it goes to its new home. This means eating a wide variety of foods independently, such as pellets, seeds, grains, fruit, vegetables and so on. Without this skill, they are at risk of starving themselves as they wait for their next feed, while the new owners may be unaware that the bird has stopped eating. Unweaned fledglings will often stop eating if they are too hungry as well. This process takes longer for some individuals, and longer for others.
With so many things that could go wrong in the hand-rearing process, it is best to leave it to the professionals to finish raising your new bird to completion.
But will it still bond to me?
Yes, of course. A bird that is purchased young and allowed to integrate well into a new household will absolutely bond to you without much trouble at all. It is not necessary for them to experience being hand fed by you in their nourishment stage, in order for them to see you as their companion. A new owner who involves their new family member in the daily runnings of their life, such as playing games, watching movies, sharing snacks or doing the housework will have an eager and loyal little friend for life.
What about the breeder?
As a professional breeder, it is in everyone's best interest that the bird you are purchasing is of premium quality. We want to avoid you any potential heartache, veterinary bills, or drama that come from taking a bird home before it is ready. We take immense pride in the quality of our birds, and love to see them thriving and ready for their new adventures; an independant, curious and perfectly healthy bird to bring you many years of joy.
Selling birds that meet our high standards ensures you receive what you are paying for, and nothing less. Our decision not to sell unweaned birds is not a reflection on any person in particular or their skills or ability. It is simply our decision to safeguard the quality of birds bearing our leg rings and breeding reputation, and adhering to the legislation that keeps our birds safe. As always, your purchase includes lifetime support from us, whether it be for information on diet, behaviour, questions or even just to update and chat!
You can download, print and read the following resources that have been referenced: