Lisa Woodworth and Sheba
Temple Aviaries
Health and Training

Handraising Insight©
by Garry Lee

Published in Australian Avi-Trader
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As the heading states this is only an insight to handraising. The subject of handraising is so vast, and so many people have their different views on this delicate subject, that I have just added some input of my own. Hopefully this will keep the minds active and hopefully think before taking on this important role of hand feeding companion parrots.

Dedicated handraising, and an abundance of affection bestowed upon a young parrots is an essential ingredient, necessary in nurturing them into the role as a companion.

People ring us at Parrot Haven Aviary from all areas of Australia about our companion parrots. The majority of them are astounded at the lengths that we go to in nurturing and handrearing a parrot that will be part of their family, that right, a part of their family

So many breeders leave their chicks far to long in the nest before they remove them for handrearing. Many do this by choice to eliminate the amount of time that they need to spend hand rearing. The very important early nurturing and handling that is required when educating and rearing a young companion parrot is neglected. These same breeders still have the audacity to sell them as hand reared, rather than hand tamed, and tell you the potential purchaser that the parrot will become quieter as time goes by.

Once a chick's eyes are opened we at Parrot Haven Aviary believe that it is too late to remove them from the nest for educating as companion parrots. Once their eyes begin to open the imprinting procedures with their parents and sibling within the nest begin, thus learning important survival lessons and instincts in preparation for the world outside of their nest box. These important lessons do not include acceptance of humans as part of their life.

Handraising a parrot:

Handraising a young parrot is a delicate and clinical procedure, it is our responsibility to insure that the little life is not lost to our shortcomings as a substitute parent. The value of the parrot must not come into the equation of this responsibility

All feeding utensils must be thoroughly washed, disinfected or sterilised before use, to eliminate any infections that could be passed on to the chick while feeding. We at Parrot Haven Aviary place all of our feeding utensils into a sterilising unit between feeds to eliminate any contamination that could be harmful to our babies.

Preparation of the formula and the means of feeding it to young chicks leaves a lot to be desired. We are saddened when we hear of parrots wasting away due to mal-informed or cost cutting when it comes to selecting feeding formula. Would you give your own human baby, a baby formula that could cause severe medical problems? I do not think so.

Some very good breeders still make their own hand rearing formula and are very successful in using it to produce a healthy chick. What we normally do not hear about, is the loss of chicks by ill-advised inexperienced hand feeders that are trying to make their own home made rearing formula by following some one else's recipe. Purchasing a good commercially prepared hand feeding mixture that contains all the required ingredients for producing a healthy parrot, is a good starting point for improving your success rate.

Just recently a friend rang me with concern about a young Eclectus that was taken to his surgery. This chick was terribly undernourished, and could not support it self, in fact its weight was about half the weight that it should have been for its age, and yes, it was being fed on a home made formula.

Weighing of a chick is an essential part of hand feeding. We at Parrot Haven Aviary weigh each chick before each feed, record the weight and calculate the amount of formula that needs to be fed to it. Keeping records for each parrot that is being hand fed gives you the aviculturist a visual record on its health and weight gain. Without record keeping there is no way to see if the chick is gaining weight or loosing it.

Some Incorrect Procedures:

What most people fail to understand is the stress that can be caused to a young chick over the course of hand rearing by the person feeding them.

Things that need to be avoided when hand rearing are:

Incorrect temperature of formula, formula should be going into the mouth of the chick at 40°c not coming out of the feeding container at that temperature. A chick will refuse to eat if the temperature is cold or to hot, this refusal can, and does falsely indicate to the inexperienced hand feeder that the chick wants nothing else to eat. A thermometer is a mandatory piece of equipment to help prevent feeding related temperature problems

Correct feeding times are often neglected, causing undue stress to the chick by being hungry. We at Parrot Haven Aviary calculate our feeding times on when a chick's crop is not quite empty. Tentative feeding times are recorded on a note attached to each feeding chart. Keeping an eye on what time their next feeds are to be done is easy, all we have to do is walk into our bird room look at the charts to see which bird has to be fed next and confirm the need for feeding by looking at the crop.

Weaning is the most critical time in a young chick's life. Trying to force a chick to wean by stopping it formula and hoping that it will eat seed or pellets causes tremendous physiological traumas as well as unnecessary starvation resulting in loss of weight, and some times death. We practice abundance weaning which means that we introduce pellets and fruit so that chick learns to eat, as the intake of pellets and fruit increases so the amount of formula fed is reduced until the chick stops wanting the formula altogether.

I have only briefly touched on this fascinating subject of handraising parrots, and hope that this information may be of some help.

Reprinted with permission

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