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Opinions on Hand-Reared vs Parent Reared Birds as Companions

Turkey2017

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Hello! I understand the conversation revolving around the pros and cons of hand-rearing isn’t new, but I recently read an article (attached) that discussed it in detail and I found it really interesting.

I’m not a breeder but I am verinterested in the concept of raising companion birds in a way that is ideal for THEIR needs.
The article essentially states that allowing the birds to raise their own offspring as they would in the wild is ideal, with the human caretaker taking time to socialize the young chicks frequently to ensure they are tame enough to be pets.
I love the sound of this but I have two very real questions:

* How does one socialize and handle chicks that are being reared by their parents without stressing the parents out and thereby endangering the chicks?
* Do most breeder birds even know how to raise their own offspring if hand-rearing has been the gold standard for several years now?

In your opinion, is this approach feasible?
Please comment your input!

The article:
 

TikiMyn

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In some countries it is actually forbidden to hand raise birds. Or only after a certain age. I imagine in the USA breeders let their birds raise their own chicks if the babies are intended for breeding? At least that is standerd in the Netherlands. I would say the majority of breeders let’s the parents raise the babies over here, only stores or small breeders hand raise in my experience. There are also not so great breeders that sell all kinds of parrots for people to handraise at home. Those parrots are usually hand raised as a single bird without clutch mates. Breeders of smaller birds are often able to take the babies from the nest to handle, but larger birds, difficult to say. I know of some breeders who co parent but for the reasons that you state, it is difficult and maybe not as ideal as it sounds.

@BrianB is a great breeder in my opinion.
 

TikiMyn

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I wanted to add, I have three parent raised birds of when two overbonded to me and one is reluctant/fearful to interact with other birds except his best buddy. The latter does not follow to flock like ‘normal’ birds but sometimes stays behind by himself but more often sits with me while the flock is doing something else. The over bonded birds saw me as mate, something if I hadn’t experienced that I would think only parent raised birds did.
 

AussieBird

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I have no experience with handraised birds (that I know of, some of my birds have unknown backgrounds). I read an article on hand raising once which I can find and share a little later.
I am about to get a bird from a breeder. He has been parent raised because it was his parents' first clutch, the breeders wanted them to know how to raise their babies before pulling any for hand raising.
I personally prefer parent raised birds, but again I don't have any experience with handraised birds.
 

BrianB

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It's a difficult subject and I constantly ask myself if I'm doing things right. The big issue is that everyone has their own idea of what is "right" and many of them think that only their way is the correct way. I've had breeders tell me that nothing I do is right and that II should do thing the way they do. Well, that would be great, but we breed different birds that have different social and nutritional needs and what works for their flock wouldn't work for mine. I try to stay open-minded about the opinions that others have because I might learn something new.

As for the two questions, I'll give it a go.

* How does one socialize and handle chicks that are being reared by their parents without stressing the parents out and thereby endangering the chicks? - None of my flock would permit co-parenting. The macaws have been breeding and raising chicks on their own all of their lives. They were never socialized with people and would not allow me to remove a chick, interact with it, feed it, socialize with it, and then put it back. Two things would happen, and it's both, not an either or scenario. They would kill the chick, and leave me bleeding.

* Do most breeder birds even know how to raise their own offspring if hand-rearing has been the gold standard for several years now? - My adults breeding pairs were always permitted to raise their chick to at least 2 weeks, sometimes up to 4 weeks depending on the situation at the time. I have considered letting the red-fronted macaws raise a clutch on their own and then putting those birds into breeding programs to help preserve the species. I was recently contacted by one of the associated bird curators from a zoo asking for my input on the red-fronted macaws. They are part of a species survival program for the birds and had questions about my success and if I've had any surrendered to me. We'll see how that goes. I've seen in other birds that after generations of not being able to raise their own chicks, they don't seem to have the instinct to do it on their own. At least here in Phoenix, you cannot find society finches for sale. From talking to other breeders, they are being used to surrogate other species of finch because the adults of that species are such bad parents that there wouldn't be any for sale if they didn't. The Lady Gouldian Finch seems to be a prime example. They were one of the first birds I tried to breed. I did research to learn as much as I could about them. I talked to other breeders and their advice was to have several pairs of society finches on hand because Gouldians are just bad parents. At one point I had 16 pairs. They had the right nest boxes, appropriate cages, and the best food I could get. They bred, and incubated, but did not feed their chicks. It seems that the knowledge of how to take care of their own offspring just wasn't there. This isn't quite the same thing as breeding larger birds and taking them away from the parents, but it does look like humans have interfered in their breeding for so long that they are lacking what they once did naturally.

There are sometimes things outside of our control that necessitate the need to hand-feed chicks. We can discuss the merits of it being right or wrong and never really agree on it. My macaw pair that produces harlequins has bred and raised their own chicks for many years. When they came to me, they would breed, and incubate, but not feed their chicks. Each spring I consider what is around them that may be disturbing their process and I haven't been able to figure it out yet. I would rather they do the first few weeks of chick parenting, but now I do it because they won't. When I pinpoint the issue and address it that may change. Now when they breed I let them lay the entire clutch and then remove them for incubation. They do not double-clutch when this happens, but they will lay another clutch later in the year as they have always done. In that respect, I'm not forcing them to breed outside of their natural cycle and that's not something I want to do. I know breeders that alter the light cycle and the abundance of food to force their birds to breed out of season. That doesn't work for me. I would rather have fewer chicks of a higher quality than more chicks I can make a ton of money on.

When it comes to raising and socializing them, that's something that I'm constantly researching. I don't know if what I do is right or wrong, but I always have the bird's best interest in mind and I try to emulate the way a parent bird treats them as much as possible. I provide them with as much enrichment as I can and I encourage independence as they grow. I try to keep babies together until their size becomes an issue. I want them to have that time with their siblings for the first few weeks of their life. Last year I had Enzo the baby green wing in with a clutch of red-fronted macaws that hatched around the same time. They were together for a few weeks until he became so large that he was a danger to the smallest chick. When that happened I moved him into a brooder box by himself. We still fed them all at the same time so it wasn't unusual to see the much large chick on the countertop with smaller babies surrounding him. Enzo was good at entertaining himself, but I've noticed that red-fronted macaws can be prone to separation anxiety. As the chicks grew I provided them with a lot of different toys and I would play with the toys until they got the hang of it. I tried to keep them together as much as possible so they had constant companionship. Enxo's mom came to visit him several times a week and I think he was well-socialized with humans and other birds by the time he went home. His owners had also purchased a red-fronted macaw and she went home a few weeks before he did. This was a chick he spent time in the brooder with during his first few weeks. They interact well now and he's not the only bird in the house. Freya was our first greenwing and she was a challenge because we had experience with conures, but not a baby macaw. Their growth is faster, but their mental development and weaning are much slower. Training is different and their emotional needs are higher. We do not clip our baby's wings, so it's important that they learn to fly. Self-confidence is part of flying so it's something we work on. Conures will just throw themselves into the air. Macaws have to be encouraged to take that first leap into the air and use those big wings. They will crash and become scared of flying again, so you take a huge step forward with the first flight then a huge step backward the first time they crash. With patience and encouragement, they get over their fear and take to the air again. I try to replace the parent as much as I can, and while I know I'll never be a perfect replacement for nature, I try to educate myself and do the best I can for each baby. I research how the parents interact with their offspring so I can do as much of that as possible. I read that adult green wings will flip a baby over and pin them down when they get out of control. They use it as a form of discipline. One day Freya was just being defiant. She wouldn't focus, she was being very loud and just kept nipping at me while she did her own thing. I flipped her over on the countertop and held her down while leaning over her. It took about 30 seconds but she relaxed and when I let her up she was in a better mood. Was that the right thing to do? I don't know, but I tried to replicate the parents' behavior and she responded to it.

It's a very deep subject with a lot of points to consider. I can only give my perspective and relay my experience. Short of someone being abusive to a bird I try not to have an opinion on how others do things. I try to keep myself educated as researchers learn more about bird behavior and I'm not afraid to reach out to others when I have questions, and I try to help out others if they have questions. Maybe we will both learn something new in the process.

Ok, I'm done rambling and I'm off to bed :)
 

Fickle

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My two cents …. I am not a breeder I’m an experienced bird lover and past and/ or present owner of finches, canaries, budgies and cockatiels and slight experience with Linnie’s and lovebirds. I’m sure there are differences among species. I’ve had both fully parent raised and also handfed budgies (parent raised to about 3 weeks of age or so) and personality and behaviour wise, I much prefer hand raised . They trust more and learn and train and tame quicker in my opinion. I’ve only had breeder produced hand fed baby cockatiels and because they’ve all been simply amazing companions I’d probably be a bit wary of buying parent-only raised babies. The only drawback to me is that many breeders want to clip the wings before they fully know how to fly and that is sad when their wing feathers grow back out and they literally have to learn how to fly when older. I don’t know what difference that makes long term to their confidence or maneuverability etc about flying. :huh:
 

Zara

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@BrianB That was a very interesting post!
I must have missed this thread when it was posted. I would be interested to hear if anything comes of the red-fronted's and the programs.
 

April

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@BrianB That was a very interesting post!
I must have missed this thread when it was posted. I would be interested to hear if anything comes of the red-fronted's and the programs.
Totally agree! I also missed this the first time around and it was such an interesting post.
 
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