Guest Post: Unweaned Baby Birds

Posted by Raz on Jun 3rd, 2008
Jun 3

The following is a post I requested from Wendy Craig, of Wendy’s Parrots about the requirements for hand-feeding and weaning baby parrots. Wendy has been raising a wide variety of parrots for over a decade. Her flock is composed of African Greys, Amazons, Alexandrines & Macaws, including the highly endangered Blue-throated Macaws and Red-fronted Macaws of Bolivia, which she specializes in. She is widely regarded as one of best breeders in the country, with babies that are renowned for their excellent health and sociability. Wendy is also a trainer, and has several free-flighted Red-fronted Macaws who were trained as adults, and one Scarlet Macaw that was trained after weaning.

Purchasing unweaned baby birds is a recent fad among a minority of flight trainers, who believe it is necessary to have a “baby bond” when beginning outdoor flying, rather than patient training. In addition to birds inevitably outgrowing any baby bond, the dangers of inexperienced owners hand-feeding babies is well-known enough that the sale of unweaned birds is illegal in the state of California. For more on the baby bond being unnecessary with good training, see the guest post by Barbara Heidenreich.

So You Want To Buy An Unweaned Baby Bird?

by Wendy Craig

With all the knowledge out there these days I’m still surprised at the number of phone calls I get from people wanting to purchase an unweaned baby parrot as well as all of the information I read on the internet supporting it. So let’s take a look at it.

Why would you want to by an unweaned baby and why would someone want to sell one? Exactly who benefits from the sale of these unweaned babies? Is it the baby? The buyer? The seller?

I’ve heard it said that handfeeding a baby bird is an art. I’m not so sure I’d call it an art but it is a learned skill. And not all baby birds are the same. So you can’t really learn to hand feed properly from feeding only a few babies. Macaws, Grey, Cockatoos, Eclectus all feed differently. They like it at different consistencies, different temperatures, different rates of delivery etc. And then there are variances with each individual bird. Sound confusing? It can be! You can feed the formula too cold and get a bacterial infection or too hot and burn the crop. Then there is slow crop and what to do about that? Would a novice even know what constituted a slow crop? The number one injury from hand feeding is aspiration. One veterinarian even suggested that 79% of all hand feed baby birds aspirate to some degree. Did you know there were different degrees of aspiration? The one that is readily apparent is the immediate aspiration of a baby. That is when it dies right as you are feeding it or right after. Then there is a second degree aspiration where the baby becomes ill after a few days. Symptoms vary but a dose of antibiotics in time can sometimes solve the problem. Then there is the third degree aspiration or the sneaky kind. The one that isn’t apparent for months or years after it happens but ultimately leads to an early death, sometimes after a lengthy illness and sometimes quite suddenly. Still want to buy an unweaned baby bird?

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A New Baby Brother

Posted by Raz on May 29th, 2008
May 29

Carly will be getting a new grey companion later this summer! She is always intensely interested whenever she sees other greys (especially babies) and I had always intended to get another one. Wendy Craig, who was the breeder of Otis and Annie and also breeds African Greys, said that they do tend to like to stay with their own kind, unlike macaws. Our ‘baby brother” is one of Wendy’s who is now 8 weeks old. He will be fully weaned by her, and she is one of the best out there. Having seen her home and aviaries in Texas, and seen how she cares for and trains her birds, I know this will be the best environment one could ever ask for for a well-socialized and healthy bird.

Here are some pics!

6 weeks old:

8 weeks old:


I had always intended for my next parrot to be a re-home, but given our living situation now, with 4 parrots in a small home where they all have to be together peacefully all the time, a re-home would be a bit risky if there were any behavioral problems. Also difficult to find a rehome who is not clipped, though sometime in the future when there is more time and space I would definitely be up for going through the adult fledging process again.

I’ll keep pictures posted here: Piper’s Pictures