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Dear Parrots magazine,

Hand- v parent-rearing

Once upon a time, I used to breed African Greys and then hand-reared them from hatching in an incubator. But luckily, I have realised how bad that was to deprive a pair of their breeding desires and the frustration, even the suffering I subjected them to.

Over time, I have visited a number of breeders who have turned out many babies, mainly for financial reward and never giving real thought to the damage they are doing. I have seen row on row of ice cream tubs with tiny chicks moving around in an effort to avoid the rows of fluorescent lights above them.

Of course these breeders had no idea that these poor little souls should be in a dark environment as they would be in the wild, in a dark nest cavity.

Yes, I have to admit that I was probably just as guilty although not on the same scale as the big boys, but never the less, I was hand-rearing and bringing up these baby parrots completely wrong.

Taking away eggs form a breeding pair is an awful thing to do and how do you explain to the parents that after the tremendous effort to produce eggs, it will all be taken away. That is bad enough, but even worse and as a reaction, the pair will probably try to repeat the process and lay a second clutch. Great for the commercial breeder, but not for the pair as a second clutch will inevitably create greats stress on the hen’s body.

There are also many issues to consider when hand-rearing baby parrots, especially when artificially incubated. Just try to imagine a chick pipping its way out of the egg only to see the four sides of an incubator and not its natural mother. It now grieves me to think about it. Okay, what its instincts will tell it to do is to feed like mad, which is what all babies do. But as it grows and becomes aware, it will think it is a human, as all it knows is its human caregiver.

This will imprint on its mind and especially with cockatoos that end up in such sad situations when reaching sexual maturity. They just don’t know they are a parrot and that will only lead to frustration and possibly the inevitable feather plucking. Such birds will now be ‘spoilt’, which will lead to a very frustrating and unhappy life for decades to come.

If you decide you would like a baby parrot, make sure and be convinced that it has been parent-reared. This will ensure the parents have gone through a natural process and the chick will know it is a parrot and not a human. Parent-reared babies will become tame just like those that have been hand-reared, but will avoid the trauma of confusion and make much more stable companions, and be much kinder on the parents.

I have seen the results of commercial parrot breeding and would like to see such practice outlawed except for emergencies or to save a life, especially if of a rare breed facing extinction.

Pamela Morton, by email




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