Why Would I Want to Finish Weaning my Baby Parrot?

There is no truth to the idea that a baby parrot needs to be at its final home at an early age to bond with the human family. There is also no truth to the idea that only a breeder can properly feed and nurture a baby parrot.

Many scientific studies have been undertaken to determine the nurturing requirement of altricial animals. Patricial animals like chickens can find food and survive without a parent when born or hatched. Parrots and humans are examples of altricial animals and require intensive parental care to supply food, nurturing and protection. The research has always shown the benefit of food supplied by parents is secondary to the tactile stimulation and nurturing that occurs when being fed. Food is necessary for survival but the nurturing touch is what a baby parrot needs to thrive and become a fully functioning adult. It is difficult for any breeder with more than several babies to provide the amount of quality one on one attention necessary to nurture a baby parrot. A breeder or handfeeder playing with several babies at one time does not count as one-on-one attention.
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The first six months of a baby parrot's life are the most important to its mental and physical development. Anyone with a little time and information can provide the nurturing environment necessary for the juvenile to develop into a well-adjusted adult parrot. Self-confident baby parrots can be adopted from pet stores or directly from breeders, as long as the baby has been supplied with the great deal of the timely stimulus required to develop a well-adjusted adult.

When a baby parrot begins peeking out of the nest in a wild environment, the high paced programming of the juvenile brain proceeds at the fastest pace he will every experience in his life. This occurs at about two months of age for a parrot the size of an amazon or grey. The next 45 days of life are the most important in a baby parrots mental and physical development. For the first two months all of the baby's energy has been devoted to growing from a helpless hatching into baby that can see, hear, smell, taste and can now defend himself to a small degree. He is now ready to begin exploring the world.

The baby's brain is preprogrammed by nature to take in vast amounts of information. You might compare a baby's brain to a new computer; the computer arrives with a hard drive, but with very little programming. The hard drive has a sequential pattern of development that requires certain programs to be started before subsequent programs can start. Programming is cumulative, with some programs requiring more basic programs to support the newer and more complicated programming. For example, you must crawl before you can walk.

A baby parrot needs to develop survival instincts much faster than humans. Over a two month period starting at the time when the baby begins to peak out of the nest at two months old, he will be learning at the fastest pace in his entire life. The important areas of learning or vast and include things like how to defend himself, communicate verbally, learn body language, flock etiquette (social skills), how to fly, find food, avoid enemies and a multitude of other tasks. These early experiences become part of the hardwiring of the brain and are not easily manipulated or added later in life. Some of the developmental process, like finding food and avoiding enemies, may seem unnecessary in captivity, but they are critical components in the development of high self-esteem and independence as an adult in a wild or domestic environment.

Approximately 75% of this important brain programming is completed by the time baby is three to four months old, and approximately 90% is completed by six months of age. Basically at six months old a baby parrot has learned 90% of everything he will learn in his life. There is a close correlation between the first six months of a parrot's life and the first six years of a human's. Since the sequence of developmental phases for parrots and humans are very similar, we can assume that whatever phases humans develop in the first year is very similar to the first month of a parrot's life, and so on up to six months. (Time frames for developmental phases are based on medium size parrots like amazons and greys, unless otherwise noted. Smaller parrots develop quicker while the large parrots can take up to a year.)

IN CONCLUSION: Hand feeding a baby parrots is important for it to thrive in our human flock. But, it is not necessary for you personally to feed your baby.

Parrots are raised in many different types of situations. A small aviary, with only a few babies and more time to spend feeding and nurturing, may not be able to produce the healthiest baby because of their limited experience. On the other hand, a large facility may produce the healthiest babies, but not have the time to nurture the babies as they grow. The good news is that the brain has many back-up programs which cover our nurturing deficiencies. Understanding the basic needs, wants, and desires of the avian brain is all you need for success. Just like all human parents, your successes will far exceed your mistakes. Just keep in mind that the most important ingredient is a great deal of one-on-one attention from the nurturing hand feeder.

It is important to keep in mind that for most of us hand feeding is very easy and few complications actually occur when you have a little instruction. Remember, reports of complications are always greatly over reported, usually by individuals who have never had proper instruction themselves. If you are unsure of your abilities or do not have support from an experienced hand feeder, it may be better to take your chances and buy a weaned baby.