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• Unweaned Okay

RE: Response to Edward L. Spenser, M.S., D.V.M., letter to the editor Mar/ Apr '94 issue, pg. 30.

I also read the story of Stacy the macaw and was horrified by what had happened. But for Dr. Spenser, in his letter to the editor in the Mar/ Apr '94 issue of Watchbird, to condemn all breeders that sell unweaned baby birds is extremely unfair and to me, personally, a grave insult. Granted, the numerous pet shops and breeders out there that sell the baby birds or any bird with no instruction or supervision on the care and handfeeding of that particular bird are unscrupulous and most likely out for the almighty dollar. These are the kind of people who also consider the "guarantee" of the bird to end the second the customer walks out the door. However, there are many aviculturists who genuinely care for the baby birds entrusted in their charge.

I hardly think comparing birds to cats and dogs is rational. Most dogs and cats will care for their young through weaning and, with proper nurturing from humans, become excellent pets. But our avian companions are not as easily kept tame while being fed by their parents so baby birds intended for pets are usually handfed by at least the third week of life till weaned. Point is, if hundreds of breeders, pet shop owners and bird enthusiasts handfeed baby birds, it is short-sighted to believe the average
pet owner, who has the will to start with a possible life-long companion as early as feasible for the bond you hear so much about, cannot manage the handfeeding and nurturing quite nicely with proper instructon and information. The key item a lot of people in the pet business fall short of is ensuring their customers are properly informed. It is just as criminal to sell a weaned bird with merely a bag of seed mix and a cage.

With proper guidance, we have found that new pet owners can take excellent care of their baby birds. The key is to place the baby with them at the proper time. Although we do place most species we breed while still being handfed, some species, particularly Eclectus, are best kept with the handfeeder until weaned because they do not adapt well to change while being handfed. Most baby birds do best if kept with experienced handfeeders until about 6 to 10 weeks of age depending on the particular species. At that age it is extremely hard for the busy bird breeder to give the baby bird the individual attention it needs. When correctly instructed, pet owners can participate in this wonderfully fulfilling "bonding" time with their new, adopted, feathered family member. Before a baby bird leaves our nursery, their new owners, if not experienced handfeeders, must complete our handfeeding course. They are required to participate in the handfeeding of their bird at least two to three times before they pick up their bird. During this time, we offer information on all phases of birdcare, we advise and encourage them to take their baby to an AA V veterinarian and help them pick out one in their area.