Roundtable, Association of Avian Veterinarians Conference, August 2011, Seattle
Over the past 30 to 40 years, the artificial incubation of eggs and the hand-rearing of baby parrots have become common practices in poultry farming. Hand-rearing, initially a necessary evil stemming from mismanagement, has become a hostile business practice for parrots. Given the many negative repercussions of hand farming, there is no reason not to support laws that will prohibit it.
Keywords: hand-rearing, artificial incubation, behavior problems.
Raising parrots in captivity gained popularity 30 or 40 years ago.
At that time, artificial incubation and hand-rearing of baby parrots was often necessary for a variety of reasons, including because parents abandoned their young or eggs, mutilated them, or refused to raise them. . It was even said that it would be possible, thanks to artificial incubation, to breed the perfect little parrot; Indeed, it was said that the young learned from their parents to self-harm, to utter unpleasant cries, to harass their companions and to adopt poor eating habits (Jordon, 1989). There may be several reasons for the reliance on hand-rearing baby parrots as a result of poor habitat, nutrition, and care management, together with a lack of knowledge about the natural behavior of parrots. The most common reason given is parents who do not want to raise their own offspring if it is not healthy or viable due to nutritional deficiencies or other stressors. Improved general management and increased knowledge of the needs of parrots reduce the need for hand breeding.
Over the past 30 years, the demand for pet parrots has grown. Poultry farmers and pet stores began to promote tame, unweaned baby parrots; they were suggesting that it was beneficial to buy an unweaned baby parrot that was as young as possible to ensure that this bird would become the perfect tame companion. At the same time, since rearing by hand is labor-intensive, there is a definite economic advantage in selling unweaned babies and shifting the burden of rearing by hand to buyers.
Poultry farmers found that artificial incubation or removal of babies from parents in the context of hand-rearing caused females to lay more eggs, more often. Hand-rearing has become a common practice in poultry farming because the artificial incubation of eggs and rearing of chicks by hand are cost-effective practices. Nestlings raised by parents are not considered tame chicks because in general poultry farmers find it normal for breeding pairs not to be tamed. When breeding birds are tamed, the young raised by the parents learn from them that there is no reason to be afraid of their keeper (Hooimeijer J., Pericard, JM, 2009,
Negative impacts of artificial incubation and hand-rearing of chicks
Over the past 15 years, more and more data has shown the negative consequences of separating chicks from their parents and selling unweaned chicks. Incubating eggs and rearing baby parrots by hand is an incredibly unusual form of development when you consider that the separation of young from their parents before or during the initial impregnation phase can cause irreversible behavioral problems; this is the case with other animals, including humans. Some of these behavioral problems are reported to appear after months or even years, especially when birds have hormonal activities. Today we recognize that there is a wide range of behavioral and health problems attributable to the separation of babies from parents in mice, primates, parrots, and humans. Social deprivation in childhood leads to long-lasting behavioral disturbances as well as social and emotional deficits. Stereotypes, insecure behaviors, phobic behaviors, biting, pecking, and self-harm are some of the serious consequences of early weaning and separation of a baby parrot from its parents (Engebretson, M., 2006, Garner, JP, Meehan, CL, Mench, JA, 2003). childhood gives rise to long-lasting behavioral disturbances as well as social and emotional deficits. Stereotypes, insecure behaviors, phobic behaviors, biting, pecking, and self-harm are some of the serious consequences of early weaning and separation of a baby parrot from its parents (Engebretson, M., 2006, Garner, JP, Meehan, CL, Mench, JA, 2003). childhood gives rise to long-lasting behavioral disturbances as well as social and emotional deficits. Stereotypes, insecure behaviors, phobic behaviors, biting, pecking, and self-harm are some of the serious consequences of early weaning and separation of a baby parrot from its parents (Engebretson, M., 2006, Garner, JP, Meehan, CL, Mench, JA, 2003).
Incubation of eggs and separation of young from their parents at a young age causes females to lay more eggs and with greater frequency than they would in the wild. From the author’s experience, this may explain the negative impact of the practice on the life expectancy of females. The increase in the number of spawns and their frequency also has negative repercussions on the quality of the eggs and on the viability of the young (Hooimeijer, J., 1999).
The risks associated with poor hand-rearing techniques are aspiration pneumonia, burns on the crop, perforation of the esophagus or crop, malnutrition, or therapy (Romagnano, A., 2003).
Depending on the author’s experience, the final weight of the young maybe 10 to 15% less than that of the parents. Studies have shown that hand-fed chicks are more likely to suffer from skeletal malformations than chicks fed by parents (Harcourt-Brown, N., 2004).
There is some evidence that baby parrots who are separated from their parents are more vulnerable than others to infectious diseases because their immune systems are less well developed. Stress associated with neonatal manipulation is one reason (Phalen, DN, Wilson, VG, Graham, DL, 1994).
As for other scientific work, some of the references are taken from a doctoral thesis written at the University of Bern in 2004 by R. Schmid on the influence of the breeding method on the behavior of gray d ‘African males. This thesis demonstrated the differences that exist between the behavioral problems of parrots raised by hand and those of birds raised by parents. This study demonstrated that hand-reared African Grays exhibit more aggressive and selective behaviors towards humans than birds raised by parents. She also showed that chicks that were separated from their parents before five weeks of age developed more stereotypes than chicks raised by parents for a longer period.
Research by Myers (1998), who worked with elegant cockatiels (Nymphicus hollandicus), demonstrated that chicks were able to take their first flight only in pairs where the males were reared by the parents. Hand-reared females produced infertile eggs and laid eggs outside the nest more often.
In the Netherlands, an Animal Health and Welfare Act prohibits, for different species, the separation of young animals from their parents or mother for a specific period of time. Puppies, like kittens, cannot be separated from their mothers until they are seven weeks old. For rabbits, the minimum age is set at four weeks, while it is four years for chimpanzees. Since parrots are not covered by this law, it is not illegal in the Netherlands to incubate eggs and raise baby parrots by hand. This contrasts with evidence that recent advances in neuroanatomy and cognitive ethology confirm that many bird species have complex cognitive and learning abilities (Pepperberg, I.
Due to the known negative impact of hand breeding on animal welfare, the Dutch Parrot Foundation is campaigning in the Netherlands for parrots to be added to the list of animals that cannot be reared at the hand or separated from their parents. Moluccan Cockatoos are a typical example of parrots that are primarily hand-raised in poultry farming and commonly exhibit behaviors such as screaming, fear, biting, pecking, feather destruction, and self-harm. When visiting shelters, it is painful to see the number of Moluccan cockatoos that have been abandoned due to serious behavioral problems. It’s even sadder when you realize that this is an endangered species in Indonesia. There may be medical reasons for hand-breeding baby parrots. In cases where rearing by hand is necessary, it is important to take all necessary measures to avoid the negative consequences of this practice by reproducing an environment as naturally as possible. To avoid problems with hand-breeding projects, such as the California Condor Project, the practice has been developed in such a way that there is no contact between humans and animals during breeding by hand, thus reproducing natural situations as much as possible. Special feeding puppets are used as a substitute for parenting models,
Parrots are the most charismatic, intelligent, and social animals around, and they have a very long lifespan. It is the responsibility of avian veterinarians and poultry producers to prevent problems and improve the well-being of parrots in captivity.
Based on the available data and current experience, it is quite valid to conclude that hand-rearing baby parrots not improve their health or well-being. Baby parrots should have the legal right to be raised by their parents, at least until they reach the age where they are no longer dependent on their parents for their nutritional needs. Females who are manipulated and coerced into larger brood counts for the sole commercial benefit of the breeders gain no benefit.