Before Baby Comes Home (Visiting) - - - by Liz Davies (aka "Mom")



If you are adopting a “baby”, it’s a great idea to go and visit your baby regularly in the weeks before you bring her home.  These visits allow you to get to know each other, and makes the transition to your home easier.  It’s also a great time to ask questions and observe the other parrots that the breeder has.  The more you know about your bird, its background and parents, the better!

Adopting your first parrot – especially if it’s a large bird – is a very different experience than adopting any other kind of pet.  Somehow it feels more intense and little worries become big panics very quickly for many of us.  The time you spend socializing with your baby before you bring her home develops confidence for both you and the parrot.  You will learn each other’s sound and feel.  You’ll become more comfortable with those big feet, that huge beak, wings, and (if she's a macaw) tail.  The bird becomes more comfortable with how you approach, talk to, and hold her.  The pre-adoption visits allow you and the bird time to get over your initial awkwardness.

If you are adopting an unweaned baby

If you happen to be among those who are planning to finish the handfeeding yourself, this is also a good time to learn how to hand-feed a parrot.  It’s definitely worth asking the breeder to show you how feeding is done – and you should not be shy about asking if you can try your hand at it. 

I suggest this for two reasons:

  1. Your newly weaned baby may “regress” after you bring her home.  Some birds, when they are taken home, are overwhelmed by the change and will stop eating as well as before.  They need additional nurturing, and being prepared to offer “comfort feedings” with a little formula allows you to offer a special kind of reassurance that your bird may truly appreciate. 

  2. You, like many who’ve gone before you, may one day want to try breeding yourself.  Having at least this short practical introduction to hand-feeding is useful education.   I’m not, of course, suggesting that one or two hand feedings of a near-fledgling is adequate education for someone planning to handfeed infant chicks.  But every scrap of experience you have eventually becomes useful.

There are many who believe that hand-feeding your own bird strengthens the bond between you.  I’m not sure if the bird feels that bond, but feeding our baby certainly evoked a greater bonding feeling on my (and my husband’s) part.  Somehow, feeding Jesse ourselves and caring for her during the intense weaning period made us feel that Jesse was “ours” in a way that we don’t feel toward the other parrots.  For us, it took the emotional experience to a new (deeper) level. 

Learning From Others

The pre-adoption period is a great time to make contact with other parrot owners and learn from them.  Perhaps the most convenient is to read as many books (like this one) that you can find.  Books are a wonderful resource, but there are many other ways to do this, including (again) visiting your breeder, local bird clubs, bird fairs, and online message boards and discussion groups.  The more people with parrots like yours you can meet, the better.  Most parrot owners are enthusiastic about their avian companions, and are more than willing to share and advise you.  There are millions of great ideas out there – so “plug in” as soon as you can and start learning!

We were especially fortunate in finding a breeder who encourages adoptive families to bring their birds back to "visit".  We attended several of these visiting sessions and were able to see a wide range of people interacting with their adult parrots.  Any ideas we had about our large macaw perching placidly on our arm for long periods certainly were shattered by what we saw.  These birds were crawling all over their owners, tumbling and playing without stop.  The only birds who "sat placidly" were the ones who were nervous; everybody else was "vivacious".  Watching and participating in these interactions was extremely useful to us, as well as listening to the other owners' stories about occasional "bratty" behavior and how they dealt with it.

Caveat Emptor

One word of caution; it won’t take long before you begin to realize that not everyone agrees with each other on very many topics.  You will need to be flexible and use “critical thinking” when you are given advice (including what you read here).  It's best to have several sources of information so that you can cross-check what you are hearing.

This is especially true for internet chat sites and message boards.  Not all of those who pose (sometimes convincingly) as experts are as knowledgeable as you might think.  And just because someone defends a position with passion does not mean they are right (or wrong).  For the most part, what I've seen on these sites is mostly profoundly good advice - but occasionally someone posts something which is just the opposite.  The more lively the board, the harder it is for administrators (who may, themselves, not be all that experienced) to control quality and catch misinformation.  So when you "chat" online, remember that you don't really know who the person on the other end is - and proceed with caution.