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A weaned bird is one that is capable of survival with no guidance or assistance in obtaining nutrition.
Wild birds fledge (learn to fly) before they wean. Many motor skills are needed before a bird can find food and eat on its own.
The best weaning process for parrot companions allows the eating skills to develop over several weeks. Learning where, what and how to eat is a gradual process.
It is wrong to consider a bird weaned when it first shows interest in feeding on its own.
Parrot parents assist in weaning by holding for their offspring in their beaks and feet. People can similarly assist in the weaning process by finger-feeding warm, wet food.
Some good foods for finger-feeding are mango, and cooked squash, carrots and yams. Commercial weaning pellets are available. The type of pelleted food to be fed when the bird is weaned can be soaked and finger-fed.
All foods are warmed and moistened in hot water or fruit juice.
The temperature of the food is critical for digestion and palatability. 104 to 105 degrees is best. A candy thermometer works well.
Force-weaning is withdrawal of hand-feeding when the bird is still begging for it, in the belief the baby will be forced to start eating on its own.
A long list of behavior problems are associated with force-weaning.
Baby parrots that are force-weaned usually later become high-strung, hyper-responsive, prone to stress-related illness, and rigid in eating behavior.
African Greys that have been force-weaned are prone to phobias.
Cockatoos that are force-weaned become chronic whiners and are predisposed to prolapse syndrome.
Large macaws in the wild probably are not weaned until 6 to 9 months old, so pet macaws are frequent victims of force-weaning. They are prone to obsessive food begging, with repetitive wing-flicking and macaw begging sound well into adulthood.
The food begging behavior of head bobbing, crouching down, and flapping one wing may become chronic, lasting well into adulthood. A properly weaned bird will run to a food bowl, select a piece and eat it.
Yarmouth Veterinary Center
2015, updated 2017
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