Unfortunately, the term "hand-fed" can be
very broadly defined depending on the person using it. Any bird that has been taken from
its parents any time before fledging and fed by a human surrogate. A "hand-fed"
bird may or may not be friendly and sweet, may or may not have been handled at a young
age, and may or may not have a strong attachment to humans. People selling baby birds
often define the term more loosely than people looking to buy baby birds. Most potential
baby parrot owners expect a "hand-fed" bird to have been pulled from the nest
early enough that the bird is truly confused about what its parents look like. It does not
recognize a difference between humans and birds. The zoological term (zoologists always
have a term!) for this is "imprinted". Imprinted birds often prefer the
company of a human over the company of another of its own species. Not all hand-fed birds
are imprinted. Hand-fed birds turn out really sweet when the hand-feeder spends a lot of
time with the young birds. (The hand-feeder should not be taking care of more birds than
he could possibly pay attention to.) Just feeding them is usually not enough.
Do I need to get a hand-fed bird if I want
it to bond with me?
There are different levels of bonding. Even an imported bird can
form a bond of friendship with its owner. Some individual pets may be more trusting than
others, but a "bond" still exists. An imprinted bird may come to view its owner
as its mate. A great deal of affection is generally associated with this type of bond.
Parrots in this kind of relationship can also be jealous and demanding. (Training is
important to keep this under control.) A mate-like bond with an imprinted bird requires a
much greater level of commitment than the roommate-like bond with a bird that is not
Won't the bird bond with the person that hand-feeds it?
Should I hand-feed the bird if I want it to bond with me?
An imprinted bird goes through its natural emotional and
psychological growth phases with humans replacing what would otherwise be their bird
counterparts. In nature, the baby parrots depend on their parents for everything. The
parent shows the baby how to function in its environment and how to eat. The baby's basic
sense of security is built as it trusts its parents to teach it the skills it needs to
survive. The bond between parent and baby is very intense, but it is not meant to be a
permanent bond. When a human takes over the role of the parent, it becomes the human's job
to teach the bird to function in its environment (playing with toys, living in a cage,
basic social interacting), and how to eat real food out of a dish. Expecting a baby bird
to learn this on its own is stressful and traumatic and can upset the bird's basic sense
of security. The most logical person to finish hand-feeding a bird is the human/parent
rather than the human/mate. (I often hear from people who did all the care-taking for the
new baby bird in the house, only to have it bond with someone else. In nature, if there is
any other possible choice of a mate, most animals will not choose one of their parents. It
is also a good idea to keep in mind that the bird has complete control over who he likes
most. A human can do little to change the bird's individual taste in companions.) As
the baby bird matures it spends more time with its peers, practicing social interactions.
As they reach sexual maturity, they pair off to form lifetime, monogamous relationships.
Most people want to take this place in their companion bird's heart. A potential bird
owner can either visit recently weaned birds and let the bird "pick" the person
or choose a very young bird and visit it frequently until it is weaned. A handfed bird can
be a wonderful companion if it is well adjusted and it is usually the most well-adjusted
if it is weaned by its human parents.
Thanks for the space to opinionate
Copyright 1999 Dianalee Deter