Don't Buy Unweaned Babies



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 Date last edited:  06/20/12


This page is dedicated to those unweaned babies who have passed on to the Rainbow Bridge.  This is a story about Taylor and about Ashley.


Our eighteen-week-old CAG, Taylor, died suddenly today in my arms. Rest in peace, my sweet boy.  When we got this little treasure about a month ago, our initial vet check disclosed a bacterial problem which we immediately began treating with antibiotics (as instructed by our avian vet). He seemed to respond well, although he had shown no initial underlying signs of any problems.  To the contrary, he appeared to be in much better health than we were accustomed to seeing in pet stores (we bought him from Petco in Danvers, Massachusetts).

A week after we got him home, I gave him his formula in a syringe that was apparently too hot, and he developed a burn-hole in his crop. This was our first experience with an infant bird, and we simply didn't know any better. We got him treated immediately, and after a few days of observation, the opening was stitched up without any apparent ill effects. The site of the surgery closed cleanly, there was no sign of any inflammation or other indication of problem, and he seemed to be settling in with us a happy, healthy bird.

This morning, his appetite was off and he seemed a little lethargic; we attributed this to some extent to the fact that I had been up late the night before watching television, and he probably hadn't gotten his normal allotment of sleep. He ate some, and then went back to his perch and appeared ready to a morning nap.  We went off to do some errands, and were gone for several hours. When we returned, Taylor was on the floor of his cage, again apparently
sleeping. However, he was so lethargic and atypically quiet that I was concerned enough to call the vet. As I was getting him out of his cage I found evidence that he had vomited while we were out. The vet told us to bring him in, which we did; they took a blood sample and gave him an injection of antibiotic to stabilize him, and told us to keep him warm and quiet for the rest of the evening. His weight had dropped, from 350 gm to 314 gm, in the week or so since we had stopped formula-feeding him.

We took him home, with him snuggling up against me shirt, his head cradled in the crook of my neck, with a towel over him for warmth. When we got home, I sat in a chair with him in the same manner while my wife got our dogs fed. I was getting ready to have her take over the heating pad duty when I felt him shift.  When I moved him away from my chest, he appeared unable to get his balance; he stumbled across my hands for a second or two, and then his head dropped and he was gone.

We took him back to our vets for an autopsy. I want to know why this sweet little boy died. Then we're going to bury him here at home where he belongs.

I want to know if anything we did - or didn't do - contributed to his death. We will have a place in our home, and our hearts, for another Grey, but I'm going to learn what I need to from this first. Then I'm going to be very much more informed, careful, and selective about where we get our next baby from.

I'm sorry to share such a depressing message with you all, but it has helped me to write this and to begin to come to terms with our loss. I don't anticipate answers or explanations from those here, just an understanding and sympathetic ear.

Thanks for listening.  Kiss your babies for us tonight.

Taylor is Gone

Taylor was a 14 week old Grey sold by a pet store to a man who had never handfed a baby bird. At 15 weeks, he had a burn hole in his crop and chest. At 18 weeks he was dead. He died in the arms of the man who bought him, snuggled under his chin and finally free of pain.

Whose baby bird was this?

Who took this precious Grey, fat and fuzzy, from the nest and sold him into death?

Did the breeder give a thought to the future of this baby when he handed him over to a broker or to this pet store? Did he care?

How many babies were in the shipping crate? Where are they? Are they alive?.......or dead like this little one sold into the hands of a buyer who had never handfed a baby bird? Taylor will have lots of company from other baby birds sold into death. The Rainbow Bridge is getting crowded..

I had a very hard time getting to sleep last night. I thought of my Grey baby sleeping and safe in his brooder. My dream will live. No client of mine will ever hold one of my dreams as he dies from a burned crop.   Never.

This has got to stop. How many babies have to die before the sale of unweaned babies stops?

All of these sellers of unweaned babies transfer the risks - the health problems and the deaths - to the buyer.

The only way this can be stopped is for the buying public to refuse to buy an unweaned baby bird and to refuse to patronize pet stores and breeders who sell them.

Please buy your new companion fully and bountifully weaned from a quality pet store or from a breeder who sells only weaned babies.

1998 by Bobbi Brinker
Permission to use this text, or the banner, is given to any site that wishes to assist in the endeavor to stop purchases of unweaned babies.


(reprinted with permission from Michael Dautel)

The tragic ordeal with Taylor and others who have suffered needlessly have prompted me to tell you all the reason behind my passion on this subject.

Her name is Ashley and she was a 10 week old TAG bappy that died due to my ignorance and the callous and uncaring ethics of the breeder that helped me to kill her.  This was several years ago and my heart is still heavy with the knowledge of the pain and suffering I put this sweet, helpless little wonder through for almost 2 weeks.

We had just gotten into having parrots as companions by rescuing a Tiel and a Blue Crown Conure and discovered the love and rewards of these sweet creatures.  Then, we discovered the local bird fair and may God help all those that discover them without knowing the dangers that lurk there.

This is where we found Ashley who was 6 weeks old at the time who captured my heart at the first glance and instantly decided that I wanted her.

With Josi working full time and me travelling, it was decided that we would wait another 4 weeks until she was down to 2 feedings before bringing her home. The breeder told us that the bond between us would be stronger if we were to finish hand feeding her. Of course I am wiser now and realize this was profit motivated ONLY !

We visited once prior to picking her up for a hand feeding lesson which consisted of showing us how to mix the formula, showing us how to feed and letting us do it ONCE!

No mention of thermometers, potential crop problems or scales for tracking weight.   The instructions consisted of how to mix the formula, test it on your forearm and feed with a syringe which I have come to dislike for birds of that age and size.

So, we take this little bundle of joy home and start feeding her. I am quite excited and wanted to be the one to hand feed her. I followed the instructions to the letter as the consistency looked like the breeders and it was not too hot on my forearm. Ashley would eat some, then stop, eat just a little more, then regurgitate a little. A call to the breeder resulted in assurance that everything was all right and that this happens during hand feeding. OK, so we press on and continue the hand feeding.
Ashley is eating less and less formula and since she was only on 2 feedings a day, we thought maybe she was trying to wean herself.

Ashley was not very active and spent most of the time on the bottom of her cage. This did not concern us as we had no experience with bappies and maybe this was just how they were until they weaned. Ashley was so sweet as she snuggle under my chin with a small blanket covering her as I would stroke her back. She was stealing my heart even more if that is possible as she would become quiet during our snuggles. She was whining quite a bit when she was in her cage but we thought she was just begging to get out and after all, she was a bappy and maybe bappies just did that.

This went on for almost 2 weeks with Ashley taking less formula, regurgitating more and my not realizing that she is not eating any of the tons of other food we kept in her cage. After all, we had no idea that we should have been weighing her and did not realize she was losing a tremendous amount of weight. We also did not realize that she was regurgitating excessively and that the inactivity was abnormal. We also did not realize that the poop was another indicator that a problem was going on. The consistency and color were all wrong. This was our first experience with a bappy and after all we were talking to the breeder.

All we knew was what we were hearing from the breeder whom we called several times during this period. "Don't worry, she will be fine, she will come around, she is just settling into her new home, etc., etc., etc."

The night before she died, she became so lethargic that she was laying prone on the bottom of her cage and her poop became quite yellowish and with no form whatsoever.

The next morning I was at the vet's office before they opened up. By then, she was completely limp but still breathing. The vet took one look at her and almost snatched her out of my hands and rushed her into the back. I waited anxiously to hear about my little sweetheart for almost an hour. The vet came in and I know from the look on her face that something was wrong.  She gave me the news that I simply was not prepared to hear. She died during attempts to stabilize her. I openly wept at the news. After I calmed down, she spent some time with me and asked if I was sure about the temperature of the formula I was giving her. I told her how I was testing it and she said that it would have been better had I used a good thermometer. She would gladly do a necropsy but the signs pointed to crop burn and other complications associated with crop burn. I wish I had but I did not have the necropsy performed. All I wanted to do was to take my baby home for burial and just get out of there so I could grieve some more.  I took her home and buried her with a marker with her name on it.

Although a necropsy was not performed, I am quite sure I killed her by feeding her formula that was way too hot.

You see, I have always had a high tolerance for pain and little did I realize it then, this also affects my ability to properly register heat.  What feels warm to me will feel hot to the average person. Shortly after that, I bought a good digital thermometer, made it up like I had for Ashley and testing it on my arm until it felt the same as when I was feeding her.  The thermometer registered 118 degrees !

So you see, over a 2 week period, I slowly tortured that helpless little creature with my ignorance.

The whining in her cage was because she was starving while I was torturing her.

The silent snuggles under my chin was a plea of help and I was not listening.

Ashley is the reason for my passion.

Michael Dautel

unweaned.jpg (5970 bytes)


Some of the reasons why unweaned babies should not be bought or sold

1) Bacterial and fungal infections that can result from poorly understood or poorly applied principles of hygiene. Most buyers don't know.
2) The failure to recognize subtle or obvious signs or symptoms of illness or distress. Most buyers don't know.
3) Weaning is a stressful time and the experiences during that time will stay with a bird his whole life. Most buyers don't know.
4) A baby bird will eat scalding hot formula. Most buyers don't know.
5) A weaning baby can starve to death with food sitting in front of him. Most buyers don't know.
6) Water drinking is a learned behavior. Most buyers don't know.
7) The expiration date on each container of handrearing formula should be checked before purchase. Most buyers don't know.
8) Pressure on the beak of a handfeeding baby will deform the beak.  Most buyers don't know.
9) The internal organs of a baby can be bruised by picking him up incorrectly. Most buyers don't know.
10) Feeding utensils must be cleaned and disinfected after each use.  Most buyers don't know.

The cautions I list have been from years of hard-learned, painfully-learned lessons by those who bought unweaned babies.

Baby birds can be force weaned - they are simply refused handrearing formula. They learn to eat on their own or they die. Inexperienced buyers who fail to understand how to bring a baby bird to food
independence can permanently affect a bird's life - forever.

Baby birds who are force weaned are birds who very soon begin the long sad journey from home to home - each new home decreases the pet potential of this most special of all companion animals.

A baby who is weaned inappropriately or improperly will learn the wrong lessons. A bird is severely impacted regarding issues of trust, love, security and bonding when he is forced to learn to eat before he is ready if he wants to live.

It isn't the controversy associated with weaned vs. unweaned that makes this such an emotionally charged issue. What is at stake is someone's baby bird.

As a breeder, I know what CAN happen. I know about babies who are underfed and stunted; babies who wean when they are 8 months old; babies who suffer from crop burn, bacterial and fungal infections, chronic begging, food trauma, etc. The list goes on.

There is a window of age, opportunity and development when food-independence truly begins. The experienced breeder or handfeeder knows this - most buyers do not.  Additionally the buyer is taking a serious risk because there is no guarantee on an unweaned baby. There CAN'T be because who can tell when a baby suffered a particular trauma; who can know the state of hygiene the buyer offers; a baby can't be vaccinated until a certain age; the PBFD screen can't be done on babies younger than 5/6 weeks. How can a buyer tell if an unweaned baby bird is healthy?  The financial and emotional stakes are enormous for the buyer.

Weaning and socializing are best left to those who have the experience in both of these areas. Both affect a bird's relationship with humans for his whole life.

It is a myth - an urban legend - to claim that a bird bonds only or most to those who feed him. What about the second and third and fourth and fifth and sixth hand birds out there? Who do they love? Do they only love the ones who fed them? Not likely.

If an experienced caring breeder does it, it usually gets done right. If an experienced caring breeder does it, the baby bird will stay in the home the breeder has carefully selected. A well behaved responsive trusting tame bird will be a well loved, intimate and permanent member of the family. That's what I want for your babies and for all the babies.

(reprinted with permission from Bobbi Brinker)



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