French Version

Hand fed

by Johanne Vaillancourt

Translated by Marlène Picard (Mooghie)




Most parrots available on the market come from avian breeders

and (unfortunately), the preferred modern avian breeding method for the majority ... the hand feeding of the chicks.

That expression, "Hand feeding", means:

  • That the chicks are removed early from the nest or, sometimes, are born in an incubator;
  • They have no or little filial (parent) contact;
  • Consequently, they are systematically imprinted to humans.

The parrot is the only "domesticated" animal doctrinally subjected to this type of trauma. This breeding method will have a substantial impact on the many behaviors of the bird.


Thus, the young parrot will grow...

  • Without being much aware of its own identity;
  • It will create artificial (unnatural) attachments to humans;
  • It may even reject interactions with individuals of its own species.


Since the filial imprinting of the bird is with humans ...

  • It will develop attitudes programmed by humans;
  • These attitudes may conflict with the requirements of his own instincts.


Yes, but what is imprinting?

Basically, imprinting is one aspect of learning that occurs at a very young age (before weaning), at a time when the young parrot is very sensitive and where it is exposed to a significant stimulus ... The imprint creates an exclusive relationship between the chicks and the parent or parents (depending on species) linked to the provision of food through feeding and the provision of security.

The chick bonds to the existing presence...

  • As soon as he begins to be aware of its environment (with the use of its eyes and ears).


Although the presence is usually its mother...

  • It can also be another animal specie (the human in this case).


We mean the establishment of a definitive link between an external trigger and the instinctive behavior.

  • This event is not controlled by a specific biological determinism (like a relationship, a smell), but it is rather circumstantial.
  • Imprinting will take place with the presence that is there at the moment when it happens. That is all.


The process of imprinting has implications for the very long term:

  • Recognition of the parents;
  • Identity (the learning of the parent's characteristics);
  • Bonding;
  • Relationships and social adjustment;
    • The types of individuals with whom it will have a special relationship.
  • Filial imprinting induces the sexual footprint of the bird (the characteristics of the parent, the specie).


The imprinting process is a form of fast learning, specific and irreversible:

  • This type of learning is most effective since it does not require any form of reinforcing;
  • It is a phenomenon that is part of the survival instinct of animals.


Behaviors that will be acquired through imprinting...

  • May be permanent and will have an impact on the bird's subsequent behaviors.


A weak imprinting will produce a bird with an active defense system.

  • A bird that has experienced a difficult imprinting will become anxious every time it is facing separation.
  • The anxious bird will not be able to learn with confidence.
  • The imprinting process is a crucial step in the learning process of the animal.


Hand-fed = Heterospecific and systematic imprinting to humans


It is the source of most problems or dysfunctions of the behavior of parrots that are hand-fed.

  • The pathogenic imprinting causes disabling relational orientations in the bird.
  • Among other things, sexual imprinting extra- specific and / or double imprinting intra and extra-specific. .
  • It will lead to sexual and parenting dysfunctions and
    social disorders.



Thus, the chick's first learning process will be the filial imprinting:

  • Identification of the parents characteristics.
  • And, with hand-fed babies, the imprinting will be to humans.



The bird will consider the human as its specie.

  • It will take the human as its model in social learning and survival;
    • (and what it will get from it may not always please you).
  • It will expect the pressure of his social group to be consistent with its parrot status (as a human of course);
    • What it can understand or accomplish.
  • It will expect to be able to communicated with its specie:
    • Naturally, and
    • In both directions= understand and be understood.
  • It will expect that your mutual needs are similar, if not identical.
  • It will expect to be accepted and be part (totally) of his social group (your family).
  • And later, he might expect to choose and take as a husband or wife a member of this social group.


Were you expecting this?


Far be it from me to blame the breeder or the buyer (or both)...

  • But I am obliged to note that the situation does exist and it might be time to address it (as information is available).


The breeder's responsibility...

Would be to see that the chick can benefit from a normal imprinting period with its parents (its own specie):

  • Most species take care of their offspring as a couple.
  • Understand that parrots are among those species that have a long period of juvenile dependency, they also have a long life expectancy.


Thus, a long period of dependency... means... a long period of imprinting, particularly in some species with longer periods of dependency, such as large parrot species or mono-specific species. This Imprinting goes beyond the scope of 12 weeks (3 months) and, therefore, it is possible that the natural period of socialization certain species extend beyond the 16-month to 24-month period.

If we compare with current avian breeding methods... we are well off the mark.

Now, since the parrot has a very low reproductive rate, if not for financial reasons...


  • Breeders will, I hope, in the near future, have to justify their motivation to continue to practice this form of breeding that would be considered barbaric if a dog breeder opted for this approach.
  • Cui bono? (Cicero) - Who Benefits?


The task of raising parrots should not be improvised. A basic knowledge of what happens in the first weeks or months of the life of the various species of parrots, should prevent abuse or neglect caused by ignorance, should prevent breeding young birds that have suffered through a pathogen imprinting, that are poorly socialized, and therefore ill-prepared to live in an environment that is not at all suited (or prepared) to meet their needs... their future human family.


The first responsibility of the buyer


  • Stop (for heavens' sake) thinking in terms of a puppy or kitten, and hoping to select the youngest bird possible when purchasing a parrot.
  • Stop thinking that hand feeding will create stronger bond with the bird.


Keep in mind that:

  • The breeder has a product to sell, and it will produce what you ask for!
  • You take the responsibility for + than half the work that should rest with the breeder.
  • Would you get at high prices, a puppy "that is not finished?"



The second responsibility of the buyer...


  • To refuse to adopt an animal that has suffered a bad imprinting;
  • Understand that he is not qualified to undertake the
    difficult task of weaning the chick.


The risks to the physical and psychological development are too numerous to be left in the hands of novices:

  • Pneumonia due to aspiration;
  • Severe burns of the crop;
  • Anorexia (food too cold or too hot);
  • Starvation;
  • Risk of disease (the baby's immune system is not fully developed);
  • Risk (high) that symptoms indicating that the bird is not well will go undetected.


... and understand that the period of socialization of the young bird is too important to take charge of it yourself without at least having a basic knowledge of the needs and the ethogram (behaviors natural and normal) of the specie that you decide to adopt.


For those who intend to buy a young parrot, remember that you have nothing to gain by getting a young animal...

  • With a morbid imprinting;
  • Deficienced in social, emotional and often nutritional needs...
  • ... and for which, for all these reasons, the socialization is deficient.


Because, whatever may be said, even the most cautious breeder will never be a replacement for the reassuring and structure presence of parents.

Prior to purchasing a baby parrot from a breeder, inform yourself, ask for a young bird that has been nurished, weaned and socialized (first socialisation) by the natural parents (i.e. fed by the parents). A conscientious breeder, concerned for the welfare of its young chicks has no reason to refuse such a request.

For others (those who have already acquired a hand-fed bird), I can only urge you to keep visiting the pages of this site to try to improve the life of your bird with a pathological imprinting. Understand that this is not a foregone conclusion!


© Johanne Vaillancourt 2008


Related Articles (french)
Le perroquet EAM et le trouble de l'imprégnation
Un perroquet EAM sans problème de comportement


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