This article was previously published in Bird Breeder magazine and is reprinted here with permission of the author.
The Sale of Unweaned Babies
by Laurella Desborough
This issue is surfacing repeatedly. We can expect proposed laws and regulations regarding this matter. The issue appears clear-cut on the surface, but it is not straightforward. When members of the general public purchase unweaned baby birds and have problems trying to raise these birds, they are going to have complaints. Many of these complaints seem to originate from sales of unweaned babies that occur at bird fairs and marts where members of the general public have access to baby birds and the vendors proceed to sell unweaned babies to them.
Some bird mart vendors typically provide little in the way of information or instruction or equipment for the proper brooding and hand feeding of these babies. Many of these babies end up in veterinary clinics where they are diagnosed as stunted, or suffering from malnutrition and from bacterial infections. The inexperienced purchaser of the baby bird generally can't recognize signs of distress or illness until the situation is critical. Sometimes it is too late to save the baby bird. The larger psittacines, such as cockatoos and macaws, seem to be at more risk.
These problems do not seem to occur with the sale of unweaned babies to pet stores with personnel trained in acceptable methods of hand-feeding, nor in the sale of unweaned babies to experienced hand-feeders. For a variety of reasons, all bird breeders are not able to hand-feed the birds produced by their breeding pairs. If these baby birds are to be sold to the pet market, they will generally need to be sold unweaned.
It is a matter of concern that proposed regulations might prevent the sale of unweaned babies by breeders to experienced hand-feeders or to stores with trained personnel. Some bird mart managers are setting rules prohibiting offering unweaned babies for sale. When this issue is addressed in a proactive way by the avicultural community, the lives of many baby birds will be improved, and there will be less pressure placed on states to regulate the sale of unweaned babies. Certainly such self-regulation is preferred over state regulation.