Pet Birds: Hand-raised or Parent-raised: Which is better for Birds?

Article by:  Jeannine Miesle, M.A., M.Ed

Amazon Parrot ChickMain Article: Hand-raised or Parent-raised: Which Is Better For The Birds? by Jeannine Miesle M.A., M.Ed.

Pet Birds: Hand-raised or Parent-raised: Which Is Better For The Birds?  Abstract,  Outline  and Introduction


Birds, like any other animal, thrive as adults when the parents have raised them to abundance weaning and fledging. The trend of hand-rearing began in the 1980’s when thousands of birds were taken from their habitats and placed around the world. In most countries, hand-raising because the acceptable method of breeding since the parents weren’t tame, and breeders feared they would not know how to raise the chicks in captivity. It has done irreparable damage to both the parents and chicks over the decades. Breeders need to allow the parents to once again take charge of the rearing of their chicks, which is much easier on the humans as well.


There are three methods of raising chicks: by the parents or foster parents feeding them to abundance weaning while people socialize them by handling them (co-parenting); by human (artificial) means only, known as hand-feeding or hand-raising; and by both parents and humans, both engaging in feeding (still considered hand-feeding).

The arguments for and against hand-rearing of birds in the Psittacine family abound. Hand-rearing has been the accepted technique by breeders, buyers, and some veterinarians for more than 40 years, and most veterinarians have not discouraged the practice. During that time, studies have been done by researchers and veterinarians on the benefits and drawbacks associated with this practice

There are two valid reasons for hand-raising chicks: The first is to preserve a species that is in danger of extinction due to of the enormous number of birds of that species captured in the wild and the destruction of habitat. Many have died in the process of being captured, shipped, quarantined, and sold to people not knowledgeable about bird care, leaving very few of the species left in the wild or even in breeding programs. Breeders of these species fear the parents may harm the chicks or not feed them well, so they pull the chicks hand-feed them. In these cases, hand-raising will significantly reduce the potential for eggs being broken in the nest or parental neglect. This is frequently done in zoos and wildlife institutions.

The second reason is to prevent eggs and/or chicks from being harmed by parents who have a history of damaging eggs or attacking the chicks. One reason for parent birds harming or neglecting the young is that they have not been permitted to care for the chicks themselves in the past, and they are acting out of frustration.

Image 2: Three chicks that had to be hand-raised because their parents abandoned them (image credit Dawn Dandve; used with permission).

Image 2 : Three chicks that had to be hand-raised because their parents abandoned them (image credit Dawn Dandve; used with permission).

Image 3: Cockatiel hen and her chick (image source unknown).