Weaning Your Parrot


The weaning period of a baby birds life is extremely important and no less critical than that of a human infant’s. I have very specific ideas on weaning which I tested on Chocobo. I was told numerous times by many local “experts” that I was going to “ruin” Choco with my weaning decisions. They were pretty wrong-o, wrongerson, wrongstein about that, although their criticisms were no doubt based on concern for Choco. Typically weaning should be left to experts, or in my case, hardcore hobbyists with a propensity towards reading academic research papers. That being said, it is bad practice to sell an un-weaned baby and no reputable breeder or store will do so without some serious interrogation first.

If I recall correctly, Choco was introduced to soft fruits and veggies at about one month. The indicators that a hatchling is ready for new foods are when they start exploring with their beaks. They will start to pick at things, chew on their surroundings, and generally just start using their beaks more. At that point you want to start offering soft fruits and vegetables before the formula feeding. The reasoning for this is because after the formula the baby will be full and less likely to explore or try new foods.

Choco and I would eat the fresh fruits and veggies together in the morning before his first formula feeding. This allowed for Choco to easily understand what was food by watching not only what I ate but also how I ate it. The other aspect of sharing mealtimes is the social bonding. Sitting together eating breakfast for twenty or thirty minutes each day affirmed that Choco was part of the “flock”. Of course at this point Choco was mostly just playing with the food, but play is about as good as you’re going to get with a healthy birdy.

Choco was still mostly just playing with fruits and veggies when he was two months old, but about then he was introduced to seeds and pellets. Again, these are mostly going to be played with at first, but that’s good. This is about the time I brought Choco home and introduced shared mealtimes and within about a week he was eating some of the soft foods. His favorites were grapes but he was also being introduced to pastas, rice, legumes, breads, and an assortment of fruits and veggies (fresh, canned, and frozen so as to avoid a picky eater). It’s important to introduce as many different foods as possible during this period as it is how a baby learns to eat a well balanced diet. Keep the types of foods being bought in rotation so neither you nor your bird gets bored with the diet.

I think Choco was about three months old when I taught him to eat seeds. I got some shelled peanuts and sunflower seeds and let Choco watch a friend and I eat them. This is about the time when breeders and stores like to have a bird weaned by because they want to finish up the process quickly and sell the bird, but since I had the luxury of not worrying about turnover time I went a different route. Instead of cutting down the frequency of formula feedings I continued offering food before the formula and as Choco ate more food he would have less room formula. Only after that did I start reducing the frequency of formula.

The most important feedings, and subsequently the last to be eliminated, are the morning and evening meals. In the mornings Choco and I would first have snuggle time and when he would get restless we’d have brekky. When I first removed lunch time feedings I made sure Choco had fresh fruits and veggies the entire time, as well as seed, pellet, and water. He wasn’t exactly thrilled about that, but a dinner time feeding assured that he went to sleep with a full tummy, which let him feel safe. This method is generally referred to as “abundance weaning” or “bountiful weaning” and refers to the fact that the bird has food available at all times. It is important to notate that Choco had the ability to choose how much formula he ate, not freely but by how much he ate before hand. He was always secure in the knowledge that formula would come so he was never worried about being hungry. He wasn’t happy when I removed lunchtime formula, but he was also hardly eating any of the formula at that point anyway.

The next formula feeding we tapered out was breakfast, and I believe that was somewhere around six months and when Choco began to fledge. Fledging is a time when birds naturally start to eat a bit less in preparation for figuring out how aerodynamics work, so breakfast was the natural meal to shorten. Choco was sharing a solid breakfast with me and when we cut the formula he was lighter but not hungry, leaving him ready for playing and flying. The evening formula feeding kept Choco heavy and calmer, preparing him for bedtime.

The evening meal was the hardest to cut out. I think Choco hung on to that longest because he liked the bonding time and the snuggles while he fell asleep after. I cut that one by removing it on alternating days, but I kept a bit of formula for emergencies, like if Choco wasn’t feeling well or something. He still enjoys a good cuddle though.


4 Responses to Weaning Your Parrot

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