BabyDoll is a Goffin’s Cockatoo, and one of my youngest. She is a semi-rescue. After ‘rescuing’ Fred (my Bare-eyed Cockatoo), I swore I would not get another ‘Too. Not that they’re not sweet birds, they are, UNLESS they have been badly re-homed, abused, neglected, even accidentally taught bad habits, they can be absolute monsters. OR in the case of BabyDoll – forced weaned. Force weaning is the morally reprehensible practice of unnaturally accelerating weaning to get a bird on the market faster. In general the larger the bird, the longer they take to wean. Macaws can take up to a year to properly wean, Greys and Toos anywhere from 4 to 6 months. There’s really no hard and fast rule, but there are general guidelines. But you can’t go from spoon feeding one day, and solid food the next, with no further spoon feedings. It amounts to the same thing as bottle feeding a human baby one day, and the next day handing the child a hamburger.
It wasn’t immediately apparent, BabyDoll was forced weaned. When I first saw her, she cried whenever you got close to her cage, not uncommon with young birds in new surroundings. I thought she was cute and cuddly, but outside of that, I had no real interest in buying her.
After several weeks (I visit this particular shop once or twice a week) the “baby crying” not only didn’t stop as it should have, but became incessant. I continually pressed my shop owner friend, and bit by bit learned BabyDoll’s childhood. The breeder had indeed been in a hurry to “get rid of BabyDoll”. She had made a grievous mistake with BabyDoll’s older sibling, and it had died. Actually it was killed by the breeder’s Husky, when she left it on the kitchen table to go get the mail. Aside from the loss of income for the bird, she was supposedly too upset to take anymore time with BabyDoll, but assured my friend BabyDoll was fully weaned and indeed ready to go into a shop – LIE!
One of the clues (aside from her admissions), that BabyDoll was force weaned was her beak. Young birds beaks are not putty, but can become misshapen, and “scissor beaked” if too much force is repeatedly applied to one side, such as with a syringe during feeding. Think of it like a toddler becoming buck-toothed from sucking their thumb.
BabyDoll’s incessant crying – one of the physical and psychological side effects of force weaning, was becoming apparent to doom her to live her life in the pet shop. My shop owner friend said that while everyone who considered buying her thought she was “cute as a bug”, they couldn’t stand the constant crying and begging, which didn’t stop even if you picked her up. She actually got her name because the crying sounded so much like a human baby crying.
Some may say I’m a sucker for the ‘underdog’, but no one else was going to “step up to the plate”, and I bought BabyDoll. Before we went home, we paid a visit to my Avian Specialist at the vet’s office. He very gently reshaped BabyDoll’s beak, to give her a better chance of it realigning normally. She received several different nutritional shots, since she was severely underweight, and undernourished. After much discussion with my vet, it was decided, that I go “back to the beginning” and hand feed her in an effort to wean her correctly. For those that think hand-rearing and weaning a bird is a cakewalk – think again. Its a serious commitment, that takes an extraordinary amount of time and care in the best of circumstances, let alone compounding it with psychological issues.
When I got home with BabyDoll, I started from scratch, feeding her every 3 to 4 hours as if she had just been taken from the parents. She had no problem accepting hand feeding, since that’s what she had wanted and needed all along. When her weight came back up to an acceptable weaning weight, I gradually added a seed, nut, pellet, fruit and veggie mix to her mealtimes. She “weaned out” of her own choosing (as it should be) in about 2 months. As she showed less interest in spoon feeding (I hate syringes), we played more with ‘big bird food’. The incessant crying stopped in about a week after getting home, since she was getting what she needed. There was the occasional begging around meal time, but not the heartbreaking squalling. She still has serious mental issues we are working on, but that’s a whole other novel.
Thanks for visiting…..
“Nature is the art of God.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson