Our “Rose”-Introducing HARI Early Parrot Education

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The often-quoted author and philosopher, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, said it best in his well read children’s story, “The Little Prince”.

 “People have forgotten this truth,” the fox said. “But you mustn’t forget it. You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed. You’re responsible for your rose.” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

This quotation, in its entirety, best fits the HARI philosophy with regards to how we manage our HARI flock and raise our parrot fledglings. With the rising number of parrot sanctuaries and organizations that serve to re-home older parrots, often with behavioral and health challenges, the HARI Team has questioned the plight of our hand fed baby parrots once they leave the HARI Facility.

Periodically, we’ve observed partial quotations from Saint-Exupéry in the avian community; almost as if only pieces of his words are applicable to keeping a parrot as a pet. Paradoxically, this is kind of how many breeders and us included, have participated in the avian community … only partially there. It’s as if we should be doing something more for the companion birds we set off into the world. It’s a safe bet that most breeders and retailers that offer parrots for the companion  trade  do not really want or expect  their babies to end up in sanctuaries due to behavior issues. But for some, this happens as a result of inadequate or untimely training for the pet.

Yes, the Avian Community-consisting of aviculturists, pet bird, and avian health practitioners have seen major positive growths in areas of nutrition, housing, health, as well as behavior over the years-but has it been enough? Is it responsible enough? Is it enough to keep the parrot in the pet industry? What are we doing with our “Rose”?

With careful consideration over our “rose”, we at HARI know that future and current avian caretakers often mull over their  options when considering a new feathered companion pet. Do they choose a young  parrot or adopt an older parrot in need of a home or rehabilitation for companionship? Because of the challenges caretakers face with having to re-train an older parrot that might already have deeply embedded negative behaviors, the need for young healthy hand fed parrots for the pet trade continues.

As breeding season for North America kicks in we thought we’d introduce a formalized, yet a continuing to evolve, research project Early Parrot Education, or EPE, has been an ongoing development to structure a program that teaches fledgling parrots a formal education as they enter their life as a companion. Some breeders or avian caretakers have referred to this developmental stage as “weaning”, to mean that the fledgling is eating on their own and is not being hand fed or perhaps an expression such as “socially raised” has been highlighted to give the essence of the bird being tame or sweet. We’ve questioned whether those two concepts alone serve the pet bird and the pet bird industry responsibly. Over the years, our HARI staff has shared some of our Early Parrot Education throughout its development at avian symposiums and conventions, such as American Federation of Aviculture, and Pet Life Radio pod casts with HARI Staff. And, of course, with collaboration with avian enthusiasts all over the world. Some of the conference material is referenced and available at various avian organization DVD shopping sites such as the AFA Store.

This is just a tidbit of introduction. We’ll be posting more on EPE in upcoming posts.

But first, let’s start with the goal: to raise parrot fledglings and prepare them for their life as a companion bird.

Why? The reality is that since most parrot species live long lives, they could very well find themselves in need of a new home during the course of their life. And, this isn’t always due to neglect or abuse. Often, due to circumstances beyond the original avian caretaker’s control,  many parrots may require a re-home opportunity. According to APPA (American Pet Products Association) 2011-2012 Industry statistics , there are 5.7 million homes in the United States alone, with pet birds; many of which have multiple pet birds.

If we take a look at a published article on  PIJAC Canada’s (Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council) site, listed statistics on dogs surrendered to shelters for one reason or another, we’ll discover that many animals, in fact 96% of dogs, given up had not received any obedience training.  Ask any one that works in dog shelters-those pets that are trained, are adopted easily and readily. The transition from shelter to new home  is quick and successful! Can aviculturists apply this thinking to our young parrots?   We think so!  As in dog cat adoption studies, an educated pet is more likely to get adopted. For parrot species, it’s a question of when to begin the formal training. During the evolution of EPE, we have learned that this is not a concept that begins when the young parrot is sitting in a store or for many, when they arrive at their new home with a family. Preparations for the young parrot’s life as a companion bird  begins in a small window of opportunity -during the fledgling’s  fastest growth and mental developmental stages. Rather like in the wild-parrots species prepare their nestlings to survive and flourish in the habitat they will live in…in the wild so to speak. These lessons are taught at  a young age, and often before the parrot leaves the nest. Now, let’s bring this back to the companion bird or the pet bird. We’ve posted discussions on this in tiny bits but let’s add structure to our philosophy. First, the moment to start teaching or preparing our HARI fledglings begin about when the fledgling starts to pinfeather. This marks the beginning of their life journey as a companion pet.

The structure begins with our primary lessons chart. Yes, another chart, but this helps us to keep up with our fledglings’ progress and it helps avian caretakers, be it breeders, retailers, or companion bird owners stay on track. We’ll be adding more on EPE in upcoming posts so stayed tuned!

Conservation and Education

Raising awareness for the conservation, preservation, and education of both captive and wild parrot species – because their future is our concern.