Beware of Unethical Breeding Practices

During this past year we have received an alarming number of emails from parrot owners who purchased their babies from seemingly reputable breeders only to find out later that their precious babies had pre-existing health conditions. When they tried to contact the breeder later they were either completely ignored or they could not provide the owner with information regarding the health and condition of the breeding parents – because they did not know.

After a bit of research, we’ve discovered a couple of practices that we believe are extremely harmful – not only to the unfortunate people who purchase these babies, but for the treatment of the breeding parrots in general.

Selling Third-Party Weaned Babies
One such practice that two of our Parrot Haven clients had experienced was the selling of third-party weaned babies. Third party basically entails someone outside of the breeder whom you are purchasing from is the one who has hatched and in some cases raised the parrot baby. What this means is that the “breeder” that you are buying from has not raised your baby. In the case of one of our clients, the breeder they originally bought from did not even know how to contact the individual who originally sold them the Eclectus baby!

The dangers of this practice are fairly obvious. The most detrimental aspect being that it encourages an anonymous breeding industry where the quality of life for the poor breeding birds and their babies is often neglected.

Aviculture is a serious profession. You are dealing with very fragile lives and the life of any parrot cannot be treated with a ‘trial-and-error’ attitude.

While Kirsten has always had a passion for Parrots – she did not even approach breeding until she had done extensive research both with Parrots and with the species she wanted to specialise in – Eclectus. This research took her years, during which time she consulted with other experienced breeders like Rob Pollard who is well respected in the field.

Breeding requires a lot of work and total commitment for the people involved. Eclectus Parrots are very difficult parrots to hand-raise due to their finicky eating bahaviour. Because of this, a breeder who wants to earn a solid reputation needs more than just passion. They need to be committed to their passion. This is where the anonymity of third-party breeders creates problems.

Answers to questions like these are difficult to impossible to ascertain:

  • How passionate are they about breeding?
  • How long have they been breeding?
  • What is their breeding setup like? (i.e. how are their breeding parrots housed, cared for etc.)
  • What diets are the breeding parents fed?
  • What formula are the babies fed? (With a lot of ‘backyard breeders’ babies are fed baby food designed for human babies not parrot babies. Each parrot species will have their own dietary requirements so it’s important to feed the right parrot babies the correct formula.)
  • Have the breeding parents ever suffered health problems?
  • Was the baby parent raised or were they hand-raised from the egg?

Answers to these questions help the potential parrot owner decide if they even want to purchase from the breeder and if your breeder is selling a third-party baby then they may not even know the answers to these questions.

It is important to ask any breeder the question up front: “Do you raise your own parrot babies or do you sell parrot babies from other breeders?” If they do sell parrot babies other breeders, then the choice is up to you whether to follow up with additional questions regarding the health of the parrot parents and the baby.

No Follow-up Service
Another problem we’ve helped people with, is the terrible lack of follow-up service offered by some breeders. One of our clients purchased their first Eclectus from a breeder with seemingly high reputation here in Australia, only to find that they would not offer any follow-up service after “the sale” was made. In the case of our client, they incurred a vet bill of over $1000 only months after they brought their new baby home due to a pre-existing condition.

Unfortunately – unless people know to ask – they often find out too late that some breeders really have no interest in their own parrot babies once they are sold.

This is a terrible practice because ultimately the parrot babies end up losing. Breeders who are not committed to their own parrot babies are probably not interested in finding appropriate homes for their babies and will typically sell to the first person who calls. This is extremely sad as Kirsten has turned more people down than she has ever sold to. After 11 years of breeding, that is a lot of people!

If you are looking for a good breeder, be careful of any wording that may alert you to a low level of commitment from them. Often if they advertise that “all sales are final” or that “the parrot is your responsibility once you have them in your possession”, then chances are you should be very cautious.

A reputable breeder does not need to worry about what happens when their parrot baby is sent to their new home if they have done their work and found the perfect home in the first place. If they keep their breeding parrots in good health, there is no reason not to offer follow-up service. If they have raised their parrot baby on a balanced, top-quality formula, then again they should have no worries about providing follow-up service.

Over the years, Kirsten has provided so many people with help at no cost because she cares about the welfare of pet parrots. Often, when she has asked people if they have contacted their breeder, the response is usually “I tried”.

We work extremely hard to encourage positive change in the way that parrots are kept as pets and how they are bred. The best thing you can do as a hopeful parrot owner is be aware of the dangers. Look for the warning signs of an unethical breeder. Most importantly, interview the breeder you are interested in purchasing from. If they are worth their weight in gold – then they will respect that you care about the health of your future parrot baby and how they are raised.

Hopefully, when enough people can do this then perhaps these breeders may change their ways and in the end, the parrots will win.