Sale of unweaned altricial birds


Ratification Date: 25 Jul 2013


Unweaned altricial birds should not be sold.


An altricial bird is one that is hatched with eyes closed with little or no down, is nest bound and fed by its parents. A bird is considered weaned when it can eat sufficient food without human or animal assistance and sustain its own bodyweight for at least two (2) weeks. Selling an unweaned altricial bird to people without the necessary experience to handrear a bird in accordance with accepted avicultural and veterinary practices is unethical.

The handrearing of young altricial birds, especially psittacine birds, is common practice by aviculturists. This is done with the intent to produce tamer and friendlier individuals that bond readily to people. Some vendors sell an unweaned altricial bird to an inexperienced owner with the assumption that the bird will bond more readily with the new owner if they have participated in the handrearing process. In reality, trust can be developed with a weaned bird as easily as an unweaned bird, assuming that the bird has been either handreared or handled in the nest (Aengus & Millam, 1999). The sale of unweaned altricial birds to inexperienced people is fraught with potential complications and compromises animal welfare.

In the short term, the major welfare implications are physical. Inappropriate hygiene, hand formula choice and preparation, food temperature and feeding implements can lead to malnutrition and dehydration, aspiration pneumonia, crop burns, oesophageal and crop trauma (including bruising, abrasions and punctures), bacterial and fungal infections, crop stasis and delayed crop emptying. Inappropriate nutrition and housing can also lead to musculoskeletal deformities (Doneley, 2011).

In the medium to long term, inappropriate weaning can result in behavioural abnormalities that impact on a bird’s behavioural resilience and psychological well-being (Fox, 2006). Behavioural abnormalities can lead to a bird being abandoned or re-homed later in life. In fact, in an American study examining psittacine rehoming, the top five reasons were insufficient time for the bird, biting or aggression, noisiness and incompatibility with other family members (Meehan, CL, 2003-2004).

Many states have existing guidelines that preclude the sale of unweaned birds however the practice continues to be common.


Aengus, WL & Millam, JR (1999). Taming Parent-reared Orange-winged Amazon Parrots by Neonatal Handling. Zoo Biology, 18:177-187.

DAFF (National Consultative Committee on Animal Welfare): Guidelines for the welfare of pet birds


Doneley, R (2011). Avian Medicine and Surgery in Practice: companion and aviary birds. London: Manson Publishing.

Fox, R (2006). Hand rearing. behavioural impacts and implications for captive parrot welfare. In Luescher. AU, Manual of Parrot Behaviour (pp. 83-92). Iowa: Blackwell Publishing.

Meehan, CL (2003-2004). The Gabriel Foundation National Parrot Relinquishment Research Project Report. Retrieved April 16, 2012, from The Gabriel Foundation: http://www.thegabrielfoundation.org/documents/NPRRPReport.pdf

Northern Territory: Guidelines for the Care and Welfare of Caged Birds


NSW: Animal Welfare Code of Practice: Animals in Pet Shops


15.1.5 Hand-reared birds must be fully feathered and self-sufficient before sale.

NSW Animal Welfare Code of Practice # 4: Keeping and Trading of Birds:


Queensland: Queensland Code of Practice for Pet Shops:


15.27. Hand-reared birds should be fully weaned and self-sufficient before sale.

Code of Practice: Aviculture: http://www.derm.qld.gov.au/register/p00055aa.pdf

Victoria: Wildlife Regulations 2002: Hand-Rearing Birds: http://www.vic.gov.au

Date of ratification: 25 July 2013