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Hector's story - the tragedy of being a handraised bird

I thought maybe you’d like to know more about my African grey Hector. Little Hector is – as you can see – a big strapping (almost 600g) “stud” of a bird. This was not always like that.

I bought him in 2001 in Manhattan not knowing what I know now. Hector was handraised from egg and shipped as a baby from California to the store in NYC. There he was handraised with a crop tube. I saw this procedure the first time after I had been visiting him daily for about two weeks. It is brutal!

They grab the bird, shove the tube down his throat and squirt a syringe full of formula down. It takes seconds and is a far sight removed from the image of “loving handraising” that the marketers of handraised parrots would have us believe. As a result of this traumatic procedure, and also of being on display in a store where anyone could walk in and grope him, Hector was afraid of humans and had learned to bite hard by the time he moved in with me after weaning.

The food he was given in the store contained a mixture of seeds, colorful pellets and peanuts in the shell. Anyone who is the least bit knowledgable knows not to feed peanuts in the shell to parrots as they are known to be highly contaminated with aspergillus spores. When I took Hector in for an exam a few weeks later in Germany, it turned out that at his very young age he already had a full blown case of aspergillosis.

Whilst in the store, at the first signs of fledging they also clipped him severely. This resulted in him falling like a stone whenever he lost balance and splitting his chest open one morning. So here I was with this scared, injured, ill and biting bird acquired very expensively in a specialized parrot store. I adore Hector – no doubt. But I would have been far better of adopting and investing that money into healthcare and an aviary (which I did anyways, doubling the purchase price).

Hector is the reason why I started to explore species appropriate keeping and raising. I feel that the sale of such animals in stores benefits only the breeders and store owners, but neither the parent animals, the birds being sold or the buyers. In short, I think this kind of procedure is cruelty to animals and the marketing fraudulent.

Another side-effect of handraising is that birds raised in that way often have a weak immune system (as I learned later). Hector consequently caught any “bug” that was passing by. I remember one time when I was on a trip for a week. When I came back, his body was covered in puss plaques which the bird sitter unfortunately had not noticed. He almost died then. But he survived with a lot of love and care.

He has grown from being a single bird to having a mate and now lives in a small flock of eight grey with me. Those of you who have been following my stories know, that he is an amazing caretaker. More than once he has nursed critically ill African greys back to health by force feeding them, supporting & comforting them. Maybe he remembers how awful it is to be ill.