Purchasing a baby cockatoo from Hornbeam Aviary

A lot of time, hard work and care go into the baby Cockatoos raised at Hornbeam Aviary, and it’s important to us that each one finds a permanent home with a loving family.  We reserve the right to refuse to sell a bird if we feel that the prospective buyer hasn’t done enough research to fully understand what he or she is getting into.  We also require proof that you have a cage that meets our size requirements. This is a small aviary and we produce only as many baby cockatoos as we feel we can find good homes for. It may be necessary to put your name on our waiting list if the bird you’re looking for isn’t immediately available.  Once we have your name, address and phone number we ask that you phone (leave a message), email, write, or somehow get in touch with us once a month to let us know that you are still interested.  When a chick hatches, this keeps us from having to contact dozens of people who may no longer be interested in purchasing a bird and also reassures us that this baby is high on your priority list. Most babies are left with their parents for 3 to 6 weeks. When we bring it inside to begin hand feeding, we will contact you.  A deposit is due at that time which will hold the baby until it is ready to go home. We encourage you to visit your baby while it is growing up and we welcome questions at any time. Our baby cockatoos come with lifetime technical support! We make a point of keeping in touch with new owners for a while to be sure everything is going smoothly, but if you have questions at any time, please call and we will do our best to help. And, of course, we love getting progress reports months or years down the road!

  Insuring that your baby is healthy

 A couple of weeks before you plan to take your baby cockatoo home, we will have it checked by our veterinarian.  We are extremely fortunate to have Dr. Jamie Lindstrom, one of the most experienced avian vets in the country, just 45 minutes away.  He conducts a careful and thorough external physical exam and weight recording to be sure that everything appears normal. Then he does Gram’s stains, which are swabs of the choana (back of the throat) and feces, smeared on slides and stained with special dyes. These are examined under a microscope to evaluate the microbial status of the digestive tract. Then a blood sample is taken for a CBC, or complete blood count to identify cells that are involved in the inflammatory and disease-fighting processes and to determine if the bird is anemic. The immune system of baby parrots is somewhat undeveloped and the stress of going to a new home can acerbate an otherwise minor problem. Most of our babies check out fine, but in the event that a white cell count or the number of gram-negative bacteria is a bit high, we want to fix the problem before it goes home!  We recommend that you have your vet repeat the CBC and Gram’s stains each year as part of its well-bird exam. Unless we have a pretty good idea of the baby’s gender, we will have it DNA sexed to give you a better idea of what behaviors to expect as the bird reaches maturity.

 Shipping

 We would much prefer not to ship our baby cockatoos, but it gives us access to so many more blue ribbon bird owners. We have years of experience shipping our babies around the country and have devised some ways of making it a less stressful experience for the youngster. Birds are primarily visual creatures and there are probably few things more frightening than being crammed into a deafening, bumpy cargo hold with barking dogs, yelling cats and slithering reptiles. I learned years ago that high white cell counts (an indicator of stress in young cockatoos) were much lower in babies that were transported to the veterinary clinic for their routine checkups in dark, covered carriers. When we began covering shipping containers in unbleached muslin fabric, we found that our baby cockatoos were arriving at their destinations far less stressed and frightened for not having been exposed to the visual trauma of airline travel.  Apparently, to a bird, noise doesn’t matter if you can’t see what’s making it!  Another plus is that the cloth cover reduces the likelihood of disease transmission from other birds. Our babies are shipped “counter to counter”, which (usually) means that they are hand-carried to and from the plane at the same time baggage is being loaded and unloaded, rather than being handled more slowly as freight.

When you bring him home

We advise new owners to house baby where it will be able to watch family members and household activities, but ALWAYS place the cage against a wall or in a corner to help provide a sense of security. A night-light is also a good idea for a few days until it becomes accustomed to its surroundings. Resist the urge to hold and play with the baby very much for at least the first 12 hours. The young bird should remain in its cage so that it can become accustomed to its new home and family members without feeling overwhelmed. This is important!  Remember that the baby has no idea why he has been abandoned by his ‘flock’ members and will be understandably upset. Take turns sitting beside the cage talking quietly to him.  He’ll find you less intimidating if you’re not towering over him.  If there are children in the family, have them read storybooks to him.  He’ll find the sound soothing. Offer warm kernels of sweet corn with your fingers through the cage bars. It’s OK to gently scratch his head and face through the bars if he solicits the attention. A shy or nervous bird will come around much faster if you limit direct eye contact. Staring is something predators do . . . . .it’s never polite, and for all he knows you’re planning to have him for dinner!

 Weaning (Important!)

 

Beware of breeders and pet shops that boast how quickly they can get their baby parrots weaned! Prior to sending him home, your cockatoo will have been eating very well on his own. The stress and worry of being suddenly sent off to live in a new home with new people will likely cause him to revert to old baby behavior. He may ‘forget’ how to eat by himself and will sway back and forth crying hoarsely, begging for food and attention. At this age hand-feeding has less to do with nutrition than with letting the baby know you are there for him. Begin by offering parrot pellets soaked in hot fruit juice, warm cooked oatmeal or mashed baked sweet potato with a spoon twice a day for the first few days – until he settles in and is eating well. Babies love WARM, moist foods and these can also be offered from your fingers. Warm canned or defrosted corn and peas are favorites as are cooked pasta, rice, and dried beans (navy, pinto, black eyed peas, etc.,); chunks of baked or micro waved carrots, squash or sweet potatoes in their skins. Commercial avian products like Crazy Corn are also good. Replace the dish of soft food often. Keep a dish of avian pellets and crunchy unsweetened dry cereal (Cheerios, Wheat, Corn & Rice Chex) in the cage too. Other good foods that don’t spoil quickly are whole wheat peanut butter sandwiches (cut into small squares); raisins; grated hard cheese (like colby or cheddar); cracked whole almonds or walnuts in the shell; fresh shredded broccoli, kale, mustard greens, collard greens, turnip greens and spinach. If you pack greens tightly into a plastic carousel-type treat holder, a baby cockatoo will spend hours happily shredding and nibbling them. It’s probably best to go lightly on fruit. It’s mostly sugar and water and doesn’t pack near the nutritional wallop of fresh vegetables.  Dried fruit and nut mixes are the equivalent of bird candy and shouldn’t be fed on a daily basis.

Don’t ever let a baby go hungry in an effort to force it to eat by itself. A youngster that has just been hand-fed is much more likely to nibble at a bowl of soft food than one that is too hungry to think about anything but getting its parents’ attention. Weaning should be a natural, gradual process. For many months after leaving the nest, a young parrot in the wild relies on its parents to help it find food.  I have a baby Moluccan who was still being fed by his parents at 11 months old.  Phoebe Linden, a well known parrot behavior expert, feels that it is quite likely that a baby bird solicits food from its parents long after it has learned to eat by itself as a way of forcing the parent birds to remain with it until it has learned the skills needed to survive on its own. So when you refuse to hand-feed a baby bird, you are telling it that you are also done with teaching and protecting it.  How traumatic that must be for a youngster who knows instinctively that it isn’t yet ready to fend for itself!  A healthy, happy baby that isn’t rushed into growing up too soon is much more likely to become a well-adjusted adult.

It may sound silly, but it’s a good idea to feed your bird from a perch or cage where it can see you eating. Parrots in the wild do everything together as a family group, and foraging for food is the most important. If at mealtimes you offer your Cockatoo a small dish of whatever you are eating, it will feel like a member of the flock and will quickly learn to enjoy a wide variety of foods.

 Now, if you STILL want a cockatoo. . . . .
 
Please read the “published articles by Katy” on this site.  If you are interested in a Moluccan or an Umbrella baby visit www.mytoos.com for some eye opening realities. If you are still interested in a cockatoo, please contact us so that we can help you determine if your expectations of cockatoo ownership are likely to result in a long, happy relationship for you and your bird. All email will be answered but we get lots of inquiries about cockatoo care and behavior, so please be patient.  We highly recommend the following sources of information: 

  Companion Parrot Quarterly, (formerly The Pet Bird Report). “The Thinking Parrot Owner’s Information Source” is a magazine devoted to keeping pet birds emotionally and physically healthy and is an excellent source of information on understanding and guiding your Cockatoo’s behavior. The address is The Pet Bird Information Council, 2236 Mariner Square Drive #35, Almeda, CA 94501. Phone (510) 523-5303, Fax (510) 521-6475. A one-year subscription is $24.

The Companion Parrot Handbook by Sally Blanchard contains all of the tools needed to deal with your parrots in such a way that they live the fullest lives possible and you derive the greatest enjoyment from them.  244 pages, 300 illustrations, $39.95+$5 S&H. Order from Companion Parrot Quarterly/Companion Parrot Handbook/R, 2236 Mariner Square Dr. #35, Alameda, CA 94501.

My Parrot, My Friend: An Owner’s Guide to Parrot Behavior, by Bonnie Munro Doane. Hard cover, 256 pages, 100 photos and illustrations, $25.00 plus shipping.

   Guide To A Well-Behaved Parrot (second edition) by Mattie Sue Athan, published by Barron’s Educational Series, Inc., 250 Wireless Boulevard, Hauppauge, New York 11788. This is an inexpensive paperback that is widely available from pet stores and supply outlets. 

 

 

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