How To Transfer Babies From Bins to Cages© Howard Voren. Click here to use this content.
Q: Many of the babies that we raise seem to go through a great deal of stress when we transfer them from their plastic baby bins to cages. Some will handle it well. Others will cower in fear for days. Sometimes they will lunge and try to bite us when we try to band feed them. Is there anything that we can do to make the move less traumatic for them?
A: Such a drastic environmental change is bound to be traumatic for many babies. They are used to the security of having four walls around them. The brooding bin is their nest, and the four sides are the walls that define “their” space. If they were in a real nest, they would take in doses of the outside world a little at a time. The moment that they felt the least bit insecure, they would drop back down into the nest.
The reason that you are having a problem is that many of your babies are not psychologically ready to cope with the permanent removal of this security. You are, in fact, “kicking them out of the nest” before they are ready. I have known aviculturists who do not move the babies from their brooding bins into cages until they begin flying around the room. Although this is certainly a way of knowing that they are ready to make the transition, it is not a method that I recommend.
Several years ago, we found a method of alleviating this problem. We made our cages and doors large enough to allow us to slide Rubbermaid, or similar style, dish pans into the cages.
When babies are ready to go into the cages, they are put into the dish pans where they can remain on bedding and have the security of the pans’ four sides. They can then venture out of the pans when they wish. Within a short time, they use the pans only to sleep in. When they stop using the pans for sleeping, we removed them. This has eliminated most of the stress associated with the transfer of babies from brooding bins to weaning cages.
Another advantage with this method is that it allows you to move birds into cages at a much younger age than would otherwise be possible. In this way, birds that you have decided should be housed and weaned together can all be placed into the same cage at the same time, even though some are only in pin feathers. This eliminates the territorial problems that are often incurred when you try to introduce new babies to the cage several weeks down the line. In the case of small birds, such as conures, we use plastic shoe boxes. In the case of large macaws, you will need large storage bins.