Cockatiels at Home 3
By Eleanor McCaffrey,
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My new bird bites and won't come out of the cage. What should I do?
Should I feed my bird grit?
Give your new bird a few days to adjust to you and a new environment before
taking it out of the cage and trying to tame it. Make sure the cage is in a room with plenty of family activity. Do not poke your fingers into the cage bars and do
not put your hand in the cage and grab the bird. Sit down by the cage several times a day, for
5-10 minutes and talk/whistle very softly to your bird. When your bird approaches the
front of the cage and seems relaxed by your presence, start offering him/her treats through
the cage bars. Millet seed, unsalted popcorn, cold cereals like Cheerios etc. After a week or so, open the cage door
and coax your bird with treats to sit on the open door.
Then start teaching the Step Up Command which is on my 2nd page about biting.
Click Here .
Why does my bird scream, hate me and act so afraid of me?
You're bird doesn't hate you. There's is no such thing as a mean bird. Unfriendly birds are responding to a
situation. Once you figure out exactly
what the situation is, you can help them learn that they can trust you.
Read this page to find out all of the different things that can threaten or frighten a cockatiel,
causing it to behave aggressively towards you.
How can I tame my cockatiel?
Your bird needs to
have its wings clipped. This will make it more dependant on you. It will also
prevent your bird from flying away and you won't have to chase
after it or catch it with a towel to put it back inside of the cage. By chasing after
a bird you can be perceived as a predator. Spend as much
time as you can sitting next to your bird's cage, talking to it and offering
treats through the cage bars. Your
slowly learn that you can be trusted. Do not put your hand inside of the cage
and grab your bird. You want your bird to come to you willingly, not by force.
When you bird trusts you enough to sit in front of an open cage door, start
teaching it the Step Up command. Directions for teaching the step up
command can be found on another page Click
This method can be used to tame a new bird, re-tame a bird that has
become cage bound or tame one that bites. When your bird knows the Step Up
command, take it out of the cage, into a quiet room away from its cage and away from other people.
Talk to it very softly and in a quiet tone of voice. Do this several
times a day, for short periods of time, 10-20 minutes.
What words should I teach my bird and are some letters easier for them to pronounce?
I'm not sure. However, a
cockatiel will only mimic sounds that catch its attention. If it likes a sound, it will
learn to repeat it. If it doesn't like a sound, it will ignore it.
How can I teach my bird to talk and sing?
Not all cockatiels are capable of talking or singing but some of them are
extremely talented with excellent ability. Males are more capable of
learning how to repeat sounds and words than females, although a small percentage
of females can talk and sing too. Vocalization in males is a
courtship behavior that is influenced by the male hormones adrogen and
testosterone. When birds age, the production of androgen and testosterone
drops, which in turns makes males less vocal with age. So how do you teach your
bird to mimic sounds?
There are a few different methods to do this, but each one requires repetition, repetition
and more repetition. Repeat the sound for for 10 minute sessions, and
have several sessions throughout the day. One method suggests that you remove all food and toys from the
cage during a lesson. Another method suggests that you cover the bird's cage
during the lesson. A third method suggests that you just conduct the lessons
while your bird is in the cage or out of the cage where it can see you and your
mouth moving. (The method that I had success with). Mama came right up to my
lips and listened intently to the sounds that she liked. When she was in her
cage, she started eating as soon as a sound caught her attention. Each bird is
different, so follow your bird's cue . You may purchase tapes made specifically
for teaching cockatiels to talk and whistle if you prefer.
What tricks can I teach my bird?
The easiest and most simple tricks to teach your bird are those that imitate his natural behavior.
Watch your bird's body language closely and choose a command word for him to associate
with the action. When you bird bows its head, say something like "Up Down, Up Down".
When your bird displays its wings, say something like "Pretty Wings" When you bird
starts climbing the bars of the cage, swinging on a swing, banging on toys,
tapping on a food/water dish, starts to eat or does anything on a regular basis
that you think is cute, just use a command word, saying it several times
when your bird does it. Eventually your bird should do this for you on command.
There are also books available on how to teach your bird tricks.
Do NOT feed your bird grit or gravel. Certain species of wild birds eat the
entire seed, including the hull. They need grit to help digest the hull.
Cockatiels and other pet birds discard the hull and only eat the seed inside.
They do NOT need grit. There have been confirmed reports of lead poisoning as
well as serious digestive problems caused by grit. Veterinarians report that it
is one of the most widely abused substances in birds. Only use grit if your
avian vet prescribes it for a digestive problem. Use the correct size for
cockatiels to avoid causing internal injuries.
My bird won't eat vegetables, what should I do?
A factor that influences a bird's acceptance of a new food is the size of the pieces.
I have had the most success when food was chopped into pieces as small as a seed.
To make fresh vegetables and fruits into very tiny pieces, put them in a mini
food processor. Slice large leafy greens into thin strips cut into quarters. Let
your bird see you
cutting up the vegetables, eat some yourself and serve them to your bird
outside of the cage in front of a mirror. You can also try pureeing or lightly
steaming vegetables, mixing them in with brown rice or well cooked scrambled
eggs. All sorts of vegetables can be added to baked bird bread. A variety of
recipes are in our recipe section. Click for
What types of vegetables and other
foods can I give my cockatiel?
There is a list of fruits, vegetables and other foods with the nutrients each one
contains on my page called Healthy Table Foods.
Click Here .
There is a link at the bottom of the page to a printable list of table foods as
Is chocolate really bad for cockatiels and why?
Yes, chocolate is toxic for cockatiels and all parrots, including budgies. It contains a chemical
called theobromine which birds cannot digest well. Chocolate can kill your bird so don't
How do I get my bird to eat pellets?
To read about the different methods of converting your bird to a pellet based diet.
Does my bird really need to be eating pellets?
Yes. An all seed diet can cause liver disease, kidney disease, diabetes, high
cholesterol level, obesity, tumors, seizures,
low blood calcium which can cause egg binding, nutritional deficiencies
that can cause diseases, as well as the sudden death of a bird as young as 2 years old.
Most board certified avian veterinarians in the USA will recommend that you put your bird on a
pellet based diet, supplemented by fresh vegetables, fruits, other table foods
and a small amount of seeds. I receive at least one sad email each week from somebody whose
very young bird died as a direct result of an all seed diet.
My new bird is on a seed diet, when should I convert it to
Changing diets is stressful for all birds. Before changing diets, a check-up
with an avian vet is strongly recommended. New birds have to adjust to new surroundings and new people. This is also
a stressful time for your bird and stress can impair the immune system. Wait a few
months until your new bird has adjusted to you and a new home. Adding more stress during the adjustment
period should be avoided.
Should I put a mirror in my cockatiel's cage?
It's not advisable unless your bird already has a mirror in the cage and he/she
does not bite. Mirrors often frustrate cockatiels because the reflection
can not respond to their actions or mating rituals the way they would like it to.
Birds can become very possessive of
their reflection in shiny objects like mirrors, bells, spoons, kettles. They
think the reflection is a real mate and companion. As a result, mirrors
and other shiny objects can cause hormonal behavior: aggressiveness and
self-stimulation in males, and egg laying in females.
How do I give my bird a bath and do I really have to?
In order to maintain healthy skin and good feather quality, birds
should be encouraged to
bathe. Frequent bathing helps prevent your bird from getting dry skin, helps
soften the keratin coating on new feathers so it sheds faster and helps to
keep your bird's feathers looking bright and clean. It also helps to cut down on
the feather dust you find around the cage. There are a few different ways to
bathe a cockatiel. Baths should always take place in the morning so your
bird has plenty of time to dry off before going to sleep at night.
- You can offer
birds a sturdy, shallow bowl, saucer or pie plate with an inch of cool water to take a bath in.
Pet shops also sell little bird bath dishes for them as well. Some have a mirror
on the bottom and this can encourage a new bird to explore the water. Put the
bath on the cage floor or on the kitchen counter so the inside of the cage doesn't get wet.
(Wet cages must be dried and wet papers changed immediately).
method of bathing is to put your bird inside of a CLEAN sink that has been
disinfected. Clean and rinse the sink at night so there are no
fumes in the room in the morning. Bleach and other cleansers contain toxic fumes.
Fill the sink with an inch of water and place your bird in the water.
- Some birds like
to perch on your
hand, next to a running faucet of cool to tepid water.
- The easiest method of
bathing is to give your bird a light misting of water outside of the
cage. Buy a new
water misting bottle at a pet shop or use a new misting bottle for plants. Do not
spray water into your bird's face. Spray
the up into the air so it falls down on your bird like rain.
Empty the bottle and allow to dry completely
after each use.
- Other birds like to take showers with their humans. Special
perches are sold for this purpose. Introduce your bird to showers gradually
because the noise can be overwhelming for cockatiels. If your bird does enjoys showering with you, don't
let your him/her come in contact with soap, hot water or forceful water emitted
from the showerhead. Use a fine mist setting with low water pressure and allow
water to splash onto your bird.
For birds that are reluctant to bath, Dr. Margaret Wissman suggests offering
water during a thunderstorm. The sound of rain and thunder may stimulate a
bird's desire to get wet. Running the faucet or vacuum cleaner are other
background sounds that may help encourage bathing. Another idea is to mist
water onto your face, hair, arms and hands to show your bird how
non-threatening, fun and enjoyable water is. Many birds are afraid of water and won't take any type of
bath. Introduce different types of bathing to them slowly and
gradually until you find one that they enjoy. My avian vet suggests giving reluctant
birds a few very light, overhead spritzes with water from a misting bottle, a few times a week,
while the bird is still inside of the cage. This is preferable
to no bathing at all. Watch your bird's body language. You may catch him
trying to bathe in the water dish. Take advantage of this opportunity and place
a shallow plate of bathing water on the bottom of the cage. After your bird bathes let the feathers dry naturally.
My avian vet discourages the use of a blow dryer. It defeats the purpose of
bathing and dries out a bird's skin.
How often should I give my bird a bath?
Ideally birds should have at least 2 baths a week. They should be allowed to bathe as often as they want to, as long as their
feathers do not get soaking wet daily. Some birds love water and will enjoy a daily bath or a
daily misting with water. My avian vet recommends putting birds that are
reluctant to bath in an extra cage
or a small travel cage for water misting. If this isn't possible, a
few light spritzes of water right over the top of the cage, a few times a week.
Hopefully your bird will learn to enjoy the water you can eventually mist him outside of
the cage. Watch your bird's body language. You may catch him
trying to bathe in the water dish. Take advantage of this opportunity and place
a shallow plate of bathing water on the bottom of the cage.
Do cockatiels get mites, lice and fleas and what should I do?
Cockatiels rarely get mites or lice unless they live or come from in an outdoor
aviary or they were exposed to outdoor birds.
Cockatiels that are breed and kept indoors very rarely get them. The use of mite
protectors inside of your bird's cage should be avoided. Mite protectors and
pest strips give off fumes that can actually hurt your
bird and make him sick. Do not spray or use any product on your bird unless an avian vet
prescribes it. The possibility of your bird getting fleas is extremely remote. Fleas
will find better hosts to feed off of, dogs, cats, other small furry animals and humans.
If you think your bird is being bothered by insects, please take it to an avian vet.
Do you have more questions?
CLICK HERE or Use the Back Button To Return to Question Index.
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