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?
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. Click Here
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 cockatiel will 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 Here  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.

Should I feed my bird grit?
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 More Tips.
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 well.
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 share.
How do I get my bird to eat pellets?
To read about the  different methods of converting your bird to a pellet based diet. Click Here
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 pellets?
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).

  • Another 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 them bathing 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.


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