CARING FOR YOUR COCKATIEL
Give your bird time to adjust when you first bring your Cockatiel home. If your Cockatiel is a handfed baby, this can be as short as a few hours. Unsocialized babies, however, will usually need two or three days to get used to their new surroundings. During the adjustment period, do not handle the bird, but do cleaning and feeding routines and talk softly with the bird.
Give your Cockatiel a healthy diet. Bird pellets should make up about 70% of your Cockatiel’s diet. Seed can make a good treat, but don’t feed it in excess as it’s too fatty. You should also feed your Cockatiel healthy vegetables and sometimes fruit; well-cooked beans and spaghetti are examples of tasty treats you can give your Cockatiel. When you choose fruits and vegetables to feed, organic ones are recommended. You should also thoroughly rinse off fruit and vegetables before feeding.
- Do not feed your Cockatiel chocolate, avocado, alcohol, onions, mushrooms, tomato leaves, caffeine, or uncooked beans, as these are toxic. Very sugary or fatty foods such as candy bars are also not healthy for Cockatiels.
- Remove any uneaten fresh food from the cage within four hours or else it could attract harmful bacteria (and will just make a mess.)
Make sure that your cockatiel always has clean water. You should change your bird’s water daily. You should also change it when you notice that food or droppings have gotten into it. You should give your bird water that you yourself would drink.
- When washing the water bowl, make sure to use hot water with a bit of soap. Doing this will make sure that fungus doesn’t begin to grow that could make your bird sick.
Handle your Cockatiel. If your Cockatiel is already tame (or you have already tamed and trained it–see Part Two,) you will need to spend at least an hour a day with it to keep it tame and friendly. Unless you purchase a bird “diaper,” you may want to interact with the bird on a chair covered with a towel, or in a room with an easy-to-clean floor.
Understand why your Cockatiel may bite. You might feel hurt or upset when your Cockatiel bites, but it’s important to realize that birds bite because they are reacting to a stressful situation, not because they are trying to be mean. A bird will bite to express that it is scared or upset, and you shouldn’t take bites personally. Think back to what you were doing when your Cockatiel bit you, and try to see things from it’s point of view. For example, a Cockatiel might bite if you were trying to grab it, or if you were too careless or rough while handling it. Additionally, many Cockatiels are protective of their cage, and may be aggressive if you try to put your hand in the cage.
- If your Cockatiel bites you outside of the cage, put it back into the cage and wait for it to calm down before taking it out of the cage again.
- If your Cockatiel is cage aggressive, train it to step up onto a stick or perch. That way, you can have it step up onto the perch when you want to remove it from its cage, instead of having to put your hand in the cage.
Teach your Cockatiel how to speak and whistle. While males are best at speaking and whistling, females can learn how to whistle and will occasionally learn a few words. It’s recommended that you begin teaching your Cockatiel how to speak before teaching it how to whistle, as it can be harder the other way around. To teach your Cockatiel to speak, talk frequently with it, and say words you want your Cockatiel to learn frequently – for example, say “Mommy!” every time you approach your Cockatiel. If you hear the beginnings of a word or phrase, immediately reward your Cockatiel with a treat and lots of attention.
- Teaching your Cockatiel how to whistle is much the same – frequently whistle in front of your Cockatiel, and reward it if it begins whistling.
Recognize signs of sickness in Cockatiels. Because Cockatiels will often hide their illness until it is very bad, you should keep a sharp eye out for signs of sickness. Very sick Cockatiels will sit with fluffed up feathers at the bottom of the cage. A Cockatiel that is bleeding is also obviously injured. Signs of a sick bird include:
- Crankiness or biting; napping more often than usual; a decrease in your bird’s weight or the amount of food he eats; refusal to eat or drink water; coughing, sneezing, or irregular breathing; lameness; lumps or swelling; inflamed or crusty eyes and nostrils; cloudy eyes; a soiled vent; or a drooping head, wings, or tail.
Take your bird to the vet regularly. You should take your Cockatiel to an avian veterinarian for an annual “well-bird” exam. Additionally, you should immediately contact your vet if your Cockatiel exhibits any of the signs listed above. Remember that while it may be expensive to go to the vet, birds will often become very sick in a short period of time, and it isn’t a good idea to “wait and see” with Cockatiels as they are rather delicate creatures.
Be aware that cockatiels can have night frights. Some cockatiels are afraid of the dark and have “night frights” where they essentially freak out in their cages. To prevent this, put a nightlight in the room your Cockatiel sleeps in, and don’t completely cover the cage at night.
- Once you know which perch your cockatiel prefers to sleep on, you should make sure that there are no toys hanging around that perch. If your bird was to have a night fright and get tangled up in a toy, he could be badly injured.