HAMILTON & DISTRICT BUDGERIGAR SOCIETY INC.


THE COCKATIEL

TAMING AND CARE
More info on taming can be found here.
Cockatiels are truly delightful pets to have and are intensely devoted to their owners. The charming whistle, amusing antics and gentle, sensitive nature of these birds make them the ideal choice for those who live in apartments or where space and privacy is a factor in selecting a pet. Cockatiels are among the cleanest of all cagebirds and are inexpensive to keep. They live 20 years or longer with proper care and are very hardy birds. They are naturally intelligent but do not demand constant attention, as they are very adept at amusing themselves. These birds can easily be taught to say simple phrases, whistle tunes and do many amusing tricks. Females will learn to talk, but are generally quieter than males. Cockatiels are natural clowns and love to show-off if given a chance. They will occasionally sit on the perch and spread their wings and sing lustily to announce how beautiful they are. Another favorite trick is to hang off the perch upside down with wings spread wide.

I have had two of these lovely pets in my home for eight years and they are a source of never-ending joy and pleasure to me. I was forced to hand feed them as babies and they loved me so devotedly, I could not part with them and so they have remained in my home. As I perform household tasks, Tinker and Sweetpea are usually following me about the house walking along together with a waddling, rolling gait and busily talking to each other. When they tire of this little game, they hitch a ride on my shoulder and there they will remain indefinitely if I do not return them to their cage. Cockatiels are characteristically happy, cheerful birds and are never moody or demanding as pet parrots are at times. However, they do have different personalities. Sweetpea is such a dear little fellow and likes for me to hold him close to my face, whereupon he showers me with kisses. Tinker enjoys having his head scratched but will not allow me to hold him. He perches readily on my forefinger and likes to sit on my shoulder but occasionally he pinches me if he thinks I need a reprimand. These two birds are very devoted to each other and get along famously.

Although cockatiels can be tamed to a degree at any age, you can get hand tamed babies from breeders, for they like to be cuddled and handled. For a truly loveable and devoted pet, it is advisable for a person to visit a reliable bird farm or breeder and select a hand-fed youngster that is eating well on his own. Many of the birds offered by pet shops are older and, as with any species, the older the bird, the harder the job of taming. If an untamed bird is acquired, the taming process is made much easier by clipping off a small portion of the wing feathers so the bird cannot fly to far and fast. Then the cockatiel can easily be taught to ride on one's shoulder and by the time the wing feathers grow out will, no doubt, be very gentle. Patience, together with calm unhurried movements and soothing conversation works wonders in taming a cockatiel and in a very short time he will be a loving, devoted pet. Once the bird is acquired, there is the matter of selecting a suitable cage for it. Some of the elaborate, ornamental cages offered in the shops are nothing more than torture chambers for cockatiels. Forget the beauty and do buy a large, comfortable cage in which the cockatiel will be contented and happy. The ideal cage for a pet cockatiel should be a simple, oblong structure, preferably of chrome, at least 15 inches wide by 2 feet long by 20 inches high. Secure perches at either end in a position that will not bend the lovely, long tail feathers. One very important feature of the cage is that it must have horizontal bars or wires across the front and back, for cockatiels and all hook-billed birds like to climb, using their beak and toes to grasp the wires. Parrot cages or any other type cages with vertical wires are not at all safe because it is entirely possible that a young cockatiel, while trying desperately to climb these vertical wires, will get his head through the wires and not be able to pull himself up on the wires enough to get his head out again and will hang himself. Accidents of this sort can happen if the owner does not provide a safe, practical cage for his pet.

If one is at all handy with tools, a very attractive and serviceable cage can be built very easily using welded wire -- one by two inch mesh -- and one by two inch wood strips for the frame. Plywood may be used for the floor of the cage. This size wire is just right for climbing. If a fairly large drop door is built on the front of the cage, the pet cockatiel will spend much of his time sitting on it while out of the cage. When painting the cage, care must be taken to use only a water base paint (no lead) which is labelled as being safe for children's furniture or toys. A pet cockatiel will be very comfortable in this type of cage and, in addition, probably a bit of money can be saved, as most large cages in the shops are very expensive. Clean, washed sand or gravel or wood chips is most practical and safe to use on the floor of the cage. Feed cups and drinkers should be placed on the sides of the cage next to the perches, thus leaving the floor space free and uncluttered so the pet can walk about. The pet cockatiel needs toys in his cage to amuse him so that he will not get bored and lonely. He will enjoy playing with a small bell, a swing, and most definitely a mirror. He will spend much time admiring and talking to himself. If you get a bell, make sure it does not have thin gaps in it for the bird to get its toes caught in. If you use a mirror, sometimes your pet will become attracted to its image and either bond with it and pay less attention to you or constantly squawk at it thinking it is an intruder. I do not recommend bells or mirrors for these reasons. I would only use ladders and/or hanging perches for them to play on and entertain themselves.

Locate the cage for the pet bird where there is no danger of sudden draft or direct sunlight. It should be located on a table or stand in a quiet corner of the room completely away from windows and doors which open to the outside, yet be in an area where the pet can see his owner moving about the house and not feel isolated. The Cockatiel should be allowed out of the cage for a period each day to exercise, however, most birds are so devoted to their owner and will spend much of this free time riding on his shoulder or following him about the house. Here, I must offer a word of caution to the novice. Do not open outside doors while your pet is at liberty in the house. Some years ago, I lost one of my most precious, intelligent pets in just this way. Topsy was especially fond of my husband and stayed with him constantly when he was in the house. One day my husband stepped outside and, unknowingly, Topsy had flown to him and landed on his hat just as he stepped through the door. Before he could get back inside, Topsy panicked at the sight of the unfamiliar world and flew away. We never saw her again, although we offered a large reward and searched for days to no avail. A heartbreaking experience of this kind will surely happen with a pet cockatiel if precautions are not taken, because they are nervous and will panic easily. If one escapes, it will not usually land in unfamiliar territory and I believe they continue to fly until they drop from exhaustion. Most pet cockatiels like a light cover over the top of their cage at night. It protects the bird from possible drafts and gives a feeling of security .

Basic daily diet for the pet cockatiel should consist of sunflower seed, a well-balanced bird mix and canary seed. In addition, a small piece of carrot, apple or clean and fresh lettuce or spinach can be given to supply needed vitamins and minerals. Roasting ear corn (fresh or frozen), raw shelled peanuts and whole wheat bread are relished by Cockatiels. My pets enjoy a small pan of greens grown just for them. A good quality mineral grit is essential because it serves as their "teeth". In addition, give a small amount of charcoal, and oyster shell and/ or cuttlebone and iodine (mineral) blocks which contain small traces of salt. This can all be mixed with the grit if desired. Cuttlebone and mineral blocks prevent overgrown beaks. A couple of drops of vitamins added to the drinking water every other day will do much toward maintaining good health. Never, never feed a pet cockatiel from the table. Their digestive systems cannot tolerate the foods we eat and the bird will become ill eventually. If the pet insists on eating with one at mealtime, (as they always seem to do) a piece of dry toast or a plain cracker will satisfy him and do no harm at all. The cage should be cleaned thoroughly once weekly with water to which a small amount of detergent and Lysol or Dettol have been added. It would be completely dry before the cockatiel is placed in it. All feeders and utensils should be washed thoroughly. The laundry tub, is a good place to clean bird cages.

Taken from the book "COCKATIELS... Care & Breeding" by Jo Hall.

E-Mail: berniehansen@sympatico.ca

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Hamilton & District Budgerigar Society Inc.