Tuesday, November 20, 2012

And then Came Cat. The New Addition to Our Family.

When I got Loki I automatically figured there was no way I would ever be able to have a pet feline. The idea of having a cat and a bird conjured up ideas of Tweety Bird and Sylvester; these two just cannot co-exist, I thought. I’ve always loved animals and grew up with a kitty named Mariah, so this realization was a little rough, but I love my Loki so much and figured this was in her best interest. I didn’t want to cramp her style and confine her to a cage all day because a cat is in the house.

Fast forward four years. My boyfriend, Corey and I are driving home after a weekend at my parent’s lakehouse for Memorial Day. Corey slams on the breaks believing he sees a rat, but what he has actually spotted is a very small kitten. We pull over, and naturally, being the animal lover I am, I get out to see where it went. We are on Highway 27 and about two hours from home. The little kitten scampers into the dense brush behind a barb wire fence. I can’t spot it but I follow the meows. The sad cry for help gets closer and I bend down to finally catch a glimpse of a kitten in really poor shape. She is behind the barb wire and only one of her eyes is open. I cannot reach for her; she is too far back behind the fence. She looks terrible; not cute at all. She looks like she may have mange. I figure if I can get her to come out, I will take her to a shelter because I cannot keep her with Loki. So, I summon my best momma meows and within a few seconds I am greeted by the sweetest, most appreciate tortie kitten.

I look down at the small kitten sprawled across my lap. She is so tiny and doesn’t look good. Corey keeps telling me she may not make it, but I don’t entertain such negative thinking. I know she will survive, she must. I have saved her and she will live (yes, I’ve always been a positive thinker and yes, I think it has made my world a better place). Loki is in the car of course. In the backseat, in her travel cage and I wonder what I should do with this kitten. It is late Sunday afternoon and by the time we get home no shelters will be open. This girl needs help today. I have Corey drop me off at Banfield Hospital (PetSmart) and take Loki home for me.

Fleas, severe eye conjunctivitis (one eye is so bad it may not recover), a yeast infection in the ears, and a respiratory infection. That’s the long list of afflictions the vet tells me are plaguing this little animal. Choxie, as I have decided to call her is approximately four weeks old and should still be with her mother. The vet warns that she may not make it. I have to decide what to do. Do I pay for her treatment? Do I keep her? Will this be an issue for my first baby, my cockatiel Loki?

I pay the $375 it costs for the antibiotics she needs. Hands full with kitten formula, litter, meds, and small cardboard boxes that cat food usually comes in (these will be used as her makeshift litter box until she is big enough to use a regular sized box). It is pouring outside and I struggle with a squirming kitten. She is so small, I place her in my huge purse (see, those big, totally-in bags have a purpose) so I can jump in Corey’s car.

I take her out and look at her little face. Our new kitten, Choxie is going to need a lot of care: feedings every four hours and three different types of medicine, twice a day. I hope Loki is ready for this new addition to our home. I am still worried about bringing a cat to live with a cockatiel, but I could not abandon Choxie. She is part of the family now. And, so the adventures of Loki the cockatiel and Choxie the tortishell kitten begin.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Is getting another cockatiel right for you?

Wow! I have missed writing for my blog! Recently, a lot has changed in my life, namely that I graduated from college and got a nine to five. I have not had time to update my blog or respond to your comments and for this I am truly sorry, but now that I am in the groove of things I will be avidly writing and replying to comments.

Since starting my new career, I have not had much time for anything but work, and unfortunately, that includes Loki. I feel awful leaving her for eight hours while I am working. Of course, I dote on her when I come home, but I still feel extremely guilty leaving her for so long.

I started contemplating getting another cockatiel for Loki so she wouldn’t be lonely. But, adding another member to your flock is not a decision that should be taken lightly.

There are many reasons you may want to get another tiel. You may want to start breeding tiels or you may want another just because they are so damn cute! Or, if you are like me you may want to provide companionship to your lonely cockatiel while you are at work. Whatever your reasoning is for wanting another cockatiel, this is a big decision.

There are several factors you need to consider:

  • Bonding between the birds and you
  • Caging and feeding
  • Getting the same or opposite sex tiel
  • Quarantining

Your new cockatiel and current cockatiel may not bond; there is no guarantee that they will like each other. If this happens, then you will be left with two birds that each demand individual attention from you. On the other end of the spectrum, the birds may bond so well that you lose your close relationship with your first tiel. You need to ask yourself if you are OK with not being number one to your cockatiel.

The next consideration is the cage. Will you upgrade to a larger cage to accommodate both birds or keep two separate cages? Both options will cost money and the latter will also mean more cleaning. You will also need to consider the costs of maintaining another healthy tiel, including additional food and vet costs.

If you are getting another tiel because you want to breed, then you obviously need to get the opposite sex. However, if you do not want your tiels to breed, then I strongly recommend getting the same sex. Keep in mind; breeding can cause lots of complications, including egg binding. If you do not want them to breed or do not have the time to tend to breeding cockatiels then get the same sex as your current tiel.

The last and most important consideration when deciding to get another cockatiel is quarantining. Because birds hide their illnesses so well, you need to quarantine the new bird for a minimum of 30 days. I actually recommend keeping the birds separate for at least 60 days. The birds need to be kept in two different cages in different rooms. Respiratory infections are very contagious between birds, so all precautions should be taken to keep these two at a safe distance to protect your first baby.

I decided to ask my vet her opinion about getting another cockatiel to squelch Loki’s daytime boredom. Her response was, “Don’t get another bird, unless you are the one who wants it. Another bird means double everything.” I decided rather quickly that I do not want double everything! So, she gave me some awesome suggestions to keep Loki occupied while I am working, including rotating out her toys once a week to keep everything new and exciting and leaving a radio or TV on for her. I must say Loki really seems to enjoy listening to the music I leave on for her and she seems happier now.

Getting another cockatiel is not for me, but it may be for you. Ask yourself the questions above and take time to really consider if adding another cockatiel is right for you and your bird.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

"Polly Wants a Cracker": Teaching your cockatiel to talk.

Cockatiels are extremely intelligent little creatures and can be taught to talk.

It is important to start the training process for talking at an early age when cockatiels are more susceptible to learning new things.
However, with presistence older cockatiels can learn to talk.

I should have trained Loki earlier on how to talk, but I had never had a bird before Loki and I did not really know how to go about it. Plus, she was already a year old when I found her.

However, I have recently decided I want to teach her how to talk.

Some people will tell you that female cockatiels do not talk; only the males do.

But, there are many female cockatiels out there that can talk, it is just more difficult to train them.
Loki and I are out to prove that female cockatiels can talk!

No matter what sex your cockatiel is the training process can be somewhat difficult in the beginning, just remember to stay consistent.

It is also notable that women and children are better at training cockatiels to talk because of the pitch and tone of their voices.

  1. Create a schedule for teaching your pet cockatiel. Initially, do three 30 minute sessions a day for the first four days. Then, continue with four 10-minute sessions a day. Cockatiels, like many other animals, need repetition when learning.
  2. Take your cockatiel out of her cage for the training. Removing your cockatiel from her cage will eliminate distractions from toys, food, etc.
  3. Hold your cockatiel and make sure that she can clearly see your lips and hear your words.
  4. Repeat one simple word to your cockatiel. Words that have only one syllable are a good starting point. Repeat the word throughout the duration of the sessions, keeping the same pitch, tone, and volume.
  5. Give your cockatiel a treat every time she shows an interest in the words you say. Providing treats to your tiel is positive reinforcement and encourages her to listen.
  6. Repeat the words in a sing-song or high-pitched tone.
  7. Listen closely to your cockatiel because her first attempts at repeating a word may be garbled. Reward her for trying and continue to encourage her to talk through verbal phrase, treats, and affection.
  8. Keep your tiel away from other sounds during, and at least 30 minutes after each training session. Distractions such as, television, radio, and even other people talking can ruin the training process.

Ways to encourage your cockatiel to talk:

  • Purchase and play compact discs that use repetitive speech to catch your cockatiel's interest.
  • Speak to your cockatiel in a high-pitched voice.
  • Use repetitive speech. Exposing your cockatiel to the same words over and over will make her more likely say those words.
  • Greet your cockatiel by saying “Hello” when you enter the room, and speak your cockatiel's name.

Things to remember when teaching your cockatiel to talk:

  • Teach your tiel one word at a time; wait for her to master a word before you move on to teaching her another.
  • Be patient. It could take months before your cockatiel will begin to talk.
  • Stay consistent.
  • DO NOT punish your cockatiel if she is not interested in learning; this will only create more deference in your tiel.

It may be beneficial to teach your cockatiel to talk in front of a mirror, as many are more susceptible to learning this way.

I love watching cockatiel videos online, especially the ones where they talk. Below I have listed some of my favorite talking videos.

Female cockatiel talking

Rub a Dub Dub Two Times a Week in the Tub: The importance of regular baths for your cockatiel.

As with all things, every cockatiel is different in respect to bathing; some love to bathe and do it every single day, while others can not stand it.

For instance, all the cockatiels on youtube love to bathe, but of course my Loki cannot stand it.

Understanding the importance of regular bathing I have tried every way possible to encourage her to get clean: I have placed her near or in sinks with running water, I have taken her in the shower with me, I have even left a bowl with water in her cage.

Nothing works; Loki hates the water. I often have to hold her to get her into the water, while she tries her best to defy my grip and wiggle her way free.

I do not like having to put her in the water, but because it is so important for her to have regular baths I know it is necessary.

Cockatiels should be bathed a minimum of two times a week.

Regular bathing for cockatiels is important for many reasons:

  • It keeps your bird's feathers clean.
  • It prevents your bird from getting dry skin.
  • It cuts down on your bird's feather dust-if your cockatiel has too much feather dust she could breathe it in, which can make her sick. This dust can also create respiratory problems for you.
  • It helps soften the keratin sheath on new feathers allowing them to shed more quickly.

    A cockatiel bathing in the sink

There are a couple different methods for bathing your cockatiel:

  1. Provide your bird with a large, wide, and shallow dish filled with water. They can go in and bathe themselves at their leisure. Most pet stores sell bird bath dishes, but you can also use any dish that fits the requirements.
  2. Place your cockatiel under a faucet in the sink. Make sure to use cold water.
  3. Have your cockatiel bathe with you in the shower. Do not use soap, hot water, or let the water come out full force (it is best to adjust the shower head to a softer water setting for your tiel).
  4. Mist your bird with a spray bottle. Do not directly mist your birds; spray the water just above your bird. And avoid getting water into your tiels eyes.
A cockatiel bathing in a store bought bird bath.

I tried misting Loki because I heard that it was the easiest was to get a cockatiel that does not like bathing to bathe.

At first she was not sure about it, but it did work. I now spray her every day and I think she actually looks forward to it.

I showed Loki that being sprayed was safe by gently spraying myself (remember cockatiels have a monkey-see-monkey-do mentality; to make sure something is safe they watch their momma).

Taking your cockatiel in the shower may work for your bird as well, since they will see that bathing is safe for you and hopefully they will imitate it.

Some reminders about bathing:
  • It should always be done in the morning so that birds have adequate time to dry.
  • Allow your bird to bathe daily if she chooses to.
  • Avoid using a blow dryer on your bird, which can dry her skin out.
  • After bathing, keep your bird away from drafty, cold places such as air conditioning vents.

A clean cockatiel still damp after taking a bath.

Happy Bathing!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Finding the Best Avian Vet for Your Cockatiel

It is very important to have an avian vet for your cockatiel that you like and trust.
Just as you need to feel comfortable with your own medical doctor, so too does your bird need to feel comfortable with her vet.

Your avian vet could save your cockatiel's life so it is important to chose someone both you and your bird trust.

It is essential that you find an avian vet ASAP. It is better to have a vet's number on hand before an emergency happens, rather than to have to frantically search for a vet after something awful has happened to your bird.

I learned this lesson the hard way; I had no avian vet, let alone a number for one when I had an emergency with Loki.

I had just returned from a trip and saw a feather that had blood by Loki's cage. I immediately FREAKED out because I had never seen anything like this before.

I quickly went to the computer and typed in "cockatiel feather with blood on it" and of course this is when I learned about the severity of broken blood feathers.

I was crying uncontrollably and in a panic for my bird. I did not have an avian vet at this time; Loki had never even been for a check-up yet.

I searched the web for an avian vet nearby and called the number of the Bird and Exotic Animal Hospital.

It was about 10p.m. and the office was closed; however, the phone was answered by an after-hours emergency responder who told me she would alert Dr. Rolfe and have her call me.

No more than five minutes after I got off the phone with the responder, Dr. Rolfe called me. She reassured me that Loki would be fine and told me how to handle the situation.

Dr. Rolfe was so patient, calming, and knowledgeable that I knew right away she was the vet for us.
I went in to see her the next day and got Loki's first check-up.

You should look for a vet that is:
  • Knowledgeable
  • Patient
  • Comforts your bird
  • Look for an avian vet that is certified by The Association of Avian Veterinarians.
Most regular vets will not treat birds because of the special certifications and training needed to become an avian vet.

Another reason it is so important to have a number on-hand before an emergency is because often the nearest avian vet may be five or more hours away; avian vets can be sparse in certain areas.

Before an emergency strikes you should:

  • Call the nearest avian vet and ask them where you should take your bird in an emergency. You should call them even if they are five hours away because they may have worked with a non-avian vet in the area (this vet may know more about birds than other non-avian vets).
  • Call non-avian vets in your area and ask if they treat birds. If they do not, ask if they know anyone in the area that does.
  • Call your local parrot clubs, breeders, pet stores, animal or wildlife protection or rehabilitation services, especially bird of prey centres, and ask them where they take their birds.

Below are some great tips from Duddle on what to do before your bird has an emergency:

  • Make a list of all avian vets within a few hours' drive (you may not think you'll drive two hours to the vet, but if your bird is bleeding or has another serious injury, you will suddenly feel very motivated to make that drive!).
  • Make a list of all animal emergency clinics, or 24-hour animal clinics within a few hours' drive.
  • Make a list of all regular vets in the area that deal with birds.

In case of a poisoning call:

ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center 24-hour emergency phone number: 1-888-426-4435(Vets are available to help 24-hours a day, but you are charged a fee for the call).

You may not be able to prevent an emergency, but being prepared for one by having an avian vet could save your bird's life.

The lobby of The Bird and Exotic Animal Hospital run by Dr. Rolfe

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Common Cockatiel Dieases

Maintaining your cockatiel's health should always be your top priority.

If you want to have your cockatiel friend in your life as long as possible you need to provide a nutritious diet, entertainment, a decent size cage, and plenty of love.

However, one of the most vital ways to maintain your bird's health is often overlooked: knowing the signs of a sick bird and understanding the diseases that most commonly affect tiels.

Knowing the signs of a sick cockatiel are so important because like other bird species cockatiels hide their illnesses as a survival of the fittest technique when in the wild. Therefore, by the time your cockatiel starts showing any signs of illness she may already be seriously ill and in need of an avian vet ASAP.

Signs your cockatiel is seriously ill and needs to see a vet ASAP include:

  • Respiratory problems/abnormal breathing
  • Tail constantly moving up and down.
  • Discharge from the beak, eyes or nostrils.
  • Face and head feathers coated with mucus and semi-digested seed.
  • Abnormal droppings
  • Abnormal feathers, feather growth, bleeding feathers, or abnormal molt.
  • Drooping head, tail or wings
  • Dull or swollen eyes
  • Falling off the perch
  • Hunched over posture
  • Lumps or swellings on the body
  • Sitting on the bottom of the cage
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss

Signs that its time to consult your avian vet:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Fluffed up and/or untidy appearance
  • Abnormal droppings
  • Excessive feather picking or plucking
  • Abnormal sleep pattern (continuous, both feet on the perch when normally one foot is tucked up, head tucked under the wing, head turned towards the wing with eyes only partly closed).
  • Any change in normal activities ( talking or whistling, playing with toys, preening, interaction with other birds or humans, energy levels, different perching area).
  • Disorientation
  • Drinking a lot more water than usual.
  • Soiled vent (bottom), tail, or wings.

Checking your cockatiel's behavior and appearance daily will help you to be aware when something is awry.

When Loki was diagnosed with worms I had noticed she was sleeping a lot more than usual throughout the day and was lethargic.

Knowledge of the signs of illness could save your cockatiel's life.

As with all species, there are some diseases that cockatiel's are particularly susceptible to:

  • Malnutrition- this can be prevented by providing your cockatiel with a pellet based diet, cutting back on seed intake, and feeding veggies.
  • Reproductive problems- these include egg binding and chronic egg laying.
  • Wing tumors- these may require amputation.
  • Polyoma- also referred to as Budgerigar fledgling disease; it is passed through bird to bird contact.
  • Candida-most common in cockatiels because they often have malnutrition from an improper diet; it is an infection of too much yeast. Symptoms vary depending on which organ of the bird is affected.

*It can cause problems in the digestive tract, skin, respiratory system, beak, feathers, eyes, and the reproductive tract.

  • Chlamydiosis-(a.k.a parrot fever) this is particularly serious because you can catch this from your bird. Birds do not always show symptoms and can often be carriers, simply spreading the disease to other birds without being sick themselves; cockatiels are notorious for being carriers.
  • Giardia- is a parasite that lives in the intestinal tract. Cockatiels catch this more than any other bird possibly due to a genetic predisposition or immune deficiency. Cockatiels infected with giardia are often asymptomatic.

Most of these diseases occur if your cockatiel comes in contact with an infected bird. This is often the case in pet stores, where conditions may not be up to par and there are many birds in a few cages.

Therefore, it is so important to buy your cockatiel from a pet store that does not overcrowd birds into small cages and looks clean.

Also, you should ALWAYS( no matter how clean the pet store looks) quarantine any new birds that you add to your flock so that you do not infect your other birds.

The other birds should be quarantined for 30 to 60 days. They should be kept in separate cages and preferably in separate rooms. Make sure to wash your hands after touching or playing with the new bird.
You should also take your new bird to your avian vet for a complete check-up and tests, which can rule out many of the disease listed above.

Most of the diseases above can be prevented by following three rules:

  • Check your bird daily for signs of illness and understand the symptoms.
  • Buy your bird(s) from a clean pet store that does not overcrowd its birds.
  • Quarantine any new birds you add to your flock for a minimum of 30 days.

I love Loki so much and by using preventative measures I am ensuring that she will live a long and healthy life.

You can do the same for your bird by simply keeping alert for signs of illness or any change in your bird's behavior.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Potty Training Your Cockatiel

Cockatiels are awesome pets, but their one downfall is the fact that they poop everywhere! Cockatiels actually poop about every 15 minutes. Therefore, if you have your bird out for 1.5 hours there will be 6 poops you will have to clean up from the floor, your shoulder, or some other random surface.

I personally have gotten very tired of cleaning up Loki's poop. Its very annoying that when I want to sit on our new suede couch with her I have to put an old bed sheet down to prevent poop from staining it.

I want to be able to take her out without worrying about her pooping on something.

Birds are extremely intelligent animals and I figured if you can teach them to talk, you could probably potty train them.

I started investigating this online and found numerous sites and blogs explaining how to potty train your cockatiel.

Potty training a cockatiel is actually very similar to potty training a dog:

  1. Learn and anticipate when the animal has to go to the bathroom.

  2. Take the animal to the right spot everytime you think it has to go.

  3. Wait till the animal poops and then repeat a key phrase each time.

  4. Praise the animal profusely after.

The main difference between potty training a dog and potty training a cockatiel is that birds go poop more frequently than dogs.

Steps to potty train your cockatiel:

  1. Pick your cockatiel up every few minutes, right before it is about to poop (you need to learn the signs for this).

  2. Hold it over its cage, a trash can, a newspaper, or whatever else you want it to poop into.

  3. Repeat a simple phrase and wait for the bird to go.

  4. Praise the bird profusely and then place her back on her perch.

Tips for potty training your cockatiel:

  • Signs your bird is about to go include: the bird becomes antsy and makes a little squatting or back-up motion.

  • Use a unique, but simple phrase (Do not use a common daily phrase).

  • Be consistent

  • In the morning, wait for the bird to go then quickly take her out so she learns to associate the action with the result of coming out.

  • The magazine, BIRD TALK warns against getting your bird so well potty trained that she only poops on command, which is not healthy for her.

  • Each individual bird is different, it may take a week or it may take much longer.

  • Remember PATIENCE is key.

There may still be occasional mistakes since potty training is not insticntive in birds as it is in dogs.

However, with potty training you can cut back on 90 percent of mistake poops. This makes everyone happy.