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.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Bird Manic: Why cockatiel owners fall in love with the species.

Recently, I was searching the web for an interesting story about cockatiels. What I found was a man who rivals me on the crazy for cockatiels scale. Actually this guy, Sarawut Kreedumrongsak of Bangkok may be more crazy for cockatiels then I am.

Kreedumrongsak is absolutely transfixed with these birds and people have come to refer to him as khon bah nok, which translates to "bird maniac."

The name perfectly suits him as he currently owns 200 cockatiels.

Kreedumrongsak's home even resembles a large aviary where his 200 cockatiels live in harmony with Kreedumrongsak, his mother, and his sister.

His home has come to be called "The House of Crested Birds," due to the crest or what I call the mohawk of the cockatiel species.

Kreedumrongsak has devoted all his free time to taking care of and loving these birds.

"I am in love with cockatiels because of their striking traits and gentle temperament. Compared with other kinds of parrots, cockatiels are less aggressive. In fact, they are rather quiet. I don't like to live in a noisy environment. The sounds made by cockatiels are melodious," Kreedumrongsak said in the Bangkok post article.

But Kreedumrongsak is not alone in his love for cockatiels.

Every time I talk to another tiel owner, find something tiel related online, or read another tiel blog I find owner after owner expressing their infatuation with the species.

It appears these little birds have not only stolen my heart, but just about everyone's they have come in contact with.

What is it about cockatiels that makes owners fall so in love with the species?

One reason is that cockatiels have such awesome personalities and some really great traits including:
  • Intelligence
  • Friendliness
  • Activeness
  • Spunkiness
  • Easily domesticated (a.k.a easily "humanized").
  • Lovable
Many cockatiel owners love their birds so much that they devote huge chunks of their lives to their birds.

For example, Kreedumrongsak wakes up every morning at 5 A.M. to take care of his cockatiels and he spends approximately four hours just taking care of his birds each day.
I am always thinking about Loki, taking care of Loki, or playing with Loki in my free time. She is like my child.

Cockatiels are so easily "humanized" that it is not difficult for them to be viewed as children.
The main reason cockatiels have stolen so many hearts is because they show us, their owners what love is, keep us grounded, and keep us peaceful; they are our friends.

"I enjoy all of my roles. They keep me healthy and happy," Kreedumrongsak said with a wide grin.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Your Cockatiel's Molting Process: Out with the old feathers and in with the new.

Molting is the shedding of your cockatiel's old feathers to make room for new feathers growing in.

Your cockatiel's feathers are not only beautiful, they also serve many important functions including:
  • Insulating your bird's body to keep her temperature normal.
  • Protecting your bird's skin from water.
  • Used to attract a mate.
  • Used as a defense mechanism against predators.

This is why the process of molting is so important to your cockatiel's well-being.

A cockatiel's first molt usually happens between 6 to 12 months of age. Interestingly, cockatiels are actually in a continuous state of molting all year long; however, heavy molting will occur two times a year.

Heavy molting consists of losing a large portion of feathers, including the tail and wing feathers.

You will easily know when your cockatiel is molting; there will be feathers everywhere at the bottom of your bird's cage and throughout your house.

Feathers are made of a protein called keratin. When your cockatiel goes through molting her feathers will be covered in a sheath of keratin for protection. This keratin will be most noticeable on your bird's small, pin feathers. I call them little stunts, because they look like stumpy, little, white-covered feathers.

Your cockatiel will preen more during a heavy molt and the keratin sheaths will come off resembling flakes of dandruff.

Loki often enjoys a good head and neck scratch (pin feathers are located in these areas) to remove the keratin covering from the feathers she cannot easily reach. This is a great way to bond with your bird. For instance, I help Loki preen and then she often tries to groom me by picking through my hair like she does with her tail feathers. It is definitely a bonding experience and will make your cockatiel feel safe because of her flock mentality.

There are some things to be mindful of when your cockatiel is molting. Firstly, remember that it takes about nine weeks after a molt for a new blood feather to become mature. During this time pay close attention to keeping your tiel's wings trimmed and try to prevent night frights and bumping into toys, furniture, or the cage.

Also, remember molting is a time of stress for your cockatiel.

Your cockatiel:
  • Will be less active
  • Will nap more
  • Will be cranky because pin and blood feathers are uncomfortable for your bird.
  • It will be easier for your tiel to get sick.

During a molt:

  • Give your cockatiel foods high in vitamin A, such as sweet potatoes and carrots.
  • Add more calcium to your cockatiel's diet by adding kale, parsley, and broccoli.
  • Serve your tiel unsalted scrambled eggs for additional protein.

Molting is a normal process; however, if your cockatiel goes through a heavy molt all year or if your tiel has delayed molting and does not molt at least once a year contact your avian vet immediately.

Heavy molting more than three times a year and delayed molting can be an indication of medical problems, poor nutrition, or stress.

Molting can be a taxing process. To help ease the stress molting can cause provide your bird with additional love, take part in preening, and supply additional food for adequate nutrition.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Cute Cockatiel Videos: Proof of These Little Birds' Unique Personalities

I loved Loki from the moment she flew into my life, but I fell in love with the cockatiel species when I started watching cockatiel videos on youtube. When watching these videos, I often find myself laughing out loud at their antics and am in awe of how smart these birds are.

Each cockatiel has its own personality, distinct from the next. Some are extroverts with wild and feisty personalities. Others are introverts and are more quiet.

Diane Grindol, author of "Cockatiel for Dummies," has said "I've had about 200 cockatiels come and go in my life, and, as far as I can tell, they had 200 different personalities."

It is easy to fall in love with cockatiels by simply watching videos of them. Following, I have included some of my favorite cockatiel videos from the web. Enjoy them and notice the different personalities each little tiel has.

Cockatiel singing do re mi to baby lovebirds (and the spoon)

Sunny the Cockatiel has quite alot to say

Punky boy

Cockatiel dancing

Cockatiel barking

Cockatiel singing The Adams Family Song

Cockatiel dancing to rap music

Cockatiels love head rubs

Cockatiel plays peekaboo

Cockatiels rule the roost

A fearless cockatiel

Cockatiel feeds the dog

While each cockatiel has its own unique personality, it is safe to say that everyone of them loves their owner and LOVES head rubs!

Cockatiels are intelligent, inquisitive, friendly little birds. They have stolen my heart and I will forever be crazy for cockatiels.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cockatiel Clubs

Membership in a cockatiel club can be a great way to learn more about you bird and allows you to get together with other people who love cockatiels.

There are numerous cockatiel clubs out there including:
  • The American Cockatiel Society

  • The National Cockatiel Society

  • The North American Cockatiel Society

These clubs often have many branches located throughout different states. For instance, The American Cockatiel Society has three chapters in Florida.

The American Cockatiel Society is "dedicated to education for the pet owner, breeder, and exhibitor." The club was founded in 1977 and costs $21 dollars a year in membership dues.

Benefits of ACS include:

  • A quarterly magazine that discusses everything you need to know about cockatiels.

  • An ACS chat forum on yahoo that allows cockatiel owners to communicate with one another.

  • Provides imformation on color mutations pertinent for showing your cockatiel.

  • Provides detailed information about upcoming cockatiel shows.

  • Experienced advisors at your disposal for all your cockatiel questions.

The National Cockatiel Society is a non-profit oganization that has been around for 25 years. It provides imformation about cockatiels to owners and breeders. Membership dues are $20 dollars a year.

Benefits of NCS include:

  • Photo galleries and videos of cockatiels.

  • Information on showing cockatiels and a calender of show dates.

  • An online store to order anything, including shirts and totes with cockatiels on them.

  • The NCS journal, which is published every two months.

  • Members can particpate in club only raffles and contests which occur semi-annually.

The North American Cockatiel Society was established in 1997 and is dedicated to the education of the cockatiel pet owner. They currently have 254,645 "cockatiel lovers who have perched at their club." Unlike other cockatiel clubs which focus more on exhibition and the showing of cockatiels, The NACS focuses on the pet cockatiel.

Benefits of NACS include:

Whichever society you choose to join you will reap enormous benefits from your membership in a cockatiel club.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Clipping Your Cockatiel's Wings and Trimming The Nails

Clipping your cockatiel's wings needs to be done for two main reasons:

  1. Safety-in order to prevent her from flying into or out of a window and possibly harming herself.
  2. Dependence- a cockatiel that needs you to move her from room to room and to safer heights is easier to control. Also, this need fosters trust between you and your cockatiel creating a better relationship.

Clipping your cockatiel's wings does not hurt her one bit. In fact, it is more hazardous for her wings not to be clipped.

Clipping your cockatiel's wings is not easy, especially not the first time. It is very easy to injure your bird. Therefore, the first time you need to clip your cockatiel's wings I strongly suggest having your vet do it.

If you plan on clipping your bird's wings after the first time, you should pay close attention to how your vet does it. Also, ask your vet to show you what blood feathers look like so you do not clip these; clipping these can cause your bird to bleed to death.

I prefer to take Loki to her vet every time she needs her wings clipped and her nails trimmed. It costs me $11 dollars for both, but I find reassurance in knowing that it will be done properly. Also, I do not want our relationship to deteriorate as a result of clipping her wings so I prefer to have someone else do it.

The feathers that need to be trimmed are the primary feathers.

All of your cockatiel's primary feathers need to be clipped because they are strong little fliers; even when all the feathers are clipped cockatiels can still fly to some degree.

Loki does not fly high, but she can still glide low to the ground.

NEVER cut the feathers of only one wing. Both sides need to be clipped so the bird stays balanced. If your cockatiel should fall or needs to glide down it is essential that her wings be balanced, otherwise she can become severely injured.

Signs to alert you that it's time to clip your cockatiel's wings:
  • At the end of each of her biannual molts because she will have grown in new feathers.
  • Your bird is gliding about the room more than usual- cockatiels will always be able to glide to some degree, but when she starts to fly further it's time to clip her wings again.
  • Your cockatiel is acting more aggressive and snappy-she has become more self-reliant because of her ability to fly (glide) further than before.
  • Occasional stray feathers that grow in out of turn.

It is also important to keep your bird's nails trimmed because:

  • It allows your cockatiel to remain comfortable and able to perch.
  • Provides comfort to you (it does not feel good to have sharp nails dig into your shoulder or finger skin).

This should be done on an as-needed basis; however, it is easiest to combine this maintenance task with clipping your bird's wings.

Make sure to avoid cutting the quick when trimming your cockatiel's nails. This can cause bleeding.

Signs to alert you that it's time to trim your cockatiel's nails include:

  • You cannot hold the bird without having your skin scratched or bruised.
  • Your bird's nails are getting stuck in sweaters or carpeting.
  • A nail looks extremely long and is threatening to grow up into the pad of your bird's foot.
  • When she perches, her nails wrap around each other.
  • When she walks on a flat surface, her nails force her feet up.

Supplies needed to clip your cockatiel's wings:

  • Sharp scissors
  • Needle nose pliers
  • A few paper towels
  • A towel to help hold the bird
  • Always have flour or cornstarch on hand in case of accidental bleeding.

Supplies needed to trim you cockatiel's nails:

  • Toenail clippers

How to clip your cockatiel's wings:

  1. You will need someone else to assist you in holding the bird and stretching out her wings.
  2. Gently wrap the towel around your bird and talk calmly and reassuringly to her.
  3. Keep her face exposed so that she does not become nervous.
  4. Gently stretch out the first wing and look for blood feathers, which should NOT be clipped.
  5. After determining which feathers are mature (okay to cut) and which are new (blood feathers) clip the mature feathers only.
  6. Repeat this on the other wing.

How to trim your cockatiel's nails:

  1. Examine the nails and look carefully at where the quick or vein ends.
  2. Clip only the tip of the nail, below the vein.

After you clip your bird's wings and trim her nails spend time with her reassuring her of your trust. Comfort her and allow her to see that you are not the enemy or something to be feared. Give your bird her favorite treat and play with her.

Watch your bird closely after she has her wings clipped because she may not realize she cannot fly yet. Keep her off high surfaces in case she decides to try to fly.

For more information on nail trimming watch this informative, how-to video presented by Kaytee.

For more information on clipping your cockatiel's wings check out the following video.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Broken Blood Feathers

Every bird has blood feathers, which are actually new feathers that are growing in following a molt.

Blood feathers contain an artery and a vein with a supply of blood circulating throughout. The blood flow in these new feathers is what nourishes the growth and allows for it to become a mature feather.

You can easily tell the difference between a blood feather and a mature feather by looking at them. A blood feather has a dark colored base due to the blood. A mature feather is clear because as the feather grows, and the blood is no longer needed it subsides back to the body.

Blood feathers are not a problem, unless they become broken. When a blood feather is broken it can be a very scary situation. If your bird has broken multiple blood feathers she may be covered in blood.

Broken blood feathers are considered an emergency situation because if left untreated your bird can bleed to death.

There are two ways to treat a blood feather:

  1. The blood feather needs to be pulled out from the skin to stop the bleeding.
  2. If you cannot pull out the blood feather, contact your avian vet immediately and apply flour or cornstarch to the blood feather to allow it to clot (this is only a temporary fix, the feather needs to come out).

Supplies to have at your disposal in case of a broken blood feather include:

  • Needle nose pliers or a pair of hemostats (tweezers are not strong enough).
  • Cornstarch or flour
  • Q-tipsClean water: to dampen the feathers
  • Your avian vet's phone number

About a year ago, I came home from a trip to find Loki with a broken blood feather. I became hysterical because I had no idea why she was bleeding. I went online and read everything I could about blood feathers and called my avian vet. I was afraid to pull Loki's feather out. While on the phone, Loki pulled the feather out her self! I took her to the vet the next day and Dr. Rolfe said the blood feather was almost fully developed, which was why Loki was able to pull it out.

This was an extremely scary situation, but with the proper knowledge beforehand it would have been less stressful.

Blood feathers can become broken through a variety of ways including:

  • Night frights
  • Bumping into toys or the cage
  • Clipping feathers too short

Night frights occur when cockatiels become spooked by a noise during the night. Cockatiels are basically blind in the dark, so any noise can frighten them since they cannot see what is going on.

The best way to prevent night frights is to leave a night light on for your bird and to cover only half of the cage. I do both of these things for Loki, and I find the night light to be particularly beneficial.

Broken blood feathers can be serious; it is important to prevent them, to have supplies on hand in case, and to be knowledgeable about them.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Egg Binding

Egg binding can be a potentially fatal situation affecting female cockatiels. It is considered an emergency; if you believe your bird is experiencing egg binding contact your avian veterinarian immediately.

Egg binding can be caused by numerous things; however, it is usually due to inadequate calcium intake. This is why it is essential that female cockatiels are provided with a cuttlebone and the proper nutrients at all times. Cockatiels on an all seed diet are also more prone to egg binding.

Other causes of egg binding include:
  • Infection of the reproductive tract
  • Inadequate nesting space
  • Excessive egg laying
  • Obesity
  • Nutritional problems
  • An egg that is too soft due to inadequate calcium intake
Symptoms include:
  • Depression
  • Labored breathing
  • Straining
  • Abdominal distention
  • Lack of droppings
  • Fluffed appearance
  • Poor appetite
  • Sitting at the bottom of the cage

Egg binding can occur to both actively mating females and to females laying infertile eggs.

Female cockatiels will lay a clutch of infertile eggs, even without a mate because their natural instinct is to have young. In the wild, cockatiels wait to lay eggs until they have adequate food and water, and feel safe. Cockatiels is captivity often become excessive egg layers because the requirements for egg laying (feeling safe, having enough food and water) are plentiful.

I recently noticed that Loki was acting different; she appeared to be "humping" her perch. I asked my avian vet about this behavior and she said that was exactly what Loki was doing. I have provided her with such a comfortable and safe home that she now feels its time to have babies.

My avian vet, Dr. Vanessa Rolfe of The Bird and Exotic Animal Hospital explained the importance of minimizing this behavior in order to prevent excessive egg laying.

Other ways Dr. Rolfe recommends to prevent egg laying of infertile eggs include:

  • Move toys and perches around in the cage frequently to prevent your tiel from feeling too safe and comfortable.
  • Do NOT feed your bird any seeds, which acts as a trigger to the body to lay eggs.
  • Make sure your bird is getting between 12 to 14 hours of rest (darkness) each night (Cockatiels usually lay their eggs in the Summer, when the daylight lasts longer, so less light will make them feel as though it is winter, not summer).
  • Do NOT stroke or pet your tiel on her back, which resembles mating (keep petting limited only to your bird's head).

Egg binding is extremely serious. You should prevent excessive egg laying of infertile eggs, and make sure if your tiel is actively mating that she has enough calcium. Egg binding can be prevented by simply providing your female cockatiel with the proper nutrients.

To Breed or Not to Breed:The decision to rear baby cockatiels

Breeding can be a very complicated and time consuming process. I personally have no desire to have Loki mate with another bird.

If you do not want your cockatiel to breed, stick to having only one bird or get two of the same sex.
However, if you want to rear baby cockatiels there are some important things you will need to know.

Firstly, cockatiels mate for life and they do not just settle for any other bird; they have to genuinely like the other bird in order to mate. The males are often less picky than the females.

If you have a male and female who like each other and are already mating, then you are set. However, if you choose to introduce a new cockatiel for mating, the hen may not like your choice of cockatiel.
  • If a hen looks at a male with a slanted head and then looks away, she is NOT interested in him.
  • If a hen is interested, she will watch the male closely, making nodding movements and fanning out her tail, while also grinding her beak (this means she is happy).
Cockatiels will normally breed at the beginning of April, once they reach their sexual maturity. Tiels are usually sexually mature between 6 to 9 months of age. However, you should not encourage breeding until they are at least 12 months old.

If you decide to breed cockatiels it is extremely important to get a nest box. Cockatiels in the wild do not build their own nests, but rather use a hollow in a tree trunk. The nest box will function similarly to a tree trunk.

Some important things to consider about nest boxes from Matthew Vriends, Ph.D., and author of "The Cockatiel Handbook" are:
  • Leave enough room between the nest box and the top of the cage.
  • The entrance hole should have a diameter of 3.5 inches.
  • The box's floor should be covered with damp peat and a few wood shavings (covering about 2 inches).
  • Press a hole in the peat with your fist to give the hen a place to lay her eggs (the hole will prevent the eggs from rolling around).
Eggs will be laid within 10 to 14 days after the first mating. Cockatiels usually have between four to seven eggs, which are about 1 inch by 3/4 inch.

Cockatiels will brood or lay on there eggs for 19 to 21 days and both the male and female cockatiel share in the brooding responsibilities.

Once the nestlings hatch, the female cockatiel will not leave the nest because she is keeping them warm. Therefore, it is essential to always provide sufficient food and minerals to your female tiel, especially during the breeding season.

You will not have to worry too much about the baby cockatiels because their parents will feed them regurgitated food. If a parent cockatiel does not feed one of the nestlings, you can handfeed the baby. However, cockatiels recognize a weak baby with possible genetic defects (thus the reason they are not feeding it), and these nestlings often die even with handfeeding.

Cynthia Kiesewetter describes the steps to properly handfeed nestlings:

  1. Purchase a high-quality handfeeding formula.
  2. Determine which of several handfeeding utensils you will use (syringes work the best, but you can also use spoons).
  3. Choose a brooder that is appropriate and able to be warmed to the proper temperature (a brooder is a heated tank where the babies will live since you are pulling them from being brooded by the mother and father).

Monday, October 5, 2009

How to Train Your Cockatiel

Cockatiels are not difficult to train as long as they are taught with patience and understanding. They often regard their owners as mother or father figures, and will therefore imitate the examples set by them.

It is best to start training cockatiels at a young age; it will be easier to teach them as they are more open to suggestion than older birds.

In order for you to train your tiel more advanced tricks, you must first start with the basics and teach your bird to be "tame." A tame bird will not bite you and will listen more readily. Cockatiels bite when they feel threatened or in danger. Your cockatiel must learn that you pose no danger to her.

To teach Loki that I was not a threat to her I used the suggestions of Matthew Vriends, Ph.D. and author of "The Cockatiel Handbook."
  1. First, put your hand in the cage and hold it there (you may wish to wear a leather glove as cockatiels beaks can be sharp and bites may hurt). This technique will allow the bird to get used to your hand.
  2. Once the bird shows no fear of your hand, try to stroke the tiel's abdomen.
  3. Gently press the lower abdomen, just above the feet, and your tiel should step onto your finger.
  4. If the bird should spook and becomes nervous move your hand away from the bird, but let it remain in the cage, and then try again.

Once the bird has accepted your hand and is no longer threatened by you, teaching can begin to get the bird to move from your finger back to its perch.

  1. Hold your finger next to the perch and make a movement to encourage your bird to step off of you. (I usually turn my finger slightly to compel Loki to step off).
  2. While making the movement also say a word of command. (Some people say "up" or "down," but I usually use the word "Scoot" to signal to Loki that its time to move to her perch).

The last basic trick you can teach your cockatiel is the ladder.

  1. Imitate a staircase with your fingers by holding one hand a little lower than the other.
  2. Persuade your bird to step from one finger to the other by gently pressing on its lower abdomen, as was done before.
  3. Move the first hand above the second and continue to repeat this movement so that your bird appears to be climbing a ladder.

The most important things to remember when training your tiel are:

  • Use affection or treats as a reward.
  • Call the bird by her name whenever you are near her (i.e. cleaning her cage, feeding her, etc.) to teach her to recognize it.
  • Remember that PATIENCE, KINDNESS, and REPETITION are key to the successful training of your tiel.
  • Always praise the bird intensely when she does what you want.
  • Train in a quiet place, free from distractions.
  • Always use positive reinforcement.
  • Keep training sessions short, allowing your bird time to rest.
  • Talk gently and NEVER shout at the bird or use aggressive behavior, which will only make the training more difficult because the bird will lose trust in you.

Remember to stay motivated and have patience. As Matthew Vriends says, "The initial training can take up quite a bit of time, but if it is your goal to have a tame bird, giving up is out of the question."

Once your cockatiel has mastered the basic tricks and is tame, you can start training her to do more advanced tricks. Cockatiels can learn how to fetch small objects, put balls in a basketball hoop, and place pennies in a piggy bank, among other things.

It is best when training cockatiels more advanced ticks to use a clicker and treats. A clicker is a small device made out of plastic and metal that costs no more than $2 dollars. Clicker training is effective because the quick click sound it makes allows your bird to recognize that what she did was good because she heard the click and then received a treat. She will begin to associate the click with treats, similar to Pavlov's dogs.

The first step is to teach your bird what the click sound means, since she has not heard it before.

  1. Click the clicker
  2. Offer a reward such as a treat or affection

Your bird will soon pick up the association between the two. Once she does then you can start associating her doing something good with hearing the click and getting a treat.

  1. First, show her what you want her to do. She will imitate you. If you want her to put a ball in a basketball hoop show her how you do it.
  2. Then, repeat the action but after make the click sound.
  3. Once she does the trick, make the clicking sound, and offer a treat.

Check out these videos to see how clicker training works for fetching and putting balls into a hoop.

Some things to remember about clicker training:

  • Wait for your bird to eat the treat before repeating the trick.
  • Do not let her see the treat until you make the click sound.
  • Present the reward in the same place every time (i.e. in your hand or on the table).
  • Become creative and implement a ball point pen's clicking or the clicking of your tongue instead of buying the actual clicker.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Importance of Training Your Cockatiel: How to create a friend not a nusiance.

Cockatiels are very domesticated pets; however, without the proper training they can become unruly little annoyances.

Training is essential if you want to form a loving and affectionate bond between you and your bird. It does take some patience and practice, but once your cockatiel is trained both you and your bird will reap the benefits.

Many people who purchase cockatiels underestimate the importance of training.

Take for instance, an ad from Craigslist, which my Professor pointed out to us in class the other day. The article is titled, "Trade Cockatiel for Wedding Ring." The ad talks about how this man bought a cockatiel for his girlfriend last year, and while she loves it, he cannot stand it. He believes the only way to lessen the blow of giving away the bird is to give her a wedding ring.

However, what he fails to realize is that all the problems caused by the bird, which he describes in the ad could by solved with simple training. He says, "Cockatiels are great pets, except for the constant screaming, pooping, and absolute lack of affection for its owners." Training the cockatiel would solve these problems; in fact you can even teach your bird to be potty trained!

Understanding the bird's behavior would also be helpful, since the screaming could signal that the bird needs attention or is afraid. The affection for one's owner follows after the bird feels comfortable and is trained.

It is also important to have some knowledge about cockatiels before you buy one. They are not the right pet for everyone. I do not think he researched cockatiels beforehand. He says, "Harrington's wings have grown in since we got him, she thinks its cute when he buzzes by our heads at 100mph." Cockatiels wings NEED to be clipped for their own safety. Also, training cockatiels is much easier when their wings are clipped.

Training cockatiels makes them almost "human." They are smart little birds, and they will imitate you; however, without training they will keep behaving like a wild bird.

It is also important to train them as early as possible. You can start training your cockatiel the day after you get it. When Ryan found Loki she was already about a year old, I started training her right away and she learned. A one year old bird is considered "older" when it comes to starting training; they will be harder to teach.

Another thing I found funny after looking at the pictures of Harrington in the ad, is that he is unmistakably a she! The coloring is too pale for it to be a male. This is another reason why one should have knowledge about the species before purchasing.

Ryan, my boyfriend would NEVER try to sell Loki because he knows nothing would fill the void of losing my bird. I would rather have a bird on my shoulder, than a ring on my finger!

Training would allow this guy to give his girlfriend a wedding ring and still keep her cockatiel. It will take patience, but it can be done. Training makes all the difference when you have a bird. It will be the deciding factor between having a friend or having a nuisance.