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