FAQ’s

Aka “stupid” questions (hint: there’s no such thing!)

WHY IS MY COCKATIEL SCREAMING AND HOW CAN I STOP IT?

It’s very common for birds to develop that screaming/crying behaviour when you are not in the room. They’re doing this to get your attention and they can literally go for hours if they know you’ll give in. Theoretically it’s very easy to solve, but it requires some determination (and maybe ear plugs or a trip to the shops).

To get him/her to stop the screaming when you leave the room you have to
1) Completely ignore it. Don’t even look at the bird until they’ve been quiet for at least 10 minutes (and I mean 10 minutes, not 2. 15 would be better).
2) Best to leave the room if you can and not come back until they’ve been quiet for at least 10 minutes. If you *have* to enter the room, do not look at them or give them any attention. Try not to talk. Leave as quickly as possible.
3) Know this can be heartbreaking for you and your bird can literally do this for hours on end. Leave the house for an hour or two if you have to.
4) Do not give in. If you do this you should start to notice a difference within days and it should be solved within a week.
5) Do not give in! If you do they’ll know they can eventually win your attention.

HOW CAN I TRIM MY COCKATIEL’S NAILS?

Option 1: Safe, natural, rough branches of varying thickness

Having safe branches in their cage with varying thicknesses (the best is rough stuff like bottle brush) is the best option as it is natural and doubles up as as mental stimulation (through shredding) and keeping their beaks trimmed. Generally speaking, the branch shouldn’t be so thin that their claws overlap, and shouldn’t be so thick that their claws don’t reach at least half way around the branch. Using the thicker branches as their sleeping perches are recommended.

Option 2: Trimming with nail clippers

If you’ve got natural branches and are changing them regularly, but your ‘tiel’s nails are still too sharp, you can trim them with nail clippers. You have to really know what you’re doing here as it’s so easy to clip too far, causing them pain and to start bleeding, potentially causing serious damage and even death if they bleed out. I highly advise getting an experienced person (eg avian vet) to do it for you, but if you’re determined to do it yourself, learn how to do first by watching an experienced person and reading up on it on the net.

WHAT TO EXPECT DURING A MOULT?

1. Feathers EVERYWHERE – they may fall off when you pat them. Completely normal.

2. Fickleness / Moodiness – New feathers (aka pin feathers) are both painful and itchy. They may want MUCH less to do with you and you may hurt them when you pat them.

3. Their first moult is like going through puberty – extremely moody. It may seem like you’ve lost your relationship. Don’t worry, just give him space and he’ll come around.

4. Obviously they can’t preen the pin feathers on their face so they should love it if you help them, but be very gentle. Expect to be nipped at/bitten for when you do hurt them (it’s inevitable) and learn what does/doesn’t hurt them.

HOW DO I KNOW IF MY COCKATIEL IS OVER-/UNDER-WEIGHT?

Weighing your bird regularly (daily or weekly, first thing in the morning before food) is a good habit to get into. Birds hide their illnesses well and weight loss is often the first signs of a sick bird. If you’re not weighing your birds regularly, you’re not likely to notice them losing a few grams until they’ve lost a lot (and by then it could be too late). A loss of more than 5g for no apparent reason could be a signal to take your bub to an avian vet for a checkup.

(Note that fussy birds can be stubborn when you change their diet and they may loose a few grams before they adapt. If they’ve lost more than 5g from a change in diet I’d find a way to change the diet more slowly so it’s less of a shock to them).

Generally speaking, a healthy Australian pet Cockatiel should range between 80-110g. You may read higher on other (American) sites due to the fact that their birds have been bred more in captivity due to high demand as pets. In Australia our Cockatiels are a bit closer to their native heritage due to a lower demand as pets. In the wild the average weight is about 80g. This leads us to the most effective way of determining if your bird is over or underweight:

The most effective way of determining if your bird is over or underweight is to feel their keel bone. This is located in the middle of their chest, below their crop – a bit like a reverse spine. You should be able to feel it and then the skin around them in a nice U shaped curve like in the diagram below. If the keel is particularly pointy they are underweight, and if the keel bone is almost indented and fat around it makes it like a W (but with rounded tips, all as indicated in the diagram), then that indicates being overweight. It can be hard to decide if you have no idea what you’re feeling for, but chances are you’ll just know if it’s not right. If you have no idea what you’re feeling it’s probably fine. As also indicated (and exaggerated) in the pic, if you can physically see a line in the middle of their chest that’s another indication.

(Full credit to SuSanne Russo for the image – find a link to her website below)

2iig9zs

 

WHY IS MY 4-6 MONTH OLD MAKING A STRANGE, ‘DINOSAUR GROWL’ NOISE?

LEGALLY breeders aren’t allowed to sell birds until they’re at least 8 weeks AND fully weaned (ie eating enough that they don’t need any ‘top ups’ from their parents or hand raised owners). Many breeders think 8 weeks is too young and won’t give up a baby until at least 10-12 weeks. One reason for this is that the move is so stressful that young babies can backslide into not eating enough – which could be the case with your bub.
Your bird is calling out for food. Often young will do this even if they’re full. If that’s the case it’s OK and you can just ignore him when he does it and he should stop. But sometimes babies are sold too young (physically or mentally) which means they may not be eating enough.

SUMMARY: Please buy a pair of scales and weigh him every morning before he has eaten. If he is losing weight then he needs to be ‘topped up’ immediately – once or twice a day. If this needs to happen I recommend taking him back to the breeder until he is emotionally ready to be re-homed. I don’t recommend you do it yourself as it’s expensive, complicated, and easy for many things to go wrong.

 

WHY IS MY COCKATIEL ROCKING LEFT AND RIGHT AND MAKING A “CHEEP-CHEEP-CHEEP” SOUND?

Congratulations! Your ‘tiel is a girl! And she’s “clucky”.

If your ‘tiel is doing this in front of you, that’s not normal behaviour and is something you want to discourage. If you don’t there is a relatively high chance she will develop behavioural issues and health complications – some which may be impossible to resolve and/or result in death.
If she is doing this next to her male (or perhaps female) bird companion then it is less concerning, but still something you want to discourage – please see Breeding Behaviour – How and Why to Discourage It for more information.

 

 

EXTERNAL RESOURCES

As usual I refer you to Cockatiel Cottage for more information. This website is a fantastic source for all information on Cockatiels.

 

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