So you brought home a new pet cockatiel days or weeks ago. He seemed so friendly when you picked him up. You love him no matter what, but you’re really concerned that he is so frightened of you. You have tried everything you can think of. What now?
You had such high expectations but now you are wondering what went wrong and if you can fix it. Well don’t despair, help has arrived. This is one of the most common scenarios I see on bird boards’ forum. The common factors are:
- The bird is a new addition
- The bird is afraid of hands in the cage
- The bird runs from you
- The bird flies away from you outside the cage
If we look at the fact that the bird is a new addition, this explains that he doesn’t know you. The surroundings are new. The cage is new. The food is new. You are new. Any questions?
Cockatiels take time to acclimate to their surroundings. 2-5 days to get acclimated is not uncommon. But they still don’t have any reason to trust their surroundings. Trust takes longer than acclimation. Now let’s coax your little guy out of the cage. While your bird needs food and water readily available, don’t give him treats in his cage just yet. Keep the treats outside the cage. Cockatiels like to perch in an area and hang out there for most of their day. You should have an area for them to do just that. You may want to put in a bird gym or something that is clearly a place for them. A common area is on top of their cage. This should be the place they want to go to when they want to leave the cage.
Now that you have a gym/perch area (that they are fearful of) how do you coax them up there? Put out treats. Cockatiels love millet spray above all else and they also love sunflower seeds. No we also know that cockatiels are foragers so put down some seed for them to scratch through.
Remember, they are afraid of new items so wait for them to acclimate. Now let’s talk about the second item. You try to coax him out but he’s afraid of your hands. I say to you “That’s correct”. Cockatiels don’t like you in their space. Period. Get over it. They are territorial. In time he will understand when you need to clean the cage or put food and water in, but right now he doesn’t care. I offer a lift to my birds out of the cage but I don’t force it. They love me dearly, but it’s their cage. I don’t even force them out when I clean.
Now I didn’t say you couldn’t coax them out. My birds would kill me and questions later for a potato chip (I know they aren’t good for them but we’re talking about building trust here). They will trample each other getting to the door for a chip. Why would I force them out when I need to clean? So let’s revisit that concept for a minute to make it clear. Do not put treats in the cage. Put them where you want them to go. It may take time. You may need to start in the cage, move it to the door, then your hand, then the gym. But they will follow it and find a reason to trust you.
Let’s look at the 3rd and 4th items now. The bird runs away. Building trust like above is good. But if the bird likes the treats and still runs away or flies away you have a new issue. Now it’s time to clip the wings. Much has been written about wing clipping pro and con. Many feel it isn’t “natural”. What’s natural about keeping a wild bird in your house?
Let’s start with the premise that feathers do grow back. If you don’t know how to clip seek out someone who does. Pay the $10-$15 and learn how. Some people are concerned that their bird will hate them if they clip them. They don’t, they get over it in about 5 seconds. Furthermore I guarantee that you will see an immediate attitude change. Within a few minutes they will understand that they can’t fly and will gladly accept your help getting from one place to another. Although the attitude will change instantly, the trust may take a few days or weeks but it will happen and quickly.