Cockatiels can make lovely pets. Not only are they usually very friendly and affectionate, but with a little effort, they can be taught how to talk. However, if not handled properly as chicks or if not given regular attention as adults, cockatiels and quickly become scared, nervous, and sometimes aggressive animals. This guide is intended to help anyone who gets a new cockatiel that is difficult to handle or wants to re-tame a bird that they have unfortunately not been able to give the attention that they wanted to. It starts with the story of my own cockatiel-training experience, when I got a little bird, named Bobby.
Bobby came to me from a family member who’d taken up the hobby of breeding birds. She had several breeding pairs, some were Quakers, others were Conures, and along the way, she picked up a solitary little male cockatiel who she named Bobby. I fell in love with Bobby the first time I saw him, he was not affectionate, but curious and smart. After I brought Bobby home, I ran to both my school library and my village library and got every book on Cockatiels that I could find.
Bobby was scared and would cower in the corner of his cage anytime anyone got near his cage. He would nip at me every time I put my hand in his cage to try to pick him up. He was never really aggressive in his nipping, more like warning nips. I read that the key to getting him tamed was to slow down and backtrack the taming process. The taming process that I had read and honed went as follows:
- For the first few weeks I would simply sit near his cage. I wouldn’t really pay him any mind, other than giving him food and water, but instead would go about my business, doing homework, eating, reading, etc. After the first few days he seemed to calm down with me being near him and after the first week he was completely content with me approaching him. By the second week, he started approaching me out of his little curiosity.
- After Bobby was comfortable with me being near his cage, I began getting him used to my hand, which almost seemed to backtrack his taming process for a bit. I would sit by the cage just like I had done before, only at this time I would open the door and set my hand inside. Bobby wasn’t very happy about this new step. He squawked and flitted about. At first he cowered in the corner farthest from my hand. Next, he would inch closer and then nip at me. Never enough to hurt, which was a good thing since my instruction from my books said to hold still if he nipped. It took me almost another two weeks of just sitting my hand inside the door, before he calmed down and ignored me or took an interest without agitation.
- The next phase involved moving my hand a little closer every few days once he would get comfortable. The entire process was pretty daunting. We were now over a month into the taming and I was barely any closer than when I had begun. However, I could tell that process was being made and once I had committed I knew I was in it for the long haul.
- Eventually I was able to rest my hand upon his perch right beside him and he would pretty much ignore me after a few initial curiosity mouthings (a mouthing is when a bird opens his mouth and puts it on your hand without biting down as a way of investigating or greeting you).
- It was a rush the first time I was able to brush my hand against his soft little body without him freaking out. After almost 2 months, he’d finally climbed upon my hand for the first time.
Once I made it to the point of holding Bobby he was like a completely different bird. He was no longer scared of me or any of my friends or family and would let anyone pick him up. He actually enjoyed human attention. My next adventure with Bobby was teaching him how to talk. Every day for about a week I would repeat the word, “Hello” to him over and over again. I even recorded myself saying it on a cassette player and would hit play on it as I left for school in the morning. In less than a week, he learned to say, “Hello.” Soon after, he picked up the words, “Bobby,” “Louie” (our dog), “Mom,” “Dad,” and my name, “Brandy.” He also learned to mimic the telephone’s ring tone and would whistle several songs from TV shows.
Although Bobby took a bit of time, he was well worth it. He remained a member of our family for years until he passed on. I still miss him dearly to this day.