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Pet Cockatiel Care

              

Caring for your Pet Cockatiel

Housing & Cockatiel Cages

Feeding your Pet Cockatiel

Bird Toys & Playgyms

Safety for your Bird

Signs of an Ill Bird

Worming and Parasites in cockatiels

 

Housing & Cage size

One of the most important initial things to consider for your cockatiel is his cage. Regardless of how much time your bird will spend confined to the cage certain factors should be taken into account. It is paramount that your bird is safe, happy and comfortable.

  • The cage should be as large as possible. The height of the cage is less important than the width and length. Your bird needs to be able to flap its wings without risking injury. Ideally the minimum length and width should be 50cm. This size will give more room for your bird to fly from one side to the other. A taller narrow cage is not suitable.

  • The spacing of the bars is also very important. If the bars are too far apart then your bird may quite easily get its head between them and risk getting stuck. Or even worse your bird may escape. Horizontal cage bars also make it easier for your cockatiel to maneuver around the cage sides. Vertical bars are slippery and make it difficult for it to climb on.

  • Inspect your cage thoroughly before introducing your new bird to it. Look for sharp areas that may cut your bird and any loose wires or flakes of paint. It is a good idea to scrub the cage and all toys and feeding containers with detergent or vinegar first then it should be thoroughly rinsed and allowed to dry. This will ensure no harmful substances are present that can harm your bird.

  • A cage with a slide out tray and wire grate in the bottom is the best option. If a wire grate is between the bird and the floor of the cage then feedstuffs have a lesser chance of being contaminated by droppings. It also prevents your bird being able to access his own waste. The slide out tray can be covered in paper and slid out and the paper changed to make cleaning simpler and easier. Using something like paper towel in the tray also makes it easier for you to inspect your cockatiels droppings to make sure everything is normal.

  • Perches need to be firmly fixed and of varying diameters to give your birds feet exercise. The use of natural branches is a good idea, as it will also give the bird bark to chew off and tear apart. These can be easily replaced.

  • Position the cage away from draughts and direct sunlight. It is fine to move it to get the warm sun in winter but the hot summer sun even through an open window can cause stress on your bird. Draughts are more detrimental to your bird than cold weather. A place away from open doors and windows in winter and a cover at night will help keep your bird safe and warm.

  • Seeing your bird is a member of your family he/she needs to be near you. Donít put the cage in a remote lonely corner where it is away from everyone. A comfortable area in your living room where it can be a part of the daily activity is much more suitable. On the same note though donít have the cage in a busy thoroughfare where it will continually have children running past or be bumped.

  •  If the cage is to be outdoors at any stage then care should be taken that all the doors and latches on it are working properly and the bird cannot open them. It needs to be placed in a position outside that is protected from the weather and not easily accessible to other birds and pets. Butcherbirds and crows are a very real threat to your pet as well as dogs and cats that may even be capable of knocking the cage over and freeing your bird.

  • Your bird will be happier if its cage is not sitting on the floor. Be it inside or outside a bird always feels safest when it is off the ground. It can see better what is going on and is less likely to be stressed by other pets or small children.

  • Last but not least please keep your birds cage clean. The build-up of droppings and old foodstuffs will only lead to attracting rodents or even bacteria and harmful parasites. If the tray is emptied daily and fresh food and water is given each morning then it saves a huge effort of having to clean a very big mess. The addition of a seed skirt around the base of the cage may assist in preventing your birdís mess from spreading too far a-field.

 

Feeding your bird

   Your pet bird is now totally reliant on you for all its nutritional requirements and so it is extremely important you make the right choices on what to feed. Many commercial seed mixes are readily available on the market as is varying pellet diets and seed-pellet mixes. The choice is up to you, which you decide to use but the best option is often to feed the bird what it has been weaned onto as a baby. It will be used to that particular food and will thus be quite settled not having to worry about what the strange stuff is in its food bowl. Below are some things to consider when choosing the most appropriate diet for your bird.

  • Seed alone is not a nutritionally balanced diet and birds fed on just seed may suffer a variety of nutritional imbalances.

  • Select a seed mix that is designed for cockatiels. There are quite a few available that have other ingredients added to help balance the mix even further. Mixes like Large Parrot mix or Wild Bird mix are unsuitable as a lot of the seeds are unable to be eaten by cockatiels e.g. corn. Some examples of good mixes are Bird Munchies Gourmet blend and Breeders Choice Cockatiel mix. Each of these contains a mix of seeds that are suitable for your birds.

  • Just because you offer a bird something new and it fails to eat it doesnít mean that it wonít. All new food is often ignored until curiosity takes over and the bird actually gets to try it. It may take a day or as long as a week or more but keep putting it in the cage and sooner or later your bird will try it.

  •  Birds have favourite foods like humans do and it is up to us to provide them with a balance of what they need not just what they like. A bird may love sunflower seeds and pick them out leaving the rest. Donít be tempted to give in to the birdís whims and feed it only what it selects. Limit the amount of the favourite food making it consume more variety and thus helping to balance the diet.

  • Cockatiels in the wild do not just eat seed. Their diet is often dictated by weather and the availability of food so they survive by eating a combination of different seeds, fruit, greens and whatever is available. A variety of different foods also benefit pet birds. Vary their diet and offer as many different foods as possible to keep their diet interesting.

  • Be sure to refresh the seed each day. A full bowl does not mean it is full of edible seed. The bird will extract the seed from the husks and the bowl may in fact be full of empty husks that the bird does not consume. Even gently blowing off these husks is enough if there is still ample seed left.

  • The following is a list of some of the other types of foods your bird may enjoy: silverbeet, bok choy, endive, dandelion, grated carrot, corn kernels, peas, beans, celery, broccoli, apple, sprouted seeds, soaked seed, cooked egg, multi-grain bread, breakfast cereals like cornflakes, egg & biscuit mix, cooked pasta, etc. Remember to give a variety and in moderation. Too much of anything can be bad.

  • Always provide either a calcium bell or cuttlebone as a source of additional calcium for your bird.

  • DO NOT FEED Avocado or rhubarb as these are toxic. Also avoid caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, apple seeds and any food high in salt or sugar. Lettuce is also not recommended. An occasional potato chip is not going to kill your bird but should be given sparingly because of the high salt content. They are like children and need these types of treats only occasionally and in moderation. A more suitable treat would be millet sprays or a piece of apple.

  • If you are an avid cook then there are lots of recipes for birdie breads and muffins available on the Internet that your birds will relish too. Try doing a Google search for bird bread recipes and see how yummy some of them sound.

  • There are numerous garden plants and weeds that are great nutritional value for your birds. Things like Dandelion, Chickweed, Clover, and some seeding grasses like oats. Always make sure these are thoroughly washed and preferably from your own yard where there is less chance of contamination from exhaust fumes and poisonous chemicals.

  • Native branches also are a favourite of most cockatiels. Bottlebrush, Eucalyptus and Grevillea are all commonly found in backyards now and are a great source of entertainment for your bird as well. Small branches with leaves and flowers intact can be placed in the cage and your bird will spend hours totally destroying it. When the leaves and flowers are gone then the branches will be stripped of bark. This provides great exercise for them and also helps relieve boredom.

  •     Clean fresh water daily is an absolute must. Bacteria can grow very quickly in water that is soured by seed or droppings and to ensure the health of your birds it is important that water be cleaned out and replenished on a daily basis.

 

Toys & Playgyms

An important part of keeping your bird happy is to provide stimulation in the form of bird toys and playgyms to keep it occupied. A bird that is confined to its cage with nothing to do will develop behavioral problems created from boredom. Problems like plucking, self Ėmutilation and aggression are often the result of a bird that is isolated and bored. Toys and time out of the cage are the best things to ensure these problems donít arise.

Having said this though there are certain guidelines that must be adhered to when providing toys and entertainment for your bird.  There are safety issues that need to be considered as well as the issues of relief from boredom.

Listed below are some important things to keep in mind when providing toys and entertainment for your bird.

  • Even though bird toys provide entertainment for your cockatiel the ones you place in the cage must be positioned so as to still allow ample free space for it to move around freely.

  •  Ideal toys are ladders for climbing, branches, wooden beads and rawhide leather pieces for chewing

  • Ensure all toys are made from non-toxic materials and do not contain small parts that can be ingested by your bird.

  • Place food bowls in a position that is clear of toys and perches to avoid droppings getting into the water or feed.

  • A few toys that are changed regularly are better than a lot of toys that overcrowd your birdsí cage. By changing toys your bird will be kept entertained longer.

  • Pinecones and native tree branches are great substitutes for toys, as they love tearing them apart and get hours of fun from it.

  • Solid wooden toys are safer than and as much fun as bright coloured plastic ones.

  • Avoid toys with small chains or nylon ropes that can catch your birdís toenails or cause choking from ingesting the fibers. Long pieces of rope can also become knotted and form a loop that can quite easily act as a noose for your pet.

  • Strategically positioned millet sprays can be as entertaining as expensive toys when they are placed so the bird has to work at accessing the seed.

  • If you are providing your bird with a playgym then make sure it is positioned in a safe place away from direct sunlight and draughts and busy thoroughfares.

  • Playgyms must be of an appropriate size and suitable material to ensure your bird is safe from toxic materials and ingestion of small objects like beads and fibers. Place different foods or toys on your cockatielís playgym to make it more interesting for him/her

  • Coloured playgyms may look nice but are no more appealing to your bird than one made from natural branches. The coloured dye that is used will often leave stains on your birdís feathers when it gets wet.

 

Cockatiel Safety

Just because your bird is inside the house donít think for a second that it is safe. There are a myriad of often unnoticed dangers awaiting your bird even in the safety of your own home. The more freedom in your home the bird has access to the more likelihood it is that he will be at risk of harm.

  • Risks from injury due to other pets and small children are common. Children can accidentally grab a bird too tight or fall on them and other pets can prey on your bird too. Whenever your bird is out of its cage it is imperative you are aware of its location and what it is doing at all times. There is nothing sadder than hearing from a devastated owner that has just accidentally stood on their bird or sat on it.

  • Ceiling fans can be deadly to a flighted pet bird. While we turn them on as habit and enjoy the breeze it is easy to forget they are on and the harm they can cause if a bird flies into one.

  • Open windows and doors often signifies the end to your pet bird if it escapes through one of them. Once birds are free they get disorientated quickly and with the threat of wild birds and cats and cars they really do not have much of a chance of surviving outdoors. If possible keep windows and doors closed and even locked if there is even the slightest chance they may be opened whilst your bird is free. It only takes a second for them to be out the door and off.

  • Glass windows and doors can be a hazard to a bird in flight. They do not realize there is glass there and risk serious injury by flying straight into it. If possible have drapes or blinds at the windows to prevent this occurring.

  • Ensure any houseplants are non-toxic in case your bird decides to chew on it.

  • Be careful of leaving bathroom and toilet doors open in case your bird flies in and falls. A bath full of water or an open toilet bowl can result in drowning.

  • Kitchens are another very dangerous area. Sinks full of water, boiling water on the stove. Hotplates, cooking fumes, toxic cleaning products all pose a serious threat to your bird.

  • Teflon pans when left unattended can give off toxic fumes which are fatal to your bird. Other strong fumes like paint, chemicals, even nail varnish can have a serious affect.

  • Be very cautious with air fresheners and insect sprays around your bird. If possible do not spray near your birds cage and always ensure adequate ventilation is available. Insect sprays with natural pyrethrums or those that are for sensitive people area better alternative.

  • Electrical cords and appliances need to be kept away from your bird. at all times. Cockatiels are notorious chewers and it takes only a second for a disastrous result to occur from an innocent nibble on a cord.

  • Heavy metal poisoning is another serious safety hazard. Lead poisoning is the biggest issue and can occur very innocently. Be very wary of any new bird toys and perches with metal washers on them that have been manufactured in China as there is a much higher lead content in use there than here. Another area where lead can be found is in paint on old homes. Paint used back then was lead-based and peeling paint is very attractive to a cockatiel. Also curtain weights, leadlight windows and lead sinkers used for fishing are equally dangerous.

I know this list seems rather daunting but with simple care your pet can be as happy and safe in your home as the rest of your family!

 

Signs of an Ill Bird

Birds are very clever at hiding the fact that are not feeling 100% well. In the wild a cockatiel that is ill is sure prey and so it is a distinct advantage to keep the fact hidden as much as possible.

Generally speaking a pet bird that receives a balanced diet along with adequate housing and care should be on average free from disease and illness. Unfortunately there are times when things do go amiss and our feathered friends succumb to an illness or disease that needs attention.

Only by knowing what to look for and being aware of what is normal for your bird can you have any chance of detecting when it is ill. By the time we do detect something is wrong it is often already too late to help them. If you are at all concerned then a visit to a qualified Avian Veterinarian is the safest course of action.

Some signs that can indicate something is not as it should be are listed below. You are the best judge so be aware and avoid having to be sorry.

  • Sudden loss of weight or lack of appetite

  • Inactivity or lack of interest in its surroundings.

  • Feathers fluffed up and sitting in a corner and frequently having eyes closed.

  • Sudden loss of feathers apart from normal molting.

  • One eye partially closed or fully closed.

  • Weepy or watery eyes or discharge from the nose or eyes.

  • Constant shivering or laboured breathing with mouth open.

  • Skin around the eyes, on the beak or on the legs is very dry and scaly or red.

  • A change to normal consistency and colour of the droppings.

Any abnormal behaviour that has you concerned should be looked into. This list is not exhaustive and is a guide only. With the combined efforts of yourself and your Avian Veterinarian your bird should remain happy and healthy for a long time.

 

Worming and Parasites

Aside from food, housing and safety there are still a few issues that need to be dealt with. These few routine procedures can certainly make a big difference to the health of your bird and help extend its lifespan.

Just like other household pets your bird needs routine intestinal worming and treatment for external parasites. Bird Worms can be treated by adding medication to their water supply or by direct ingestion of a liquid or gel. Always check the bottle or package of your product to determine correct dosages and methods of administering it. It in doubt at all please contact your Avian Vet.

External bird parasites come in the form of lice or mites that can be transmitted from other birds especially if your bird is caged outdoors. There are powders and rinses available but once again read the instructions carefully and follow directions accordingly.They are relatively inexpensive but by using them you can make a great deal of difference to the health and comfort of your bird.

 

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