This blog post is a compilation of several articles we’ve read about Cockatoo’s. It’s going to let you know some facts, what to do and how to care for your bird. While it is addressed to Cockatoo’s much of the material will apply to most bird’s.
Caring for a cockatoo requires you to devote time and patience to your new pet. The most important things a cockatoo needs are the right cage, the right food, appropriate attention and routine. If you provide all these things, you’ll make a great cockatoo parent.
Getting Your Bird Accustomed to His New Home
Follow a set routine to make your cockatoo feel comfortable and adjust to his new home. Follow a regular schedule for wake-up time, feedings, play time and bedtime. Being able to predict the day’s activities will help put your bird at ease.
Respect your cockatoo’s space and comfort level when introducing him to his new home. Birds view humans as predators until they develop a bond of trust. Approach your bird’s cage slowly and speak in a calm, soft voice. If your bird shrinks away from you, slowly back off and try to interact with him again later. Let your cockatoo set the pace for how soon you’ll be able to approach and handle him.
Avoid flooding your cockatoo with attention at first homecoming. Instead, from the first day provide your bird with the amount of attention you expect to give him in the long term. Cockatoos can become depressed if there is a sudden decrease in the attention they receive.
Involve all family members in the bonding process. Every member of the household should partake in your cockatoo’s care and should make an effort to establish trust with your bird.
Play with your cockatoo regularly and provide entertaining toys. Cockatoos are very intelligent birds that need stimulation and activity. Choose a mix of indestructible and destructible toys to keep your cockatoo entertained. Rotate toys every few weeks to keep your bird interested.
Train your bird with simple commands, such as “step up” and “go home.” These training sessions will not only develop the bond between you and your cockatoo, but will help manage their behavior.
The Proper Habitat
Place the cage in a room that meets your bird’s requirements. It should be where he can interact with the family and is safe from sudden changes in temperature. It must be in a spot where that strong beak cannot do too much damage to the environment outside the cage. Cockatoos need 10 to 12 hours of sleep a night, so choose a room that will provide this many quiet hours per day. The cage should be the right size for a full-grown cockatoo — at least 3 feet wide and 4 feet high. Your bird should be able to stretch its wings fully without touching the sides of the cage. Stock the cage with toys, perches, food and water. For chicks, make sure the bottom of the cage is adequately cushioned until they can perch.
Feeding Your Cockatoo
Feed your cockatoo parrot pellets, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables. Cockatoos should only eat nuts and seeds occasionally as a treat. Cut fresh foods into small pieces your birdie can easily pick up in their beak.
Fruits can be fresh or dried. If you feed dried fruits, however, make sure they are organic with no additives. Dried fruits and vegetables are advantageous because they last longer, which is great for traveling. If you wet them with a little warm water just before feeding, your cockatoo is sure to do the happy dance. Cockatoos get most of their protein from legumes, cooked eggs, cheese, sprouts, beans and spinach. Occasionally, a small piece of cooked meat or fish is fine.
Make the food easily accessible to your cockatoo. Position the food and water bowls in a place where your bird often spends time so it can eat comfortably.
Choose foods for your cockatoo that meet their nutritional needs. Vitamin A and calcium are especially important to your cockatoo’s diet. He can get these naturally from fresh food, so a supplement is not necessary. Vegetables like broccoli and kale add calcium to your cockatoo’s diet. Fruits and vegetables such as sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots and apricots are good sources of Vitamin A.
Training your Cockatoo
From Gaining Trust to Training your Bird
Cockatoos are inquisitive and intelligent, making them receptive to training. However, hopefully you realized before making a purchase there are lots of different kinds of cockatoos, and only some talk or learn particular tricks. Do your research to choose a type that you can train the way you want.
Foster trust and a bond between you and your feathered friend from the start. Meet their basic needs by providing appropriate feed and fresh water daily. Tame your cockatoo before attempting training. Handle him gently and affectionately every day in a room without distractions, including other people and animals. Hand-feed him treats and talk quietly in loving tones. Move slowly; never make sudden movements. Start with short taming sessions and gradually increase their duration. At first, taming will take place with your bird in his cage; after he gets more accustomed to you and willingly perches on you, take him out to continue taming.
Choose one person in the house to perform the primary training. If it isn’t you, it should be someone who also puts in time and effort to tame your bird. Others can reinforce the primary training but should not conduct the main sessions, or your feathered friend can become confused about what he’s supposed to do and when.
Hold training sessions in an uncluttered, quiet room. Your cockatoo has a pretty limited attention span, so
you’ll have to minimize the possible distractions. Close cabinets, windows, blinds and doors. Turn off the overhead fan or anything else moving or making noise. Chase away any other people or animals.
Show your cockatoo how to play with toys so he can entertain himself when you are not around. Ring a bell or jingleball toy to show how he can make the sound. Scratch at a wood block or gently push him back and forth on a swing. Teach him to climb a ladder or rope with treats along the way, like nuts or fruits. Vary the type of toys and where you put them. Combine this training with trick training. You can teach a cockatoo to dance, give a high-five, walk along their perch, spin around, bop their head up and down and spread their wings — on command or along with music. He may screech along to the music to show his excitement.
Train your cockatoo to say one word or a brief phrase of two or three words at a time. Repeat it numerous times directly to him during training sessions. Offer periodic treats to keep training time a happy time. When your bird begins losing interest, or if you start becoming frustrated or impatient, stop the session and resume a few hours later or the next day.
Be consistent about training sessions. Have them in the same place and at the same time of day every time. Stick to the same word or exact same phrase until your cockatoo learns to say it. Reward him immediately with a treat and praise when he says what you want him to say.
Reinforce the training sessions by saying the word or phrase you’re working on every time you approach your feathered friend’s cage. Instruct all the other humans in the home to do the same. Offer a treat when your cockatoo repeats the words until he begins saying them on his own rather than just repeating them on “command.”
Refrain from yelling at or punishing your bird. They won’t learn any faster; in fact, they’ll become afraid of you, and less receptive to training and displays of affection.
Follow this basic process to train your cockatoo to perform tricks or to behave in certain ways. Consistent repetition, patience and positive reinforcement are key. The specifics of other types of training vary, though, so consult a trainer or a reputable guide if you want to teach your bird to do other things.
Things to Do With Your Cockatoo
The highly intelligent cockatoo needs mental stimulation and attention from her owner. A bored bird will screech constantly, become depressed and pluck his feathers out. Prevent such behavior simply by playing with your cockatoo on a regular basis and teaching her tricks that she will be eager to perform.
Part of the Flock
For starters, let your cockatoo know he is part of the family by placing his cage, or even a perch area, in a moderately active area of the home. He will enjoy seeing people come and go, and will come to enjoy the television or radio. Shutting him up in a quiet room should only be done at night, when it is time to go to sleep. Keeping him close by during the day, or when you are at home, will encourage you to interact with him.
Outside of the Cage
It is important to give your cockatoo supervised time out of the cage each day. You can play fetch with small, soft objects and have him push around a ping pong ball. Teach him to play basketball by putting a small foam ball through a miniature net, available at pet supply stores. Show your cockatoo how to put the ball in the net multiple times and then give it to him to try. Remember to praise your cockatoo both vocally and with a treat when starting out; over time you can reduce the amount of treats but always give verbal praise. Also, cockatoos enjoy puzzles, such as food-cache toys that require the birds to use their brains to figure out how to get to food. Place a treat in one of three upside-down cups in front of him and slowly mix them around, giving him the treat only after he finds the correct cup in which it is hidden. You’ll find foraging toys and food puzzles at pet supply stores.
Reading to a cockatoo can be entertaining to the bird. Read from a children’s book using dramatic body language, vocalization and facial expressions as you would when reading to a child. Allow your cockatoo to screech when he is out of his cage, as this is his way of communicating that he appreciates the attention. After reading or play time, set aside a few minutes to let them know he must quiet down before he goes back inside the cage. Minimize any noises from the television or radio, and keep your voice low. You can have him perch on your shoulder; however, if he screeches too loud by your ear, hold him on your arm close to your body until he becomes quiet. In addition to play time, this cuddling will help the cockatoo bond with you.
Other tips and warnings
There is no substitute for an avian veterinarian, one that both you and your bird trust. Cockatoos come down with the same illnesses that affect other birds but are especially susceptible to several: Psittacine beak and feather disease; Obesity; Bumblefoot. Self-mutilation and feather plucking can be caused by either a physical or emotional problem; it should be checked out immediately before it gets too advanced to address.
If you’re getting the idea
that cockatoos are challenging, expensive and timeconsuming, you’re right.
These highly intelligent, fascinating birds are not for everyone. Be sure you
have the time, money and resources to raise him right or he’ll wind up just
another cockatoo looking for a home.
Cockatoos have very strong
beaks, so a metal cage with heavy gauge bars is the best choice to prevent your
bird from chewing his way to freedom.
Different types of cockatoos grow to different sizes, affecting the required cage size. From goffins to citrons to umbrellas the size of your bird will determine his cage need.
We recommend Dogwood perches as they are durable and indigenous to Florida.
Don’t try to train your cockatoo not to chew and shred, which are important behaviors for them. It helps them maintain healthy beaks and it’s an essential source of mental and physical stimulation. Make sure your little feathered friend always has something to gnaw to bits.
Foods and beverages that are toxic to your cockatoo include avocado, chocolate, carbonated drinks, caffeine and alcohol.
Cockatoos associate affection with breeding partners. If your bird is overstimulated, this can result in frustration and aggression.