About Cockatiels: Bird Health Maintenance
| We all want a healthy bird. It's not terribly difficult
to keep your cockatiel in good health, but just like anything else, a bird
sometimes falls ill. This section is an attempt at a guide on how to keep
your bird healthy and happy.
One of the first major factors is diet. I believe I have
gone into it extensively in the nutrition
section, so I will briefly summarize. Birds need a healthy and varied
diet. A main course of pellets, with fruits and veggies on the side, is
a good start in the right direction. Occasional treats of small amounts
of seed and millet spray are fine, but keep in mind that to a bird, such
treats are like Big Macs: unhealthy to be eaten every day. Fresh produce
must be removed from the cage about four hours after offering it, lest
it become a playground for bacteria. Don't feed your bird potato chips
or other junk food. A cockatiel eating one potato chip is equal to us eating
50 chips! Excessive salt is fatal to cockatiels. Fresh water must be offered
daily. If, in the course of the day, the bird poops into the water trough,
the water should be changed. Cleaning the grille and paper tray should
be done regularly as well.
I highly recommend placing a cuttlebone and mineral block
in your bird's cage. They are only a few dollars and last a long time.
Birds like to gnaw, and these will provide necessary nutrients as well
as helping to wear down their beak so it doesn't become overgrown.
Yet another problem with those "beginner kits" they sell
for cockatiels is the "mite protector" that usually comes with them. Your
bird doesn't need that, it's the equivalent of hanging a sack of moth balls
on the cage. Birds can even die from this treatment. If you suspect your
bird of having mites (a problem most birds do not have, because it involves
having contact with outside birds) it should be taken to an avian vet immediately.
Also, don't spray your bird with the oils they sell, or any medication
until consulting an avian vet. You could be doing more harm than good.
Although it may not seem that way at first, keeping your
bird's wings clipped will keep your bird happy and healthy. Clipping the
wings establishes a certain dominance over the bird, keeping them calm
and perfectly content to nibble on your ears. Otherwise, the bird may see
itself as "top bird," and chomp on your finger and basically fly around
doing whatever it wants. Clipping also prevents birds from flying into
mirrors, windows, or even taking off out the door. I knew someone who didn't
clip their cockatoo's wings, and the bird flew into a window and its beak
broke off. Not only did they have to handfeed it, but when they got to
the vet, who tried to glue it back on, the bird asphixiated and died. To
think it could have all been avoided with a few snips of the scissors.
Don't try to clip the wings yourself if you have never
done so. Either take it to the vet, or to me (I charge $5 and will demonstrate
how it's done). Randomly chopping on your bird is never a good idea. Some
feathers on birds are blood feathers, and if you cut them, it is not only
painful, the bird will bleed, sometimes to death. Until you've been shown
how, and all your questions answered, don't clip them yourself. If you
have doubts, ask the person to show you again, or just keep taking your
bird to the vet to have them clipped.
There are some pet stores that allow you to pick up birds,
and there are pet fairs where you are literally surrounded by birds. You
must wash your hands immediately when you get home, and if you've
allowed a bird to sit on your shoulder, put your shirt into the wash immediately.
I know a bird loving couple that enters their house through the laundry
room and immediately change their clothes and then take a shower. This
may sound a bit drastic, but diseases are easy to spread and there's no
such thing as being too careful. It would be terrible for your little cockatiel
to become sick just because you didn't wash your hands. You don't know
where these birds at pet stores and bird fairs have been, it's better to
be safe than sorry.
Occasionally, it may be necessary to have your cockatiel's
toes trimmed. Plenty of hard perches in the cage should take care of that,
but sometimes, and especially if you have a cloth perch or two, they don't.
Cutting 'tiel claws is a lot like cutting dog toenails, because they have
a quick which will bleed profusely if you cut it. Cockatiel toes are black,
so it's a bit of guesswork. I advise either making sure they have plenty
of hard perches, or seeing a vet to trim them until you get a feel for
Birds are very prone to stress related illnesses, so it's
better if you avoid stress totally. Some circumstances you are unable to
control - your bird may be molting, you may get a new puppy or new bird,
or you could go away on vacation. You should make sure your bird has plenty
of its favorite toys around, and leave it alone if it wants to be in these
circumstances. You should not let small children squeeze, tease, or frighten
your bird. Don't run around with a bird on your shoulder. If a bird wants
to be left alone, leave it alone. Traveling is also stressful for birds,
try to keep its cage covered (remove all the perches) or place it in a
box with air holes.
|| Young birds are prone to breaking feathers. They are clumsy, and they are
like little kids. They move around a lot, without all the experience of other birds, and they will break some
tail feathers. The feather should be clipped off where it is broken, because it is uncomfortable. You can
either leave it clipped off, or you can have it pulled. If you bought your tiel from me, I will pull feathers for
free. For anyone else, it is $5. If the feather is bleeding, it has broken a blood feather, and you should immediately
apply cornstarch, or Qwik Stop, if available. Birds have little blood, they can't afford to lose any. The blood feather
must be pulled.|
The picture on the left is an assortment of pulled broken feathers. They aren't very attractive!
If a tail gets really ragged looking, you may elect to have the ratty feathers pulled so that new ones can come in.
New feathers seem to be a lot stronger, and not break often, if at all. In my older birds, I never have to pull a
Finally, cockatiels are not cage birds. They are meant
to be handled and played with. Ignoring your bird will not only make it
less likely to want to be picked up, it will be stressful to a bird that
is used to being out of its cage and handled a lot. If it comes to the
point where you can't give your bird the attention it deserves, then it's
best to find someone who will.