by Nita Holstine
About a week ago, I went into the bird's cage to find Bobaloo dead. He was the only all white bird, no grey. He was indeed the oldest of them all. The only older bird had been Sunshine and she died a long while ago. It is still always so sad. Several days before, he'd sat in front of me as if to say, why haven't you brought any millet sprays lately. That was his favorite and he would eat them while I held the spray for him to eat. They are each so precious with completely different personalities. I may have all males but then it is very hard to tell. There is one of the three remaining that just sings up a storm.
When I started up the new Pet Section, I took more and better photos of the beautiful cockatiels. They have been hail and hearty and I have never again picked greens from the front yard again. I had tried giving them alfalfa like the chickens but they didn't go for that. I had seen some alfalfa sticks that birds loved but they only came in a special blend that I haven't seen in a long time. They were thin little pieces and few at that. They finally developed a taste for the fruit in the fancy mixes and get excited when it is time to fill the bowls.
I think we may have a pair that is compatible. That is always important since if they won't be friends, they won't mate. Sunshine was a fussy old girl but she had such a precious personality. A true "touch me not" type of pet. Two of the four are the tame as can be hand raised babies. BUT, just try to pick them up and you'd get a finger ripped up. You still have to offer the finger and say "step up" and that's just what they will do. They learned their commands but are so much happier having the entire bird space for flying, not just an hour in the evening in the big room. Bobaloo was bought for mating purposes and is probably a fairly old bird. He had never been handled but will come right up to my hand if I offer him a millet spray. Sunshine would always groom him and they were so cute together. We miss Sunny. Like Bobaloo, she was all white and yellow with no grey.
When I realized that I had two little babies that were already hungry, I got on the Internet and went back and looked for any and all information. Nothing. The cockatiel society person wrote back to say that, I should read all the letters with questions and answers and maybe I would find something. And that I should join the society so I could have contact with help when I needed it. What a laugh.
I had long before read where there was a powdered formula available for when you wanted to hand feed the baby a mommie was raising. I had called the pet shop back then and a young man told me there was no such thing. Now, I had an emergency and would have to be able to tell Randy where to go and what to ask for. I was lucky to talk with the shop owner this time although she was in a hurry and left out some important things. I managed to keep them at least warm until the food arrived. I did as the lady advised and bought the food and fed them as she suggested. We still have about $30 worth of treat stuff that they would not eat but it was worth it just to have help when I was needing it. I have often seen where people were advised to call a vet who specializes in avian care. That's a joke. We have lots of vets and most specialize in horses, but others only with cats and dogs. The nearby city has one avian doctor but she owns and operates a pet shop besides having a private practice. They carry only the most expensive feed and toys and by talking to her for just a few minutes, you understand that she gives no advice for free.
The babies new home was an old aquarium. With a heating pad underneath and a towel between to make sure they didn't get too hot, the birds had paper towels on the floor to wobble around on. They went backwards more often than forwards at first but ate well, regular and hearty. I never had any trouble with them not digesting food. They were tearing up the towels when I moved them into a small cage.
As they got as big as the adults, I started taking them out to fly around the room. They did a little flying into the walls but learned quickly. Their best trick was to step up onto my finger. It wasn't easy making new perches they would take to and actually land on but they always had fun and usually did not want to return to their cage. It has only been about a month now that I have put their big cage into the big room cage with the other two birds. One of the babies, Buddy, was the least social and would hiss at the other birds when they approached. He was never even what could be considered bonded with Elvis, his brother. While the two adult birds were well bonded and always sitting together. All bonded means is that they get along. It doesn't mean that they are male/female. The would be called a mating pair. These people already have a set word standard and if you don't know how to interpret it, you easily misunderstand. There has been so much more written now and the advice is much better and more practical.
I was at first like one of the girls who had written in to the forum. She could hardly believe how delicate the birds actually were. The pet store where she purchased a bird didn't tell her very much at all. They can have lots of problems but it is much easier if you first understand how they are delicate and what never to do anywhere near them. The cries of a baby bird will attract a snake and make it try just about every way to get at the baby. We have snakes that climb trees and if they get in the house, they can go straight up the walls. It's the weirdest of sights. The stupid snake will swallow a baby bird and not worry about how he's going to get out.
I had purchased all the books at the book store on Cockatiels and had read all the books the library had to offer. Then it became a matter of compiling all the information to have it handy in case I needed it. The PhancyPages became the perfect place and just in case others should come reading about bird adventures.
After BB was free to fly with the other birds, he didn't want to play with me very often. He would still groom Randy's hair and he would usually step up onto our fingers when we asked but he sure did love his all the time freedom to fly to his little heart's content. He was our birdie for about 3 years before he died; one morning, he was laying on the floor already gone. We figure he was already very old when he came to our house but we sure did come to love him as a part of our family.
If I were to do things different, I would have covered the entire wall and ceiling area of the birds new home with the same chicken wire as the wall. The cockatiels were bad but the parakeets were worse. The would chew on the ceiling, the walls, just about anywhere they could get a perch and go to work. We lost the 2 parakeets when they were able to get into the wall and out of reach. It is much better to have an extra nest box with a little clean hay for litter. Ideally, their boxes would be in a more quiet out of the way area. A little privacy goes a long way.
If you have ever raised animals you know that you take their health for granted until something bad happens. I had three cockatiels die within 2 days time. I went back again to the websites and read everything I could trying to figure out what could be wrong. A vet said that it might be something in the air, a bug type of thing. But the rest of the birds were fine. I'd taken everything out of the cage and put in all fresh, bought new. The only thing I could figure was that I had cut their greens in a spot too close to the driveway and fumes from the vehicles had made the grasses bad.
Heart broken, I had two grown cockatiels to tend. I also had two little babies that were hungry as could be and crying to be fed. They were just starting to get little feathers but no where ready to eat on their own.
Next week, hand raising baby cockatiels and the role of being mommie bird.
I was walking through the yard one day when I was suddenly attacked by a bird. I thought at first it was a blue jay because of the blue blur as I had ducked and put my hands on my head. The next thing I knew I had a little blue parakeet sitting in my hand. He wasn't going to leave. Here I am, please take me inside your home and give me seeds and water. I ran inside and explained to Randy that we suddenly had a new little bird. Could he please go crawl under the house and get out the spare bird cage. Thinking we'd not be needing it, it was packed away. I handed off the tiny bundle of feathers and little BB fell asleep in Randy's hands while I cleaned up the cage. Fresh water and plenty of seeds made the little guy so happy. The wild birds seemed to know that he wasn't one of their own.
BB proceeded to teach us all the tunes he knew. He had been well trained and would do loops around his perch in excitement when asked if he wanted to get out of the cage. He could sit on your finger, shoulder or where ever he wanted. His favorite was on Randy's shoulder where he would groom Randy's hair, gently tugging just so, one hair at a time. He would return a good wolf whistle and several other versions but he also had a piece where he sounded like radio programming.
Deciding we needed more birds, we bought two more cockatiels and two parakeets. Randy bought a small nest box and a larger size putting them both up right away. Sure enough, the cockatiels went to work and made a nest and raised 3 babies. Mommie bird often seemed worn out but I knew nothing of feeding babies. The only book I had found was where this woman said that the way to hand raise birds was to get them near starving and they'd eat out of your hand. She was the first to ever raise them in this country and her methods made me want to give up.
Both of the cockatiels had the grey coloring and were not very tame. The lady selling them said that she had handled them plenty but I think she was lying. I had no luck and I read everything I could find. We also bought 2 parakeets, one yellow and one green. The new cockatiel offspring were also the grey mix and nearly grown by the time they flew out of the next box. The adults have this thing they do to help the babies learn. They fly down under the baby and actually lift the little bird on up to the perch where he's going. The space of almost 14' is plenty for them to do some excellent flying. For some reason, the lady selling the birds thought we wanted their wings clipped. No wonder they were mean! It took quite a while for the wings feathers to grow out but they did all learn to fly.
Next week will be about when the birds decide to nest in the ceiling or the walls. Just ignore that nice wooden nest box and chew up the room.
Sunshine was our first Cockatiel. She was given for free and was old and very set in her ways. She was a Lutino and had been confined to a very small cage for her entire life. She had known only one person and no other birds. She had certainly never flown before.
A trip to the junk store turned up a 2" x 4" wrought iron cage. It was in fair shape but had to be painted with a spray paint because of the detail but it still cost less than $10 total. She had most of the new paint chewed off in a matter of weeks. It was a safe paint but a big waste of time. Just clean is plenty to require.
The advice websites said that it was safe to use oak branches but only if they were well aged and washed clean. She loved her new branch and would go up and down all day long. She chewed it smooth in no time. She found a corner to back into and would sing her broody sounds and lay about 6 eggs in her little nest. She wanted to be a mommy and it definitely proved that she was a girl bird.
If the bird treat package said that cockatiels just loved the goodie, she would hiss at it and refuse to come down to even eat until the offending object was removed. I read once where all cockatiels just love marigold seeds. She would pick them up one at a time and drop them outside the cage until all were gone. She would fuss as if to say, Don't give me these ANY MORE ! She loved fresh brussel sprout leaves and had probably never had any before in her life. If she was out of fresh leaves, she would wave a wilted leaf, demanding more !
Sunshine had never been handled. When I did have to grab her, I just wore my gloves. She might try to bite but not serious. She was just too gentle. When we moved to the farm, we had to buy a cage to fit the car. It had to be not too tall and not too wide but not so small that she would hurt herself on the 30 minute trip. Going the back road, scenic route there was a stop sign. After I had made my slow stop as to not toss the cage around, I looked for other traffic. I saw to one side just a bit out of sight, a highway patrol car. As I gave a little wave, he saw what he was looking for; the seatbelts. I was close enough to see him crack up with laughter, I was indeed using my own seatbelt and the seatbelt was obviously strapped around the entire bird cage. Guess he had fun telling that tale. But how else would you keep the cage from falling around, tie it to the seat with a rope?
Not long after we moved onto the farm, Randy built a new wall in our extra room. He set studs to partition off about 1/4 of the room. The "wall" is covered with plastic chicken wire and has an excellent door that is easy to open and close. We bought a male cockatiel and named him Bobaloo. He was the same yellow and white coloring but he had only been used for breeding and had always lived in a large cage and had never known a small cage. I thought he was going to kill himself before we could get him home and into the big enclosure. We had already moved Sunshine in her big cage into the even bigger new space. Bobaloo took to the freedom with great ease. Sunny was a different story. We attached extra plastic wire to all the feeding and water stations where she could climb to any spot when she wouldn't fly. She had never learned but it was only a week or two before she was flying from one end to the other. One end had her old cage (which she never went back to) and the other end had a 5 foot tall oak tree, long barren of any leaves or bark, which gave the birds lots of extra playing space.
Next week, Blue Boy the parakeet and a few more cockatiels. The adventures continue in our Bird World. If you have stories of your own, please send them by email to Nita.