It is hard to believe our little Marshmellow our Umbrella Cockatoo will be 22 years old this Friday. We have learned so many things about her and Cockatoos over the past 22 years I wanted to share them with you.
Here are 6 Tips for Cockatoo Owners:
1. No Petting Under the Wings
When we first bought Marshmellow 22 years ago we were first attracted to her sweetness and how she used to cuddle with me in the bird store. The more I cuddled here…..the more she would lift her wings so I could pet her underneath them. When we brought her home this was a daily routine for our bonding. I would pet her cuddle her like a baby and she would lift her wings…..”I thought how cute is that”.
After a few months of this behavior of petting her underneath her wings….. I noticed she would become agitated if she did not get her “Petting” under her wings every day. This agitation eventually turned into viscous bites. How could my little cute feathered baby be turning into a viscous Cockatoo.
After consulting with a Bird Behaviorist I found out that petting any bird (especially Cockatoos) underneath the wings causes sexual frustration and this frustration turns into biting. After learning this…..I immediately stopped petting Marshmellow underneath the wings and now pet all of my birds on their heads only.
2. No Cuddling Underneath Covers or Blankets or Dark Places
This was one of Marshmellow’s favorite things to do when we brought her home for the first time. Wow…..how cute is that she loves to tuck underneath the covers with us just like a human baby. We did not know at the time that this behavior would cause aggression and biting as Marshmellow got older.
Going to dark places is a natural instinct for birds when they are trying to find a nest during mating season.
3. Height…Leads to No Respect
We bought Marshmellow this huge perch when she was young. It was tall (5.5 feet) and it looked like a large Totem pole. She loved this large Totem Pole Perch. The bad thing…..I’m 5′ 2″ and Marshmellow towered over me. She began to bite me if I tried to get her down from the Totem Pole perch. We could not understand what was happening. This white mush of a bird was becoming very aggressive and her bites were getting nastier and nastier.
We called a Bird Behaviorist and she asked “is Marshmellow anywhere where she is taller than you above your eye level.” We said “yes…we have this tall Totem Pole Perch”. The Parrot Behaviorist said “Immediately chop it down till Marshmellow is no longer taller than you and she is below your eye level”. She said “The tallest bird in the tree rules the roost.” What I did not realize was that Marshmellow did not respect my authority because she was standing at a height greater than my eye level. This was evident when she easily came right up on my husband’s hand because she was below his eye level.
We immediately cut down the Totem Pole Perch and Marshmellow became docile again.
4. Plenty of Bird Toys
I cannot stress this factor enough. Cockatoos need parrot toys inside their cages and lots of them. Cockatoos have a great instinct to chew. We made the mistake of not giving Marshemllow enough bird toys when she was young. Bird toys are great for when you are not around and it will keep your Cockatoo busy and it will pass their time away until you get home. Not having enough bird toys to “destroy” can lead to feather plucking and frustration in all birds especially Cockatoos
5. Teach them to Forage
Foraging bird toys and the knowledge of foraging for food was not around 20 years ago when Marshmellow came into our lives. Foraging is a natural instinct for any bird. There are some great foraging bird toys available that will keep a Cockatoo happy and content for hours. Marshmellow’s favorites Foraging Bird Toys are the Nature’s Instinct Turn and Learn and the Nature’s Instinct Tiki Take Out.
6. 12 Hours of Sleep each night
This is one of the most important components of having a content and happy Cockatoo. All birds need at leat 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. Lack of sleep can effect your bird’s immune system, increase their stress levels and can result in the development of negative behaviors like screaming and feather plucking. Think of your bird as a 3 year old child who has not had enough sleep…..you know how cranky and irritable they can become so can your feathered baby.
Ann Zych – FunTime Birdy