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I posted a thread in the health subforum recently about my sweet cockatiel Tilli's sudden death. We're still waiting on necropsy results, but my fiance and I decided to go ahead and start planning ahead for eventually getting another cockatiel.

I've been in touch with breeders, rescues, and even local shops. Normally I don't get animals from pet shops, but Tilli was a surprise find at a pet store - she just absolutely had the right personality and we clicked. So I figured I'd at least keep my eyes open.

We also found a nearby bird breeder and bird specialty shop that we were really impressed with. They offer boarding, grooming, have a rescue operation that is about to be a stand-alone endeavor, and they partner with a local avian vet to offer checkups for all babies. The shop itself was clean, the birds well kept, and the employees were very kind and helpful with all my questions.

Now, here's the thing: Tilli was a a little bit older when I found her, probably 4-6 months, and had an obvious personality. I adored her temperament off the bat and knew she was what I was looking for.

My first cockatiel, who I got a good 14 or 15 years ago, was also from a breeder, but I was pretty young then and didn't really know what I was looking for in a bird's personality. I chose my baby, and she ended up having the same cuddly temperament that I adored in Tilli, but it was kind of by luck.

I've put down a deposit to get a baby from this place, but I'm really psyching myself out about being able to choose. This is probably not something I'm going to have to deal with for weeks or months, but... can you tell, when you're working with really young cockatiels, whether their personality is a good match for you?

The breeder does DNA testing at about 5 weeks, but I'm sure it takes a while to get the results. I was told folks who are next on their waitlist can start at least briefly meeting the babies once they pull them for handfeeding around 2 weeks, and you're allowed to visit after that and start picking. They go home once they're weaned, which is a flexible timeline, since the breeders do not try to force wean them. But you're allowed to visit and bond with your baby.

It sounds like a lot of times, people are reserving their particular babies pretty early on.

Thing is, I would kind of like to know the sex of my bird, since I really prefer the temperament of female tiels, and I'd like to feel confident I'm bringing home a baby based on personality and not just pretty color or whatever.

The folks at the shop said they start seeing a bit more personality around five weeks. I guess what I'm asking here is:

* How old do babies need to be before you can start feeling out their personalities? My two girls have been so affectionate and sweet, dipping their heads for scritches, loving their cheeks rubbed, asking to be petted and wanting to hang out on me. I really want to hold out for a bird with that sort of temperament. I'm even totally willing to just pass on a clutch and let the next people down on a waitlist go so that I can wait for the right one, if need be.

So, at what age is it possible to sense out more cuddly temperaments vs other sorts? Are there any particular behaviors in young chicks that I should be on the lookout for? I'm not as familiar with such young babies, so I think I will have a hard time figuring them out, haha. I know what I'm looking for in a bird, but I don't know how to find it. Is there anything else I might try to request of the breeders to help me in my search, or help me socialize a baby to be comfortable with and hopefully enjoy touch?

* How old are babies before you can start making guesses as to sex based on behavior? I saw some pretty young babies in another store and some of the (DNA sexed) males were already doing some singing. I know it's a bit of a guess when they're young, but how young do they sometimes start giving you hints?

Some of my other questions I guess I'm just going to have to ask the breeder, like how soon I have to pick a baby before they start moving on to the next people on the waitlist. I really don't want to be pressured to pick before I feel like I have "clicked" with one. I also don't know how they'd handle it if I picked tentatively and the bird ended up male and I second-guessed my decision. :/

I recognize I may be overthinking all this a bit. I know my Tilli can't be replaced, and no bird will be quite like her. But after having had two sweet female cockatiels in a row (and having known a third somewhat less sweet but still gentle) third female, I know the sex and general temperament I'm looking for.

I suppose another good question for folks in this thread would be this:
* How often is is that hand-raised cockatiels are not really very cuddly? My impression is that they're a bit more hands-on than a lot of birds, but I know they're all individuals and some may just not be into it. While I know I will love any bird I have, I am quite willing to be patient so that I find a bird who I can have that special bond with.

Any other advice? Sorry for the rambling.
 

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All of my hand raised tiels have been crazy for affection. I haven't found gender very important except boys can be louder as they like to sing more, but I've had sweet cuddly boys and girls who are more adventurous and while still sweet and loving they also run around more.

I've read genetics play a role, if the parents are calm and sweet, the babies are more likely to be that way. My most cuddly birds are ones that I hand wean. I'll bring them home when they are starting to eat regular food but still take formula a few times/day. I make sure I have tons of time for them and give them lots of cuddles against my cheek and head scratches. They forever see me as mom and love my cuddles, even if they bond with another bird, they still crave my attention and affection. Many breeders won't let anyone have a bird that isn't weaned (for good reason, hand feeding is serious) so I tend to get them from stores who know me and that I am experienced. I'll go spend time with them and look for birds that show interest in me. I've always found at least one that seems to choose me, it will run up to me or get on my shoulder and refuse to leave.

I have 2 that are about a year old now. I brought them home when they were 5-6 weeks and hand fed them until they naturally weaned and they are both little cuddle bugs (both female) but one just snuggles all day, the other is much higher energy and runs around more. I suddenly lost my super cuddly boy last year to illness.
 

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Thanks much for sharing your experiences!

I doubt the shop I have the deposit with would let me take one that wasn't fully weaned, though I suppose it's possible. I'm a wildlife biologist and worked for an avian vet back in the day, so I've had lots of experience handling and even feeding young birds. Nothing QUITE like handfeeding parrots, but I'd feel comfortable picking up that skill.

It makes me happy to hear that you've had such luck being "chosen" like that, and that you've had cuddly birds of either sex. I've even started having dreams now about going to see loads of cockatiels, so I guess it's really simmering in the back of my mind!

I'm trying to relax and tell myself that when I have found my next bird, I will know, and I don't need to stress about it. It's hard! It's weirdly a little nerve wracking.
 
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