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Hello! I've had this new male cockatiel for just over a week, and I'm trying to figure out what to do about some of his behaviors. I totally understand a lot of this takes time, so it's not to do with anything that I think should be rushed along - it's mostly to do with persistent screaming.

He is just about two years old, and came from a situation where the family was very loving but had him alone and unstimulated for most of the day - to replace stimulation, they left him with a mirror, which he became extremely obsessed with. I have NOT replaced the mirror in his cage because I don't want him to become bonded with the mirror instead of the new humans around him, and his last owner said when they took out the mirror for a short period of time, he was much more friendly and loving to his humans. I work from home so I'm here in the same room with him all day. I followed what I'd read online (here and elsewhere) and heard from other cockatiel owners in terms of giving him the appropriate amount of space, spending quiet time within range of his cage, and making sure he isn't stressed. Unfortunately, I would say I'm confused, because in some ways he is way ahead of the game in terms of bonding, but in others we are below stage one.

When I first opened the travel carrier, I was going to let him leave the carrier and enter the cage at his own pace, but he immediately flew up onto my shoulder and stayed there for an hour. He was completely comfortable there, and relaxed enough to preen, then nap for a while. Since the first day, I have let him do his thing in the cage, which I will not enter with my hands - he's now comfortable with my hands being placed on the door, or when I drop the food in his bowl - though I leave the door open often when I'm present so he can explore at his own pace. When the door is open, he likes to climb up on top of the cage, where he continually gives the sound his last owner said indicated he wanted to be picked up. However, he will attack any stick or arm that is offered even as he is demanding to be picked up. Not a problem, though I do wonder why he's always asking for it and then hissing at anything that approaches. Maybe a hormonal young male thing? He will fly off the cage and onto the floor and make the sound asking to be picked up. If I offer an arm from there, he hops right up, climbs onto my shoulder, back, or head, and sits there preening and napping contentedly. He does eat millet or treats that I hold for him, though he will attack my hand if he gets close enough, so I have not yet gotten to the stage where he eats out of my hand. Again, it's only been a week, so I'm not surprised there at all, and it's not a problem. He loves when I blow gently on his head, which he bows down to receive, and then hops onto my head to preen me and clean my hair before cleaning himself and then taking a nap. So in many ways, we are leagues ahead of where I ever thought we would be in terms of socializing and bonding by this point, and the things that aren't leagues ahead I'm not worried about, because the pace for hand training is something I can be eternally patient about, and it's only been a week.

However, some days he has been screaming constantly. If I leave the room, I tell him goodbye and make my whistle so he knows I'm going -- he will scream constantly until I return. Some days, even if I am sitting at my desk in plain sight, talking to him softly, he will scream and scream. Usually, he starts with the ask to be picked up (which of course won't work because he's on or in the cage) and then starts a series of constant, increasingly louder screams. I've followed all the advice I've read and not visibly or audibly reacted so he doesn't associate the screams with getting a reaction from me. I tried covering him when he started screaming, as I was worried he might be stressed by the environment, but that made him scream louder and more frequently. I do take calls for work from my desk but I've had to move that into another room as on one call, every other word from my mouth prompted a scream from him. It seems to be attention-based - if I'm interacting with him, he won't scream - and thank god it isn't every day, but on the days when it's happened, he's been a persistent little guy. I'm worried there's something I'm doing wrong and I don't want him to be having a negative experience in any way.

One thing that is important to mention is that it doesn't seem like he had a lot of toys before, and his sole stimulation in the cage was the mirror. He has no interest in the toys that came with the cage from his last owner, and the one I've added, he interacts with for maybe 1% of the day. I know you're meant to take your time introducing new things, so I'm waiting to start adding more stimulating things to the cage, but it doesn't seem like he's used to entertaining himself besides when he had the mirror. I let him see the mirror for a few minutes today after a long bout of screaming - he'd calmed down, settled on his perch, and made some content noises, so I wanted to reward him for the quiet and decided to try the mirror. His whole demeanor changed to a chirpy singing boy who was excited to show off. I'm worried he's been so conditioned to the mirror that this is why he's not content. I'm going to hold off on using the mirror as a reward again until I've heard more from experienced folks like you!

So, sorry for the novel. I love him so much already and I'm worried that he's not happy. Would love any advice on dealing with the screams and his past of relying only on the mirror for stimulation.

Thank you in advance!!!
:grey tiel:
 
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