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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi , I just brought home my first cockatiel two days back.

I am looking for advise on what to do now, because I am getting conflicting info from different sources.

Should I open the cage so he can come out and explore,
or would that be too early to do that now and I should tame him first and make him eat from my hand first then open the cage?

He is 4 months old (as been told by the seller) and he is not clipped and I dont like to clip his wings.


I'd appreciate any thoughts you might have,
 

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I have normal greys, whiteface, pearl pieds, creamface cinnamons, and pearls.
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I don't think I would let him out just yet. Since you've only had him a short time, let your new bird get use to there cage and surroundings first. I know what you mean about not liking to clip wings but sometimes it's for there own good. I learned that lesson the hard way! I was bringing in a heavy bag of dog food when my wife opened the screen door. Peaty, a beloved male tiel just happened to be right there and flew out the door and over the neighbors trees never to be seen again! When you do decide to let him out weather he's clipped or not.....keep a very close eye on him!
 

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Hi!

Congratulations for your first cockatiel and thank you for opening this very important topic. And I’m sorry to confuse you more, but I feel it is important to share another kind of view here, as you said that you don’t want to clip his wings. I’m glad to tell you that in my country (Finland) it is extremely rare to clip wings from any kind of pet bird – I believe no vet would do it here, at least not officially. This is because clipping of their wings is seen as both unethical and potentially dangerous. The danger lies in the fact that a bird that has been clipped first has to learn that they cannot fly anymore – and before they understand it, they may hurt themselves while attempting to fly.

Clipping is also seen as unethical, as it removes from the bird something that they were born to do. Cockatiels are extremely good fliers – hence they have such long tail feathers that allow them to have fine control over turning and landing. For example, my cockatiels can easily turn 360 degrees in the air. It is very clear that they love to fly and to show their skills. One of their favorite activity is to tease us humans by flying right above our heads or in front of our face.

If your birds are not tame – like mine weren’t as I got them – they may first see you as a scary, gigantic predator. If clipped, they cannot escape you. That can cause a lot of stress, and eventually they may adapt to your presence but that is only because they have no other choice – this phenomenon is called “learned helplessness”. Whether they really want to be with you, is another question – they may want, or they may not, but they seem tame because they have given up trying escaping.

I assure you; it is a great feeling to have control over a smart animal like cockatiel, which could escape you anytime if he wanted. The feeling, when he keeps on coming to you over and over again voluntarily, and is willing to do almost anything you tell him to do, if only he understands what you want from him. My birds are like this. Although it took time, patience and effort to teach them, I would still not change anything. If I ask them to fly to my hand, they will instantly fly to me 99 % of time.

If you bird is not tame, it may take a while to tame them so that you have better control over them. For example, putting them back to the cage may not be easy as first. Therefore, it is recommended to let him adapt to his cage for 2 weeks, so that he will recognize it as his new home and then he may voluntarily return to the cage every day. Also within these 2 weeks he will have plenty of time to get used to the surrounding room, which may prevent him from an injury during the first flight.

If he is not tame, when you open the cage door for the first time after 2 weeks, I recommend you to sit on the other side of the room, to observe, to avoid rapid movements and to let him come out of the cage at his own pace. Many experienced bird owners have said that cockatiels usually don’t fly with full speed during their first flight, so if they fall or collide, they usually don’t get seriously injured. Should he fall/collide, wait and see, he may soon (f.ex. in 15 minutes) recover and attempt flying again. Would he become unconscious and just lie on the floor, then he might require emergency visit to a vet.

I also recommend you serve his daily food portion inside the cage, if you want him to return to the cage smoothly. Catching a bird that is not tame will only make him afraid of people and hands, so it is better if he returns there voluntarily.

It is also advisable to train him first only outside the cage, as there is more space for him to escape and he feels safer there. Also, he may see his cage as his own territory and there are many stories of birds that act aggressively towards a hand that is put inside their cage. There are many good articles about taming parrots using positive reinforcement – for a bird which is not tame, a positive reinforcer is usually some special food like millet. Use a lot of millet/treats during the taming, there is no need to count the calories at first, as you can later decrease the amount and size of treats. Using this method makes learning fun for both of you, and makes your bird love you, as they associate your presence to a good feeling. Later, when the bird is tamer, they may perform some commands also just to get attention and praises from you.

Escaping can be prevented, but as Robert said, it takes careful thinking and ajustments. Cockatiels are very fast fliers; they may easily escape and may not find their way back to you (as they may not know how the house looks from outside). I would prevent escaping by any means: by not opening windows, if the door to a bird room is open. Or you can install some durable net on the windows, so that the birds cannot fly through. Or if your cockatiels like to spend time in only one room, you can have double doors outside this room. I have for example an old aviary that is now located outside the bird room: To enter the bird room I must first pass the aviary: I open one door to the aviary, then close the door behind me, then open the door to the actual bird room where the birds are. I never leave both doors open at the same time and hence there is no way they would escape.

I wish you carefully weigh the good and the bad sides and follow your heart when choosing whether or not to clip his wings. From the bird’s viewpoint, I believe he would love to keep his ability to fly, but for the owner it may mean somewhat more effort, but the result is a truly tame and happy bird. I think it is totally worth of all the effort.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thank you all for valuable insights, despite I dont have experience with Cockatiel before, yet I have been a canary owner way back in days and I used to let my canary flying freely inside the room and keep their cage's door open and they will always return to their cage after a happy flying...since Cocktiel is much smarter I was thinking to do the same after a week or ten days and just set and observe.. my concerns is if I do that would he really return ..or he will play smart and refuse to go back to his cage ... currently after the second day I managed to let him eat from my hand while he is standing on it ... but I don't know what to expect when I get him out of his cage ...
 

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Hi!

My understanding is that it is quite rare that parrots would not return to their cage after a flight. At least, 1,5 years ago as I was asking help in different forums and from different cockatiel breeders, none of the responding people had encountered similar problems. You should have no reason to worry beforehand. But since I have had quite a struggle with this problem, I guess it cannot be ruled out it entirely.

I can only tell my interpretation of what went wrong with my cockatiels, and maybe give some hints how to prevent it from happening. When I asked for help, I got many tips from experienced cockatiel owners, but none of them really solved the problem, and eventually we arranged a bird room for our ‘tiels.

We had no problem at the beginning: We let our ‘tiels out of the cage for the first time after 2 weeks, and first they made only short flights and always returned to the cage. However, within first 2 months they learned to not return to the cage – or if they returned there to eat for a short while, they learned to escape, if they saw us approaching the cage. It was truly frustrating at that time, because the living room was not “bird safe” and we could not leave them there without observation, so sometimes I was late from work…😓 Looking back, I can identify some possible reasons for their behavior:

  • Perhaps the time outside the cage was so much fun compared with the time they spent inside the cage. They had to spend inside the cage long hours until someone returned home, let them out and socialized with them. They soon learned that one of their owners could not leave the house in the morning, if they had slept outside of the cage and refused to go into the cage in the morning, although they must have been hungry, as there was no food outside the cage. They had plenty of foraging and shredding toys inside the cage, yet they seemed bored there. However, your starting situation may be better, if your little fellow likes to be trained inside the cage, perhaps you can continue training him there – and he may associate the time inside the cage to having fun with you.
  • Although we bought our cockatiels the same day from the same breeder, they have never really been best friends with each other. As they grew and became tamer, they started to fight (nothing serious, but they were like rivals, always fighting for favorite food bowls, favorite toys and human attention), especially inside the cage (note: the cage was 100 cm x 100 cm x 200 cm, and still it felt like too small for them). If you decide to have another cockatiel (which is very recommendable), you can try to prevent problems by giving same amount of attention to both, having three similar food bowls/foraging toys in similar places (you never know what they will pick to be their favorite, and although you would frequently change the place of the food bowls, they will always come up with a new favorite). You may also need to arrange two equally good sleeping perches for them, if they don’t want to sleep side-by-side. They are truly smart animals and may demand equal treatment. But again, I have heard so many times that nearly any two cockatiels which were parent-raised should get along well, as they are generally very social, peaceful and easygoing by nature. Perhaps it is just my ‘tiels that love drama – and next moment I see them giving head scratches to each other.
  • Like most birds, also cockatiels like to sleep high above the floor. The highest perches in the cage were 1,8 meters high, whereas the highest perches outside of the cage were 2,1 meters high – this rather small difference may have been one reason why they wanted to sleep outside of the cage. Maybe you can try to arrange the highest perches inside the cage – however, mind about the curtain rod – if they have easy access on it, it may become their favorite sleeping perch.
Anyway, I would not worry too much beforehand. It can be that everything goes well with your bird, as so many other owners have never experienced this kind of problem. Good luck with your taming process!;)(y)
 

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Be especially careful with unclipped cockatiels. Even clipped or harnessed cockatiels can fly out the door never to be seen again. I have helped in a number of cockatiel rescue operations, and most of the birds we attempted to reunite with owners were gone forever. I am not a big fan of wing clipping, but even less of a fan of watching escaped birds disappear over a treeline, only to face starvation, freezing, death by hawks and cats as well as other predators....you get the picture. Keeping any animal as a pet has its responsibilities, and providing a safe environment for them to thrive in is essential.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Be especially careful with unclipped cockatiels. Even clipped or harnessed cockatiels can fly out the door never to be seen again. I have helped in a number of cockatiel rescue operations, and most of the birds we attempted to reunite with owners were gone forever. I am not a big fan of wing clipping, but even less of a fan of watching escaped birds disappear over a treeline, only to face starvation, freezing, death by hawks and cats as well as other predators....you get the picture. Keeping any animal as a pet has its responsibilities, and providing a safe environment for them to thrive in is essential.
I would never open the windows nor the door of my room when letting the bird fly indoors, I only want to let him fly inside the room and make sure he will find his way back to his cage
 
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