Tips for Training Your Cockatiel

A trained cockatiel makes a wonderful pet and a faithful companion.  Cockatiels are not difficult to train, and with a little time and patience training your cockatiel will become a  fun experience for both of you.

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Cockatiels can be trained not to particularly mind being picked up in the hand.  Beware when you first start this, as a cockatiel bite can be quite painful as some of them tend to hold on and chew like a rat.

When you train your cockatiel, the trick is to never alarm them.  All your movements should be done in a slow and precise way that will minimize your cockatiel’s fear.

Taming should be started as soon as possible after purchasing your cockatiel.  The reason for this is that while the cockatiel is distracted with its new surroundings, it is easier to familiarize it with human contact.  The young cockatiel is extremely adaptable, but in its new cage everything is likely to be strange.  First let your cockatiel acclimatize himself with his new surroundings.

The new cockatiel may not even recognize at first where its food bowls are.  To make it easier for your new cockatiel, scatter some seed on the floor of the cage and overfill the container so that the seed is brought into full view.  Try to make the seed of the wildest mixture to start with, so that your cockatiel will recognize the type to which it has been previously accustomed.

When your cockatiel stands on his perches and eats and drinks from the correct containers, which will normally be by the second day, you can clean the floor of the loose seed.  The first day it is a good idea to put the cage high up to give your new cockatiel a sense of security.  It may also help to half cover the cage with a towel, which may encourage him to eat.

If your cockatiel hasn’t eaten after a day, try a spray of millet, and if this also fails, contact the person who sold you the cockatiel.  Cockatiels can easily withstand starvation for a day or two, so there is normally no need to panic.

Once your bird is eating and drinking, taming should be started, as it is best to do while the cockatiel is young and in new surroundings. Your life will be made easier if the cockatiel you have purchased has been hand-reared.

Here are the two methods that I am familiar with in training your cockatiel.

Cockatiel Training Method 1:

The first method is slower.  The cockatiel must be kept in a place where there is continual noise and movement, like a well-used room.  For the first day the cockatiel should be ignored.  Notice while he feeds and preens himself that at first, he will stop if there is a sudden noise, and then as he gets used to the sounds around him it won’t hassle him in the slightest. 

This should start to happen on the second day.  Start talking to the bird in a low soothing voice.  Avoid sudden loud noises or movements here.  At this stage, even things like changing food and water must be done slowly.  By the second or third day your hand can be slowly moved towards the bird when it preens itself.

Attempt to scratch its head with your finger.  Head preening is a very important aspect of a cockatiel’s social behavior and once the bird accepts having its head scratched, it can be tamed that much easier.

Take care during the first few attempts, as you could attract a few feints with his beak to warn you away, but if you move slowly it is unlikely that it will actually bite you.  A young bird will not bite you as viciously as an adult bird.

Spend as much time as you can close to the bird, and you could even move the cage around the house with you.

The next stage would be to get your bird to perch on your finger. 

Introduce your hand through the open door of the cage with the index finger leading the way.  Speak to the bird softly and move slowly.  If your cockatiel becomes tense, stop the movement, and as it relaxes, move the hand towards it again.  Keep the hand lower than the bird until the index finger is touching the lower part of the bird's chest. 

Press slightly so that the bird battles to maintain its posture and therefore should step up onto your finger.  If your finger is held too high, the cockatiel might need to hold onto your finger with its beak, so don’t be startled and pull your finger back.

Once you get your cockatiel to perch on your finger, hold the hand steady until the cockatiel is relaxed.  Once the cockatiel is used to sitting on your finger, you can move it around the cage and let it climb onto other perches by lightly pressing its chest to the perch.

Once this little operation has been accomplished several times you can remove the cockatiel from the cage.  Make sure that all the doors and windows are closed and that there are no other animals in the room. 

Once your cockatiel is perched on your finger, gently remove it from the cage, and once it is outside try to scratch its head with your other hand.  Try to feed it some greens to relax the bird.  Don’t keep the cockatiel out of its cage too long for the first few times.

Once it is used to being out of its cage you can allow it to step on top of its cage.  Try to get the cockatiel used to you gently cupping your other hand over its back while you carry it, and once it is used to this you will be able to transport it anywhere.

During the early stages of training, the cockatiel will often get startled and fly off around the room.  It is best to pick it up by holding out a finger and then cupping the other hand over its back for extra security.  Never chase your bird, wait until it has landed before slowly approaching it.  Until the cockatiel gets to know the room, it is better to draw the curtains to avoid it flying into the glass windows.

The more time that is spent with your bird in the beginning, with patience and consistency the quicker you will be able to train it.Training your cockatiel

Cockatiel Training Method 2:

Although I prefer the first method myself, this method is a lot quicker.  This method depends on giving continuous stimulation to the senses of contact, sight and sound but at the same time preventing the cockatiel from escaping.  Under all this stress the cockatiel's nervous system eventually ceases to respond, and it quickly becomes indifferent to previously frightening stimuli.

This process seems to work and is largely irreversible.  The cockatiel once tamed remains tamed.

With this second method, you have to clip the cockatiel’s wings so that the bird becomes flightless and a considerable amount of chasing the bird about can be avoided. 

The trainer then gently cups the cockatiel in his hands and then slowly releases his hold.  The cockatiel on finding itself free will perch on the finger for an instant before attempting to fly off.  It will of course flutter to the ground, and as it lands it should be immediately encircled with your hands held palms forward and fingers making a basket shape.  To escape now the cockatiel needs to climb forward and up over your fingers to perch on the top finger before trying to fly off again.  It should not bite but will use its beak to steady itself.

This process needs to be repeated again and again until the cockatiel settles itself on one of your fingers.  Once it pauses on your finger, you now try and make it climb onto your finger by pressing it to its lower chest.  Once it does this alternate fingers are used to make the cockatiel seem as though he is climbing a never ending staircase.  As with the other training method, keep talking to your cockatiel continuously.

Once the bird becomes reluctant to move onto the moving fingers and stops, a slight tap with the pressing finger will set it off again.  The first hesitancy is a true indication that the cockatiel is becoming tame.  It should soon be steady enough to permit a gentle caressing of its head.

Providing the cockatiel is a young bird, this method should take about 2 hours or so.  The best results are obtained if only one person does the training.  For the next two weeks take the bird out each day and spend some time with it scratching its head.  Provided human contact is maintained, this training method should be irreversible.

A word of caution, never walk outside with your cockatiel if his wings are not clipped, as even the tamest of birds can get a fright and take to flight.  Many people lose their beloved pets in this way. It is really sad to have a cockatiel escape, as many times you don't see him again.

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