Ask Lafeber

Question:

June 19, 2020

How do I make my 3 month old cockatiel eat on his own and not depend on me?


My 3 month old cockatiel won’t eat his pellets and seeds. He still wants and cries for his formula. I was told that he is old for consuming formula. However, I’ve started feeding him mashed rice, potato, banana, broccoli and sometimes crushed almonds too. But the main problem is, he eats it through a spoon – I end up feeding him. If I don’t feed him, he keeps on crying (like a dinosaur) and flies around me. How do I stop feeding him and make him eat on his own?


Answer:

Hi Serat,

Your little guy isn’t too old for formula. Some chicks take longer to wean than others. Some breeders will force wean their chicks, so that they can sell them sooner. A much better method of weaning is called “abundance weaning”. This style of weaning has been used for decades by many breeders and pet shop owners and results in a happier and more confident pet. Other than being slightly richer in some nutrients, his formula offers the same nutrition as pellets. So if he wants or seems to need some formula, it’s OK for him to have this.

For abundance weaning, you basically have a lot of different foods available to him all of the time, along with fresh water. He will wean to soft food first and then start eating more pellets and seeds. First thing in the morning, prepare some warm, soft foods for him – cooked brown rice with chopped veggies mixed in is very good for him – you don’t need to mash the rice. Similar to what you are doing, but use a nutritious rice like brown rice, and if you can get sweet potatoes or yams, those are better than white potatoes. Cooked carrots and corn are also good choices, as are the broccoli and almonds you are offering. Place this warm food in the cage, along with dry foods like his pellets, seeds, millet spray, multi grain bread and of course fresh water. He is going to waste more food than he eats right now, but he needs a lot of options to entice him to eat on his own. Leave the room and stay out of sight and don’t let him hear you. If you have a web or nanny cam, you can use that to observe him. When he is sure you aren’t coming right back, he should get curious and try some of the foods because he will be very hungry. Leave him like this for about an hour and then you can go back and offer him some formula if he is begging. But don’t feed him so much formula that he get really full – just enough to satisfy him a little. He needs to be a little hungry to try new foods, but you don’t want him to be upset and stressed or desperate for food. You can also try mixing some formula into a thicker paste, and offering that in a dish with some pellets and seeds sprinkled on top. If he refuses to try to eat on his own after a few days, try leaving the spoon he eats out of, in the dish of soft foods or thick formula. He will bite at it knowing it is a food source, and usually that will result in consuming some food. Repeat the above throughout the day, always before a normal feeding time when he is hungrier.

For more information you can Google the term “abundance weaning”. Don’t rush your little guy. This is a good time for bonding and establishing trust. Don’t break that trust by trying to force him to wean. I’ve had baby cockatiels that are like this, and he will eventually wean himself. For whatever reason, he needs the extra attention right now.

Here is our bird food guide to give you some more ideas of foods to offer:

Bird Food Guide

Thank you for asking Lafeber,

Brenda

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