Ask Lafeber

Question:

August 3, 2021

Should I get my child a cockatiel?


Should I get my child a cockatiel? She is just nine years old. And started thinking about pets, she couldn’t bear but everyday mumbling about for a male cockatiel. She has made some research for cockatiels, I don’t know weather shall I buy her one or not!


Answer:

Hi Elizebeth,

It really depends on the child. And no matter what kind of pet you get, and even if the child is supposed to be responsible, you are ultimately responsible for making sure the pet gets the proper food, care and attention daily. If you are not interested in a bird at all, then it probably is not a good choice. Birds are not the average pet. While they are raised in captivity, they are still an exotic species with wild instincts. A bird does not train like a dog or cat. There will be times it doesn’t want to be handled, there will be behavior issues that come up throughout the bird’s life and birds do live for a very long time. Birds don’t respond to punishment, so you have to learn about their behavior and why they do things, and then understand how to address a behavior issue. In other words, it is a long term commitment, with ongoing training and working with behaviors.

Cockatiels, especially a hand fed male, can make great pets. But without proper handling, they can get aggressive or choose just one person that they want to be with. You need to be aware of how you handle him, as well as what type of petting is acceptable for a pet bird. When the bird starts to get mature, the wrong kind of handling, petting or even environment can bring on hormonal issues that cause unwanted behavior. Birds can get loud, and you have to work from the start to discourage nuisance screaming. You can yell back at a bird or punish it. Yelling just encourages it more, and birds simply do not learn from punishment or any type of negative reinforcement. Children are impulsive, and working with a bird takes a lot of patience. If your child tends to have a short attention span and desires instant results, then a bird is not the right pet. Birds can learn quickly, but they do not un-learn at a quick rate. LOL So a bad habit that was unintentionally taught, may take weeks to undo.

The best thing to do is visit some pet shops or breeders and see how she does handling a bird. If she has friends with birds, ask the parents about how they handle things. While the average dog or cat is going to be a good pet, there are no guarantees as to what a bird’s personality will be. If one of her friends has a cockatiel, or she saw one somewhere, she may expect all cockatiels to be like the one she saw. It’s good to find out why she wants a cockatiel. And never buy one as a surprise. If you decide to get one, she needs to be with you, and be able to handle the birds and see which one gets along with her. Just like people, birds have their own likes and dislikes, and not all birds get along with all people. And keep in mind the bird is just a small part of the cost – you also need the cage, a high quality food(not the cheapest seed mix you can find), toys, treats, and Veterinary care. Not just any Vet will treat a bird, so you need to see where the closest Avian Vet is. Vet care is part of the responsibility of any pet ownership, and it can be expensive, so make sure Vet care is in the budget. It’s a lot to think about, but a bird isn’t the average pet. They are wonderful, but can also be a handful.

Thank you for asking Lafeber,

Brenda

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