Ask Lafeber

Question:

May 31, 2022

Tame a cockateil


Hi,
How to teach a cockateil chick, aged 2 ++ months to ride a tricycle toy? And do some tricks and freefly? In nutshell, what I want is, the bird need to obey all my commands without resisting it?
Thanks.


Answer:

Hi Joy,

You definitely need to change your expectations of this bird, or if you can’t, it’s better to find him a new home for him and get a dog. There is no such thing as a cockatiel or any parrot species that will obey commands without resisting. This is simply not in their nature. A cockatiel is an exotic pet – meaning it is a wild species of parrot with natural, wild instincts. It is not intended to be trained like a domesticated dog. You can teach a bird which behaviors are desired and which are not. You can teach him some modified behaviors – this means turning a natural behavior info a trick. But there will still be times that he screams when you don’t want him to, or bites you, or ignores what you are asking him to do. Any training with a pet bird needs to be something that benefits your relationship with him and makes your bond stronger. It is a chance to build trust. If you punish a parrot, it will be a long time before he ever trusts you again. The only way to train a bird is with positive reinforcement – this means with praise or a special treat. You should never withhold food or attention from a pet bird in order to try to train it. Find a special treat he likes, and use this for training sessions. Training needs to be fun and sessions should be short. If the bird is not responding, then stop the session and try again later. Your goals should be teaching things that benefit the bird. If he likes to pick things up, teach him to pick something up and put it in a cup. Later change the object to a ball and basket, and you have a bird that plays basketball. But as far as he is concerned, he is doing something natural. Yes, there are professional bird shows with macaws that ride a bike. But macaws have different skills than cockatiels, and the bikes are special props that are made just for a macaw. Anything a bird does is related to natural instincts. Macaws live on a different continent than cockatiels. Their environment is different and their food is different. So they have different skills needed to eat these foods. Cockatiels are mostly ground feeders and do not use their feet in the same way as a macaw. They have no need to hold food or have the same dexterity as a macaw. So it is unrealistic to think a cockatiel can do the same tricks you may have seen a macaw or even an Amazon do. Even Cockatoos, which are closely related to cockatiels, have better foot skills than cockatiels. And while you have likely seen videos of parrots doing tricks online, I can assure you that for each time the bird did the trick, there were 9 times he refused to do it.

So enjoy your pet bird, but do some more research and again, give up these expectations you have or you will just be frustrated and the bird will be miserable and will not trust or like you. As for free flying, if your home is safe, windows are covered and there is no chance of a door being left open, the bird can learn to fly indoors. But if you try to let him fly outdoors, he will fly away and be lost forever. Cockatiels are the number one lost pet bird and lost birds and owners are rarely reunited.

Here are some pages to get you started to learn more about bird behavior and training.

Teaching Your Bird

Pet Bird and Parrot Behavior

Thank you for asking Lafeber,

Brenda

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