Ask Lafeber


March 8, 2021


My cockatiel 2 years old plenty seed millet pellets available in his cage still only wants his porridge will rather starve than eat anything else


Hi Lita,

Did you mean 2 years or 2 months old? If this has been going on for 2 years, then first I would recommend a complete check up by an Avian Vet to rule out a health issue. It would be very uncommon for a cockatiel to still want to be hand fed at this age. If he checks out as being healthy, then this is something that both of you need to work on. When a bird gets way with something this extreme, for this long, then what it means is you are giving in too easily and not following through with what is best for him.

When you say porridge, do you mean a handfeeding formula? Are you having to hand feed him or does he eat this out of a dish? Handfeeding formulas are made for chicks that are growing and then weaning. The nutrition is likely too high in fat for an adult bird to be eating as a daily diet. He needs to be eating solid food that is nutritionally balanced for an adult bird. Weaning a 2 month old is one thing, but weaning a 2 year old is going to take tough love. First thing in the morning, you need to put a variety of foods in his cage before you hand feed him. I normally would say no loose seeds, but if that is what it takes to get him weaned, then do that and then you can focus on changing him to pellets or a balanced food like our foraging diets. Put pellets, seeds, water, chopped veggies, and even a dish of his formula, mixed thicker than normal, all in his cage at the same time. Also make him some warm, soft food. Cook some brown rice and add frozen mixed veggies, and place a dish of this, warmed, in the cage, too. Then leave the room for at least an hour, where he can’t see or hear you. This will give him time to sample the foods. If he is 2 years old, then I would say leave him for 2-3 hours. Then return and if he begs and hasn’t eaten, then feed him some formula. But don’t stuff him – give him maybe half of what he usually gets. Keep repeating this during the day, always before you hand feed him. If he can see or hear you, he will beg rather than trying to eat foods. He is perfectly capable of eating on his own, so if he is 2 years old, you need to just make him eat. You can keep offering some handfeeding formula for a couple of weeks, but if you still aren’t making progress, then you need to leave him alone with foods for longer periods of time. If you feel sorry for him and give in, then you will lose any ground you have gained. One other method would be to leave him with the Vet, and let them wean him. He is less likely to beg to strangers. This will mean boarding him there and will be expensive. But again, if he is healthy, then there is no reason for him to not eat on his own other than being very spoiled. You clearly care about him, but for his own well being, you are going to need to ignore his begging and make him learn to eat on his own. Again, if he is only 2 months old, then you can take more time weaning him and not be so strict. A few weeks time is a normal weaning period for a 2 month old chick. But a 2 year old is simply spoiled and needs a lot of tough love.

Thank you for asking Lafeber,


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