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Do Cockatoo's Make Good Pets?

BirdEE

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This thread/question is asked a lot. Not just on here but searched on Google. I thought on this rainy day I would answer this question as honestly as possible. It seems that you either get people answering this who says "YES! They're great pets!" or link straight to all the horror stories.

My aim here is to educate potential owners on the challenges, and rewards of owning a cockatoo. This will be a LONG post. But like cockatoos are themselves, its not simple to understand.



It is no secret that cockatoos are probably the number 1 most surrendered to rescue bird their is. It's also worth noting that "Cockatoo" refers to many different sub cockatoo. You have everything from small ones like Goffin's, Ducorp's, to large ones, Umbrella and Moluccan, to the very rare and EXPENSIVE Black Palm. However, I highly doubt a potential new owner is considering a Black palm.

By far the most popular breeds would be the Goffins, Umbrella, Moluccan, Sulfur Crested (Lesser, Greater, Etc). All cockatoo's are NOT created equal. Even two Umbrella's will not be equal.

First and foremost, the a cockatoo, especially large ones are not for the faint of heart. They generally would not be for someone who has never been around birds before, but there is always exceptions to that rule as well. Sometimes not having experience with birds lets you enter into the relationship with no preconceived notions of how they will be, so you learn quicker. On the flip side though, you may learn bad habits quicker too. There are a TON of cockatoos in need of a home, so I would hate to turn off a potentially good home simply because the person considering does not have years of experience with parrots.

I am going to focus mainly on large cockatoo, Umbrella and Moluccan, which are particularly the most difficult to deal with. However, do not expect small ones to be any easier, they will be little terrors as well! For the elephant in the room, their large beaks. Yes, they can and WILL bite. It's not if, its when you get bitten. And it hurts. The severity of the bite really depends on the situation though. Everytime I have been bitten I knew I was going to get bit, but I was removing him from a situation where he was getting overly stimulated and worked up. You will learn from their body language when they are overwhelmed, and at that point they should go to a quiet room for some quiet time. My worst bite was when my parents were over one day. He is fine sitting on his gym when my parents are over, but he does not like my dad (which is another thing, sometimes they can be very unsure of people who do not live there). We were leaving to go into town and I thought my dad had went to the car so I picked him up off his cage and right as I was walking by the bathroom my dad walked out. He flapped his wings hard on my arm, jumped up and NAILED me in the ear. Hard enough that it nearly pieced through the top of my ear. At this point you CANNOT freak out, you must stay calm and transport them to their cage or it will get even worse. I don't want to say this is normal, because I have only been bitten hard about three times, but all in similar situations. He was scared, and he let me know it.

This leads to another good discussion. Many cockatoos come with baggage. Most have been through MANY homes due to their complexity and not everyone is as understanding when a 18" tall bird decides they want to scream at the top of their lungs for 30 minutes 5 times a day (or more). So they resort to things you should NEVER do such as yelling at them, locking them in their cage for days on end to stop the screaming, etc etc. This baggage can be as extreme as lunging at anyone and everyone because they are so scared of people, or just to where they are reserved and sit in their own shell. But know that if you are considering an older cockatoo, they WILL have some level of baggage. This again brings up a good point. Buying a baby from a pet store is not something I would personally recommend. Cockatoos are very known for changing drastically when they go they get to sexual reproduction age. And if you cuddled everynight for hours on end with this cuddly little fluffy baby, it will most likely result in a bird that goes through some serious issues during sexual maturity. Think about it, it grew up thinking you were its mate, now all of the sudden when its ready, you now deny its advances. Additionally you should avoid pet stores not only for this reason, but for the fact there are already THOUSANDS in rescues that need a home. In my opinion these are such complex creatures, and there are already more cockatoos in circulation than good homes for them that we should not be breeding them anymore.

You may have seen videos on youtube of cockatoos dancing, singing, talking babbling. And now you want one. Well, not all cockatoo dance. Mine has ZERO interest in dancing, and if you slightly bob him up and down for music or dance in front of him, he will scream as he is getting scared. Talking, yes they can talk, mine says all kind of things. However, not all talk. Its cool to have a talking bird, sure. But after a long time of having a talking bird it just becomes another member of the family and its not longer the coolest thing ever. I will say, mine screams probably 10X more than it talks. Screaming isn't so cute. How loud is the screaming? I live on 3 acres and I can hear him from the other side of my property easily. If you have close neighbors, chances are they would not be a huge fan of a cockatoo screaming.

How does it change your life? Well, it can change it in positive and negative ways. Do you love to travel? A cockatoo probably isn't the right choice for you. They are very social animals that need hours outside of their cage each day. They cannot send even a full weekend alone in their cage with no humans as you go camping. This isn't to say you can't go on trips, because we have and do go on trips. But you need to either send them to a boarder, take them with you, or have a trusted family member be able to come over and care for them. Which brings up a good point, unless you have bird people for friends, not too many are willing to come over and feed your screaming pterodactyl, much less take them out for some social time. Thankfully I have several people who are willing to come over and let him out for awhile, feed him and put him back. They also miss you. I travel for work periodically so he is at home with my family when I am away. When I am away he enjoys face timing me on the phone and constantly says to my wife "Hey, were is dad?". Also, hopefully your friends don't mind a loud screaming bird, because if they do, you will lose some friends willing to come over to your house.

Mentioning him staying home with my family is a good lead in to how he treats my wife. He likes her, but he doesn't respect her. He will not step up for her unless he wants to, and will not go back in his cage for her if he doesn't want to. He has manipulated her and knows she wont make him do anything he doesn't want to. He doesn't play that with me, I am his human and he knows that when I tell him to step up that he just steps up. He knows I mean it. Cockatoos are MASTER manipulators. If they think they can pull one over on you, they can and will. If you do not have a strong personality, cockatoos are probably not for you. Which leads into the ironic part. Not only do you have to have a strong personality, you have to be VERY understanding. They scream, everyday. There will never be another day of my life I don't hear a cockatoo scream. Never. When we first got him he screamed all the time. There is a ton of threads around about why they do this and how to lower the frequency of screaming, so I wont go into it. My aim is to just show how life with a cockatoo is.

The must be kept busy. MUST. Everyday I load a foraging thing in his cage for when I am at work. Filled with basically whatever. Cardboard pieces, hidden nuts, paper scraps, anything bird safe. Their minds must be kept busy. It's like locking a child in a cage, most of them cannot and will not be happy just sitting there on a perch. They will start plucking most likely if not kept busy.

They need a structured bed time. This isn't a finch in a cage in your living room that happily chirps and is fine whenever you go to bed. They NEED 12 hours of sleep and a structured bed time. Mine goes to bed at 7:30 PM. So structured that when 7:30 comes along he starts getting antsy as his body clock tells him its time.



Now it isn't all bad. Why would we own cockatoos if all they did was scream bite, and act needy? The truth of the matter is, if you are willing to deal with EVERYTHING and more in the wall of words above, they can give you the most unique relationship of any pet you have ever had. They are more like kids. They can love you with ever fiber of their being. One day mine would not come upstairs for my wife to eat breakfast and go on his gym. She called me on facetime and I had to talk to him. He gets on facetime and says "Hi dad, what are you doing?" I asked him why he didn't want to go upstairs and he babbled a bit. Then told him to go upstairs and eat breakfast. He then got up on my wife's arm. They're unique and I couldn't imagine life without him. But they are VERY challenging. Literally anytime you are home you are dealing with them. You cannot put them away like a hamster and forget you have them for a little bit. They remind you literally every second of the day that they are there.

If you're okay with all of that, and you are an understanding person, they might just be what fills that hole in your life. And you might just be what puts back together a broken cockatoo with a troubled past.
 

Hankmacaw

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As an illustration of just how special an owner must be to successfully own a cockatoo, the sanctuary (not a rescue) that I volunteered at had 350 birds and one third of those birds were cockatoos. Every bird in that Sanctuary was the worst of the worst, because of what humans had done or not done to them. The cockatoos were in the worst shape of all the birds.
 

macawpower58

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One more thing I'd like to add. The above post is wonderful, truthful, and comprehensive in it's observances.

Many people think they're that 'one' that will do awesome. The thing they aren't realizing is that that awesome kind of person is never ending, and you must maintain that attitude for 20, 30, and at times up to 50 years. The first few years are easy. It's the never ending challenge that most don't think about and often can't continue to do on an endless basis.

This narrows the field a bit....
 

BirdEE

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As an illustration of just how special an owner must be to successfully own a cockatoo, the sanctuary (not a rescue) that I volunteered at had 350 birds and one third of those birds were cockatoos. Every bird in that Sanctuary was the worst of the worst, because of what humans had done or not done to them. The cockatoos were in the worst shape of all the birds.
Its easy to see why. They're difficult. They're not easy by any means. Mine is terrified of brooms. Word on the street was that his previous owners would smack his cage with the broom when he wouldn't stop screaming. This seems to be quite common in cockatoo's that have been given up. I also refuse to believe every previous cockatoo owner was this abusive monster. I personally think that many entered the relationship with good intentions. But they can and will cause some people to reach their breaking point. People who were previously good people now have a creature screaming at 100 decibels in their living room. Want to talk on the phone? Good luck, because when you leave the room to go talk, they will scream because they cant see you. Mine has gotten MUCH better with separation anxiety over the years. But he will still scream if you leave the room, now he is about 50/50 screaming and or yelling "Hey, where are you?!"

With COVID work from home, nearly everyone on my conference calls have heard him scream :lol:. I was talking with a supplier in California one time on a conference call. Typically I know when he is about to scream based on body position so I mute the mic. But he let out a surprise one and then everyone stops and gets silent. One guy says "What in the hell was that?!" :rofl:. I said "Sorry, that's the sound of a Cockatoo that wants my attention". When I say that they usually think its pretty cool.

One more thing I'd like to add. The above post is wonderful, truthful, and comprehensive in it's observances.

Many people think they're that 'one' that will do awesome. The thing they aren't realizing is that that awesome kind of person is never ending, and you must maintain that attitude for 20, 30, and at times up to 50 years. The first few years are easy. It's the never ending challenge that most don't think about and often can't continue to do on an endless basis.

This narrows the field a bit....
Totally! At first it isn't too bad, its new, its cool. Then it sinks in that literally every single day for the rest of your life will require you to care for this needy creature. To listen to their screaming, to clean up the wood they just shredding all over the floor, for you to feed them anytime you eat. And make sure its bird safe too, oh and did I say some are picky little buggers....Mine loves Melon. Only green and orange melon though. Watermelon, that goes on the floor. :rolleyes:

It really is never ending. And every minute of your life in the house they make their presence known. Your only relief from them is when they are in bed. Which must be in a quiet dark space. Preferably away from your living area if you are still awake after they go to bed.

I do not regret being the owner of a cockatoo. I love him very much. But like anything else, people would be lying if they didn't sometimes get frustrated and say "Some peace and quiet right now would be nice". Especially when you have the flu or something and just want to nap on the couch. Hopefully they are cool with that, a lot aren't. If I left mine in the cage he would hear me walking upstairs and start screaming to be let out. Typically if hes on his play gym in the living room and I in his site hes quiet. But I have been sick before an woken to a random cockatoo scream. That happens haha.

Mine is also good about staying on his gym, so I can close my eyes for a few minutes on the couch and he is fine. He's not a fan of the floor. Others, they not only like the floor, they LOVE IT! And they love to eat and chip at anything that can fit in their beaks. So you need to watch them like a hawk.


But again, if you are willing to deal with all of this and understand they do it because its their nature, they are a wild creature that you brought into your home. If you can understand that, and still continue to love and care for them. They will give you a relationship unlike any other pet you have ever owned. In both good and bad ways.
 
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macawpower58

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I love my Goffin to death, but sometimes I wonder if I'd do it again.
After 25 years, she still demands the exact same things, day in and day out. ATTENTION is what she demands.
I would never give her up, but many times I've felt I I'm not meeting her needs.
She still wants with me every second of every day! I often feel guilty that that can't be.
She is the smallest of my 3, and the most demanding, most obnoxious, and most challenging.
She is also the sweetest, most loving, and most fun.
My life is run and ruled by birds, and my Too is the most demanding of them all.
 

Lady Jane

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My aim here is to educate potential owners on the challenges, and rewards of owning a cockatoo
How nice of you to do this. I hope it helps many people. It not a question of Cockatoos making good companions rather I think its a question of which human would make a good companion to a Cockatoo.
 

Love My Zons

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Excellent post. I can and will agree with you on all that you said. And I second @macawpower58 has said too!

It isn't easy, they are the number one always. Any other birds you have in your house basically have to be independent and I am thankful they are. Because one Too is enough for me!
 

JLcribber

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If I knew then what I know now.

There is a saying ‘Till death do us part’. Never a truer statement when it comes to owning a large parrot. There are no quitters in this game.

Most people are quitters and do not have the commitment or fortitude to see this kind of journey to the end. They can’t even commit to other people (divorce).

And the birds pay.
 

Sand

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If they are so into the presence of another, why dont people rescue two, to keep each other company. Just curious, my two smalls birds are enough for me
 

macawpower58

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A lot would do with logistics Sand. 2 Cockatoos would need a huge enclosure.
A double amount of food and toys, and possibly medical bills. That's also double the noise.
Then the 2 might not even get along, and that's 2 separate enclosures and separate out times.
2 is better for the birds sake, but most folk can hardly deal with one, let alone two.
 

Love My Zons

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If they are so into the presence of another, why dont people rescue two, to keep each other company. Just curious, my two smalls birds are enough for me
I will tell you that one is enough! Having my two Amazons together, who are best of buds. As it is, my Cockatoo HATES my other birds. She has to be closely supervised, she will get over to their cages if given the opportunity. She was near other Cockatoos, but likes People more then other birds.
 

Sand

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A lot would do with logistics Sand. 2 Cockatoos would need a huge enclosure.
A double amount of food and toys, and possibly medical bills. That's also double the noise.
Then the 2 might not even get along, and that's 2 separate enclosures and separate out times.
2 is better for the birds sake, but most folk can hardly deal with one, let alone two.
I guess I'm thinking how much LESS time my conure needs me, now that my Budgie is his friend, HAHAHA! They fly around together, they feed each other, they groom each other's feathers, and they bathe together! I swear to goodness, my green-cheek conure had to be super glued to me all the time until one budgie passed away, and then the other one decided he would become friends with my green-cheek. I have so much more free time, that now I am the one who seeks out his company! LOL
 

macawpower58

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My Goffin loves other birds, sadly every other bird she was with didn't want to be her friend.
My little Tag would pluck her head feather out, causing her pain, she so tried to endure it. :(
Gimli my little Green Cheek was her best bet, but he passed too quickly for them to really bond.
Solomon my Amazon tolerates her, but makes her keep her distance.
Chaos would eat her.
 

Sand

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My Goffin loves other birds, sadly every other bird she was with didn't want to be her friend.
My little Tag would pluck her head feather out, causing her pain, she so tried to endure it. :(
Gimli my little Green Cheek was her best bet, but he passed too quickly for them to really bond.
Solomon my Amazon tolerates her, but makes her keep her distance.
Chaos would eat her.
Poor little booboo
 

webchirp

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I can tell you that before I found out I am a conure person, I asked my vet about getting a cockatoo...she flat out told me no. I think I could handle a cockatoo but no way do I think I could do more than one or two. And it takes some serious devotion and learning.
 

sunnysmom

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My Goffin loves other birds, sadly every other bird she was with didn't want to be her friend.
My little Tag would pluck her head feather out, causing her pain, she so tried to endure it. :(
Gimli my little Green Cheek was her best bet, but he passed too quickly for them to really bond.
Solomon my Amazon tolerates her, but makes her keep her distance.
Chaos would eat her.
Maybe she needs to meet Elvis!
 

sunnysmom

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I love my Goffin to death, but sometimes I wonder if I'd do it again.
After 25 years, she still demands the exact same things, day in and day out. ATTENTION is what she demands.
I would never give her up, but many times I've felt I I'm not meeting her needs.
She still wants with me every second of every day! I often feel guilty that that can't be.
She is the smallest of my 3, and the most demanding, most obnoxious, and most challenging.
She is also the sweetest, most loving, and most fun.
My life is run and ruled by birds, and my Too is the most demanding of them all.
This makes me feel better that as wonderful as a bird owner as you sometimes has doubts. There are days that I question whether I'm meeting Elvis's needs. He is such a busy bird and wants to play, play, play. I work. So I can only devote so much time to him a day. He is smart. He is funny. He is sweet. He is also loud. And stubborn. And some days completely wears me out. I love him with all my heart, and I am his forever home. But cockatoos are not "easy". The adoption coordinator at our local rescue watched him for me for a weekend a couple of months ago. He was her first goffin, and she said it was "eye opening". Lol.
 

BirdEE

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If they are so into the presence of another, why dont people rescue two, to keep each other company. Just curious, my two smalls birds are enough for me
Like others have said already. But Cockatoos are complex. Mine does not like other birds. He prefers to be the only bird. In nature they of course find a bird mate they can’t live without. In our homes, given most having been through troubled pasts, end up developing weird quirks. Some have a bird mate they can’t be without. Others have had bad experiences with other birds or never seen another bird and look at humans as their other half. Then when some humans have been mean to them, they don’t know who to trust anymore. Breeding these complex creatures for public sale ends up creating cockatoos that don’t act like they do in the wild. Some don’t know how to be birds. Large parrots should have never been brought into houses, but here they are, so we must take care of them.
 

Elysian

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I think I would really like to foster a cockatoo someday?
In a few years maybe. I'm still just working my way through the doorway of the bird world. :)

I always wanted to be a foster parent.. I was a preschool teacher and a CASA, and I had really good bonds with some of the kids no one else seemed to click with. The kinds of kids that might throw themselves on the floor screaming because their shoe wasn't tied the right way. Fits never bothered me and finally finding a way to work through them was so immensely rewarding.
I really wanted to be able to put my heart and training into helping a kid who got a bad shot.
But my SO .. he used to work in juvenile corrections.. he picked up a different perspective than I did. He's not as comfortable or passionate about the idea. We might do it someday, but not until we are older.

Helping out one of these amazing birds instead would really satisfy my heart, I think.
 

sunnysmom

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I think I would really like to foster a cockatoo someday?
In a few years maybe. I'm still just working my way through the doorway of the bird world. :)

I always wanted to be a foster parent.. I was a preschool teacher and a CASA, and I had really good bonds with some of the kids no one else seemed to click with. The kinds of kids that might throw themselves on the floor screaming because their shoe wasn't tied the right way. Fits never bothered me and finally finding a way to work through them was so immensely rewarding.
I really wanted to be able to put my heart and training into helping a kid who got a bad shot.
But my SO .. he used to work in juvenile corrections.. he picked up a different perspective than I did. He's not as comfortable or passionate about the idea. We might do it someday, but not until we are older.

Helping out one of these amazing birds instead would really satisfy my heart, I think.
That's wonderful. I at one point in time seriously looked into being a CASA. I unfortunately realized though that my work schedule really wouldn't permit it. If you can handle tantrums, you'd be perfect for a 'too. LOL. I know the rescue I help with always needs fosters. I hope you get a chance to do it. It sounds like you'd be a great one. And if you were here, our adoption coordinator would be driving a 'too to your house right now. LOL.
 
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