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Should I Keep Trying?

honeykat13

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Hello all! I'm new to the forum, so I'm sorry if something like this has been posted before. I am also new to owning birds, so I'm sorry if this might seem obvious.

I got a cockatiel back in May. I love him, he's so cute. I got him from Petsmart. I really wanted to get one from a breeder, but I just live too far away to be able to drive to one. I thought that even if I didn't get one from a breeder, I would be able to make it work out. When I got him, they told me he was about four months old, so he should be about seven months old now.

So far, I think he's doing okay with getting used to me. I've gotten him to step onto my finger and to eat from my hand. But only if he's in a certain mood, and only if there is food involved. I'd say about half of the time he will willing come to me, and the other half of the time when I try to get him onto my finger he backs off and hisses at me. I wonder if he only interacts with me at all because he knows that I give him food, but he doesn't really appreciate my company. When I offer him food, I can tell that he's trembling, and then gets over it and climbs onto my hand.

And he doesn't let me touch him. I got a cockatiel because I wanted a bird that I could be "friends" with, and could be cuddly with. I want to give him scritches and all that. I really want to spoil this bird. But he won't have any of that. The closest I've gotten him to do is this little thing (and I don't know how/why this came to be but I think it's funny) where I will offer him some millet, then say "boop" and he will let me gently touch his beak, and then I will let him have the millet. Again, it's only if food is involved.

I also think he's been a bit hesitant to be completely comfortable with me because I had to take him to the vet twice. Once to get his wings clipped (didn't want him accidentally hurting himself) and to get him checked up on. They couldn't do it in one go, due to some scheduling thing. So I had to kind of grab him to get him into his carrying case so that we could go (I would try to gently scoop him up into both of my hands so I wouldn't accidentally hurt him). Needless to say, he didn't like that at all. There was biting. But I really didn't know what else to do.

I've seen all the videos where cockatiels are singing and being cuddly, and I really want that. I've posted about this before on some other places, and I've gotten mixed answers. Some have told me that I'm doing okay and that I just need to continue to work with him and just be really patient. Others have told me that I shouldn't have a bird at all if I don't know how to handle one... Some of been pretty mean about it, and it's been getting to me, honestly. I want to be sure that my bird is happy.

Sorry this is long, but I thought that those details would be helpful. I thought I would see what you guys think. Thank you!
 

Mizzely

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Of course you should keep trying :) Some birds just unfortunately will never get to the YouTube ideal. Cockatiels come in all sorts of personalities, and it doesn't really matter if they came from a pet store, a breeder, or as a rehome - some just don't like being pet, cuddling, or whistling.
 

Yoshi&Raphi

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He was from Petsmart and so it will take a while for him to get used to you. It’s awesome that he lets you touch him on the beak and already steps up for you!

My bird was from a pet store to and I was in a similar situation. He would step up when he felt like it but only for a treat. Everyday I worked with him getting him to sit on my arm for longer periods before he got the treats. Then it was having him on me and constantly feeding treats whilst he sat on me.

It took almost 2 months but now he enjoys spending time on my shoulder, arm or head. He hates skin though and will bite it HARD if he gets close to it.

What I’m trying to say is eventually he will begin to like you and it’s amazing that he will step up on a finger/let you touch him on the beak. He may never be a cuddly bird and that’s ok.
 

Fuzzy

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Agree with Shawna - of course you should keep trying! Sounds like he's not that tame (which is fine) and he may have lost a little trust if you had to grab him for the vet visit. You are doing so great... offering food (millet and any other favourite treats) is absolutely the way to gain his trust. With a new bird and especially one that is not that "tame" there are very few reinforcers you can use in the beginning. But food is a primary reinforcer - it is unlearned (all birds have to eat)... so if you can keep pairing your presence with a wonderful experience like favourite treats, he will begin to look forward to interactions with you. Your presence also becomes reinforcing. So keep on offering the millet.

I will offer him some millet, then say "boop" and he will let me gently touch his beak, and then I will let him have the millet.
You are training him to let you gently touch his beak for some millet - way to go!!

One thing I would say, is to let his wings grow out again. It's actually less safe for a parrot to have clipped wings. He cannot get out of the way of danger. If he should spook - his reaction would be to take off and fly to the highest spot, but he won't be able to with clipped wings which will cause him stress.
 

Tiel Feathers

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I agree with what’s already been posted. It’s not that he doesn’t like you and only wants food. It’s that he is afraid of you and likes food, so you just use the food to gain his trust. Just make sure you never force him to do anything, but find a way to make it his choice. You can sit by his cage and read to him, keep offering treats, and you should look up Barbara Heindenreich training videos. You will find as time goes on your relationship will grow. He might not ever enjoy scratches, but don’t worry. If you set aside any expectations you have for him, you will find that he is perfect, just give it time.
 

JoJo&Loki

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Hello and welcome! :welave:

You’ve come to the right place for good folks and good advice!

I agree with everything said above. You’re doing fine, sometimes the only thing you need is time. Keep making the effort and offering the treats and one day you may be surprised to realize “Hey my bird likes me! When did that happen?” ;) At least that’s how it was with Jojo (also from Petsmart)

I also agree about the clipping. My birds were clipped when I got them and it was heartbreaking and scary a few times when they fell or didn’t make a target. Now that wings are growing back they seem more confident, and confidence leads to a bird willing to explore everything -including you!

Good luck to you! We’d love to see some pics too, cockatiels are adorable :heart:
 

Shezbug

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Welcome to the Avenue :hiya:

Sounds like you are on the right track to making friends with your bird if he is letting you boop him on the beak before treats :) Good job!!
Birds are so very different to make friends with than dogs and cats and unfortunately sometimes it can take a long time for you to totally earn their trust.....keep at it and be patient and consistent and I am sure you will get to a place where he is more comfortable with you.
As the others have said, please let his wings grow back as a flighted bird is more confident, healthy and willing to explore the world around them. Plus it is actually safer for them to be able to fly than it is for them to have that flight restricted.
I am very sorry to hear people have told you that you should not have a bird (some people have way too many unnecessary opinions!), I do not think you will encounter that kind of thing here......our community is very helpful, supportive and friendly so I hope you love being a member here and you learn everything you want to know.

Oh, and pictures.........we love pictures ;)
 

Khizz

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I got my (albeit much older - 2) tiels in March and they pretty much accept food from my hand and that is it. One still scuttles away when I get too close. Birds just take their time, and part of the experience of having birds is long period of building trust.

I heard someone here describe gaining a bird's trust like a piggy bank. You enter coins over time when you make some progress. Some negative experiences end up with you losing coins. Over time, you have to add more and more coins through good experiences! One day it will be full and your bird will trust you, but only after a lot of work :p

So while the vet trips might have lost a bit of his trust (totally necessary for check ups), its not like you have lost everything. It just means you have to add more coins :)

I'm also all for letting their wings grow back. Plus I just love to see them fly around :heart:
 

cassiesdad

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Cockatiels come in all sorts of personalities,
...very true. :)

Sunshine, who is 4ish, is the quintessential love bug. He flies to you and demands srcitches...by turning his head upside down so you can get his chin. When you stop , he fusses until you resume...he'll sit on your shoulder all day long , if you let him.

Igor, who is 19, is the ultimate free bird...he comes and goes as he pleases...he'll come over to you if he's in need of some human attention...then he's done, it's goodbye and onto whatever's next on his agenda.

Mocha, who passed last year, had a wholly differing view of people... he thought that people wasted valuable oxygen by breathing it. ;) He had nothing to do with us...at all. I loved his independence...and miss him to this day.

Three weeks ago, we adopted Tweety. He's a work in progress...his cage door is open all day (as is all of our birds) and he's learning the ways of the flock and us...as we are learning his. He hasn't really come to us yet, although he's coming out of the cage for short periods of time. He loves to be talked to...and responds to us with with chirps and tweets. He is still wary of the other tiels...they are both very forward in wanting to meet him, so they could be coming on a bit strong for Tweety right now...we'll continue to monitor their progress.

We're in it for the long haul...as I hope you are with your tiel...:D
 

JoJo&Loki

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...very true. :)

Sunshine, who is 4ish, is the quintessential love bug. He flies to you and demands srcitches...by turning his head upside down so you can get his chin. When you stop , he fusses until you resume...he'll sit on your shoulder all day long , if you let him.

Igor, who is 19, is the ultimate free bird...he comes and goes as he pleases...he'll come over to you if he's in need of some human attention...then he's done, it's goodbye and onto whatever's next on his agenda.

Mocha, who passed last year, had a wholly differing view of people... he thought that people wasted valuable oxygen by breathing it. ;) He had nothing to do with us...at all. I loved his independence...and miss him to this day.

Three weeks ago, we adopted Tweety. He's a work in progress...his cage door is open all day (as is all of our birds) and he's learning the ways of the flock and us...as we are learning his. He hasn't really come to us yet, although he's coming out of the cage for short periods of time. He loves to be talked to...and responds to us with with chirps and tweets. He is still wary of the other tiels...they are both very forward in wanting to meet him, so they could be coming on a bit strong for Tweety right now...we'll continue to monitor their progress.

We're in it for the long haul...as I hope you are with your tiel...:D
Wow those personalities couldn’t be any more different! Once again proving all birds are individuals. So happy to hear how Tweety is settling in too :heart:

@honeykat13 You will eventually figure out what works for you and your bird. Even if your relationship doesn’t reach “Instagram bird” heights, I promise you it will be rewarding nonetheless! There is nothing better than the love and acceptance of a bird!
 

Ripshod

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Tau is a hissy bitey beast. I can't ask him to step up or anything, he just wants to be left alone. That's him 99% of the time. He's the most stay away, stand-offish bird I've ever met.
HOWEVER, every once in a while he'll come to me and pull leg hairs until I offer my hand for a step-up, and he'll spend 15 minutes just being the sweetest bird I ever met. And that makes him special to me.
Tiels will be Tiels, and they'll live life on their terms. As long as he's getting about exploring, eating, singing and pooping I can't want for more. As long as he's happy I'm happy.
 

Mizzely

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You could also find other ways to spoil him! What size cage and what kinds of toys does he have? Does he like to play? What kind of diet is he on?

There are a lot of ways to spoil a bird :)
 

Tara81

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I think on those youtube videos of even the most cuddly cockatiel, they fail to show the days the cockatiel doesn't want to be touched, is hormonal, cranky, or just being a cockatiel. With lots of food bribery and time, you may be able to hand tame him. At the very least he will most likely enjoy your company and want to be near you, even if he is a hands off bird. Right now he sounds very scared and you need to go at his pace to earn his trust. The more time you spend near him without scaring him , the quicker he may become more tame.

During this process I suggest finding out what vegetables he likes and feeding him sprouts if possible. Then, you can save the unresistable millet spray for bonding. If he eats seeds all day , he has little reason to gather courage to come to you for treats.
 

Mizzely

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I think on those youtube videos of even the most cuddly cockatiel, they fail to show the days the cockatiel doesn't want to be touched, is hormonal, cranky, or just being a cockatiel.


This is soooo true. If you look at my YouTube channel you will see several adorable videos of my Quaker, Jingo. What those videos didn't show was 8 hours a day of screaming, or him hunting me down to bite my scalp and face, or biting my child to steal his food.

YouTube and Instagram like to show you the good things but usually omit the bad things.
 

Sunny&Mars

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I have two lovebirds, the first one (Sunny) from a breeder, the second one (Mars) from a pet store. In hindsight I should have gone with a breeder for the second one. Sunny was friendly with us within two weeks. Mars has just started to warm up to us (we got her at the end of December), but she is still not that loving and will not let us handle her. If she was our only bird I think we would have progressed more with her.

The moral of the story is :) Best to buy a bird from a breeder, not a pet store and be patient. I know how you feel, you want to be able to handle the bird and interact with it. I would think that it just take more time.... maybe a lot of time. It sounds like you are doing all of the right things.

With regards to clipping the wings.... I feel bad doing that as well, but if you feel the bird is safer because of it I think you are doing the right thing. It is also easier to handle them with clipped wings. We clipped Sunny's wings because he is easier to control. My son could not get him back in his cage and I always had to do it for him. Without the wings clipped he would not be able to have him out while I am at work. We clipped Mars' wings because of safety. She had a couple of close calls with a patio door and some mirrors.
 

Mizzely

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Breeder doesn't always mean better ;) My sweetest birds have been from a pet store, rehomed from a friend, and from Craigslist.

My meanest bird was from a breeder.
 

Leih

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All of my birds are from a breeder, and only one was immediately cuddly. I visited him 2x a week while he was being handfed and so by the time he came home, he somewhat knew who I was.

With that said, I always like to tell new people about Aoife, my lovebird. She was 5 months when I got her, she is my first bird (I have four total, you'll see, they're like potato chips) and I had no idea what to expect. I think after a month I came on here unsure what to do. I worked super slow with her, she was very skittish and even me approaching her cage scared her. After about 3 months of incredible patience, she stepped up. But it was really only out of necessity, not like she actually liked me. After about six months I realized that she didn't actually hate me! I've had her nearly a year now and how much she trusts me surprises me, but I did truly earn that trust! You're in the right place and have gotten great advice, so I'm sure you and your tiel will be just fine!

Also, pics! We love pics around here!
 

Sunny&Mars

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Breeder doesn't always mean better ;) My sweetest birds have been from a pet store, rehomed from a friend, and from Craigslist.

My meanest bird was from a breeder.
Good to know! The breeder I got Sunny from was great, but no longer does it. I would have had to gotten Mars from a different breeder, so maybe I would have been worse off. There is a new Pet Store in my area (that was actually around when I got Mars, but I just found out about it now). I think I would have been better off buying from them.
 

Sunny&Mars

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All of my birds are from a breeder, and only one was immediately cuddly. I visited him 2x a week while he was being handfed and so by the time he came home, he somewhat knew who I was.

With that said, I always like to tell new people about Aoife, my lovebird. She was 5 months when I got her, she is my first bird (I have four total, you'll see, they're like potato chips) and I had no idea what to expect. I think after a month I came on here unsure what to do. I worked super slow with her, she was very skittish and even me approaching her cage scared her. After about 3 months of incredible patience, she stepped up. But it was really only out of necessity, not like she actually liked me. After about six months I realized that she didn't actually hate me! I've had her nearly a year now and how much she trusts me surprises me, but I did truly earn that trust! You're in the right place and have gotten great advice, so I'm sure you and your tiel will be just fine!

Also, pics! We love pics around here!
Sunny is the yellow one, Mars is the green one!

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