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What to do with a non-independent bird

Frogpasta

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Hello everyone!

I’ve recently gotten a cockatiel (Gnocchi) and I love him to pieces!! He is a very well behaved bird, but he has one main “problem area”...he really doesn’t like to be left alone.

I am well aware that cockatiels have a reputation of being somewhat “clingy”, but in this case I think I should be doing something.

He won’t play independently. On VERY rare occasions I’ll deck a swing/perch out with millet and put him rightttt next to me and he’ll be fine, but even then, as soon as the millet runs out or I move the tiniest bit TOO far from him, he flaps over and will not be put back.
I also think he doesn’t quite “get” the cage? When I’m in the room he usually climbs on the walls until I let him out. I usually try to ignore this until he stops. Sometimes he will, but as soon as I reward him (with a click, good birdie or a treat) he no longer wants to play. So then I tried NOT rewarding him and leaving him to his business, but even then he usually ‘wants out’ as soon as the foraging stuff I’ve hidden around the cage is gone. He rarely plays with the toys in his cage, HOWEVER, if I have the same toys on my lap or on the area literally right next to me he will happily play with it (for the most part).
The worst thing is he doesn’t seem to do all that much when I leave the room either. Of course he’ll scream for a bit when I initially leave, we’ll contact call a bit and he’ll let out a couple squawks every now and again. But when I DO come back it’s like he hasn’t moved at all. Occasionally I’ll find him on a different perch, but he doesn’t occupy himself. This is where I’m concerned. Although I’m home at the moment, and there are a couple other people living with me currently, I go back to school soon and they can’t dedicate every waking moment to him because they have their own lives. (He likes both direct and ambient attention as long as he is on you/VERY close by.)
It’s escalated to the point where he doesn’t even like being put to bed . He doesn’t make a sound once covered and he has yet to make a fuss in the morning, but recently he refuses to actually be put in his cage to go to sleep. As soon as I go near it he runs to my shoulder. He will run away from my finger (or perch) and even hisses at it sometimes :(
I really don’t won’t to stress him out, but he is obviously tired. He’ll be falling asleep on me, and making those sleepy noises, but as soon as the cage is in sights he chucks a tantrum. He’s always been agreeable at nighttime, so I don’t know what’s changed... I’ve tried a nightlight, uncovering the change more and more and pitch black!! Alas, no avail. I suspected he could be getting a bit “frisky” so I removed any *stimulates* that I know of, but that didn’t work either. I’ve tried to spend more time away from him, but then he doesn’t do “anything” as I mentioned earlier.
Does anyone have advice?? I’m desperate. For his benefit, not mine.
 

expressmailtome

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Bump.
 

sunnysmom

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Do you spend time with him when he's in his cage? Often birds associate "cage" with you going away. So, I always spend time with my birds in their cages too. And that applies to bedtime too. Each of my birds has their own little bedtime routine (I think a bedtime routine in general helps.) You can also do a bedtime treat- like a bit of millet spray to make bedtime less stressful.
 

Frogpasta

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Do you spend time with him when he's in his cage? Often birds associate "cage" with you going away. So, I always spend time with my birds in their cages too. And that applies to bedtime too. Each of my birds has their own little bedtime routine (I think a bedtime routine in general helps.) You can also do a bedtime treat- like a bit of millet spray to make bedtime less stressful.
Thanks for the advice!
I did suspect the “cage equals no human” thought process, so I do spend time with him in the cage. Unfortunately, when I try to let him be by himself while I’m there he just runs on the bottom until I let him out (I do try to ignore it) or if I try play in the cage WITH him he focuses more on my hand as an escape route rather thanactually playing/foraging...
I have also been trying my hardest to set a night routine (and a routine in general). I think last night went better and I have also been using treats to calm him during night time.
What exactly do you do when playing with your birds in their cage though? And what is their bed time routines? Maybe IM doing something wrong-
 

sunnysmom

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Thanks for the advice!
I did suspect the “cage equals no human” thought process, so I do spend time with him in the cage. Unfortunately, when I try to let him be by himself while I’m there he just runs on the bottom until I let him out (I do try to ignore it) or if I try play in the cage WITH him he focuses more on my hand as an escape route rather thanactually playing/foraging...
I have also been trying my hardest to set a night routine (and a routine in general). I think last night went better and I have also been using treats to calm him during night time.
What exactly do you do when playing with your birds in their cage though? And what is their bed time routines? Maybe IM doing something wrong-
With my tiels, I don't so much play with them as sit and talk to them or sing to them. Sometimes it's even just me sitting by them reading and not directly interacting. With my first tiel, I also would use millet as a going back to you cage only treat/reward. He loved it. So it gave him something to look forward to when he went back in. With my cockatoo, we play with these clips that he likes- hooking and unhooking them but I don't think it really would work with a tiel.

As for bedtime, I try to keep their bedtime a consistent time. My tiels actually sleep in a different room than what they're in during the day. So, I take them to their room. Give them fresh water and I sit and sing to them. They usually start beak grinding and then I turn on their night light and cover them - I only cover them part way- and then shut the light off. By then, they're pretty relaxed and usually don't even make a peep when I leave the room.
 

Frogpasta

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With my tiels, I don't so much play with them as sit and talk to them or sing to them. Sometimes it's even just me sitting by them reading and not directly interacting. With my first tiel, I also would use millet as a going back to you cage only treat/reward. He loved it. So it gave him something to look forward to when he went back in. With my cockatoo, we play with these clips that he likes- hooking and unhooking them but I don't think it really would work with a tiel.

As for bedtime, I try to keep their bedtime a consistent time. My tiels actually sleep in a different room than what they're in during the day. So, I take them to their room. Give them fresh water and I sit and sing to them. They usually start beak grinding and then I turn on their night light and cover them - I only cover them part way- and then shut the light off. By then, they're pretty relaxed and usually don't even make a peep when I leave the room.
Thank you so much for the advice!
I’ll def try the millet as a cage only treat. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner-
I’ll also go for the more non-interactive approach next time :)

It seems I’m doing bed time alright so I guess I’ll keep up with that routine. He’s been getting better with that each night.
 

sunnysmom

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Thank you so much for the advice!
I’ll def try the millet as a cage only treat. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner-
I’ll also go for the more non-interactive approach next time :)

It seems I’m doing bed time alright so I guess I’ll keep up with that routine. He’s been getting better with that each night.
I think you can do both- interactive and non-interactive. :)
 

Sunni Tiel

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How big is the cage? If it's bigger he will probably have less of a problem with more room and more to do. My Tiel Sunni is EXACTLY the same, a spoiled hand raised baby who can't occupy himself. (I love him to pieces though :xflove:) I've had him for 3 months now, and I think the biggest thing that helped was making him a PVC play gym. I made it huge, 4 feet tall and 2x2 feet around for just the base with perches and accessories poking out the sides. I covered it in vetrap so he can get a grip. You can get them at stores but there REALLY expensive, I could easily sell mine for $400 but making it only cost me around $40. Smaller ones could be made for around $20 and work just fine. Anyway to the point, I just open his cage and let him climb to the gym and he stays there all day unless I'm holding him or he's asleep. Another thing that helped was when I rearranged his cage every other day, that keeps him occupied for a while. Foraging is another idea but it looks like you've tried that. Well, this is a long post that covers basically nothing. Hope I could help.:roflmao:
 

Frogpasta

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How big is the cage? If it's bigger he will probably have less of a problem with more room and more to do. My Tiel Sunni is EXACTLY the same, a spoiled hand raised baby who can't occupy himself. (I love him to pieces though :xflove:) I've had him for 3 months now, and I think the biggest thing that helped was making him a PVC play gym. I made it huge, 4 feet tall and 2x2 feet around for just the base with perches and accessories poking out the sides. I covered it in vetrap so he can get a grip. You can get them at stores but there REALLY expensive, I could easily sell mine for $400 but making it only cost me around $40. Smaller ones could be made for around $20 and work just fine. Anyway to the point, I just open his cage and let him climb to the gym and he stays there all day unless I'm holding him or he's asleep. Another thing that helped was when I rearranged his cage every other day, that keeps him occupied for a while. Foraging is another idea but it looks like you've tried that. Well, this is a long post that covers basically nothing. Hope I could help.:roflmao:
No no, I appreciate the long post- Thank you!!
He has a large flight cage (I think it was 60cm by 80cm but I could be mistaken) so I don’t think that’s the problem so to speak.
My biggest goal is to have more play areas in general, but as you said it’s expensive...don’t get me wrong, I’m willing to pay for him! I knew he would be expensive, but I was just worried because when I do put toys and hang stuff on a table, he usually still seeks me out. In short, Im nervous to spend such a large amount of money, for him not to use it...
I always considered just building it myself, but it might just take longer than I’d like because my state is currently in lockdown-
I was nervous to use PVC because I thought I’d have to wrap in in twine (and somehow attach it) but I’ll take a look at vetrap...thanks for the suggestion!!
 

1/2MoonMom

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I am having this problem too, and I am certain that building bigger, higher-up play areas will help. My bird actually entertains herself very well alone, but if people are in the house? Nope. The only hope is that she will forage for 10 minutes so I can get a few things done!

I have seen success (limited, but baby steps!) with my bird responding to clicker training with toys and vegetables. I usually put a couple treats in a foraging toy and click when she engages with the toy in any way and reward. I have found that a solid 5 minutes of this definitely moves her in the direction of engaging with the toy without me. I also use colored paper and have been working on her identifying colors. Unexpectedly, she has not only mastered green yellow and red, but realized she liked chewing paper! I think I have also found it most important to discourage shoulder behavior. If she flies to me without being called (and should only be flying to my hand) I promptly return her. This hasn't resulted in her being happy entertaining herself when I am home (yet), but her frequency of flying to me instead of climbing on her own things is becoming less.
 

Frogpasta

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I am having this problem too, and I am certain that building bigger, higher-up play areas will help. My bird actually entertains herself very well alone, but if people are in the house? Nope. The only hope is that she will forage for 10 minutes so I can get a few things done!

I have seen success (limited, but baby steps!) with my bird responding to clicker training with toys and vegetables. I usually put a couple treats in a foraging toy and click when she engages with the toy in any way and reward. I have found that a solid 5 minutes of this definitely moves her in the direction of engaging with the toy without me. I also use colored paper and have been working on her identifying colors. Unexpectedly, she has not only mastered green yellow and red, but realized she liked chewing paper! I think I have also found it most important to discourage shoulder behavior. If she flies to me without being called (and should only be flying to my hand) I promptly return her. This hasn't resulted in her being happy entertaining herself when I am home (yet), but her frequency of flying to me instead of climbing on her own things is becoming less.
Thank you very much!!
I will try the idea of higher AND lower playing areas (he seems to be better lower to the floor as opposed to higher? Maybe because cockatiels are ground forages...). I’m glad you’re having success with it :)
My Gnocchi also seems to enjoy (most) clicker training, so I’ll give that more of a whirl. I’ve used it a couple times in the cage, but I’ll willing to try it again!! He also loves target training, so I may be able to use that to my advantage...
By “identifying coloured paper” do you mean saying a colour and having him go to said colour? How’d you go about teaching him that? Congratulations non the less!!
As for the shoulder thing, I will definitely try. I just know it’s gonna be a struggle to say the least- He is definitely a shoulder bird, and although I do try to limit shoulder time™, I should definitely work on that.
Thank you again for all the advice!! Glad to know someone understands my “pain”.
 

1/2MoonMom

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By “identifying coloured paper” do you mean saying a colour and having him go to said colour? How’d you go about teaching him that? Congratulations non the less!!
As for the shoulder thing, I will definitely try. I just know it’s gonna be a struggle to say the least- He is definitely a shoulder bird, and although I do try to limit shoulder time™, I should definitely work on that.
Thank you again for all the advice!! Glad to know someone understands my “pain”.
I definitely understand the pain!

I’ll post a video sometime soon! She’s not a huge talker but understands commands. So I hold a fan of color cards and say the color and she will nibble the correct one. I started by repeating the color word and having her target train the card and then presented her with the choices.

I also use shoulder as a reward. If she just finished a good flight training session to my fingers she gets shoulder. I don’t let her stay if it’s umpromtped by me though.
 
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