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Are Cockatoos Always Trouble?

Letís say you have a cockatoo. You bought him after months of careful planning and research, already weaned, and from a reputable source. You did everything you thought you needed to do to raise him properly. Heís a pretty good bird. A bit noisy, a bit needy, but not too bad considering all the horror stories youíve heard. But when he does act up, you get worried. Youíre afraid youíre going to end up one of those people you swore you would never be: Someone with a difficult cockatoo. Should you really worry? Should you start looking for a new home for your cockatoo because heís going to become a monster?

Cockatoos tend to be more intense than some other parrots, and people who canít handle that arenít likely to keep a cockatoo for long. There are lots of perfectly normal cockatoos out there just doing cockatoo things, and itís the people who have the problem. These families give up because they had no chance to begin with. For other families, everything is fine for quite some time, years maybe, but one day it seems like the dam breaks and all the naughtiness the bird had pent up inside comes pouring out. The owners figure thereís no hope. Theyíve been told it may happen, and it did. But itís possible what really happened is that the cockatoo is the victim of a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you fear the worst, thatís often what you see.

Since good information about parrots is relatively accessible these days, most of us realize that cockatoos are one of the more difficult parrots to have. These birds can be extremely demanding, requiring a commitment to proper socialization and training that goes far beyond the baby parrot stage. But are cockatoos doomed to be naughtier than other birds? I donít think so. Cockatoos are very smart, and their ďsmartnessĒ may be what gets them labeled as bad, when what they really are is just trying to adapt to a world thatís confusing to them. The bird does what he thinks he needs to do--bites, screams, pluck his feathers, chases everyoneís feet--and we decide heís bad. His behavior may be bad, but is he actually bad? Probably not. Out-of-control, maybe. But the situation certainly isnít hopeless.

Itís easy to have an out-of-control cockatoo. Hereís how: Hold and cuddle the bird as much as possible when heís young, preferably hand feeding and weaning him yourself even though you donít know what youíre doing, allow your cockatoo to come and go from his cage whenever he wants, let him play on the floor and climb onto whatever furniture he wants, keep him up until the wee hours of the night, and just to be on the safe side, yell at him or shut him away when heís the least bit noisy. Do all or even just some of these things, and youíre well on your way to creating a monster.

Sarcasm aside, cockatoo monsters are mostly made, not born. If you have, in fact, raised your cockatoo correctly by doing pretty much the opposite of what I just described, then if and when you have trouble, youíre probably not really dealing with a monster. Your bird might be having a rough day, or a rough couple of weeks. What you think is a mountain is just a molehill. But you get tense about it, your bird reacts accordingly, and soon everyoneís pants are in a bunch. Most likely, with a little extra structure and training, this temporary bump in the road will smooth out and everyone will feel a lot better. Pants will no longer be bunched.

Your relationship with your cockatoo is just like any other relationship. There are ups and downs, but you donít have to toss it just because it gets difficult once in a while. Youíve done all the right thingsóstruck a balance between providing attention and encouraging independence, set rules and limits, structured the environment to include proper exercise and sleep, and focused on reinforcing good behavior rather than reacting to bad behavioróso cut yourself, and your cockatoo, some slack. Donít fear the worst because it probably isnít.

Submitted by:

Chet Womach

This article was co-authored by Chet Womach and Kim Bear. Kim Bear is a parrot behavioral specialist who has been providing help to Cockatoo owners for many years! http://www.birdtricks.com/Cockatoos/




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