Dear Windy City,
I receive your e-mails daily and admire the tips and tricks that you provide. So, I’m writing to you now in hope that you might be able to help me.
I have a U2 that is a picker, a screamer, hates water and is getting meaner! For plucking, I’ve tried more attention, I’ve tried more toys, (mixing and rearranging). I have a canopy created so she has privacy and security.
She screams if i open the front door an am not inside. I am aware that this could be her feeling unsafe due to not knowing that shes okay behind glass. I don’t cater to every scream, as I know that could just cause it to get worse. (Like a three year old.)
If I leave, the television or the radio stays on and I put her in her cage but she lets herself out. She’s chewed every screw off her cage. So, she’s not lonely. This makes me worry about the over-plucking. I give her baths, but she hates them. I make her take them and she squawks and tries to get out of the tub. She’s also afraid of everything, but when she’s getting her way, she is SUPER cuddly. I’ve had people tell me they’ve never seen a bird let someone get that cuddly and close.
Recently, I have been given a Yorkie puppy and she’s gotten hellacious. Normally, shes not worried about the animals at all. She deliberately climbs down her cage at night to go after my other dog, which she has known forever.
I’m afraid something is wrong and I don’t know what to do. I can’t afford to take her to a vet and I don’t want to get rid of her, she’s my baby and I know she’s a handful, but I’m going nuts!
Please, if you could offer ANY advice, I would greatly appreciate it.
Brittany and Shelly
I wish I had a simple solution or magic potion to offer, but I don’t. You clearly have a host of problems and they need to be addressed both on an individual basis as well as looking at the birds behavior holistically.
One piece of information lacking in your description is the age of the bird. He may be going through hormonal changes that need to be addressed that information would be helpful.
First off, I’d say if you bird hates the baths. Stop with the baths for now because it’s one more thing your bird is going to hold against you. Going into the winter months with the heat on is definitely drier, I would introduce a humidifier to maintain moisture in the air. I know dander is a big problem with cockatoos and bathing helps but right now this might not be the time to force you bird to bathe.
Screaming is part of a cockatoos relationship with Cockatoo and barring any random cockatoos in your home, humans. Screaming is something that you have to accept just not incessant screaming with the bird’s vocal all the time. It’s important that neither you nor anyone in your family is yelling back at the bird to “shut up” or “be quiet” because that will only make your bird scream more.
When we yelled back to any screaming bird screaming bird the bird thinks, we are engaging them and they are happy to have the conversation. They can’t necessarily the control level of their screeches, but basically they’re saying, “hey, how you doing, let’s talk what’s going on how was your day?” and so forth
To be a companion to a big cockatoo you must tolerate a certain amount screaming daily (30 minutes or so a day is good) but not the screaming that goes on all day. There’s a couple of things you can try such as covering the cage like a child’s timeout. Another thing you can do something called a misdirection.
What you’ll need is a pot in a wooden spoon or a ladle at the ready in a room that the bird is NOT in. When the bird starts screaming, I want you to go into the room with the pot and the spoon – and bang bang bang! The bird should shut up momentarily because he will be curious about the sound. At that point calmly but rapidly walk into the room where the bird who is momentarily silent. Speak lots of praise in a high friendly voice and have one of their favorite treats like sunflower seed or peanut -something to reward them for the silence.
Plucking – I could probably write a book on this that never ends. The triggers of plucking are many. One of the things we talk about a regular basis is understanding that birds in the wild will spend 3 to 5 hours a day flying many miles making many stops in their search for food.
In captivity we give them abundant food and water and so their feeding is over and about 15 minutes then we wonder why they get bored. More toys, and simply rearrange them might not be the answer the question is what toys are you using? Are there any interactive toys in your mix? Is the bird being challenged on a regular basis? Are you using the toys to make your bird feel secure? I know that sounds like an question but with needy cockatoos the feel very insecure it’s important the toys act as the canopy of the tree they would be living in the wild you can read more about that here.
Trying to figure out what to do with the e interspecies play is going to be a judgment call on your part. It sounds like there’s some jealousy involved here and it could be triggered by hormonal issues. It it may because it’s a male, you don’t mention anything about nesting activities so without more information this is about as far as I can go.
I hope you this gives you a good start.