Firm parenting abilities are very important. If your cockatoo hops off of its cage, walks across the floor, invites itself onto your lap and you begin scratching its head, you are, in effect, rewarding it for doing something it never should have done. If your cockatoo screams because it wants to be let out of its cage and you cave in and let it out, you are teaching it that screaming is the way to get what it wants.
“If you are easily manipulated, you’re going to have problems with your cockatoo,” said avian veterinarian Brian Speer DVM, co-author of Birds for Dummies (IDG Books, 1999). Your cockatoo needs rules, and it needs you and everyone else in your household to follow through on them. “In the absence of rules, cockatoos make up their own rules ?and that’s when they get into trouble,” Speer said.
Before You Give Up
What do you do if it’s too late, and you’ve already got a “problem cockatoo” on your hands? Before you make a decision about whether or not you should give up the bird, make sure you’ve explored all your options. A lot of behavior problems can be remedied.
First, take your cockatoo to your veterinarian to see if a medical condition is causing your cockatoo to behave badly. With feather plucking, for instance, a health problem such as aspergillosis, lice, psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD) or a bacterial infection might be the root cause of such behavior.
Once you know everything checks out medically, you can then address behavior problems. Consult with an avian behavior consultant. Look for someone who is experienced with cockatoos and can walk you through it. Julie Murad, founder and director of the Gabriel Foundation, a parrot rescue and rehabilitation organization based in Colorado, cautioned, however, that “there are no instant fixes. You will need to correct all the mistakes that have been made in the past, and it can take a long time to do that.”
Be willing to put in the time and effort necessary to fix the behavior problems and turn the situation around. “Unless the bird is being abused in its home, I believe that every bird does better remaining in the home than being placed in another situation,” said Bonnie Kenk, founder and director of the Parrot Education and Adoption Center in San Diego, Calif. “It causes birds a lot of stress to have to learn the rules and routines of a new household. Also, the cockatoos form a bond with their owners and can be very depressed for quite some time after being sent to a new home, because they miss their previous family.”
That said, there may be situations where people really should find a new home for their cockatoo. “If their lifestyle has changed to the point where they truly do not have time to spend with the bird on a daily basis ?the bird is left in the cage for days on end ?and they don’t see this changing within the near future, then it would be best to find another home for the bird,” Kenk said. Or, once you’ve done everything you can to fix a behavior problem and you’re making no progress, or if you are downright petrified of the bird ?those are valid reasons for giving up a cockatoo.