The Unconventional Guide To Cockatoos

Cockatoos can be the most lovable, entertaining, and cuddly parrots on the planet. But sometimes, there is no book or expert that can fully prepare someone for living with a fluffy white or peachy-pink clown.

When parrots are introduced to new people or a new environment, they may be on their best behavior Šfor a little while! 
When parrots are introduced to new people or a new environment, they may be on their best behavior Šfor a little while!

Nothing quite prepares one for life with a cockatoo. Sometimes they are the lovable, cuddly and well-behaved (Šand she laughed and laughed! ) powder-puffs that we read about. And sometimes they can be the exception to every rule imaginable.

Here are a few “unconventional” guidelines to living with cockatoos:

1) Roller Coaster, Party of One, Step Right This Way!
Life with a cockatoo will have its ups and downs. It’s important to find the balance between the entertaining highs of disarming cuteness and the frustrating lows of their child-like determination to get into trouble.

First of all, you have to accept that your house may never be as clean as it was BEFORE you brought a cockatoo into it. Why? Because about the time you finish cleaning up all the feather dust, and chewed-up pieces of everything, you’ll notice the grand mosaic on the wall consisting of every fruit and vegetable that was in their morning breakfast bowl. And guess what? The fun starts all over the next day!

Secondly, that cute fluff-ball you thought you knew beforehand might not be the same bird when they get all comfy in their new digs.

During her first evening with us, Thor, a female Moluccan cockatoo, never made a peep. At 6:00 a.m. the next morning, all the oxygen in the house was sucked out as Thor took a deep breath and bellowed “WAKE UP! WAKE UP! Aaaah!ŠAaaah!ŠAAAAAH!!!?lt;/em> at the top of her jungle-sized, 135-decibel-capable lungs.

And while it is mostly true that the larger the parrot, the louder they “generally” are, there are all sorts of exceptions to that rule. Unfortunately, that “exception?does not live in my house, and might not live in yours 100 percent of the time, either.

There will also be days when your cockatoo will be quiet as a mouse, the perfect picture of “adorable” with happily fluffed up feathers and a contentedly grinding beak. Don’t make the mistake of lulling yourself into thinking THAT is always how your ‘too is always going to be, because there may be just as many days they may vocalize at the top of their lungs just for the sheer pleasure of listening to themselves make a bunch of racket.

Cockatoos are very multi-faceted and individualistic creatures. That diversity is part of “who” they are as parrots just as much as it is “who” we are as humans.

The bond between the author and her cockatoo Thor took time, patience and understanding to build. 
The bond between the author and her cockatoo Thor took time, patience and understanding to build.

2) Maybe You’re The Chosen One … Maybe You’re Not
I spent FOUR WEEKS getting to know Thor before bringing her home. During that time, she was quiet and polite, never being loud or trying to bite, unlike my timneh African grey Petrie, who wasted NO TIME trying to remove my ear from my head during our initial “Get To Know You” visit.

I assumed all of Thor’s good behavior was a positive sign of how “perfectly” we were suited for each other. I had visions of us growing old together, a wrinkly old woman and her fluffy peach parrot. We would be the best BFFs. I could hear the theme from “The Sound of Music” playing in the background as we sang and danced away in my imagination.

I could not have disillusioned myself any more than had I expected one of my horses to run through a rainbow and turn into a unicorn.

There will also be days when your cockatoo will be quiet as a mouse, the perfect picture of “adorable” with happily fluffed up feathers and a contentedly grinding beak. Don’t make the mistake of lulling yourself into thinking THAT is always how your ‘too is always going to be, because there may be just as many days they may vocalize at the top of their lungs just for the sheer pleasure of listening to themselves make a bunch of racket.

And so home Thor came, where she immediately fell in love with my husband Frank, whom she had never laid eyes on. Without so much as an apologetic “I love you, but” glance at me, Thor handed over that gleaming crown of “The Chosen One” to my husband, and I was instantly demoted to “Server Of Food” and “Cleaner Of Poop.”

What did I do wrong? In time, I learned the answer to that question was “Absolutely nothing.”

Cockatoos, like a lot of parrots, will often choose their uber-favorite person with no rhyme or reason. The key is to try not to be upset too much if you are not handed a crown whose first and only requirement is to simply BE in the same room. If you’re not The Chosen One, you must understand that you?e just going to have to work a little harder at the relationship, that? all.

And no matter how much your feelings are hurt, DO NOT TAKE IT PERSONALLY.

I have to admit, at first I was REALLY disappointed. But over time, Thor taught me about the different types of relationships she needed instead of me thinking she needed just ONE kind. What I thought she needed was not at all what she knew she wanted. Books and experts don’t tell you that. But time and patience will.

The friendship I have with Thor is completely different than the friendship she has with Frank.

Sure, I’m still the “lowly?server-of-food and the cleaner-of-poop, but I have also become the singer-of-songs, the giver-of-baths, the groomer-of-head-feathers, and the gently-swaying-shoulder for Thor when she is not watching TV with Frank, or playing with her toys.

Relationships with cockatoos do not happen overnight. My relationship with Thor certainly did not. But while I might never wear that can-do-no-wrong crown of The Chosen One, I am perfectly happy wearing the warm mantle of trusting friendship that has been forged over time.

Cockatoos may see everything in your home as something worthy of being shredded! 
Cockatoos may see everything in your home as something worthy of being shredded!

3) ‘Too Logic: If It’s Yours, It’s Mine
It? the mantra most all cockatoos live by: ?f it’s mine, it’s mine… and if it’s yours, it is DEFINITELY mine.”

Cockatoos need a variety of things to play with, chew on, destroy and generally turn into teeny little pieces of confetti and kindling.

Unfortunately, some cockatoos may not distinguish what you GIVE them to play with versus what they DEAM is theirs to play with Šwhich is basically anything in your home.

Cockatoos are not opposed to bribery to get what they want and will happily trade you a half-eaten stalk of broccoli for your computer keyboard. Those zygodactyl feet are super-quick, so also be prepared for zippity theft of your television remote if you’re not paying attention. And unless you are prepared to build a wall with a moat around your dinner-plate, it does not matter if you put the EXACT SAME FOOD in their bowl, what you are eating is ALWAYS much more enjoyable ?mostly because it? YOURS.

Establishing rules for a cockatoo is very important. It doesn? mean that they will always FOLLOW them, but just like a small child, they can easily understand consequences such as a “time out?for un-desirable behavior, just as much as they love being rewarded with a treat or a hug for good behavior.

Cockatoos will fill your heart with love one moment and make you want to pull your hair out the next. And yet those who bring them into their lives love them in spite of that. They require an enormous amount of dedication, patience, and understanding on our part. But what they give back in turn defies explanation, leaving us quite humble as humans Šwith dusty little footprints on our souls.

Of course, there’s more to cockatoos than just this. We’ll cover more about cockatoos in a later article. 

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