Cockatiels are known to be small, sociable, and entertaining parrot companions. But cockatiels don’t always come to you that way!
Your new cockatiel is going through a lot of changes, including getting used to a new home, possibly a new cage, new sights, and sounds, and, of course, your presence. If you were in their situation, you would probably be scared too.
So you want to start with an attitude of patience and recognize that the taming process will probably take some time. In this article, you will learn the best modern training methods to tame a cockatiel.
How to Tame A Cockatiel
The easiest way to tame a cockatiel is to use a positive reinforcement training method such as clicker training or target training.
This type of training builds a positive association between you and your bird using rewards like treats and praise.
Read on to learn more about how to use positive reinforcement training to tame a cockatiel.
Learn About Taming A Cockatiel
This YouTube video explains why old force-based training methods do not work to build a long-term, long-lasting bond of trust with your cockatiel.
You will learn about positive reinforcement training methods and tools and the best types of positive reinforcement training rewards to using.
What To Do First Before Taming Your Cockatiel
The very first step you need to take before you start trying to tame your cockatiel is to discover as much as you can about your bird’s background before they came to you.
As Cockatiel Cottage explains, a bird that has had negative or scary experiences with humans in the past might not be so ready to trust you and participate in training.
Even if your bird comes to you from a private breeder who sells hand-tamed cockatiels, your new bird has learned to trust the breeder, not you. So you will still need to spend some time gaining your bird’s trust before you can move on to training.
How to Win the Trust of a Scared Cockatiel
So what can you do if your bird is scared of you and resistant to your presence?
The best strategy is to simply go about your daily life, doing as much of it as you can quietly within your bird’s presence but not so close they feel threatened.
You can sit in the same room and do your work, surf the web, watch television, talk on the phone, play music, eat your dinner – anything you would normally do.
But also be sure to keep your bird’s cage out of the traffic path so they are not constantly stressed by your comings and goings.
The key here is once again to imagine your roles are reversed. If you were scared of someone living in your house with you, you wouldn’t want them to sit very close to you or try to pull you out of your room.
But over time, if you just watched them going and coming and realized they aren’t trying to harm you, some of your fear would probably start to fade.
How to Slowly Get Your Cockatiel to Warm Up to You
The Facebeak explains that at first, your bird will view you exactly the same as if you were a potential predator.
The reason is simple: cockatiels in a wild setting are prey species and they are always on high alert looking for predators.
Your cockatiel doesn’t know you and doesn’t know what your intentions are towards them. And they can’t let you get close or they might find out you want to eat them!
So you must not approach the cage if your bird shows signs of being scared of you.
A scared cockatiel’s warning signs include:
- Crouching down.
- Flapping hysterically.
- Leaning backward on the perch.
- Flattening feathers against their body.
- Trying to bite at you.
- Backing up.
- Retreating to a corner of the cage farthest from you.
You can approach your bird’s cage slowly and quietly, stopping at once and moving away the moment you see your bird start to show any fear signs.
As you continue to do this, you teach your cockatiel that by remaining in place and not backing up or moving away, they get what they want, which is you moving away and not bothering them.
This might seem counter-intuitive to your goal of taming your bird. But it actually works well because your cockatiel just learned that absolutely nothing happened when they stayed where they are – you move away.
If you do this every day, your bird will soon allow you to come closer and closer before they try to move away. Eventually, you will teach them you mean them no harm.
Once your cockatiel can tolerate you walking closer to the cage without moving away, you want to do the same thing with your arm and hand.
Only when your cockatiel can tolerate your arm and hand in close proximity to their cage are you ready to move on.
What To Do After Your Cockatiel Stops Moving Away When You Approach
There is no standard timeline for how long it will take before your cockatiel stops retreating the moment you appear.
For cockatiels who have been abused or terrified with negative training methods in the past, it could take some time – here, think weeks or months rather than days.
But once you have succeeded in being able to approach your bird’s cage and they remain in place, you can begin the process of trying to tame your new cockatiel.
This is when you want to start using positive reinforcements like treats to teach your cockatiel to associate your company with good things.
What You Will Need to Start Taming Your Cockatiel
There are a few essential tools you will want to gather before you take those first important steps to start taming your cockatiel.
A communication method
The first thing you will need is a neutral way to introduce two-way communication.
A clicker tool (readily available online in pet stores and online markets like Amazon) is a great choice. So is a small thin blunt-edge wooden chopstick.
You will want to use the two tools together to help your bird understand the relationship between doing what you want and getting a positive reward.
A positive reward
Speaking of positive rewards, the second thing you will need is some type of incentive or reward. With a scared cockatiel, food is usually the best option.
As Let’s Talk Birds explains, millet sprays are ideal because they are long and your bird won’t have to get too close to you to enjoy some.
Putting It All Together to Tame Your Cockatiel
Cockatiels are very smart and will quickly grasp the association between tapping the target stick, hearing the clicker, and getting the treat reward.
Start by offering your cockatiel a little millet into their seed cup so they can taste it – cockatiels generally LOVE millet!
Next, you can begin presenting the chopstick and encouraging your cockatiel to move closer to it at first and then tap it with their beak.
When your cockatiel does what you want, depress the clicker button and immediately offer the millet treat.
Eventually, you can use this new communication method to train your bird to step up onto your hand or finger and learn other useful things.