Cockatiels have several ways of communicating with their owners. When you hear your bird singing, you will get the impression that it’s happy. If your cockatiel screeches so loudly that you jump out of your seat, they’ve done their job in getting your attention.
You have a cockatiel that is biting you. How do you get it to stop?
The best way to stop a cockatiel is with the proper training, which is completed successfully with repetition and reward. Of course, you never want to reward your bird for biting you. Otherwise, you will reinforce the behavior. However, treats are effective when paired with good behaviors, as you will see when using our training techniques to stop your cockatiel from biting you.
Taming your Cockatiel
The first step to taming your cockatiel is by getting to the root of their aggression. There are many reasons why a bird will bite, and it’s up to us as their protectors to play detective and figure out what is going on.
Fear, neglect, feeling threatened, and even illness could prompt your cockatiel to bite you or anyone else in your family that reaches in their cage. If you go down the list, you’ll be sure to understand better why they are acting out.
At this point, you can get rid of any threats quickly or spend more time with your bird if you feel it’s because they’re lonely and angry with you. However, if you suspect your cockatiel doesn’t trust you, you will have to take steps to gain their confidence, ultimately taming them for handling.
Create a non-threatening, calm environment for you and your bird to spend time together when you greet them in the morning while uncovering their cages, smile, and be sure to say, “Hello” brightly and cheerily.
Take time every day to play with your cockatiel. If they don’t even step up onto your finger, en you will have to train them to do that once they have gained their trust.
If, when you reach in for your cockatiel to step onto your finger, it bites you say, “No” right away but don’t do it angrily or impatiently. Cockatiels mimic the emotions surrounding them, so this will likely only prompt them to bite you again.
If your bird is on your finger or a perch that you happen to be holding, another way to stop your cockatiel from biting you is to cause them to lose their balance when they bite. It will startle them, and they will associate the feeling with biting and likely stop this bad habit.
Once you see clear signs that your cockatiel has stopped biting, you begin training them to do something else and reward them for a job well done with treats.
One of the most effective ways to train any animal is by giving them a treat after performing the actions you are looking for. However, when it comes to the types of goodies that you can provide your cockatiel, that can vary.
The most important thing to remember is this, when you are following out training steps that call for treats is to put a time or treat limit on your sessions because cockatiels have tiny stomachs, and you don’t want them to stuff themselves sick.
Here is a list of treats that are acceptable to give a cockatiel.
- Animal Crackers
- Grape Nuts
- Rice Krispies
- Shredded Wheat
- Unsalted crackers
- Unsalted popcorn
- Unsalted pretzels
Following is a list of foods that are not safe for cockatiels to eat as treats or otherwise.
- Anything moldy (blue cheese, etc.)
- Artificial sweetener
- Bean plant
- Brazil nuts
- Eggs, uncooked
- Fish, uncooked
- Fresh peanuts
- Fruit pits or seeds
- Meat, uncooked
- Nuts in shells
Another critical component to good training is repetition. Language is the most significant barrier when it comes to communicating with other species, and it seems the more you repeat something, the better your odds are at the lesson sticking.
Young cockatiels around the age of eight to twelve weeks old are easy to train. Hand-fed cockatiels are also easy to discipline, but they must also be young. Training older cockatiels takes more time and patience than the babies.
Using the following steps and persistence and tasty goodies, you should have no trouble teaching your bird to do many things like talk, step up, and even come when called. We’ve generalized the steps, but the rest will fall into place if you insert the trick you want to teach them.
How To Train a Cockatiel
Step One: The first step is to get everything ready. Set up fifteen-minute intervals throughout the day, when you can, and it may be a good idea to wait until after your bird eats since you will be giving them treats.
Step Two: Let’s use saying “hello” as an example. Say the word to your cockatiel and keep repeating it. Do so in a non-threatening way. Cockatiels prefer to be at eye level, so that’s an excellent place to position yourself or slightly above.
If you want them to step up on your finger, put your finger in front of them and say, “step up.” Whatever you are trying to teach them will require repeating this repeatedly until they understand and do what you want.
Step Three: When your cockatiel says, “hello” back to you, or steps upon your finger, or flies to you from across the room, or they have done what you want, give them a treat immediately. The idea is to condition them to associate the behavior with the treat. This is how Pavlov got a dog to drool in 1902 and discovered the concept we now know as classical conditioning.
A better alternative to biting is petting, which is the act of taking your hand or finger and stroking your cockatiel’s head. If you are a new pet owner, this may take time and training. Our cockatiel has bonded with my partner, who is allowed to pet our bird all the time. Unfortunately, I didn’t create that bond with our little guy because I came into the picture late, and, at first, he wouldn’t let me pet him.
It wasn’t until I followed the steps below that he finally let me stroke his head.
Step One: Just as we instructed above, you need to set the right environment for your bird to feel comfortable. It’s important to schedule the time too. The fifteen-minute interval rule we introduced above applies here as well.
Step Two: Pay attention to what your bird does. If you are attempting to pet your bird, we will assume you’ve already trained your cockatiel to step up onto your finger. Take your finger and move it slowly toward the beak.
If your bird lets you pet its beak, then you can take it a bit farther by moving up. Be careful of the eyes. Your cockatiel will let you know when you’ve gone too far. If they nip at your finger, say, “no,” and move on. Give them a treat if they let you pet them. Do not give them a treat if they bite you.
Step Three: Continue to repeat the first two steps until you get the results your want.
Training your cockatiel to let you pet them shouldn’t take very long because they love affection and connecting with their humans.
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