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Thread: how can i stop my cockatiels skittish behavior and biting?

  1. #1
    Brand New Egg
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    Oct 2010
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    how can i stop my cockatiels skittish behavior and biting?

    About a week ago I purchased my first cockatiel, I was told this was a good starting bird. I didn't bother her for 24 hours like I was told to do at the pet store. The other day I tried changing her food when I put my hand in the cage she hissed and bit at me and always ran. I don't know what to do anymore. All I wanna do is hold my bird.
    Some one please help


  2. #2
    Brand New Egg
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Edinboro, Pennsylvania
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    Re: how can i stop my cockatiels skittish behavior and biting?

    Well, she may just be frightened, but it sounds like your bird might not be well trained to be around humans. There are a few things you can do with a social problem like this, and here is my favorite option: Target training.

    Ideally for this to work best you need a dog clicker (you can buy them from any pet store) because you need a way to make the same sound every time you train her (for familiarity).

    1. Choose your target "stick" (a chopstick, the eraser end of a pencil, etc) and make sure it's something safe, but also that it is the same one every time. This will kind of play as your surrogate finger for now.

    2. Figure out which food is her favorite (spray Millet and cheerios are a safe bet) and only use this food for training. It should be a special treat, and she should get a small amount as a reward (about one bite) as each reward serving.

    3. You can choose whether to clicker train her first or just to start with the stick (she'll catch on a little bit quicker if you clicker train her first, but it isn't completely necessary) and to clicker train her essentially you just click your clicker, and hand her a treat. Do it somewhat quickly and make sure she can recognize that the clicker and treat are related. (This may take a few days). Eventually you want her to look around expectantly after you click, because she knows the treat will be coming soon.

    4. Now for the stick part. Slowly ease the stick into her cage. Move it closer to her until she touches the tip of it with her beak (don't poke her though). If she attacks it furiously or bites it hard, this is no good, so no click/treat. Try again. If she gently places her beak around it, this is okay. Even if it looks like she's nibbling, you can usually tell if she's just tasting it or if she's trying to inflict damage. Every time she touches it softly, click and give her a treat.

    5. Over time she will figure out that the stick is a magical treat machine, and that touching it makes food appear! Now you can start moving it further and further away, and she'll walk to it to touch it, then you click/treat. Eventually you can even get her to hop from perch to perch, climb on someone's head (you may not want that) or even fly to you (if she's a flyer).

    6. Make sure your training sessions are only about two to three minutes long. The training won't work if she gets full or bored. You can have a secondary "refresher" session later in the same day, but it should be very short. No more than 3 or 4 successful touches/treats, I'd say.

    7. Once you can successfully get her out of the cage with the target stick, try relocating her to a flat table top with no distractions. This is a good alternate environment for early target training. On the table you will need to remove the excess treat she drops from the table, because for a good while she'll still rather go to a seed for a seed, than a stick for a seed. :P
    I just blow all the millet hulls off the table each time, and I vacuum them up later.

    8. Also, (and this is the big one) negative reinforcement does not work with cockatiels, at all. If you say "no!", the bird will not understand that you are telling it to stop. Doing this, shaking the cage, blowing on her face harshly, or tapping her with a stick/your finger will only excite her and make her afraid. If she is excited she may repeat the behavior more often due to confusion, and in any case she'll become more and more skittish and fearful of humans.

    In the end, if you follow these tips (and any others you may find from the wealth of friendly folks on this site), you will have the foundation for a very well trained bird, and your tiel will already have bonded to you from all that quality time. You'll be able to get her onto your finger using the stick and treat (but you'll have to hold clicker, treat and stick all in one hand for that trick) but most of all it gives her something to do and helps her adapt to her environment and forget about things that worry her. If there is ever a day when she really doesn't want to play the stick game, go ahead and skip a day to keep it interesting. She'll remember after a few repetitions the next time you train.

    This can take days, but it can sometimes take a few weeks, however the process is fun and she'll probably warm up to you long before she's fully trained. Target stick training isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I use it and look how happy I am.

    I apologize for the bulleted essay... I hope this wall helpful to you!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Thanked 10 Times in 10 Posts

    Re: how can i stop my cockatiels skittish behavior and biting?

    good advice and well written
    only thing i reckon is that with a nervous bird it would be very hard to give the treat
    if the bird is very skittish then it wont take a treat...

    but clicker training does work...i have used it with one of my dogs but not all of them

    what id do with the bird is bite the bullet ...get her out and clip her wings
    yeah i hate clipped wings but its the safety aspect im interested in so i clip all of our birds except for the finches canaries and the eclectus
    the eclectus will come when called now and OH will not clip....even though he was actually lost for four days once long ago before he was taught to come on command
    anyway thats another story lol

    so id clip the wings and take the bird out and put it on a stand
    close to you
    not a severe clip but at least some length cut from the first four flight feathers
    the more the bird is around you the more she should settle
    im assuming this is a handraised but simply nervous bird that has been neglected socially in the shop?

    if it hasnt been handraised...i have no real suggestions apart from once again having as much close times with her...just spend as much time sitting close...i do that with my finches and canaries and the canaries at least arent terrified of me but of course wont allow me to put my hand in without going nuts

    im not aiming to tame them though

    good luck with it...im not sure that the petshop did the right thing by you but keep us posted

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