|Life with Chaos Cockatiel
||[Oct. 13th, 2012|11:53 am]
Every now and then I feel like putting out a PSA for pet bird ownership, and today seemed timely after a morning of chasing Chaos Cockatiel around the house. Until a few years ago, I only had ever owned budgies. They're cute and cheerful, but the downside is that they are so overbred that one is lucky to have one that lives a long time. One gets tired of losing budgies to tumours. So when a friend of a friend mentioned that they had a cockatiel that needed a good home, I stepped up to the plate.
Any time a new bird comes into a house, there's a honeymoon phase where the bird is very friendly and tends to be quiet. They are ever so polite. Then, a few months in, one wonders why the quiet, polite bird is suddenly replaced with one that knows exactly how to push your buttons! They absorb every aspect of the daily routine.
Forget the Chaos Butterfly; Chaos Cockatiel knows how to wreak havoc in a large way on a small scale. You like this mirror? It's mine now. How about these cupboards? Mind if I chew on them? Hey, look at that, you're out of reach. The cocky arrogance overwhelms and exhausts as he looks for distractions to steal a bite of food. He'll chew through a bread bag in seconds flat.
Chaos Cockatiel is 11 years old but is a permanent toddler that screams, flies and poops everywhere. Many people buy pet birds without realizing just how long they will live. As a result, pet birds often have multiple homes, just like Chaos Cockatiel. Birds form long term relationships, and multiple homes and owners have turned him into a very needy Chaos Cockatiel. Where are you going? Are you going to be back? Do you still love me? Wheet? Wheeet? WHEET! He expresses all these feelings in variations on one sound when I'm trying to get some homework done before finally letting out a shower of whistles. Notice me! Love me! My heart breaks for such a simple creature.
He'll live another 9 years or more, and probably will, as we take good care of him. Few people understand that birds need vet care just like any other pet. So Chaos Cockatiel goes to the vet for an annual exam, where he hisses and scrowls at the nice people and makes a furious show of how brave he is. And he is stupidly brave and bold. It would take all day to recount the stupid things and near misses his bravado results in.
Life with "pet" birds is essentially life with a wild animal that has all its wild instincts intact. And one of those wild instincts is the urge to nest and mate. Suddenly any dark spot looks very attractive, and any male a competitor. Chaos Cockatiel's previous homes mistook his clucky sex noises to be kissy sounds, and unfortunately, probably unknowingly, encouraged some negative behaviour that still persists.
Have I mentioned the noise yet? Cockatiels are LOUD. Louder than budgies. One can tune out senseless budgie chatter, but try tuning out a piercing WHEET. Parrots are meant to communicate across a forest, and your house is not a forest. A closed door and loud music aren't always enough to drown out Chaos Cockatiel's calls. He's akin to a baby that can't be calmed and hushed. He can be LOUD for hours.
All the pet books and websites can't prepare one enough for cockatiel ownership because each individual is so different. If you're going to get a pet bird, you MUST BE SURE you LOVE the bird personality. You must love having a fragile pet that is constantly curious and likes to chew. You must be prepared to be bitten. Sometimes a lot. It's hard to equate the amount of mess or sound in a book.
But still I wouldn't trade Chaos Cockatiel. We'll be his last home, his forever home, no matter what. Because even when he's distracting enough to make a simple task take half an hour, he still has his alter ego Calm Cockatiel. Calm Cockatiel enjoys preening my hair and sitting on my chair or eating peas. He can chew for hours on a piece of string and is generally a joy to be around. It's taken a lot of time and training to tone down the Chaos Cockatiel behaviour.
So please, before considering a pet bird, consider all that it is going to come with it - just not the cost of the bird or the cage or the food or the vet (and please, please don't get a bird if you can't afford a vet) - make sure you truly have space in your home and heart for such a creature.