Because our pet-shop cockatiel, Mishka, retains such a fear of everything around her, even the simplest tasks can turn challenging. A simple step-up is a gigantic feat of trust; the basic task of persuading her to bathe is tricky at best; even sleeping is not the easy thing it should be.
That is why I’ve decided to make a nighttime perch for my cockatiel (with a platform of some sort at the bottom to catch droppings) that can go on my bedside table. It will be easily portable – tabletop-sized, basically – and we’ll try putting her on it to sleep. Enter the taming plan 2.0.
I’ve had to go backwards a bit in her training. Because she is so fearful, teaching her tricks and things to stimulate her is still not an option. I know better than to try – it would just be a negative interaction. I’ve come to the conclusion that she needs sleep, this being the basic need she fails to meet regularly. She eats, drinks, and even exercises a bit… But she hates darkness.
Cockatiels are very prone to night-frights. This is when they wake up in the middle of the night, startled by something, and flap in terror around their cages and can hurt themselves. The things that wake them can be a bump in the night or a mere draft of air ruffling their feathers – or a number of other strange things. The best thing to do if you hear your bird having one of these ‘panic attacks’ is to turn on a light until it calms and returns to its sleeping perch. Parrots can’t see well in the dark.
In the bedroom, Mishka has always been comfortable – and quiet. Sometimes she even naps. Although she doesn’t have many night-frights in her cage, I do notice her awake and looking terrified if I happen to pass by in the night.
My only qualm about having her sleep in the human bedroom is that we’ll disturb her. If it works, though, I won’t complain. We’ve tried several changes to help her sleep better, from night lights (I don’t think she sleeps when it’s on) to wheeling her into the spare bedroom with the canaries (TERRIFYING). Obviously, none of it’s helped. Birds need 12 hours of rest, and if they don’t get it, they are grumpy. Imagine being chronically sleep-deprived, and that’s probably how Mishka feels.
If we can get her sleeping properly, I can finally instigate my original plan: Training to increase her daylight confidence.
In the meantime, I’ve overcome another Mishka-hurdle and managed to convince her to accept a shower (yes, in the bathroom, that place of pure terror). Our parrotlet, too, finally gave into this. It was exciting for both of them. Although it took a lot of effort on the humans’ behalf, they are now very clean birds. Ptak in particular soaked himself. He was then treated to a lovely preen, and because bathing turns him into the sweetest parrotlet ever, we had an interaction that involved no biting whatsoever. Brilliant.
At least the canaries are excellent bathers – a dish full of water (albeit with a piece of greenery in it for Pip) and they are ecstatic. If you want to treat your small birds (finches in particular seem to adore this), put some wet greens at the bottom of their cage. Try lettuce!
No, there are no photos of me in the shower as I try to convince the parrots to bathe. But there is a super cute one of a certain blue parrotlet (long) post-bath!