The year was 2009, and I was disconsolate.
The last of my hermit crabs had passed away, and all I was left with were an empty tank and empty shells.
Admittedly, my hermit crabs had never shown me much affection, but I had prescribed personalities for them. These little guys had been my buddies for years. Elvis, Raven, Ringo, Kermit, Kamikaze, Hornet, Willie, Mr. Krabs, Kibbles, Bits, Hulk Hogan, and Sweeney the Cripple. They were all gone.
Yes, I had owned a lot of hermit crabs. I had started out with just five, but over time, people started to gift them to me. True story.
My parents noticed (how could they not) that I was distraught. So one day, my mom came to me and told me that she would get me another pet. Her only prerequisite was that it was not a dog or a cat or any other animal that could have the run of the house.
I was suitably enthusiastic about the idea. I’m one of those people that enjoys caring for critters and plants and living things like that. I like it when a pet needs me. It makes me feel useful. The perfect medicine for my loss was to give me something else to focus on.
I immediately set to work researching the kind of pet I would want. I liked the notion of an intelligent pet, one that could understand the rudimentary notions of affection. The hermit crabs had not fitted that bill precisely, so I was eager to pick a pet that was a step up in the love department. I settled on three options: a bird, a lizard, or a rat.
As you can see by the header image of my blog, I chose the bird.
On July 9, 2009, I went down to the pet store and got my very first cockatiel.
And that cockatiel was Froley.
I did not half-ass making my selection. I researched cockatiels thoroughly, bought books about them, prepared a lodging for my bird before purchasing it.
I had never owned a bird before. I was uncertain about whether or not I could make it. Would it be everything I hoped for?
It was and is.
So, do you want to know if a cockatiel is the pet for you?
Let’s start with the home. Your bird needs space. It might be the smallest of parakeets, but this is an animal that likes to fly. Make sure its home is appropriately sized. Froley’s big cage (his main one) is larger than you would think a little guy like him would need, but I wanted him to have space. One day, I’ll buy him a birdie mansion. You know, one of those deluxe bird cages? There are some that even come on wheels. So if you want a cockatiel, be sure to have space for a big enough cage.
Cockatiels are also extremely social. They like to be a part of the hubbub of the house. So the cage should be somewhere that people like to spend a lot of time in. Side rooms are not the best place for a bird. They get lonesome.
Cockatiels also eat a lot. And they can be messy. Froley is on a healthy diet of bird pellets, which all cockatiel books suggest you place your bird on. Apparently, seeds are like junk food for cockatiels. Froley therefore enjoys the occasional seed fests I allow him. I also give him fresh veggies from time to time. Unfortunately, Froley crunches his pellets to the point that they shoot out from his beak and land on the floor around his cage. I have to constantly vacuum the area around his cage. Or at least lint-roll. Be prepared for a messy pet.
His cage is also covered with poop papers. The bottom layer is necessary to catch his poops. You should clean this out regularly.
If you want a cockatiel, you can’t be afraid of bird poop. Looking at Froley’s poop is one of the ways I gauge his well-being. If it is loose, that means he either had a lot of water or he’s feeling very stressed. The color of his poops are also indicators of his health. Froley got sick one time after eating something he shouldn’t have off the floor, and his poops were a different color from the normal tan-green.
But cockatiels aren’t all labor and no fun.
Cockatiels need interaction and diversion. They are not like fish. They are curious little birdies that enjoy exploring the world around them. Froley loves to walk around the house on his “lonesome,” chirping all the while like a radar ping. I spend as much time with him as I can. Even if I have busy-work to do, I’ll try and do it next to him.
When I first got him, I’d even read to him from my cockatiel-help books.
Birds can also have personalities that are unique. No two cockatiels are alike. I should know. My sister had a cockatiel once named Butter (may she rest in peace). Butter was the sweetest cockatiel I had ever met. She was gentle, slightly nervous, and not the best flier. She would let anyone pick her up and would get comfortable immediately.
Froley is not like that. He’s picky and loud. He tries to bite people that get too close if they’re not me. He is a grumpy thing. He likes things to be his way.
So if you are thinking about getting a cockatiel, be prepared to put in effort in getting acquainted with them. I remember being discouraged that Froley did not warm to me immediately the way the books described a cockatiel relationship being like. However, it just took time. Froley slowly got used to me. And now he and I are the closest of friends.
A cockatiel might be the pet for you if you are looking for a bundle of personality in a small package, you want to build a pet relationship on trust, and you don’t mind getting bird droppings on you.