Froley’s Perch Madness

So, as my last post described to you guys, I went on a cabin trip with my sister and some other family members this winter.

Now, you may have been wondering what I did with Froley, my beloved pet cockatiel, while I was off living it up in the frigid snow.

Well…I left him at my sister’s house.

This might sound like a lackluster pet-owner decision, but it made sense. Just hear me out. The cabin was rented for two nights, meaning only three days would go by without Froley having me by his side for the majority of his time. And having him safely in a familiar domicile instead of in a wintry cabin was a no-brainer.

So I left Froley enough food and water for the time I was going to be gone, hung up one of his favorite toys in his traveling cage, and attached two of his favorite perches to the walls of the cage as well. One of these perches looks like a thick wooden stick. The other is mint green in color, and sandpaper-rough in texture.

I left him feeling reasonably confident that he would be okay until my return.

Well…

Once we made it back to my sister’s house, I rushed to Froley’s cage to see how he was doing. He was shrieking loudly in glee at my appearance. (The poor fella probably thought I had left him forever.) He was pacing back and forth on his mint-green perch in his eagerness to be let out so the cuddles could recommence.

Having had Froley for about ten years, I know that he paces whenever he really wants to be let out.

I wanted to oblige him, but, to my dismay, I noticed something wrong with his mint-green perch before I could take him out.

It was covered in blood.

Apparently, my little Froleybird decided to pace on the damn thing incessantly while I was gone, so much so that he cut up his feet with scrapes.

The little birdie fool.

The first thing I did was get rid of the blood-stained perch. Not only had it hurt Froley’s feet, it was hurting my heart to look at it. The second thing I did was cover every inch of Froley’s cage in Kleenex or paper towels so that no rough surface could reopen the wounds on his feet. The final thing I did was take Froley out of his cage, place him on my knee, and give him those head scratches he desired so much.

Don’t worry, he’s doing fine now. The scrapes are gone, and he’s back in his own home. Honestly, he didn’t even seem to care that he was cutting his feet to ribbons. It’s like he didn’t notice.

As of today, I have de-tissue-papered his cages. I believe his feet can handle it now.

But I have a big problem.

What am I supposed to do the next time I go on a trip?

Why a Cockatiel Might Be the Pet for You

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.

The Sound of Froley

Froley in Front of a Mirror

I have spent years getting to know my bird. As time has gone by, I have learned to read Froley’s emotions and intentions more easily than I can read another person’s. (It’s kind of sad, now that I think about it, but oh well, what can you do?)

It’s amazing how quickly you can forget how amazing it is to have a pet. Here you are, two entirely separate species, but you can communicate with each other just fine. It is more staggering than we admit on a daily basis.

As a bird, one of the main ways that Froley communicates is through his voice. He makes a variety of sounds that I have learned to interpret. It’s scary how much more attuned to him I am than to other birds. I’ve seen countless videos of cockatiels online, and I can distinguish between Froley and those other plebeian birds any day of the week.

So today’s post is going to be dedicated to all the delightful noises my darling Froley utters.

His Morning Shriek: If I decide to sleep in longer than Froley deems acceptable, he will begin to chirp loudly. He sleeps in his Bedtime Cage, which is kept in a separate room from his regular cage at night. As such, Froley chirps extra piercingly so that he can be sure I hear him.

His Babbling: Cockatiels can do a pretty good job of mimicking human speech. They are not as proficient at it as an African Grey, but they can sound more or less intelligible. Froley can say a few words himself, and they are the words he hears most often. When he’s feeling especially proud of himself, he will garble out, “Who’s a pretty bird? Froley is a pretty bird.”

His Pretty Whistles: When he is feeling exuberant, Froley can whistle as sweetly and as victoriously as one of those cartoon birds in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Also, if he wants to be let out of his cage, he will whistle desperate sweet nothings in the hopes you will feel sorry for him.

His Don’t-Leave-Me Chirps: Froley is a needy bird, and he hates to be left behind. His definition of being “left behind” includes me stepping out of the room for a quick second.

His Injustice Squawks: Sometimes I have to do things for Froley’s own good, even if he doesn’t see it that way. For example, I have to scoop him up like a baseball so that he can get used to getting held in case of an emergency trip to the vet. He does not appreciate my efforts to prepare him for the worst, and when he’s displeased, he will squawk at me.

His Beak Grinding: Any bird owner worth their salt (and who owns the kind of bird who does this) knows what beak grinding is. It’s a scritchy-scratchy sound that your bird will make when he or she is utterly content. This sound will usually emit from your bird right before they’re about to take a nap. A lot of bird owners think that beak grinding sounds like nails on a chalkboard, but I’ve grown to become quite fond of it. Actually, I’ve kind of had to become fond of it because Froley likes to take naps on my shoulder.

His I’m-A-Snake Hiss: Froley can hiss like a snake when he is severely pissed. I think it is an instinctive behavior born of trying to camouflage his fear. If Froley were to ever bite someone, he would hiss right before he did it.

His Cute Clicks: In the morning, when he’s in front of a mirror, or when I’ve come home after a day of being out, Froley will greet me with the most adorable clicks as he paces back and forth in his cage. As soon as I let him out, he will hop right in front of my face and start clicking to my nose. I click back at him using my tongue to tap against the back of my front teeth. He seems to like that.

His Purrs: Yes, Froley purrs. When he does his Cute Clicks, he’ll intersperse a few purrs among them too. It’s more like a trill, I suppose. Honestly, I don’t know how to describe this noise. Oh god, and I call myself a writer? I’m failing right now.

His Chuffles: I call Froley’s erratic breathing when he masturbates a chuffle. He sounds out of breath, but the noise is not so deep or throaty to be called a breath. And “chuffles” just sounds cuter, doesn’t it?

His Cheeps: When everything is right with the world (according to Froley), he occasionally lets out a soft cheep to let me know he’s alive and well and to check out how I’m doing. These cheeps are not as frantic as his chirps or as drawn-out as his whistles. They’re quieter and shorter. They’re one of the more common noises I’ll hear from him on a day-to-day basis, but that does not stop me from appreciating them.

Any bird owner will tell you that a bird is a very vocal creature, More than a dog or a cat, a bird relies on its different noises to let its fellow flock members know what’s the haps. I’m 99.99% certain Froley considers me a part of his flock, so learning his vocalizations has been instrumental to me in figuring out what he wants and how he is feeling. If you’re thinking about getting a bird, I highly recommend preparing yourself and your ears for quite the adventure.

If you want to see more of me and Froley, feel free to follow me on Instagram right here.

Froley and His Eating Habits

Before buying myself a pet bird, I went all out researching exactly what I would need to do to provide the best household for my new cockatiel. I scrolled through every online cockatiel forum I could find (there’s actually quite a few). I bought books on what to do and what not to do while caring for a cockatiel. I purchased the cage and the toys and the food containers and the water bowls all before I ever got Froley.

Of course, when I finally invited Froley into the house, he was absolutely terrified of me. He was such a baby bird. I bought him from a Petco store, so he wasn’t used to human handling the way a bird from a breeder would have been.

One of the ways I tried to acquaint myself with him was by gathering all the literature I had collected on cockatiel care, plonking myself down next to his big cage, and reading them out loud to him.

Aside from helping me bond with Froley, those books also introduced to me the idea of enlivening Froley’s diet. (I mean, once he was more comfortable with me, that is.)

The diet of a cockatiel should consist mainly of pellets and fresh foods. Seeds, unlike what most people might believe, are not the best things for your cockatiel. They’re high in fat, so unless you want an overweight Froley, only give seeds to your bird sparingly. But the book I was reading, and actually every source I looked this up on, was happy to give fresh options of foods that you could share with your pet cockatiel.

I was so excited, you guys.

In my mind, I had visions of Froley and I nibbling at strawberries together, munching on a salad together, and pecking at a carrot together.

Of course, first I had to get Froley to like me, but after that, I knew in my heart that the sky would be the limit for my and Froley’s culinary exploits.

*Sigh*

Froley is such a gosh-darned picky eater. He does not like to try new things. He is such a stick in the mud.

(Yes, mom, I’m aware I’m the same way, but it’s not like Froley is mimicking my personality…right?)

What follows is a list of Froley’s favorite foods…and that’s it: 

  • Romaine Lettuce: He only likes the dark green part. He’ll avoid the clearer-colored spine of the leaf. He also likes it when I wet the piece I tear off for him. (Though honestly, you should thoroughly wash every vegetable you buy from the grocery store.) He also will only eat it if I’m holding it up for him. I can cheat the system a little bit by taking a magnetic clip from the fridge door and sticking the leaf in it and then placing it on top of his cage.
  • Celery Leaves: Let’s get this straight. He likes the leaves of celery. Not the stalk. He won’t touch that shit.
  • Broccoli: He likes to eat the buds of broccoli. Broccoli is the one food Froley once regurgitated to share with me. That was an experience.
  • Cilantro: I’m actually really happy Froley likes cilantro. It has such a fresh smell, and his breath always smells that way after he eats it.
  • Wheat Toast: I noticed he liked this when I made a toasted ham and cheese sandwich one time. Froley flew over to where I was eating, scared the bejesus out of me, and then he started picking at the bread crumbs on my plate. Now, whenever I make a sandwich, he wants to eat it with me.
  • Popcorn: Froley goes ga-ga for popcorn. If I make myself some popcorn and he sees me, he’ll start pacing back and forth in his cage and shrieking at me.

Sadly, I have not found any fruits that Froley likes, which is such a shame because I am a total fruit person. I adore fruit. Froley hates it. I’ve tried giving him nearly every fruit under the sun (that’s good for him), but none of them have taken. He’ll just taste it, shake his head, and walk away.

And why doesn’t he like carrots?! It’s like if the vegetable isn’t green, he’s not going to eat it.

But he is adorable, and I love him. Despite his weird food quirks.

(Note: Some foods I don’t like are mustard, fresh onions, bell peppers, fish, shrimp, lobster, crab, papaya, muffins, grapefruits, maraschino cherries, steak, mushrooms, jalapeños, pistachios, spicy sausages, corn bread, cake [with a few exceptions], dried figs, fresh spinach, baked beans, and pickles.)

Talking about the End

Every pet owner has to talk about the eventuality that, one day, their pet will pass away. It is a sobering contemplation. I don’t believe that anyone likes the idea that their faithful companion won’t always be around.

As a regular cockatiel, Froley has about twenty to twenty-five years to his lifespan. I got Froley as a very young bird. He was under six months old when I got him at a run-of-the-mill Petco back in 2009. The reason I know he was that young was because his face was covered in grey feathers.

Typically, female cockatiels have duller faces than males, with grey feathers muting whatever color they might have had. When I first got Froley, I seriously thought he was a woman. What I didn’t know was that all young cockatiels, no matter their sex, start out with a grey face. It’s only after six months of maturing that males start to sport their bright yellow and red cheeks.

So Froley was definitely under the six-month mark when I got him. And seeing as how it’s now 2018, I can estimate that Froley is about nine years old.

Froley in my shirt
Hey there

As he nears middle age, I can’t help thinking about what I’m going to do when he dies. It’s like this pit that I can’t seem to stop myself from jumping into. Froley means a shit-ton to me. He’s the first pet I’ve ever cared for on my own. He’s probably the only pet who has ever adored me the way I adore him. (At least I’m pretty sure he adores me.) You can probably tell from the cover image of this blog that I’m kind of obsessed with him.

When I think about Froley dying, I’m overwhelmed by this feeling of premature sorrow. It’s like I’m already missing him. I once told my sister that after Froley dies, I’m never going to get another cockatiel ever again. No other bird could ever replace him. She looked me straight in the eye and told me I was being stupid. Said that it would be a shame to deny another bird a chance to have a competent bird owner.

(My sister is too kind sometimes.)

My sister then reminded me that Froley is living the good life, a life he might not have had if someone else had picked him up from Petco instead of me. I’ve gotten him three cages, one for short trips around town, one for his bedtime, and his main domicile. He has a strictly healthy bird diet with the occasional treat. He has more toys than he knows what to do with, and I switch them out monthly so that he’s never bored with his surroundings. I let him take showers with me, and if he wants to take a bath too, I hum his favorite bath-time song while he rolls around in the water (“Little April Shower” from Bambi). He also gets to cuddle with me whenever he wants to (except when I’m working). I let him climb onto my neck as I’m laying down, and he’ll stay there, fluffed up and happy.

Froleybird on my neck
Cuddles

I shouldn’t be dreading Froley’s passing when he’s currently right in front of me, totally not about to poop on my keyboard ohmygodFroleypleasedonotsquatrighttherethatisnotapoopingplaceohdearlordohheck…

I love Froley, and I’ll be sad when he’s gone. But I’m happy he is here right now. He has changed my life in such a large way for such a small bird.

Big Dog, Small Bird

My sister, Alya, owns a dog named Ushi (pronounced OO-shee). Alya got her when she was a cute little puppy. She is the most adorable creature I’ve ever met (excluding Froley) and she really deserves her own post (which I may write in the future).

Ushi on the grass

Ushi is a giant dog, part St. Bernard, part Great Pyrenees. If you’re familiar with those breeds, you know that Ushi is massive.

Ushi and I lying on the floor

However, since my sister owns two birds and a tortoise in addition to her big puppy, Ushi has learned to be really gentle with small creatures. My sister’s birds, unfortunately, haven’t taken to Ushi despite her calm-giant demeanor. And the tortoise really just minds his own business.

Froley likes Ushi though.

You wouldn’t think that the ornery Froley who only likes particular people at particular moments would become fond of the large, goofy Ushi.

But for some reason, he’s devotedly tolerant of her.

Ushi and the birds

Whenever Froley and I spend the night at my sister’s, he’ll always wake up in a fantastic mood. He’ll waddle up to Ushi in the morning and start chirping sweet nothings to her wet, black nose. His wings will be semi-lifted in a heart-shaped position, his head tilted as close to her as he can get.

As he twitters at her, Ushi will sniff him once then look away, as if she’s embarrassed by his attentions. (For all we know, she is.)

Froley is the best judge of character (except for when he’s feeling grumpy), so I take his affection for her to be a confirmation of Ushi’s kind nature. Ushi is a sweet puppers, the sweetest, most loving dog I’ve ever had the pleasure to have met.

Alya raised Ushi with care. Just like people think that dogs are proof that God loves us, Ushi thinks people are proof that God loves her. Her face whenever a person is petting her reveals pure bliss. She honestly prefers humans to other dogs.

Despite being a bit of a goof (she’s not overly intelligent sometimes), she’s surprisingly gentle. Of course, there are times when she’s accidentally rough with her enthusiastic affections. (She doesn’t know her own size.)

Ushi and me taking a selfie

I cannot stress enough how much my sister has to do with Ushi’s sweetness. Both my sister and I wanted a dog for as long as I can remember. I ended up taking the bird path (the path less flown), but Alya actually followed her childhood dream and got herself a dog.

Alya once told me how she learned that birthday wishes (blowing out the candles on your cake and making a wish) aren’t real. She said for every childhood birthday she had, she would wish her hardest for a dog, desperately pleading to whatever higher power there was to grant her wish for a slobbery companion. But none came.

Well, Alya, I’d say that every birthday wish you made coalesced and formed Ushi. Just as Froley, the persnickety bird with old-man ways, is my soul pet, Ushi is yours.

You just had to wait a little bit. (Patience, Iago.)

So here’s to our pets!

Me and Froley, Ushi and Alya

The Most Wonderful Bird in the World

Froley is currently waddling on the newspaper I have surrounding his cage. He pecks at minuscule crumbs that I can’t see and makes contented little chirps every so often, which serve to let me know that the coast is clear and no predators are currently stalking the living room. His feet make actual pitter-patter noises. Seriously, you haven’t heard a pitter or a patter until you’ve heard a cockatiel’s footsteps.

Froley, as you might have expertly sussed out, is my pet cockatiel. He’s a Normal Grey, which some snobby people consider to be the plebeians of cockatiels, but screw that. I’ll have you know that Froley is quite attractive. His face is the nice yellow of legal pads, and his cheeks are the bright red-orange of Pikachu’s cheek pouches. Here is a picture of Froley’s handsomeness.

Froley on the couch

Gorgeous, isn’t he?

Like all cockatiels, he has a crest that rises and falls depending on his mood. The more alarmed he is, the higher it goes and the skinnier he gets. A relaxed Froley has a relaxed crest.

He’s like a weird mix of a human infant and an elderly man. He needs constant attention and he is really set in his ways. Seriously, he needs a keen eye monitoring him because if you’re not watching his every move he will a) eat something he is not supposed to, b) tear apart the book you have lying around, or c) poop somewhere he wasn’t meant to poop.

He has temper tantrums. If he’s not in the mood to be handled, he’ll open his beak threateningly, prepared to nip at my proffered finger. He’s bitten me before, but he’s never drawn blood. (Because he is a darling angel.)

If his mood swings aren’t enough, I also have to maintain his cage and his food to perfection. He likes to make a mess of his pellets, so in order to counteract this habit, I crush his pellets so he is more inclined to just eat them. He also enjoys it when I rotate his toys out, so he has new, pretty things to look at within his home.

He also can’t control when and where he poops. I always have to be on the alert. I can’t even count the times I’ve sat down on a little homemade Froley surprise. Honestly, bird poop doesn’t even faze me anymore.

Froley on my computer chair

Did I mention that he likes to masturbate on an open hand? Put your palm up, fingers spread wide, and he’ll fly right over and start doing his business. Afterwards, he flies off and leaves you to stare at your hand in a well-what-now kind of way.

I titled this piece “The Most Wonderful Bird in the World,” right?

When I wake Froley up in the morning (after he’s done his humongous Morning Poop), he likes to whistle little tunes in my ear. If he spent the night next to my bed, he’ll hop over from his bedtime cage onto my pillow as soon as the sun’s up, climb his way onto my shoulder, and then take a second nap with me as I try to catch up on lost sleep. When he’s ready to wake up for reals, he’ll slide down next to my face and try to preen my eyelashes.

He likes to look at himself in mirrors. When I do my morning ablutions, he sings to himself and to me.

He misses me when I’m gone. He’ll chirp wildly in a panic when he notices me getting ready to leave the house, until I call out to him, telling him that it’s okay and I’ll be right back. And when I open the front door again, he screeches with joy at my return.

He likes being hand-fed certain vegetables. His favorite is Romaine Lettuce. He’ll make little warbles of happiness while he eats if I call him a “pretty bird” encouragingly.

I could go on and on about him.

Bottom line?

Froley is the most wonderful bird in the world. He is my soul pet. When he sidles close to my cheek and rests his head there, not so subtly telling me he wants me to scratch his head, I sometimes pause and reflect on how lucky I am to have such a pet. There is so much trust between Froley and me; I forget how astonishing it is to have a bird feel secure enough in your company that he allows you to encircle his fragile, little head within your hand as you cuddle with him just the way he likes. My reflections end as soon as he gets annoyed that I’m not giving him an adequate amount of attention. I return to cuddling him, saying, “Good bird,” all the while praising the stars that he’s alive, and I’m alive, and we’re together.