How To Develop a Close Relationship with Your Pet Bird

Anyone who thinks owning a bird is like owning a fish is fooling themselves. There is more spark and personality in a bird than in any floppy old fish.

Side note: I am so sorry to any fish owners I am currently offending.

I got my cockatiel, Froley, because I wanted a pet that I could show affection to and who would show that affection back. And by golly, that’s what ended up happening. I have never had a pet who I love more than Froley. He is the cutest widdle bird in the whole wide world, and he’s more affectionate than I had originally hoped for.

However, getting to that point in your relationship with your pet bird can be difficult. It’s a long process, and it’s easy to feel disheartened about it. You don’t buy birds that automatically love you, especially if you’re buying it from a pet store.

Side note: Most bird help books recommend you purchase your new pet bird from a breeder, but given where you live, that isn’t always feasible. It sure wasn’t for me.

Despite that, it is possible to develop a close bond with your bird, and here are a few tips to get you started.

Side note: I have only ever owned one pet bird, and it is a cockatiel. Am I an authority? Kinda, maybe, sorta, not really.

Set up the cage before bringing them home.

It can be tempting to go on a spending splurge the day you get your new bird, buying them a cage, toys, food containers, cuttle bones etc., but you should definitely buy those things and set them up before you actually buy the bird. Your new pet is going to be super stressed as it is, arriving in this alien house that it isn’t used to. It doesn’t need to see or hear the clanging and banging of its cage being constructed. That’s like the opposite of a welcome mat.

Give your bird its space.

This was a tough one for me. As soon as I got Froley, I immediately wanted to start working on interacting with him. But you’ve got to give your birdie time to acclimate to its new surroundings. Let him or her have some space in those early days. It’s a simple piece of advice that can really help with getting your bird comfortable.

Make sure they watch you bringing food.

Birds are not dumb creatures, and they are really good at picking up visual and audio cues. As such, if you consistently bring them food in a certain manner at a certain time of day, they will learn to associate you with their yummy-yum time. And you want them to associate you with something they like. For a long time, that’s the only reason Froley really liked me. I brought him his pellets. He now knows the sound of the bag when I open it and the exact location of the tub I keep it in.

Hang out by their cage.

While you don’t want to immediately pressure your bird when you get it, you don’t want to just ignore it. If you just ignore it, it will become accustomed to being left alone. If you ever find yourself with some down time, whether you’re reading, chilling on your phone, or watching some Netflix, do it by your bird’s cage. Let them see you doing a quiet activity nearby. I used to read to Froley from my Cockatiels for Dummies book all the time. I don’t know if he appreciated it, but he did eventually learn to not be afraid of books.

Only buy a single bird.

If your bird has the option to turn to another bird for company, it will usually pick the bird over you. That’s why some pet owners purposefully purchase two birds. They want their birds to have each other for company. However, if your end objective is to share an incredibly close bond with your bird, it helps if you’re the only one they can turn to for a cuddle. I hate to sound like a cruel monster that kept Froley from other bird companions, but I know for a fact that he and I are only so close because I was the one creature who spent any amount of time with him.

Try using a treat for your first moment of physical contact.

When both you and your birdie are ready for the next step in closeness, have one of their favorite treats nearby to facilitate the contact. Froley and I started becoming closer when I tried hand-feeding him his seeds. He really seemed to like that, and it built up trust levels like you wouldn’t believe. Eventually, I used treats to coax him up onto my finger, and after that, the real treat became just hanging out with me.

Attempt to pet your bird shortly after it has molted.

When birds molt, their new feathers come out in these thin, white sheaths. These sheaths then crumble into dust revealing the new feather lying within. Normally, a bird can nibble away at their own sheaths in order to free them. However, they have a hard time reaching the ones on their head. That’s where other birds come in. Bird buddies will preen the sheaths off of their fellows’ heads for them. Without a bird buddy, that job is left undone. These sheaths are incredibly itchy for your bird, so if you want to ingratiate yourself to him or her while simultaneously worming your way into his or her affection, giving your bird scritches during this time period is ideal.

Be patient.

This is the most important bit of advice I can give. I’m not gonna lie, I sometimes cried at the thought that Froley didn’t seem to care much for me in those first few weeks. I had read so much about bird affection before getting him that I felt really let down when things didn’t immediately turn out that way for me. But see, birds aren’t like cats or dogs. Both cats and dogs are predator animals, bred to work alongside humans as partners. Birds are prey animals, and fearfulness keeps them alive in the wild. Trust has to be earned with them so that they can learn to rely on you for their safety.

So give your bird the time required to build that trust. It took me over a month to get close to Froley. But the wait is well worth it. When you’re cuddling with a bird, and you can actually feel its tiny skull underneath your fingertips as you give it some little scritches, there is no other feeling like it in the world. It is a tiny life form that has entirely entrusted its well-being in the palm of your hand. It’s not even a tenth of your size, but it will hop onto your shoulder without a care once you have established that bond.

Side note: I feel incredibly lucky to have Froley in my life every day, and not a morning goes by where I don’t appreciate the magnitude of how implicitly he trusts me.

If Froley Was In A Movie

If Froley, my pet cockatiel, was a character in a movie or TV show, he’d have to be a strange mix of roles.

He’s like Carl Fredricksen from Up. He’s got the ornery soul of an old man who needs to learn to love other people aside from his significant other.

He’s like Drogon from Game of Thrones. He’s got the heart and fire of a massive dragon even though someone could accidentally sit on him.

He’s like Sonny Corleone from The Godfather. He’s a hotheaded, territorial bird who occasionally flies himself into trouble.

He’s like Raymond Babbitt from Rain Man. He’s got a touch of bird OCD; he doesn’t like it when things are out of order or patterns are not adhered to.

He’s like Pikachu from Pokemon. He’s got those little red cheek things. Come on.

He’s like Dufayel from Amelie. He likes to stare out the window at the lives of our neighborhood birds.

He’s like Romeo from Romeo and Juliet. He has no real, healthy concept of time.

He’s like Michael Scott from The Office. You can’t have him alone unsupervised or else he’ll make a mess of things.

He’s like Baymax from Big Hero Six. When you see him, you immediately want to cuddle with him.

He’s like the Xenomorph from Alien. No matter where I go, he’ll always try to find me.

He’s like the T. Rex from Jurassic Park. He has very distinct-sounding footsteps.

He’s like Samwise Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings. His loyalty to his one person knows no bounds.

So you see, Froley is like so many characters, it’d be hard to have him be just one.

Froley’s Miraculous Poop Story

My sister swears up and down that this is a true story.

I was asleep, so I can say nothing as to its veracity.

It was early morning, and Alya and I were sleeping in the same room, different beds. I had placed Froley’s bedtime cage next to my bed so he could sleep next to me. (We enjoy each other’s company that much.)

Anyway, the faintest of light was coming through the windows. I woke up briefly to take Froley out of his cage for a bit. This is a little ritual we do every time Froley sleeps in my bedroom. It’s like a second nap.

So I opened his cage door, got him on my finger, then deposited him on the roof of his bedtime cage. Then I went back to sleep.

Sometimes, Froley will stay on the roof and sleep like the fluffy flufferton he is. Other times, he’ll amble over to my bed, hop onto my pillow, then climb on my head/neck/shoulder. When he naps there, I can hear his content beak grinding right next to my ear.

So…

apparently, on this particular morning, Froley elected to sleep on my shoulder. Alya woke up and saw this, thinking it was the cutest thing ever. She tried taking a picture with her cell, but before she could, Froley stepped off of my shoulder and back onto the cage.

Disappointed, she put her cell phone away and cursed her bad luck.

However, to her utter astonishment, Froley did a little poop once he was on his bedtime cage, his messiness landing squarely on the poop-sheets below. Once done with his business, he waddled back onto my shoulder.

Alya thinks Froley is a secret genius now, thanks to his good judgment, consideration, and miraculous poop skills.

Life Update #6: A Mouse Can Make A Big Difference

Let me set the record straight. I’m not about to go off on some philosophical, metaphorical tangent about how small things can impact your life in massive ways.

I’m being much more literal here.

I got a computer mouse.

Now, some of you guys are probably wondering what the big effin’ deal is. It’s just a computer mouse, right?

I own a laptop, have owned it for about six years now. Ever since I got it, I have used the touchpad below the keyboard to navigate. Sure, my hands got cramped more often than not and my fingers awkwardly hovered over the keys, but I managed.

But I recently got another freelance job editing, so I figured I’d be a big spender for once. I went to Best Buy and got myself the cheapest-ish mouse available, called it Jerry, and then took it home. With a job like editing, I wanted a little more finesse than a touchpad. Know what I mean, jelly bean?

You guys, it’s like I forgot how to breathe. Having a mouse is addictively pleasurable. I can’t stop using it. I know material things shouldn’t amount to happiness, but I’m goddamn ecstatic.

To make a good thing even better, my boyfriend bought me a mouse pad with an image of Froley on it to celebrate.

This mouse is the best purchase EVER.

Huh.

You know, now that I think about it, this is a post about how a little thing can have a massive impact on your life.

Froley Molting

Spring is here, and with it, some Froley nuisances as well.

Firstly, spring makes Froley more amorous than usual. All he seems to want to do is masturbate.

“Oh, ha ha, that’s so funny and adorable,” you might say.

I’m telling you right now, it’s not.

I have work to do, and having Froley waddle over to my hand every five seconds looking for some lovin’ is NOT conducive to that work.

As readers of this blog already know, Froley likes to masturbate on an open palm. When I am typing on the computer, he takes my outstretched fingers for an invitation.

Have you ever tried typing up an article while a little male cockatiel is pumping away on your knuckles?

It’s distracting, to say the least.

Springtime is also when Froley starts molting.

Molting is a natural process for birds to go through. Old feathers fall out to be replaced with new ones.

Froley’s a funny ole bird though. He freaks out when he sees one of his feathers is coming loose. First he gets all skinny with fright, then he starts flapping around the living room shrieking as if it’s the end times.

And that’s only the half of it.

When his feathers grow back, they come out in these thin keratin sheaths that eventually disintegrate into powder and allow the new feathers to settle into place. While these sheaths are coming out, Froley starts feeling really itchy. He can preen and scratch himself everywhere on his body except for his head.

Which means he expects lots of head scratches from me.

So not only do I have a horny Froley trying to get himself off on my hands, I have an irritable Froley who pecks at my face if I don’t cuddle with him.

And since he’s preening so much, I have dust all over my keyboard.

Ugh.

Spring.

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?