Cockatiels at Home 2
By Eleanor McCaffrey,
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I got my bird a few days ago and its trembling when I talk to it. Is it getting sick?
No, your bird is probably not getting sick, although it is  important that all new birds have a new bird health check by an avian vet. It's normal for a new cockatiels to tremble when a stranger is talking to them or comes to close to the cage. A new bird may even look a bit puffed up, in an attempt to make itself look bigger. This is a survival technique used to hopefully scare away would be predators--at the present moment, it's you. The droppings of a new bird may have an excess of urine, a clear, colorless liquid, temporary polyuria.  This shouldn't last more than a day or two. Sick and nervous bird will also tremble, puff up and have watery droppings. That's why it's so important for your new bird to be checked by an avian vet as soon as possible and that you quarantine for 30 days if you do have other birds. If you have had your bird for awhile and these symptoms develop, it's time for a re-check by an avian vet.  To find an avian vet Click Here.
I haven't seen my cockatiel eating or drinking water. How can I tell if it is?
Your bird may be eating and drinking when you are not looking but it's normal for new birds to eat less the first few days. When you cover your bird's cage the first night, listen carefully to see if you can hear it eating. Check and count its droppings the next morning and each morning daily. If the droppings are very small, and there are very few of them, your bird isn't eating much. Get into the habit of checking droppings daily. This is one of the first indications that your bird is getting sick.
My cockatiel isn't eating or drinking water, what should I do?
Make sure that you are feeding your bird the exact same food that the breeder or pet shop was feeding it. Birds will not eat unfamiliar foods. If they don't recognize it as food, they would sooner starve to death then eat it. Call and find out what the bird's previous diet was. Ask them where they placed the feeding dishes, on the floor, lower or upper cage bars. Sometimes a young, recently weaned bird is unable to find the food and water dish in a new cage. Place an extra set of dishes where the bird is spending the most time the first few days and have an extra set of food/water dishes on the bottom of the cage as well. Hang a spray of millet seed inside of the cage next to wear your bird is perching. Most birds recognize this as food and will start eating it right away. If the bird was recently weaned, ask the breeder for some hand feeding formula or go to a pet shop and purchase a high quality, baby bird hand feeding formula. Mix the formula as directed and offer some to your bird on a spoon. Sometimes new, recently weaned birds will regress when removed from the clutch. Offering a little  formula from a spoon can stimulate their appetite. A young, new bird that makes a static type of cry is either not fully weaned or he/she has regressed and needs more hand feeding. If you have had your cockatiel for more than a week and it suddenly stops eating or drinking water, it may be getting sick. Please call an avian vet and have your bird checked. All new birds should have a checkup. If you don't have an avian vet and live in the USA or Canada you should be able to find one. Click Here   
Will my new bird starve to death it it's not eating?
Yes, it's possible. However, after 48 hours without food, a bird's hunger causes a survival instinct to kick in and it will actively start searching for food. Just make sure that you have a food and water dishes next to where your new bird is spending the most time and that it can find the 2 other dishes that are in the cage. If you only see a few tiny, black or very dark brown droppings, your bird is not eating.

What are night frights and what should I do about them?
Cockatiels are one of the species of birds prone to having night frights. The words cockatiel and night frights seem to go hand in hand. Cockatiels can't see at all in the dark. They are literally blind.  When they are startled and awakened from a sound sleep, they panic. They start thrashing into the cage bars and toys at night, trying to fly and escape. Night frights are dangerous because birds can break wings or blood feathers. The cause of night frights is somewhat unknown but they are believed to be caused by something that frightens and awakens a sleeping bird, a mouse, another pet prowling around or making noise like a hamster on a wheel, the sound or lights of a car that is passing by. Leave a night light on in the room for your bird and provide some "white noise", from an air purifier. Also leave a corner of the cage uncovered. These things can help prevent birds being startled by other sounds.  If you hear your bird flapping around at night, turn on the light, uncover the cage and reassure your bird that all is well. Check your bird for injuries before covering the cage. If your bird has broken a blood feather the bleeding must be stopped or it will bleed to death. This is an emergency situation. If you do not know what a  broken blood feather is or how to treat one  Click Here  If you need to  rush your bird to an avian vet for treatment but don't have one, Click Here to find one.
How many hours of sleep does my cockatiel need?
A cockatiel needs 10-12 hours of quiet, undisturbed sleep each night. If your bird's cage is in a room where a TV or music is playing, or you are working on the computer, your bird will not get the sleep it needs to stay healthy. Lack of sleep will also make your bird cranky and less friendly. Take your bird's cage into another room or keep an extra cage in a different room where it can get the sleep it needs. Keep a nightlight on to help prevent night frights. 
Should I cover my bird's cage at night?
This is a matter of personal preference. I'm in favor of covering cages because it gives me time to sleep past the crack of dawn. The birds have a definite advantage too. It provides them with a little security, privacy as well as some extra warmth at night. Covering the cage also signals both the beginning and end of each day for your bird. Birds seem to thrive on a routine that is consistent. Some birds will start hissing and will hide on the bottom of the cage when you first start to cover them. Most of them will adjust to being covered once they realize you're not trying to hurt them.  If your bird goes into a frenzy, then try covering just the back half of the cage or half of one side. Some people always leave a corner of the cage uncovered so their birds can peek outside. Some birds seem to like having the choice of where to sleep, under the covers or out of them. Always keep a night light on to help prevent night frights.
What is a blood feather and why is breaking one so dangerous?
A blood feather is an actively growing new feather that contains circulating blood. They are sometimes called pin feathers. These feathers have a visible supply of blood in the feather shaft. When one is broken, the bird bleeds profusely and can die from loss of blood, or die a few days later from losing too much blood. The shaft has to be removed from the follicle in your bird's skin to stop the bleeding. If you don't know how to do this, restrain the bird in a towel and get it to an avian veterinarian immediately. To find an avian vet in the USA or Canada  Click Here  . Also please read my page on Blood Feathers for a more detailed answer  Click Here.
What should I do if my bird breaks a blood feather?
Breaking a blood feather is an emergency situation. The bleeding must be stopped immediately  or your bird will bleed to death. Stop the bleeding by applying pressure and using white flour, cornstarch or a product available at pet shops called Kwik Stop.  Please read this page Click Here for specific and detailed information on how to stop the bleeding and how to pull a broken blood feather.  If you bird broke a blood feather and you can't stop the bleeding, wrap  your bird in a towel and take it to an avian vet immediately. If you don't have an avian vet and  you live in the USA or Canada , Click Here to find one
What are the symptoms of a sick bird?
It's important that you monitor your bird's droppings, eating habits and behavior each day. Sick birds quickly become anorexic, refusing to eat or drink water. If you keep track of your bird's weight on a regular basis, a  weight loss of few grams each day is a sign of illness. Once a bird loses 20% of his or her body weight, the prognosis is not good. Very small, scant droppings mean that your bird isn't eating much. A sick bird will often look and behave like a normal, healthy bird until it's too late for medical treatment to be effective. In the wild, birds have to hide their illnesses to protect themselves from predators. Predators will attack weak, sick and disabled birds first because they are easy targets and can't fly away or fight back. Our pet birds will instinctively hide their illnesses from us the same way. If we are very observant and pay close attention to our bird's daily living habits,  we may be able to identify subtle, physical or behavioral changes that are early symptoms of illness. Early medical treatment from your avian vet might save the life of your bird. Initial symptoms of illness may include: a fluffed up, cranky, lethargic bird, a sleepy bird that naps more often, a change in normal vocalizing, a decrease in food consumption or a change in the color, consistency or frequency of droppings. ( Specific Symptoms are Listed Below)  
Specific Symptoms of Illness Very sick birds will sleep fluffed up on the bottom of the cage because they are too weak to grasp onto perches. Fluffing up helps them to maintain body heat. Other symptoms of illness include: excessive sleeping, drinking more or less water than usual, loss of appetite, sticky, wet looking facial feathers, a discharge from the eyes or nostrils, inflamed or crusty nostrils or eyes, swelling around the eyes, increased blinking, squinting or cloudy eyes, coughing, sneezing, irregular breathing, open mouth breathing, panting, noisy breathing with a clicking sound, wheezing, tail bobbing while breathing, (visible up and down movement of tail) a change or loss of voice, drooping wings, change in body posture with a bent over appearance, lameness, swollen legs or feet, vomiting or regurgitation, any change in consistency, color or frequency of droppings, diarrhea, (looks like splattered pea soup, often stuck to tail feathers and feathers near the vent) droppings that contain whole, undigested seeds or food, black droppings or bright red or bloody droppings,  bright yellow or green urine or urates, straining to eliminate,  a distended or bloated abdomen, loss of balance, unsteadiness, tremors, inability to fly, walk or grasp onto a perch,  If you notice any of these symptoms and think your bird is sick, he probably is. Please take him to an avian vet immediately. If you don't have an avian vet and live in the USA or Canada, you should be able to find one here CLICK HERE Please don't waste valuable time looking for ways to treat your bird yourself. Your bird needs the help of an avian vet.

Is vomiting and regurgitating normal and what are the causes?
Vomiting and regurgitation in adult birds can be a sign of illness or normal avian affection. There is also a difference between regurgitation and vomiting. Regurgitation is the expulsion of undigested food from the mouth, esophagus or crop. Vomiting is the forceful expulsion of partially digested material from the stomach. When vomiting, a  bird usually shakes his/her head back and forth. When regurgitating, a bird will make more of a neck pumping motion. Some possible abnormal causes of vomiting and regurgitation include: infection (viral, bacterial, fungal, parasitic), a digestive obstruction, ingesting a foreign object, spoiled food or a toxic substance, other digestive disorders and kidney disease. (If birds vomit or regurgitate undigested, whole seeds or pieces of food or pass them in droppings, Proventricular Dilation Disease, (PDD) is a possible cause.) Parrots will often regurgitate on their human mates if they are very closely bonded. This is normal and this is how mates feed each other in the wild. Some pet birds in captivity will feed each other this way as well, especially when breeding. Sometimes vomiting and regurgitation are not noticeable because the bird shakes his/her head back and forth. Get into the habit of visually examining your bird closely each day. Suspect vomiting if facial feathers look sticky with specks of food. If you think your bird's behavior is due to an abnormal cause, take your bird to an avian vet immediately.
What do normal droppings look like?
The droppings of a healthy bird will have a firm, solid, coiled shape appearance, with some clear liquid.  A healthy cockatiel's droppings will also be odorless. Because birds excrete urine and feces at the same time, their droppings have 3 distinctly, visible parts. Feces, the solid matter, are coiled, reflecting the shape of a bird's intestines, urates,  which look white or cream colored and urine  a clear,  colorless liquid. The solid part of normal droppings can change colors depending on what foods you bird has eaten. Seed eaters will have green droppings. Birds that eat pellets, a brown/tan colored dropping. Birds eating brightly colored pellets, bright orange or dark green vegetables like carrots or spinach  can have droppings that reflect the food they have eaten. A bird's  urine  should always be clear and colorless and urates should always be white. If a color change is noticed in the urine, your bird is sick and needs to be taken to an avian vet. Sometimes the coloring from solid matter will run into urine on cage papers, making what should be clear, look colored.  If you think there has been a color change in urine or urates, put waxed paper on the  bottom of your bird's cage to see the color more accurately.  Urates and urine in a fresh dropping should remain unchanged on waxed paper. The appearance of your bird's droppings can vary from time to time due to stress or diet and still be considered normal. Each bird is an individual so what's normal for one bird may not be normal for another bird. Any noticeable change in color, volume or consistency could be one of the first signs of an illness. 
  • Urates should always be white and urine should always be clear. 
  • Birds that are eating seeds will most likely have green droppings. 
  • Birds that are eating  pellets will have larger brown/tan/colored droppings. 
  • Black or fresh, bright red blood in droppings are  both signs of bleeding from the digestive tract, intestinal infections,  tumors, ingestion of a foreign object, parasites or egg binding.
  • Bright lime green or yellow colored urates indicate Chlamydiosis, (Psittacosis or Parrot Fever). Chlamydiosis can be transmitted to humans.
  • Red or reddish brown droppings indicate liver disease or heavy metal poisoning. 
  • Yellow or yellow/green urates are symptoms of advanced liver disease. 
  • Yellow urine indicates a bacterial or yeast infection or kidney disease. 
  • Bubbles in droppings indicate gas or an infection.
  • Undigested food (seeds/pellets) in droppings is a symptom of PDD, (Proventricular Dilatation Disease) poor digestion, parasites, an intestinal infection or pancreatic disease.
  • An increase in bulkiness or volume of droppings indicate egg laying or poor digestion.
  • A decrease in the size or amount of droppings or tar like, small, scant, dark feces indicate that a bird is not eating or that there may be an intestinal blockage. 
  • Increased urine indicates stress, a diet high in fruits/vegetables, ingesting water while bathing, infections, diabetes or kidney disease.
  • Decreased urine indicates dehydration. 
  • Diarrhea does not coil like a normal dropping and it's a symptom of a digestive disorder, infection, disease, parasites, egg laying, abdominal hernia, cancer, over treatment with antibiotics, ingestion of a foreign object or poisoning.
  • Watery droppings, (polyuria)  indicate stress, a diet high in fruits and vegetables, swallowing a large quantity of water while bathing, a bacterial, fungal or parasitic infection, diabetes or kidney diseases. ***More information in next question below.
It's important for you to check your bird's droppings everyday so you will know what is normal for your individual bird. Any change in color that  can not be attributed to food should be checked by your avian vet. Stress and other conditions can effect the  consistency and water content of a birds droppings. 
My bird has watery droppings. What should I do? It's normal for birds to have watery droppings if they are frightened, stressed, on diets high in watery fruits and vegetables or if they have swallowed a large amount of water while bathing.  Watery droppings contain an excessive amount of urine. The condition is called  Polyuria and it should be temporary, only lasting a day or two. If polyuria lasts more than 2 days the condition is considered to be chronic. Chronic polyuria is not normal and it can be a symptom of an infection, (bacterial, fungal or parasitic), diabetes or kidney disease.  If your bird has watery droppings for more than 2 days, he needs to be taken to an avian vet for a diagnosis and treatment. It's important to be able to distinguish polyuria from diarrhea. True diarrhea looks like splattered pea soup and it will usually stain or stick to feathers around the vent and tail area. Polyuria does not stain or stick to feathers.  If a dropping has pieces of visible shapes present, it's not diarrhea. Diarrhea is not normal and it's a symptom of a sick bird with a digestive disorder, an infection, a disease, parasites, an abdominal hernia, cancer, over treatment with antibiotics, ingestion of a foreign object or poisoning. Sick birds need to be taken to avian vets immediately. If you don't have an avian vet and live in the USA or Canada, you should be able to find one here CLICK HERE
What is the ideal temperature for pet birds?
In Bird Talk Magazine, December 2004, Rebecca Sweat states in an article that "The ideal temperature is 65-80F." However, birds can NOT withstand a sudden drop or increase in temperature of "10-15 degrees F in a 24 hour period", or drafts. "Some birds can tolerate a broad range of temperatures, 40-90 degrees" IF they are slowly and gradually acclimated to them over the course of a few months. They can also tolerate these extreme temperature ranges IF the lower/higher temperature remains constant, as in the case of outdoor aviaries. She also had some good, common sense wisdom at the end of her article. "If your bird lives inside and "you are feeling hot or the meteorologist is predicting a scorcher of a day, get out a fan or set the thermostat to a comfortable level. If extremely cold weather is being predicted and you feel chilly enough for a sweater, crank up the furnace." 
How do I clean and disinfect the cage? 1-2-3-4
1. Papers should be changed everyday. By pre-cutting an entire Sunday newspaper or two into a stack of pieces that custom fit the bottom of the cage, daily paper changing takes less than 30 seconds per cage. Droppings on grates can be removed daily with a with a mixture of 50% water and 50% white vinegar.  Food and water dishes must be washed in hot soapy water, everyday and disinfected every week. If you have an extra set of food and water dishes, one set can be sanitized in the dishwasher daily while the other set is being used. Water dishes may need to be washed a few times to several times a day if they contain pieces of food, droppings, feathers, dust or other particles because bacteria multiplies rapidly. If you wouldn't drink the water, neither should your bird.  

2. Cages need to be thoroughly washed and disinfected every 2 weeks and immediately after a recent outbreak of illness. Besides droppings inside of the cage, birds drop, shake and  wipe excess food off of their beaks onto cage bars. This causes harmful bacterial growth that can make your bird sick. Remove your bird, all toys and perches from the cage. DO NOT keep your bird in the same room when you are using any type of cleanser or disinfectant that has fumes. Put the cage in the bathtub to make the job easier.  Disinfectants will not work if organic material like droppings and food are present on cage surfaces. Remove all organic material first. Spray on  a solution of Poop Off, or use an all natural solution of  50% water to 50% white vinegar on the cage grate. If there's real build up because you haven't been doing daily maintenance, wait a few minutes until debris softens. Wipe off with a cloth or with paper towels. Run steaming hot water from the shower over the cage to remove loosened droppings,  dust, pellets, bird dander and other particles of debris.
3. The next step in disinfecting is to use a soap type cleanser to wash the cage. Use a small brush if necessary to clean all corners.  Rinse off the soap extremely well, using hot water from the shower (hand held showers are the easiest). To disinfect the cage, purchase an avian disinfectant from your avian vet or from a pet shop and use according to directions. A diluted bleach/water solution is very effective and economical alternative. A proportion of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water is strong enough to disinfect cages. An easy way to do this--1 ounce of bleach to 10 ounces of water. Either sponge it on or use a spray bottle to thoroughly cover all surfaces.  Keep the cage wet with disinfectant for 10 minutes, then thoroughly rinse it again under hot water from the shower,  to remove the disinfectant. Dry cage completely. Do NOT use bleach or any other product with fumes around your bird! Fumes are toxic!
4. To clean perches, first scrape off droppings using a little wire brush that you can purchase at a pet shop for this purpose. Next, disinfect them and allow them to dry completely before putting back inside of the cage. (Wood perches can not be disinfected.) Keeping an extra set of perches will make life easier for you. While one set is disinfecting and drying, the other set can go inside of the cage. Toys should also be cleaned separately in hot soapy water then disinfected with either an avian disinfectant or in the 1-10 bleach to water solution. Rinse thoroughly and dry completely  before placing them back inside of the cage as well. PLEASE remember to take your bird out of the cage before disinfecting it and do not use any product with fumes around your bird. Non-toxic disinfectants are addressed below.
Note: Non-Toxic Methods of Disinfecting  Citricidal is an all natural disinfectant made from grapefruit seed extract, (GSE). Citricidal (name brand) has been proven to be just as effective as bleach when used according to directions.   Besides being non-toxic to birds GSE, will NOT corrode cage bars if used according to directions.  One of the many advantages of using GSE is that there are no fumes so cage grates and bars can be wiped off daily. GSE,  which comes in different strengths, can be purchased at a health food store or online at All Health Trends. Stabilized chlorine dioxide, which is NOT the same as regular household bleach, is also a very effective,  non-toxic disinfectant. It will not corrode cage bars like regular chlorine household bleach. You can purchase Oxygene, products, which are manufacture by Oxyfresh online www.oxyfresh.com or from Strictly Birds online www.strictlybirds.com/oxyfresh_pricelist.html One of the newest and easiest ways of cleaning a bird's cage is with a steam cleaner. Claims about disinfecting and sanitizing a bird cages may not be accurate. By the time steam reaches certain areas of the cage, the steam may not be hot enough to disinfect or sanitize. Perches, toys and food dishes that can withstand high temperatures can be sanitized in the dishwasher.
Why are drafts harmful to birds?
A draft is moving air. It can cause 1 part of the cage to be a much cooler temperature than other parts. Since bird's can not withstand a 10-15F drop in temperature during a 24 hour period, your bird could get sick. According to my avian vet, drafts should not hurt a healthy and well nourished bird. However, you never know at any given time if your bird is starting to get sick or whether he/she is well nourished. Keep your bird out of drafts and don't put cages right next to windows.  

           

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