THURSDAY, April 6/06
Ever since I arrived home from my trip this week, my cockatiel, Cheeky, has been misbehaving. In fact, he was very naughty for the bird sitters, the kindly elderly couple who offered to take him while I was away. They used to look after Cheeky #1 and loved him so much. Little did they realize what a different personality Cheeky #2 has. For one thing, he's much more social and demanding and likes to be the centre of attention. They call him 'a companion bird'. And since he came to live with me, I've been the main focus of his attention, his 'flock' so to speak. Just him and me and he's spoiled rotten. So when he went to Allan and Betty's, he seemed like he was making friends with both of them, however, pretty soon he turned his attention to Betty and whenever Allan was in the room he attacked and bit Allan's ear. Jealous, because he wasn't the focal point of Betty's attention! He does the same thing to guests when I have people over so I have to lock him up. Betty and Allan had to keep him locked up in his cage most of the time and felt real bad about it. But now I realize that I've been allowing him far too much free flight time and the run of the apartment and he thinks he's a person. And when he doesn't get all the attention he's like a three-year-old having a hissy fit.
When I went to get him Monday, he was so mad at me he attacked me and bit real hard. He flew up on Betty's shoulder and wouldn't have anything to do with me. Of course, later on when I took him home and let him out of the cage, once he realized he was in his old familiar surroundings again he was happy and sat on my shoulder giving me zillions of kisses. And the next morning when I took him into bed with me (as I'm in the habit of doing) he wouldn't stop talking and chattering and kissing me all over my face.
All this week he has been a pest, not only following me around everywhere but squawking and screeching whenever I am out of sight. It was driving me nuts. The last two days have been mild and sunny, so I started putting him out on the balcony awhile. He seems to like that but ends up screeching so loud I'm afraid the neighbours will complain, although today he was a little more subdued and his cheeping blended in with the wild birds'.
Anyway, I thought I better do something fast, before I make soup out of him, or something worse. I was so upset last night I was almost in tears and even considered calling the bird sancutary and asking them to take him back. But we've really bonded these past months and he is a very amusing and entertaining little pal to have around when you live alone as I do.
So today I got out the cockatiel book and read up on some of their habits, and tonight I googled a bunch of cockatiel sites and printed out whatever I could find on the psychology of birds so that I know what I'm doing wrong and how I can correct his bad habits.
First, I shouldn't get mad and shout at him as this only agitates him more. I know also that when I was feeling a bit stressed my other bird used to 'feel' it and react by screeching just like this little fellow is -- and between jet-lag and culture shock and dealing with this naughty bird I have been stressed this week! Second, I have been giving him far too much free-flight time. He needs a more structured routine so that he gets used to being out awhile and in the cage awhile. (My other bird loved being in his cage as he'd never been allowed out until I got him.)
Third, when he nests on my hair (or masturbates or whatever the heck he does that annoys me) I should just gently remove him and distract him. (When I'm at the computer I wear a cotton cap to keep him off but every chance he gets otherwise he's on my head and it bugs me!)
Cockatiels are clever little birds and very intelligent. I need to take that into consideration, that he has been picking up on my cross moods with him and reacting just as a hyper child would.
So here's hoping my little lesson in bird psychology will get things back on the right track. As it is now, none of my friends want to bird-sit with him and I know I have some weekend and longer trips coming up this year and have already started worrying about what to do.