How Do I Make My Cockatiel Parents Act Like Cockatiel Parents?

How Do I Make My Cockatiel Parents Act Like Cockatiel Parents?

Last Updated on by Catherine Tobsing

Until recently, I’ve been very proud of King and Snow’s parenting of their baby. 

However, Snow has started pulling out the baby’s feathers. The baby is in his/her fifth week. 

I cannot trust Snow near the baby.

King and Snow both still feed him/her, but Snow is more interested in pulling feathers and chewing them up.

She is always sidling up to the baby solely for this purpose.

I just watch her constantly.

Visit the Windy City Parrot Bird Breeding Supply Category

Do I close her in a cage for the next several weeks, take over the feeding and let neither near the baby or what?

A pet store about 25 miles away hand-raises babies. 

Should I see if they would take him for the last several weeks for safety’s sake? 

The next issue is how safe the baby will be as an adult.  

King keeps an oval area on the back of Snow’s head bald plus a thin line down to her neck and then almost encircles her neck with a bald area. 

I gather this is not unusual with a mated pair. 

I have twice seen him with a bald patch on his head and once saw bald stripes across the back of his head. 

I do not know if this influences her behavior. 

Several weeks ago she landed on my leg, not a normal behavior, and seemed to want to groom my leg, hard to do since it is hairless.

Nevertheless, she industriously went through grooming actions and twice I felt small pinch or pull actions that left tiny blood spots.

I do not know if that relates to her sudden need to pluck the baby.

I am considering calling the vet. 

Any suggestions or comments would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you, Diane.

Dear Diane

The parents.

This whole thing has made me very concerned as to what is going on. This is not normal behavior.

Do you have the pair in a good-sized cage?

A small cage can lead to this gruesome over-preening and picking behavior. They do not sound like they are in a good state of mind.

The parents appear to have developed neurotic behavior and the baby is suffering from it. 

If they are in a too-small cage or you still have them trying to raise the bird in the back of a bookcase, then you need to change things up and do so without delay.

If you don’t have a nice roomy cage for them to live in with several perches and distractions in the cage like hanging toys, etc then they may be doing whatever pops into their heads to occupy their time, like pecking at each other’s feathers. NOT NORMAL.

You may have to separate the parents into different cages for a while.

I would keep them side by side for company.

If you can keep the baby with a parent who will feed it and not harm it (plucking out its feathers) then great.

Otherwise, you need to step up and take on the task of weaning.

You may need to remove the baby and put it into a warm safe place.

I would move the baby into a plastic tub with a lid with holes in it with some clothes to snuggle in or pine shavings and put one side of the tub over a heating pad to ensure warmth. Once the baby is fully feathered it can go into a small cage.

If you can take over caring for and hand-feeding the baby bird then you will have a very sweet loving baby bird when you are done.

And don’t let the birds groom you causing blood spots. Not healthy for either of you.

Thank you for the quick response.

He/she hasn’t been in a cage, and the parents just eat in theirs and return to the baby, wherever he is. 

I made a quick nesting box from a cardboard box and dust-free pine shavings after they rejected the large nest box I purchased but all three seemed to settle on what I am calling free-range nesting in a confined area.

They preferred being right in front of the opening under the bookcase.

I keep the room temperature much too high for a person to be comfortable.

While King always has been attentive and fulfilled his responsibilities, I always felt Snow carried the heavier load.

They seemed to have assigned themselves shifts.

King did not give her breaks, but during his shift, Snow would take his place so that he would have breaks from the responsibilities. She also seemed to be feeding herself, King, plus the baby. 

King still demands she feed him although he then feeds the baby.

Originally, they slept with the baby keeping him/her covered and warm. 

Later, they slept individually with the baby, snuggled against him/her with a wing over him/her.

Now, they sleep on top of their cage where they can watch over the baby.

The baby does not want to sleep up there although the last two nights he has slept high up on a playground I bought for them and placed near their cage for more mental and physical stimulation.

The baby seems to like it, but Snow doesn’t go on it and it may have him/her some peace up there. 

Prior to that, he sometimes slept in the nest box but seemed to like the back corner of the bottom shelf of another bookcase. 

I was about to fix up another box there when he changed his pattern.

The baby does like to get on top of the cage and pick up a chew toy hanging below and drop it back to the bar it is suspended from. I’m hoping the other toys will attract him/her.

With the three of them, I definitely need a larger cage.  I already wanted one for the pair.  I don’t know that the baby should remain in theirs, especially with Snow’s sudden behavior, and am seriously considering two cages once the baby no longer needs to be fed.

They are still feeding him/her although I think King is doing most of it. 

Snow is busy trying to get in quickly to pull out and chew up feathers. 

I question that the baby is being fed sufficiently at each feeding now.  

I did mix up some formula but I did a terrible job of trying to get it into him/her. 

Neither of us was accustomed to the process, me with a baby bird or him/her with a person and no beak.

Snow hasn’t offered to groom me again nor would I allow it. 

I couldn’t imagine what she was looking for since RSD after an accident truly did leave me hairless except for a thin head of hair.

All I could imagine was looking for tiny flakes of skin to remove, similar to grooming their own feet.

Two tiny pinpricks were enough for me. 

Since she had never sat on me, I wanted to give her an opportunity to relax there if she desired.

She considers a good interaction to be sitting at the entrance to the cage watching me solemnly while I talk with her and perhaps occasionally making her one sound. 

I know she looks forward to that.  

The vet wasn’t concerned when I got them and told her of King’s obvious plucking of Snow’s head and neck. 

She said it was not uncommon for mated males to do it to their mate. 

I don’t think she approved any more than I do, but she seemed to accept it as something some mated males may do.  

He’s never shown any interest in pulling out the baby’s feathers.


Reply from Diane P.

For the safety of the baby, I’ve taken the baby to the bird store to be hand fed for the remaining weeks.

I’ve told them I want the baby back, but if Snow still goes after him/her after we get home, I will sell the baby to them.

I know they wanted to just buy him/her from me. They have an excellent reputation and a demand for their hand-raised babies. 

The baby has a big cage, lamp for heat, a full spectrum light, numerous perches of many styles, and is well set up physically for his/her stay.

They will trim his/her wings to aid in hand taming.

She’s only been flying since May tenth, but I think she has the basics well seated.

I’m more concerned that she does not get loose in the store while being hand fed.

I’ve been there when babies suddenly took off for maiden flights, but I feel better with mine not risking flying there. 

The poor baby has horrible bald patches and looks the worse for wear.

Snow’s change from a loving, conscientious mother to essentially attacking the baby at every opportunity still has me shaking my head at the sudden, dramatic change in personality.

I suspect I now know how parents feel when they drop off their children at summer camp or college.

I do not like the feeling at all, but besides being safe from Snow, I think the baby will benefit from experiencing an environment so different from my quiet, static one, as long as he/she doesn’t catch anything. I do sound like a mother.

As an additional claim to him, I’ve told them his/her name is Wynn. In Old English, it means friend, cherished, or pure.

Again, I really appreciated your fast response. Thank you so much for that. It really helped me.



Diane Relates

I just picked up the baby (named Wynn, I guess, but also known as Baby-Baby) yesterday afternoon and brought him/her home.

The baby refused to be fed, and these people feed babies constantly and have done so for decades.
The poor man’s hands have some deep wounds from my little guy/gal.
While trying to hand feed, they also kept a seed mix they use to spread on a padded cloth plus a water bowl in the baby’s very large cage, and the baby has been learning to eat “real food” since his first day there.
In truth, the baby was trying small seeds at my house as well before going there although I thought the baby was too young to be trying seeds.   

With his/her adamant refusal to be hand fed, they asked me to pick up the baby.

He/she is now six weeks old. I’d ordered a big cage for the baby but quickly purchased a reasonable size cage for temporary use and brought the baby home.
My main concern is Snow.
Wynn did start begging to be fed while sitting with them both today, something I do not want the baby doing. I do not want a trigger setting off Snow‘s attack behavior.
After individually climbing all over his/her cage exterior while the baby was inside, they are mostly ignoring his cage and him/her.
It is a confusing time. 
The baby clearly wants his/her parents but I think they are basically ignoring the baby’s existence now. Nothing is definitive. 
They do want to check out his cage interior, especially King. 

I will let you know what happens.  Interestingly, and I hate to jinx myself, the baby has never bitten me.  Yet.



Dear Diane

That sounds so odd that the pet shop people who have raised baby birds could not feed the little one.
I would have toweled it, got its little head in position, and pipette-fed it.
It will stop snapping after a few feedings.

It sounds like the little one was left with the parents too long without human interaction so it is going to be a struggle.

But it has to be done if you want a tame baby then you must spend time with it now. Keep the baby separate, if you can in another room it might be easier without the baby seeing the parents and crying for them.

It will likely now stay bird-focused, not people-focused regardless. But it has to be weaned. You must take on the remaining 3 times a day feedings, then down to two. then the last would be at night leaving the baby to forage during the day.

Visit the Windy City Parrot Bird Breeding Supply Category

Yes, putting the bird in a tray or its cage littered with seeds, Cherrio’s, and fresh apple bits daily is the way to go.

Yes, the bird may eat some of that now, but not enough to develop properly. It must be handfed 3 times a day still.

I meant to mention, the issue with why King has been harassing the baby and the mother too may be that they want to go back to the nest again. Males will harass the babies to leave, and go away so they have the full attention of the hen. 

Please, I hope you have them now in a cage that is in a well-lit area. No more dark or dim places as that just encourages the nesting behavior.

More from Diane

They’ve always had a full spectrum bird light above their cage plus three more lights around their area. Also, the dining room and kitchen lights are left on to create still more light.

That doesn’t mean that they (maybe) weren’t checking out underneath a footstool today. 
I haven’t decided yet what that interest means if anything.
I forgot about that tiny opening under the bookcase, probably because the depth was so low, I could not imagine a cockatiel having any interest in that opening. 
King has been giving a number of small meals to the baby today.
I am not saying it is enough but I find it interesting that he is doing so.
I will try again to do the feedings as you suggest.
I have wondered if the taste, smell, and texture of our formulas are different from what the parents fed him/her and if that contributes to the feeding problem.
Regardless, I will try again. 
As stated before, I’ve no interest in jinxing myself but I’ve not been bitten once by the baby. 
Indeed, I’ve seen the baby reconsider a movement as if realizing I’m not someone who gets bitten; I’ve got rights. 
However, I’ve spoken to him/her since his first day plus picked him/her up frequently since his/her second day when s/he wiggled into a spot I considered bad for whatever reason or later fell into a spot the baby or parents couldn’t remove him/her from. 
I suspect I am considered to have a right to do so. 
While the baby only sits for a few seconds, s/he even sits on my finger.
I’ll probably be bitten with the next feeding attempt to prove my statements wrong.
If there is a particular position for the baby that you recommend, please inform me.
Thank you, Diane.

Yes, the hand-feeding formula is not the same as what the parents feed them.

The parents feed them a partially digested mash of seeds, pellets, and whatever else you feed them.
The hand-feeding formula is usually mainly ground-up pellets and whatever else the manufacturer has included.
Flavors will vary by manufacturer and ingredients.
I think it is more of a temperature and consistency issue that the baby might notice.
But If you are using a syringe or pipette, you open the mouth and insert it and squeeze so quickly, there is little to no taste for the bird. I think they notice when their belly is filling up and that is what matters.
The formula should be warm.
I use very hot water to mix it up, then put a bit on my lip.
If it is not too hot for my lip then it is fine for the baby.

I can’t direct you in words on how to hold the baby to hand feed with a syringe or pipette.

It needs to be done carefully without pumping food down the wrong pipe and choking the bird. You might have some luck with Youtube videos. 

You can also use a spoon to feed the baby, but if it fights you in fear, it won’t work.

A feeding spoon helps guide the formula into the open beak. If you use a metal teaspoon be sure to take one not part of a good set that can be altered and you won’t miss it.

Put it on a hard surface like concrete or steel and take a hammer to the sides of the spoon creating a scoop that helps keep it aimed better into the beak.

You can also heat up a plastic spoon in boiling water and bend the sides up and create a feeding spoon that way too.


Catherine Tobsing profile pic 082523
Catherine Tobsing

Leave a Reply

Close Menu