What should you expect from your cockatoo?

Cockatoos are appreciated as companion birds because they enjoy cuddling. Cockatoos are like small children- they can be charming and may try to steal the show. Care must be taken to avoid spoiling these birds. They require so much attention that they can be extremely noisy and destructive if improperly socialized. Because of the potential noise level, cockatoos are best suited to single family dwellings without close neighbors. Imprinted cockatoos may become excessively possessive of their owners, leading to aggression toward others, unpredictability and other vices such as feather picking. Cockatoos have some capacity to mimic but their voice is not as clear as other parrots. Of all the companion bird species, they are the most reluctant to change their eating habits to a healthy diet. Most cockatoos species produce abundant powder down, which is shed as feather dust in the cage, on the furniture and clothing and found circulating in the air. The feather dust may cause respiratory problems in susceptible individuals or other birds. A high quality air purifier is recommended for the home.

What do cockatoos do all day?

Most cockatoos are playful and can be amused with simple toys. Because they love to chew, any toys must be free of toxic metals, hooks, sharp objects or small, easily consumed components. Providing chew toys or fresh-cut branches from nontoxic, pesticide-free trees may prevent some cockatoos from destroying their perches as quickly. Check with your veterinarian for recommendations on locally available safe trees. Cockatoos are very curious and will investigate anything new in their environment.

Are cockatoos tame?

Young, hand- raised cockatoos adapt readily to new surroundings and handling procedures. They should be exposed early in life to novel situations (car travel, veterinarian visits, multiple visitors in the household, and other household pets) so that they are well adjusted to these events. Discipline, leadership, patience, hooding (covering the head), a sense of ritual, and the offering of rewards may be necessary to modify behavior problems relating to screaming in an effort to demand the presence of a family member.

Why should the wings be clipped?

Cockatoos that are allowed unrestricted freedom in the home can encounter numerous physical dangers or toxins as well as cause significant damage from chewing; therefore, wing clipping is recommended. The goal of clipping the wings is NOT to make the bird incapable of flight, but to prevent it from developing rapid and sustained flight and to prevent escape. Maintenance trimming is required eight to twelve weeks after the start of a molt.

How can you keep your cockatoo healthy, happy and safe?

  • Give lots of attention.
  • Feed a fresh, high quality, toxin-free, pelleted diet with daily supplementation of chopped vegetables and fruit.
  • Avoid feeding nuts, seeds, sweet items (corn, apples, and oranges), and salty foods, as these may contribute to feather picking, screaming, aggression, and other medical conditions.
  • Grit is not necessary with modern captive diets.
  • Provide clean, fresh, uncontaminated water.
  • Remove and replace food and water containers twice daily to maximize activity in a healthy bird.
  • Provide an occasional opportunity for bath, shower, or misting (at least weekly).
  • Avoid spraying house with insecticides.

Housing for your cockatoo should:
  • Be as large as possible.
  • Be clean, safe, and easy to service.
  • Be particularly secure because cockatoos can be escape artists.
  • Be constructed of durable, nontoxic material.
  • Contain variable-sized perches made of clean, non-toxic, pesticide-free tree branches.
  • Avoid having perches located directly over food containers.
  • Offer occasional opportunity for protected outdoor exposure to fresh air, sunlight, and exercise.

Things you must keep away from your cockatoo:
  • Ceiling Fans
  • Hot cooking oil
  • Overheated, nonstick-coated cookware
  • Leg chains
  • Sandpaper-covered perches
  • Tobacco and cigarette smoke
  • Chocolate, avocado, salt, alcohol
  • Toxic houseplants
  • Pesticides
  • Toxic fumes
  • Easily dismantled toys
  • Dogs, cats, and young children
  • Cedar, redwood, and pressure treated wood shavings
  • Sources of lead or zinc

For more information visit: Association of Avian Veterinarians, Good Bird, Inc.