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9 Essentials For Having a Cockatoo Roam Free in Your House
If you let your bird spend a TON of time outside of its cage, like I do with my cockatoo Boo, you’ll need a few things to keep it sane. I use the term “free-range cockatoo” because Boo spends most of his time outside the cage and is effectively a “house bird” (except that he goes into his cage when I’m out for an extended period of time or when I’m in his sleep cage before bed). The phrase makes me LOL too. The items on my list seem to fall into the home cleaning and preservation categories.
Here are some products I have and use or wish I had:
- A good vacuum cleaner for carpeted areas. I’m currently using Eureka which clogs every five minutes. It kind of works. I think the Hoover F5918-900 SteamVac Spinscrub Pet will be my next purchase, although Dyson is undoubtedly the leader in pet vacuums. I’ve had great luck with shop vacs in the past, but they’re pretty ugly…and if you’re like me, then you won’t want to put the vac away because you’ll just be using it again after a few hours.
- A good non-carpet floor cleaner! I just use a regular $10 rag from Walmart with something to clean on it.
- As for cleaners, it’s important that they’re non-toxic, especially if your bird is likely to put his mouth where you’ve cleaned (so unless you’re deep cleaning and scrubbing the most untouched corners of your home, and even then better to be safe than sorry). I’m a big fan of Poop Off, especially the one with the nifty top brush. I find it works great on carpets and floors, and the top brush bottle is always out for a quick cleaning – which was needed every 20 minutes until Boo decided to potty train
- Pet Deterrent! Boo is scared of random inanimate objects, so putting “scared Boo” where I don’t want him to chew always works…for at least 20 minutes. Boo is pretty stubborn and quickly learns that NOTHING in the house will eat or hurt him (the downside of raising him so well), so this doesn’t work out so well. The best way to prevent damage in my home is to not leave anything I don’t want him to chew on out of reach. This was VERY hard to do when he was a baby and going through the cord chewing stage, and it was one of the rare offenses where I actively punished him (since he could die if he found a live wire). Unfortunately I made the mistake of punishing him with a spray bottle and to this day he hates being misted/sprayed (but at least he learned very quickly not to chew on my electronic cables!). I have yet to find a commercial parrot deterrent that works, but I just came across Bitter Apple for Birds and plan to give it a try. Pepper solutions don’t work and backfire by making him chew MORE because he likes hot and spicy flavors. Oh, and the foil worked for about a day until he found he could find the delicious door frame by ripping it off.
- Newspaper. I put this under where Boo likes to sit a lot. It’s free if you get your local community papers from the cafe. If you’re worried that newspaper on the floor might look like your home is a birdcage, use clear plastic (it’ll just look like you’re one of those weird people who keeps everything safe) or carpet scraps (which can look white trash, so especially don’t use if you’re in a mobile home). I find that putting old bills and mail where Boo likes to poop can make it look like they were “accidentally” put there (making it look like I’mtotalslob). Unfortunately, there is no cosmetically pleasing solution to bird droppings.
- The Parrot Stand is essential. I currently use a hanging one that I cobbled together from a wire curtain hanger, a rope perch, and a rope swing. After being afraid of the wire hanger all day, Boo decided that was the place to land, and is now sitting in the most uncomfortable looking spot, chewing on lumps of my textured ceiling. Hanging perches are NOT recommended for aggressive or fearful birds. I’m really dying for the Manzanita Activity Tree. Being able to carry the play stand around the house with you is almost a necessity and will help you control the screaming, the amount of droppings you have to clean up and the destruction your pet bird can cause. Of course, it’s important to train your bird to actually stand on the play stand, otherwise you’ve wasted a lot of time and possibly money. What has worked for me and Boo: Make it the ONLY place you give your bird “treats” (other than his cage) and give your bird LOTS of attention when he plays in the play stand. Having a play stand, even a very cool and expensive one, is not an excuse to pay less attention to your bird; it is only a preventive measure against the destruction of homes.
- Things that are “OK” for your bird to destroy, possibly disguised as household items. Commercially available bird toys are great, but can be expensive to replace. Parrots are supposed to destroy toys and it’s as good for their mental health as crossword puzzles are for humans – so don’t complain about the price! If you noticed the roll of toilet paper on Boo’s hanging perch…it makes for a very cheap fun toy. Boo also likes cat balls and take-home paper boxes with treats inside. Anything that’s fun to scoop out or shred food from is usually a winner in my home. One of Boo’s favorite toys from the pet store is the Parrot Pinata – he loves to chew on this relatively affordable toy!
- Treats are also essential, especially if you want your bird to stay on its perch or chew on other things in your home. Boo loves pasta, pizza and eggs. I’m kind of a health nut and so he often eats out of my bowl of soy milk and whole grain cereal. Because the vet recently scolded me for putting him on a 70% parrot diet (with good reason, as there has been a lot of recent research on the dietary needs of parrots and cockatoos), I have been buying more of his treats from the pet section, and not from the people section. Lafebers Avi-Cakes for Parrots are Boo’s all-time favorite and are good to hide in paper towel tubes and other places to encourage foraging and keep him entertained. Treats are also often performed as toys
- …that’s it as far as the actual products I use or want to use with my goffins cockatoo! The last thing that is important in having a pet bird is to bond with your companion and give him a lot of attention so that he thinks that you are the guru of what is fun and popular. Spending time redirecting destructive behavior to more acceptable objects is a must, as is convincing your bird that its toys and treats are MUCH cooler than the boring old pens, computers, and electronics you have elsewhere in the home.
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