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So WTF do you do if a cockatiel flat out REFUSES to eat anything other than seeds?

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Madrone Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-22-08 09:58 PM
Original message
So WTF do you do if a cockatiel flat out REFUSES to eat anything other than seeds?
Edited on Tue Jan-22-08 10:11 PM by Madrone
I inherited this bird from an elderly neighbor when she passed away. I read and researched when I got him, and learned seed is the equivalent of twinkies and ho hos ... so I bought pellets. And he wouldn't eat them. I also read that you can't treat a bird like a cat or dog - put the food in the bowl and when they get hungry enough, they'll eat it. A bird will starve to death instead. So I keep feeding him seed. It's what he's ALWAYS eaten.

Today I had to take him into the vet and get his beak trimmed. It was long enough that it curled down and was starting to poke him in the chin. Beak overgrowth is diet related, or liver disease related - also caused by a bad diet over a long period of time. I also noticed today that he appears to be getting some sort of cataracts on his eyes...ALSO a symptom of long term malnutrition.

I don't know what else to do, other than what I've been doing - give the little shit what he wants. If he doesn't like his food he SCREAMS at me nonstop. I am pretty much resigned to just giving him what he wants and letting him live out his life - but I thought someone may have some suggestion I haven't thought of yet - or knows a surefire way to get a bird to eat what YOU want them to eat, and not what THEY want to eat.

Edited to add: It's a cockatiel -- forgot to mention that!
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MiniMe Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-22-08 11:33 PM
Response to Original message
1. Did you ask the vet while you were there?
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Madrone Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-23-08 09:31 AM
Response to Reply #1
3. Yes...
He said to try seed for 10 minutes in the morning, and 10 minutes in the evening, with pellets the rest of the time. The problem is he won't eat the pellets, and he will SCREAM any time he doesn't have the food he wants when he wants it.
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Kat45 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-23-08 12:16 AM
Response to Original message
2. Pellets aren't all that.
Edited on Wed Jan-23-08 12:17 AM by notmyprez
They're a fake food; birds don't recognize them as food. A lot of folks recommend pellets, but others are against them because they're fake. A bird can get a balanced diet without pellets. I've had a number of birds and have never used pellets. And yes, a bird will starve himself; it almost happened with one of my birds.

Seed is not birdie junk food; it is fine for birds to eat, but they need more than just seed, as I mentioned, a balanced diet. Try different vegetables and fruits with him, probably just one at a time. You can let the bird know that it's food by eating some yourself, then offering some to the bird. You can present them different ways, such as clipped to cage bars. Another thing to try is Nutriberries, a product that looks like a ball of seeds. It's seeds and other things and I believe there are vitamins in it. Since it looks more like seed, it might interest him more.

Those are just a few suggestions, but I'd have to know more about the bird to guess what would work with him. How old is he? How long did the elderly neighbor have him and how long have you had him? How do you and the bird get along? Does he let you touch him, give him scritches? Do you think he'd let you hand feed him (a veggie or a nutriberry)? What is his personality like? Is he skittish or afraid? Has he settled in to his new home with you?

Tell me more about the bird and I'll try to come up with more ideas for you. BTW, what's his name?
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Madrone Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-23-08 09:43 AM
Response to Reply #2
4. Answers:
I don't know how old he is. The neighbor had 3, and he had a mate in his cage. (TINY cage) The other 2 died before she did - I took in this one. I lived next door to her for 6 years, and I've now had the bird for ... 3 years? Maybe 4. I'm terrible with dates! So he's at least 10 I would imagine. His name is Pancho ... and he's not overly friendly. Doesn't dig getting scritches. BUT - after the vet yesterday I went straight back to work without going home first and dropping the animals off, so I had to take him inside so he wouldn't freeze. Another co-worker has been around birds a lot and wanted to see him, so I got him out and handed him over. She said he is a VERY nice bird ... she was shocked that he was as calm and nice as he is. He doesn't bite, etc ... but he's not overly used to being handled. I finally got brave enough to handle him at all just in the last year.

He won't do the handfeed - I've tried that. I've also tried with the fruits and vegetables - no go. I even bought some concoction that contains beans and pasta, etc ... that you're supposed to cook and give birds. He wouldn't so much as give it a look. I don't know that he would be interested in seeing me eat something myself first ... I don't think he makes the connection between what I eat and food. I've given him those nutriberries - they go untouched.

I don't think he's skittish or afaid - he seems pretty calm, cool, and collected actually. He's never had a night terror that I am aware of - I do think he's settled in here...and I think he likes it for the most part. When I first brought him here he sang and sang and sang all the time. One of the first things I did was replace his tiny cage with a GINORMOUS one ... I was a little afraid it may be to much for him - having spent his life so confined, but he took to that perfectly and seems to really enjoy the space.
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Kat45 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-24-08 04:19 PM
Response to Reply #4
12. With an older bird, who's set in his ways, it can be tougher to
get them to eat new foods. Sometimes you have to keep trying the same item many, many, many times: it might not work, but sometimes it does. My Grace had no interest whatsoever in Nutriberries when I first gave them to her. I just kept trying somewhat frequently and eventually she tried them--and liked them. Another good bird treat is Higgins Snack Attack Small Fruit and Veggie. It has a lot of small seeds in it, and the pieces of fruit sort of blend in with the seed.

I'm fortunate that Grace is a good eater. Her favorite food is broccoli (florets only). I clip the piece of broccoli to the side of the cage and she enjoys plucking pieces off the floret and eating them. Sometimes presentation can make a difference, although with Grace, no matter how many ways I tried to give her carrots, she had no interest in them whatsoever.

Good luck with getting him to eat different things. He sounds like a really good bird.
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Coyote_Bandit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-23-08 11:32 AM
Response to Original message
5. Have you tried
chopping fresh fruit and veggies into small pieces and then mixing them with seeds so that the seed adhere to and coat the fruit and veggies? Birdie gets a small taste of fruit or veggie when he eats the seed. This is how I introduced fresh foods to my Quaker. Another thing you might try is mixing a bit of dried fruit into the seed. You'll have to be persistent to change his preferenc.
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Madrone Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-23-08 09:31 PM
Response to Reply #5
6. I've gotten seed that had dried fruits and veggies...
pasta, etc... he spits ALL of it out. When the last seed has been ferreted out, he starts screaming.

I could try the fresh fruit veggie thing ... I've never mixed it with seed before.
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CC Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-23-08 11:31 PM
Response to Reply #6
7. Try giving him the fresh fruit
by itself with out the seed. Give him time to throw it out and maybe go check it out later. You can always give him the seed later (and hour or two later). He won't starve in that time and he might check it out while you are not looking. Also the meat from nuts. Try to ignore the screaming for that time. Actually as long as you know he is ok I would try hard to ignore his screaming when ever he does it. They are like kids, if negative acts get attention more often that positive ones then you reinforce the negative. If he is screaming and gets quiet you might want to then pay attention to him. It will take time though.

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Madrone Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-23-08 11:41 PM
Response to Reply #7
8. Actually, I never give him what he wants when he's screaming...
Rewarding unwanted behavior just never seems like a good idea to

Since his cage is so big I can't cover it I have a medium sized cardboard box I stick him in when he won't shut up. I close the flaps on top, and he chills out before too long. I call it "The Hole" - as in, bad prison movies, as in, "Crusher shanked a guy on block 3 again, Warden - Throw him in the HOLE!" lol

Hmmm.... I'll try some experiments with him this weekend. All I have on hand are apples, so I'll try chopping some up and giving him some - it's worth a shot!
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CC Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-23-08 11:52 PM
Response to Reply #8
9. My SO throws a sheet over the
Edited on Wed Jan-23-08 11:53 PM by CC
red lory's cage when she is too noisy. I don't even notice her anymore so she doesn't scream at me. Most she gets now is the Grey telling her to shush up.

I would try a variety of fruits and veggies. Here Crackers (Lory)loves bananas and oranges, is ok with most other fruits and veggies but hates mangoes. Harley (Africa Grey) love mangoes, bananas and oranges but hates peas. I haven't found a nut either won't eat and beg for more. I do have both of mine on pellets because they tended to only eat one kind of seed and trash the rest. Harley won't eat brown or purple pellets even though they all taste the same. Crackers eats whatever but prefers colors over brown. She also has a special honey water concoction that she loves but will not drink plain water. It she bathes in or throws it the floor. Welcome to the wild world of being bird owned.

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Madrone Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-23-08 11:57 PM
Response to Reply #9
10. Oh, oranges! I didn't think of oranges.
I have some of those on hand right now too. Cool.

I think the cockatiel is choosy with his seeds too ... sunflower seeds, and whatever those little birdseeds are. All the special fruits and veggies and catfood looking thingies he completely ignores.

We'll see what happens! Thanks!
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mopinko Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-24-08 02:04 PM
Response to Original message
11. i am a pellet believer. they
aren't fake food- they are made from food, not moon rocks.
here is a trick that i am told works well- make a food toy out of a popsicle type stick, dip in a little peanut butter, then roll in the pellets.
and i do agree with the 10 minutes in the morning and evening with the seed. use a good quality mix, and restrict the quantity enough that it all gets eaten. all seed is bad enough, but picking and choosing which seed makes it a lot worse.
try different brands of pellets, too. even my pellet reared birds have their faves.
if the bird is having that kind of beak overgrowth, you gotta do something. the most important people food you can feed is a good dark green veggie. lot's of birds like kale. a little spinach is ok, but it shouldn't be relied upon too heavily. try sprinkling a little seed on the leaves. and here is a kinda desperate move that has been known to work- poke seeds into a piece of broccoli. hard to pick them out without getting a taste. mostly it is just a matter of failure to recognize that this stuff is food. they are often a lot more receptive once you get them to eat anything besides seeds.
good luck.
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Muttocracy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Feb-16-08 12:18 AM
Response to Original message
13. fresh fruits and veggies
just browing this group for the first time I think :hi:

I sometimes pet-sat for a vet who happens to specialize in avian medicine. The food for the birds was mostly fresh veggies, some pasta and beans. She chops veggies and cooks pasta in big batches, thaws and freezes a little bit each day under running water. Some of her tips:

I pet-sit now for a friend with two parrots and her motto is "I cook for my pets, not my husband and me"

I cut up big chunks of apple, orange, grapes, cranberries, whole snap beans and peas, some nuts, raisins, other dried fruit, hunks of carrots... Just get a list of the toxic veggies to avoid (e.g., avocados) from ASPCA or Merck vet manual.

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TankLV Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-17-08 01:09 PM
Response to Original message
14. Then feed 'em SEEDS...I thought seed were good and NATURAL...
Edited on Sun Feb-17-08 01:19 PM by TankLV
that's what I always fed mine, and they still outlast ME - when I moved I gave mine to a bird lover up the street who has a whole flock in his backyard in Honolulu - they are still doing extremely well...

I had a large Ficus (sp?) tree right next to the open cage - and they used to munch on the leaves, too - along with throwing the soil all over the place!

And a good neighbor down the hall from me had one - and I used to work at home. All of us used to leave our front doors open - I never locked mine except when I went out. I was working one day, and all of a sudden here comes this bird walking in my front door - she proceeds to walk right past me - up to the tree/cage I had built in to the wall - and climb in to the cage next to my birds. They'd stay there for a few hours - eat some and then sleep. Then, towards the evening, she'd come down, waddle out across the floor and out the door to my neighbor's door and in to her door. Neither of us knew anyting about this at the time. It was a riot to watch! Happened until I moved away.

Mine used to spend most of the day right next to me on my drafting table until I was done for the day, then also walk back into the cage...

Now I have a cat and 3 golden retrievers (or should I say "sleepers")...
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Madrone Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Feb-20-08 01:51 PM
Response to Reply #14
15. Great story!! :)
Just feed him seeds is what I decided after trying to switch him to pellets when I got him. HOWEVER - now he's got health issues; probably fatty liver disease and malnutrition related blindness (he's suddenly developing cataracts on both eyes).

That's why I'm concerned about his diet. I AM happy to report though, that the shit has finally started eating pellets. :shrug:
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fortyfeetunder Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-22-08 06:46 PM
Response to Reply #15
16. Seed reduction diet
the breeder recommended a seed blend and the vet said -- yup, they are eating McNuggets.... so now we had them on a gradual seed reduction diet to pellets, like reduction by 1/4 teaspoon a week until it was all pellets. They get millet as a treat but not very often. They don't like all the pellets. There are some Zupreem pellets they eat, the fruit flavored and harvest feast they eat.

And they occasionally eat veggies, beans and grains but they are moody about it. One day they are gung ho, the next is day is "is this all you can give us"?
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Darth_Kitten Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-22-08 08:48 PM
Response to Reply #16
17. My Murphee eats mostly the Zupreem pellets.......
also give her dried peas, fruits (the Just Tomatoes brand), also she gets an occasional floret of broccoli (which she LOVES!!), corn, a sliver of carrot clipped to the side of her cage, which she chews on. Maybe she'll get a bean to munch on, or even some tomato.

She has been known to enjoy the occasional steak. (cooled off and desalted!)
As a baby, I used to give her a slice of toast, she would nibble at it, but sometimes treated it like a heating pad she would just sit on. :)
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