Please forgive me for the book I’m about to type, but I’m trying to give as accurate a picture as possible. I care very much for my bird and want to do the best thing for her.Seven years ago, a relative gave my husband and me a young sulphur crested cockatoo because she felt she could no longer care for the bird. Admittedly, we were very naive about what ‘too care entailed, but we did manage to provide a good home to Spirit for a couple of years. While we worked during the day, she had a pair of old cockatiels (who have since passed) housed in a nearby cage to keep her some company; when we were home, she had run of the apartment; and we took her with us every place that we possibly could (parks, outdoor restaurants, festivals, you name it). She was remarkably civil during this time, only screaming or biting on occasion and usually for an identifiable reason. Spirit is not flighted, as she plucks her flight feathers. According to her previous owner, she began this behavior following a bad wing trim, and she has done it for the entire time that we have known her. She has never plucked anywhere else for as long as we have had her. As far as we know, Spirit is a female (she has not been DNA sexed) and is now about 20 years old. We believe we are her 3rd owners.Unfortunately, Spirit’s quality of life has greatly deteriorated in the past 5 or so years as we have added children to our family. We have a 5 year old and a 1 year old, with plans of further growing our family in the coming years. Because we cannot have the bird and the kids in close contact, Spirit spends most of her day caged in either (1) her main, large cage, which is located so that she can see most of the activity in the house; (2) her small, sleeping/quiet cage located in the laundry room; (3) her outdoor aviary in the back yard. She no longer goes on outings except for on very rare occasion (usually to a local park to hang out in the trees while the kids play). Understandably, Spirit has become louder and more aggressive.Our biggest issue is aggression. I am the only member of the family who can handle Spirit. To everyone else, she is a menace. The kids, having both been bitten more than once, though thankfully not very badly, have mostly learned to keep themselves away from her. However, yesterday in the yard, our 5 year old was a little careless and brushed against her aviary as he walked by. Spirit immediately reached her beak through the bars and gave him a nice nip on the thumb. It happened so quickly that she must have been stalking him, waiting for him to get too close. And I have had more than once to snatch our toddler away when she tried to touch a cage with her hand or (way worse!) put her face right up to the bars to say hello. Spirit similarly menaces my husband. Given the opportunity, she charges his feet and attempts to back him into a corner and bite him. He no longer wants anything to do with her and can’t handle the most basic caretaking tasks, such as reaching into her cage to refresh her water or moving her from once place to another. Spirit as also gotten more aggressive with me lately and sometimes needs to be toweled to be moved from, say, her aviary to the indoors. Every member of our family has been bitten, and I’m very worried that Spirit will inflict a serious injury one of these days.The other problem is, of course, screaming. Spirit is mostly quiet when she can see a family member, and is almost always OK if she can see me, but she can’t tolerate being separated from “the flock” for even a very short time. I recognize this as her way of obtaining companionship-- in a pinch, even the family dog might do to keep her calm-- but it is another very trying, albeit less serious, behavior. Because of this noise issue, Spirit is forced to play “musical cages” throughout the day. I try to keep her near us as much as possible. She is in her main cage whenever we are downstairs in the open kitchen/family room, and she comes into the yard with us when we are out there. However, if I so much as have to go around the corner to the downstairs bathroom or need to head upstairs or where she otherwise can’t see me for even a few moments, she attempts to call me back. Likewise, some neighbors have complained about her squawking when she is outdoors and we are not. As a result of all of this, Spirit is forced to spend a lot of time (maybe 3-4 hours on an average day) alone in her sleeping cage, as being in there quiets her. I feel terrible about this. I try and give her some stimulation from a rotation of toys or from playing music in there, but the laundry room is a terribly quiet, boring, and isolated part of the house.I do spend time with Spirit many evenings after the kids have gone to bed. I let her perch on a chair next to me while I wash dishes, or she sits on the arm of the sofa and I pet her while I’m watching TV. If I am outside without the kids (happens occasionally on the weekends), I bring her out with me and let her have run of the yard. The bottom line, though, is that no one in the family is happy, including the bird. I know that she deserves so much more than she is currently getting from us, but I don’t see a way to give her more. I always have the kids with me (I am a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom), and it’s not safe for the kids and the bird to be out at the same time.Is there any way for us to improve Spirit’s quality of life without compromising my kids’ safety? Or is rehoming Spirit our only option? Thank you so much for any suggestions. I feel very guilty about getting us into this situation.*I am going to cross-post this to another site in hopes of getting more responses.
I read your story, and to me, it seems like nobody really wants the bird.Now, if I am wrong, and if you really DO want Spirit, you’ll have to make time for her. Spirit could be happier getting at least a certain amount of time from you daily. During this time, you could target train her, give treats, etc. Spirit most likely feels “left out” of the flock as it sounds like the husband wants nothing to do with her (birds are smart - they know when they’re not liked) and of course, the kids are a bit young but they could still learn to spend time with the bird without handling her - yet. It’s really about priorities and whether you can make the time for loving Spirit. I have a rehomed Grey, and she loves both me, and my partner. Before adopting her, she NEVER let men handle her. She was a known man-hater (as Greys are known to gender-discriminate). This is not the case any longer; she lets my partner handle her with no problems; she lets her “grandpa” scratch her as well. She has since changed because the quality of her life is better. We both make time to love our bird and work with her.That being said, if your answer to the above scenario is no, you don’t have the time to give to Spirit, then perhaps rehoming her is really the best option. It’s hurtful for the bird or any pet for that matter to lose its family - but if she is lonely, there is always someone who can love her the way she deserves.All the best to you.
Hi ; I have been thinking about this every since you posted it, I saw it about 5 min. after it was posted. I am not sure that I have sufficient presence of mind to answer this fairly even now. To be honest with you, and to get past any need for pretense, I must say that I am most definitely with Spirit on this one all the way as She has done no wrong here and it is she who is the injured party here. She has been incredibly patient and as understanding as it has been possible for her to be. OK ! Now that this is out in the open, I feel a little better and may be able to get through this safely. One last thing that I must say is that the only one who owns the right to forgive you in this situation is Spirit! Now, let’s get down to the business of righting this horrible wrong. To this end you must make a choice. You must decide if you love Spirit and want her as part of your family. You must decide if you are willing to work with her, with the goal of fully reinstating her rights as a family member. If your choice is in her favor, we can help you to achieve this although it will not be easy. If not then the only right thing to do is to find her a home where she can be loved and accepted. At this point there is no benefit to going any further, until you make your decision.
The problem you have is, unfortunately, VERY common with cockatoos and the number one reason why they are the most given up bird. They are needy, needy birds, completely inadequate as pets for any normal family, and, as they show their displeasure through screams (and boy, are the loud!) and aggression (one look at the size of their beaks and it’s perfectly understandable why people give up on them!), the poor things end up in rescues by the thousands.Mind you, I am not blaming you in any way. I blame the bird industry for selling birds with such impossible to fulfill needs as human pets. You’ve done the best you can but, with these birds, a ‘normal’ best is just not enough. You have the infrastructure (day cage, sleeping cage, outdoor aviary) and the desire and love for her but having to care for two little children and your husband washing his hands off the whole thing, I really don’t see how you can make it work and I’ll tell you why. Can her quality of life improve to the point that she will no longer scream or bite? Yes, it can but it will take a very serious and long term commitment from your part. I am talking of devoting hours and hours just to her because it takes a long time to reverse bad behaviors and to establish a new routine that would make her happy (because, let’s face it, she is acting up because she is unhappy) and convince her that the new, good conditions are here to stay. Your children will, most likely, always be regarded as competition for your love so, unless she changes radically, they will always be in danger (I took in a citron that had bit off the lower lip of the owner’s daughter) and they are still so little that explaining to them that they cannot get even near her cage is not going to work. Plus, if you homeschool, your children are always there and they will require constant supervision for many years to come so spending one-on-one and having training sessions with her without them been in the same room is impossible unless you have somebody who can babysit for you for 3 to 4 hours a day (because that’s the time they need to spend outside the cage every day).Now, it is entirely possible that given enough hours of freedom from her cage, one-on-one attention/interaction and training, a good diet, good light and schedule she will calm down enough not to attack anybody but can you devote the next ten months or so to this without having a guarantee that it will work? Because, basically, that is the question here: what, exactly, are you willing and able to do?I had two umbrellas and now have a LSC and a Citron, three of them were given up because of aggression and one (the LSC) because of screaming and they all became great birds but I keep my birds in a birdroom (no cages), at a strict solar schedule (no sexual frustration), good full spectrum light (helps with mood), fresh food diet (general health and prevention from hormonal surges), I spend 3 to 4 hours a day with them daily and, when I am not there, they have all the other birds to keep them company as well as lots of chewing material but, even with all these ‘perks’, it took ten months for the LSC to stop screaming during the day (he now only gives evening calls).Personally, given your situation, I would think that finding her a home where there is people experienced with toos (this is a must or she will go from one hand to another) who are there all day long and have no small children living with them would be best for her.
Regarding the safety issue, is it possible to give her an indoor aviary in the room you use the most during the day? I was thinking you could put an extra mesh layer around it so the kids cannot put their hands too close to her. The kids can go off to their own rooms/outside/another room for a break from their schoolwork so you can do some training/cuddles with her for 20 mins or so every couple of hours? If you can make it good quality time with your bird that will help- you can use foraging toys, shredding toys etc for the other times (hopefully nearby but not getting interaction). I actually think frequent breaks will benefit the kids too, maybe you can get them involved in those breaks in making toys for her for her in cage time- or coming up with new ideas if not physically making them as that will help their creativity and practical skills too.Your husband needs to take responsibility for the birds welfare too, if he really cannot get near the cage to help with general care could he maybe help more with the kids/cooking/cleaning so you have a bit more spare time?I don’t have kids but I have to ask at the risk of causing offence would you really put your desire to extend your family first if it means kicking out an existing member (I’m one of those who see’s pets as kids although they are treated as the species they are)? I know I couldn’t, if I got broody there’s no way I could have kids at the moment, the pets take up too much of my time.