Originally published at An Experimental Life. You can comment here or there.
(Note: I can do this because I'm home most of the time. And I'm not saying that cages are bad. A cage that a 'tiel sees as a safe spot can be a great place for a them to sleep and, if it's big enough and contains enough of interest to them, spend time when they can't be supervised. Sachi loved her cage, and although the door was open most of the time, she voluntarily spent part of her time there even though she had the run of the house. In fact, she would demand to be taken back to it when she got tired or hungry or thirsty. I may start having the X-Birds birds sleep in a more confined area that can be covered, just so I'm not disturbing them so much when I'm up at all hours.)
To people who've had birds for a long time, all of this is probably old news, but for a guy who has owned large canines for most of his life and is used to the rough-and-tumble playfulness and affection of Big Furry Carnivores With Very Sharp Teeth, owning non-predators has been a series of revelations and moments of wonder.
I've always had a natural bond with dogs and other mammalian carnivores. But birds? Especially non-predator birds? I had no clue, so this has been a serious learning experience for me. It's been stressful at times, too, because I take pet ownership very seriously, and often worry about whether I'm giving that pet a fulfilling life. I absolutely do not understand people who interact with their pets only when they feel like it. I mean, you are that pet's world. They depend on you for everything--not just for food and water, but for companionship, affection, and all the other things that help an animal remain happy and healthy. Maybe I worry about it too much, but that's better than not worrying enough, I think.
While all pets require some degree of patience and gentleness, having un-caged cockatiels as pets reinforces that kind of behavior to a much greater degree than keeping predatory mammals, because as fragile and naturally skittish as cockatiels are (in comparison to big dogs, at least), there is no room at all for error. I'm told it's easy to lose their trust, and difficult to regain it. Considering that Logan and Jubilee (shown here shortly after I brought them home--Logan, the mostly gray one, was barely weaned, and Jubilee had been weaned for perhaps a week) were not hand-fed as infants, they've required even more patience and gentleness, but it still didn't take long for them to bond with me. (I think it probably helped that we had a couple of unseasonable chilly nights when I first got them, and that I was the warmest place to be.)
Yes, these two were pretty young when I got them, and had been handled for at least a few minutes a day since shortly around the time they were weaned, but even in cases like this, I've been told that conventional wisdom says that birds who weren't hand-fed--especially if brought home in pairs at the same time and from the same clutch--aren't normally this affectionate with people, or this interested in human companionship, so I lucked out getting a pair with temperaments like this.
And no, these little guys are certainly not as clingy as Sachi (Which is a good thing; I always felt guilty when leaving Sachi alone, because she was the only 'tiel in the house, and very attached to me. In fact, that's much of the reason I wanted a pair--so that they'd have company even when I wasn't here), but I figure that for all my worries, I must be doing something right, because they're still pretty affectionate with me. They come to me of their own volition for treats, skritches (in Logan's case, anyway), to groom me, to just hang out on my shoulders, or to groom themselves, or nap, or chatter back and forth with me, or maybe watch a show. They love riding around the house on me, and once even followed me into the shower, where they waddled around on the floor bathing, climbed onto my feet to be picked up when they were done, then snuggled up with me afterward to dry off and warm up--Logan inside my hoodie, and Jubilee on my shoulder. (Logan later decided to explore down the inside of my sleeve, which I found unaccountably amusing.)
They even include me in some of their games--although I think my status in those games is probably that of "toy." They like to fly around in circles, perch on something, peep at me to come get them, hang out on me for a bit, then lather, rinse, and repeat. (They are not fully-flighted, but close. I've followed professional advice on letting them learn to maneuver in the air, and they never run into things unintentionally.) They've already learned what, "no," means, too, although being slightly mischievous, they'll sometimes simply desist until they think I'm not looking, then do whatever it was they know they're not supposed to do. (Especially Jubileee, who loves chewing on one certain lampshade for some reason.)
When something startles them, their first reaction is to seek a high perch, as instinct demands. But when I come to get them, they come to me eagerly and hide behind my head from the scary, scary outside world, and they relax much more quickly and completely when I do that than otherwise. They have an increasing tendency to contact-call to me when I go to another part of the house, and if I've been gone for too long, although they'll snub me for a while after I get back, they then turn into velcro birds, and even Jubilee the Grumpy, who rarely wants fingers near her face unless they're holding treats, begs for skritches on her face, neck, and crest area.
Not only do they teach patience and gentleness, but it's relaxing to be around them. It's hard to stay in a bad mood when they're flitting around the living room making cute noises, or getting all excited about the sounds and pictures of a movie or TV show, or playing on the exercise wheel, or in Jubilee's case, using the ceiling fan as a merry-go-round (I don't turn it on, but she's discovered various ways to make it spin on her own). And it's hard to keep a straight face when Logan gets so excited about peanuts that he does the baby-bird "feed me" noise and dances back and forth so frantically that he can't actually reach the peanut I'm holding for him until he settles down some.
No other pet can ever take Sachi's place, and I hope that by some miracle or other I get her back someday, but I'm learning a lot from these little guys, and knowing that they need me for more than just food and water is part of what gets me up each morning.