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   Who better to ask for cockatiel advice than a cockatiel? But shhh, don't tell Detour that! She's under the impression she's a person!

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Dear Detour,
   I got a cockatiel from a friend about one year ago. They told me that he was abused before they got him from the shelter. I really want to make a connection with my pet, but he seems scarred for life. I mean, when I put my head up to the cage, he will be affectionate and lean his head against mine. But when I put out my hand, he will immediately open his beak warningly and his crest will go up halfway. I saw a picture on your webpage of a person petting a cockatiels head and I suddenly felt a saddeing sensation. I hope you can give me some advice on how to gain my cockatiels trust.
- Anna

   That was a photo of me! I love having my head scritched. But I was also handfed and am still with my original mommy too, and that makes a difference!
   Gaining the trust of any adult bird, especially one that has in the past been abused, is a trick. He may never get to the point where you can scritch his head (which feels sooooo good!). So, to start with, never grab him. You won't be able to get him to like your hands if you ever just reach out and grab him. So, grab his favorite goodie instead, and offer it to him. He can only get that goodie from you, and only from your hands. You can hold it between your fingers for now, and as he gets good at that, offer it on your palm. If he is reluctant after a few days to get the goodie from you, take his food away about a half hour before you plan to work with him, and return his food immediately when you are done. Offer the goodie both in and out of his cage. My mommy sometimes makes my parents come out of the cage to get the treat.

   Then, offer your finger to him to perch on, as you dangle the goodie above your finger. You may have to do this gradually. After a time, you should be able to put him on your shoulder. The thing is to not push him to go faster than he wants to go. You should talk to him a lot too, most males love to be talked to!

   It will probably take a while for him to get warmed up. Remember to never draw your hand away quickly when he hisses or pecks at you - this makes him think he's discovered a way for you to leave him alone! Instead, leave your hand there for an extra bit of time, before slowly retracting it. Since we are very social animals, we crave human attention. I'm sure if you follow these steps, in time your bird will come around to realize you mean him no harm. Good luck!

Dear Detour,
  Is covering the birds with a black cover good or bad? When should we do this at night, say about 9:00pm est. ?
- Mark

   It depends. If your birds are in an area where there is a lot of activity or lights from the street shine in, then it's best to cover them at bedtime. If you're covering them in an attempt to prevent night frights, it's probably not going to work. We have night frights because we are scared; we hear something we cannot see, and assume it's a predator. If you are covering for night frights, cover only 3 sides of the cage (at most) and leave a nightlight or dim lamp on nearby. If you don't have a problem with lights shining in or with night frights, it's not necessary to cover them.

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