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Complete Pet Cockatoo Guide

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Complete Pet Cockatoo Guide: Everything You Need to Know

Cockatoos make fun, affectionate pets for bird lovers. With their big personalities, these parrots really feel like part of the family. But caring for one of these birds comes with lots of responsibility too. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know before getting a cockatoo, including:

Choosing a Cockatoo

There are over 20 cockatoo species, but just 3 main types people keep as pets:

  • Umbrella cockatoos
  • Moluccan cockatoos
  • Goffin’s cockatoos

Key differences:

  • Size– Umbrellas grow the biggest at up to 20 inches, while Goffins remain a petite 12-14 inches
  • Lifespan– Moluccans live to 60+ years, Goffins 50, Umbrellas can reach 80 years old with proper care
  • Personality– Each variety has a fun, affectionate personality, but Umbrellas and Moluccans engage and learn more behavior tricks

Other factors to consider:

  • Noise– Some scream loudly, especially when bored, so apartments rarely work well
  • Mess– Expect lots of powerful chewing and plenty of powder down, debris, and droppings to clean daily
  • Time– Cockatoos are emotionally needy birds. A family member should spend quality time interacting with them for hours each day

Setting Up a Home

As big parrots, cockatoos need a spacious home base:

  • Cage– Minimum 30x20x48 inches but larger is even better so they can spread their wings
  • Outside cage playtime is also a must
  • Mix of perches of varying widths and materials
  • Food and water bowls – stainless steel works well
  • Heavy-duty lock – these escape artists learn tricks to break out!

You’ll also need lots of bird toys on rotation to keep things interesting and deter chewing on less suitable items.

Choose a spot for the cage in a high-traffic common area where the cockatoo can participate in daily life without having to contend with loud music, TV, or other constant noise triggers.

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Set things up before bringing their new friend home as it takes time for most birds to adjust to a new environment. You’ll want to minimize surprises when they first arrive.

Acclimating Them to their New Home

Cockatoos take immense comfort in established routines. Starting as you mean to go on will avoid problems transitioning them later after bad habits have already formed.

Use these tips for acclimating a new cockatoo:

  1. Allow them to adjust slowly to your home’s new sights and sounds before expecting much interaction
  2. Follow a consistent daily schedule for sleep, exercise, feeding times from the start
  3. Move slowly when interacting, allowing them to approach you first before initiating contact
  4. Use treats to positively reinforce desired behaviors

Patience is key. It can take many months for cockatoos in a new home to feel fully comfortable.

Cockatoo Care Fundamentals

Once you’ve welcomed a cockatoo into your family, you have an endless list of responsibilities to meet their complex needs. Caring for cockatoos requires both an intellectual and emotional commitment.

Key elements of cockatoo care include:

  • Diet– Clean, fresh foods refilled twice daily:
    • High quality cockatoo pellet blend
    • Chopped fresh fruits and veggies
    • Sprouted seeds or nuts
    • Occasional cooked egg, beans or grains
  • Grooming– Bathe/mist them 2+ times per week to keep skin, nails, beak, feathers healthy
  • Exercise– Minimum 2 hours supervised playtime daily outside cage
  • Toys– Rotate new toys into cage and play areas to prevent boredom
  • Cleaning– Frequent wide-spectrum disinfecting of housing, food containers
  • Outings– Bring them along responsibly to enrich their world

You’ll quickly pick up on all your cockatoo’s unique needs but their proper care should never be compromised.

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Health Concerns for Pet Cockatoos

With exceptionally long lifespans, cockatiels can live upwards of 60-80 years but only with conscientious care by diligent owners. Understanding common health issues helps bird guardians recognize problems early.

Be watchful for these signs of illness in pet cockatoos:

  • Droppings changes– Any variation in color/consistency can indicate issues
  • Feather plucking– Monitor excessive damaging chewing behavior
  • Beak shape differences– Beak abnormalities may require filing/trimming help
  • Diet issues– Loss of appetite or difficulty eating
  • Tumors/growths– Get newly emerging lumps checked promptly
  • Situational stresses– Major unwanted events can take a heavy toll

Routine well-checks with an avian vet allows the specialist to track a cocktail’s changing health over time. Have lab work run at least annually.

Catching signs early makes a big difference in health outcomes. Don’t delay scheduling vet visits at the first signs of problems.

Behavioral Considerations

Cockatoos carry a notorious reputation for attention-seeking behaviors. Those loving snuggles? They often come packaged alongside loud demands, chewing mischief, and plenty of mess!

Here are some insights on cockatoo conduct to expect:

Typical Positive Behaviors

  • Playful nature
  • Affectionate personality
  • Eagerness for praise

Common Problematic Conduct

  • Biting – Instinctive but hurts and startles folks
  • Territoriality – They guard “their people” jealously
  • Destructive chewing – These busy beaks aren’t picky
  • Screeching – Piercingly loud screams express needs…repeatedly!
  • Feather damaging – Chewing from boredom/stress
  • Aggression – Beak lunging or bites often tied to breeding behaviors

Redirecting Unwanted Conduct

While hormonal influences drive some behaviors intrinsically, thoughtful handling makes all the difference influencing cockatoo conformity over time.

  • Meet their needs better – Evaluate if an issue links to diet, exercise, stressors
  • Ignore problem behaviors – Remove attention rewards for negative conduct
  • Use consistent training- Praise and treat desired conduct; limit reinforcement of unwanted habits
  • Adjust the environment – Ensure their home setup meets all care standards
  • Consider species tendencies – Some varieties carry more innate personality quirks
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Cockatoo Companionship Needs

Expect extreme loyalty from these velcro pets! Cockatoos bond intensely to their families. Deprived of enough engaging attention, they deteriorate emotionally and physically.

Ideally, cockatoos should:

  • Have near-constant company
  • Get held, cuddled, and played with for hours daily
  • Have access outside their cage the majority of time
  • Engage in foraging activities and mental enrichment games
  • Have stimulating human interaction involving new sounds, words, and tricks

If no person can commit extensive time daily, a single pet cockatoo suffers greatly without friends. Consider adding a second cockatoo or parrot playmate. Of course, getting another bird doubles responsibilities too!

Financial Realities of Responsible Care

Cost remains the dealbreaker driving many unprepared new bird owners to desperately re-home their cockatoos. Can you afford one? Maybe…but what about for their whole 60+ year life?!

Expect spending in these ballpark ranges:

First Year Expenses

  • Bird and supplies – $1000+
  • Vet well visits/testing – $300+

Annual Costs

  • Food – $300+
  • Toys – $250+
  • Vet care – $350+
  • Other supplies – $200+

Overall Total Lifetime Care Investment – $75,000+

Cockatoo ownership requires proper research, realistic planning, and financial readiness for their long-term enriched care before making an impulsive decision. Too often, birds pay the price for human good intentions gone wrong.

With understanding and prep work, sharing your home with a cockatoo promises rewarding adventures together though! This guide covers the key considerations to set everyone up for success. Let their antics brighten your days!

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