When you have feathers and are naturally very confident and vocal and are the “alpha” flock leader, other flock members never have to worry about hearing your honest opinion.
Quite the opposite, in fact.
This “beak-first” honesty policy is also super-helpful for training (and re-training) your large featherless assistant, who has great intentions but tends to be kind of slow on the uptake.
Let’s say, for example, she suddenly decides to swap out your favorite cockatiel millet for a new brand. You give it a sample and it is oh-so-clearly not up to snuff. And you know that if you don’t let her know in the most clear and decisive way, she might try to serve it to you again tomorrow. Disaster!
The products you are about to discover are Pearl’s current reigning favs. As his tastes change, you can be sure his large featherless press secretary will promptly update them “right away, no waiting” – Pearl’s preferred method.
Pearl's Picks: Cockatiel food.
If you’ve cared for a bird longer than five minutes, you’ve probably been told that pet birds are supposed to eat pellets. Pelleted food is nutritionally more sound. It also avoids picky eating (where a parrot picks through it and only eats the tastiest morsels…not that anyone of any species ever does that in our household, of course).
Unfortunately, no one told Pearl and his mommy this until he had been happily consuming his daily portions of birdseed for approximately 11 years. So we’ve never been able to convert him fully over to pelleted foods made especially for cockatiels.
But we have managed to achieve what I think is a pretty happy compromise. Pearl’s daily staple foods include Volkman Avian Science Cockatiel Birdseed with Sunflower with some Zupreem Natural Medium Bird Pellets mixed in.
He also gets a daily scoop of Food for Life Ezekiel Golden Flax cereal (you can get it at most grocery stores in the cereal section or online). He loves this cereal – it is like Grape Nuts (which he also loves) but it is organic – so no scary GMO stuff hidden in there anywhere.
For dinner every night, Pearl gets a warmed portion of Seeds of Change organic brown rice and quinoa blend with chia and kale (you can find it at nearly any grocery store). He loves it and if his large featherless waitress isn’t prompt in serving it, he screeches at her until she remembers.
Pearl's Picks: Vitamins & minerals.
Pearl gets free access to a calcium cuttlebone at all times. He loves his cuttlebone. There are different brands but I usually get the Living World cuttlebone for him. Cuttlebones are easy to find in pet stores in the cockatiel/parrot/bird section but they are also frequently sold as “turtle bones” in the reptiles section.
He also gets four drops of Milk Thistle with Dandelion Extract (alcohol-free for birds) in his water bottle once per week. This is for digestive support – I have been told it is very good for older birds in particular.
About a year ago I found this awesome veggie powder called Super Greens N Things that I sprinkle on all of Pearl’s food. He doesn’t even seem to notice it is there (whereas normally he reacts to anything new like “get that alien out of here, Mom!”) and it helps get more nutrients into him on a daily basis.
Pearl struggles off and on with yeast and bacterial infections (plus a suspected intestinal polyp) that can cause bloody poops. This really freaks his mommy out!
So in addition to all the periodic antibiotics and anti fungal meds he’s had to take over the years whenever he has these episodes, now he is taking a vet-prescribed maintenance oral probiotic made just for birds. I give it to him every few days (after only a small skirmish – he actually seems to like the taste but he just doesn’t want to take it).
Pearl's Picks: Cockatiel treats.
Pearl’s hands-down favorite treats are not cockatiel foods at all. They are his Grandma’s baked goods, and in particular waffles. The moment he sees a waffles he shrieks (and I mean SHRIEKS).
Of course, he doesn’t get waffles every day. Those are really extra special treats. On a daily basis, I will hand-feed him fresh organic greens and casually place other organic veggies and fruits out in his day play area where he can nibble on them if he is in the mood.
I buy him freshly sprouted and dried organic millet from a local (awesome) bird shop. He loves this millet so much I regularly drive 45 minutes one-way to the bird shop to get it for him! And I let him nibble some of my organic gluten-free crackers, muffins and ginger cookies now and again…by which I mean pretty much every day, since in a cockatiel’s world, if you don’t share you don’t care.
He also gets hard-boiled eggs (yup, you read that right) and nibbles on the cooked whites for some soft protein. And sometimes for a special treat I give him a dab of mashed potatoes with his dinner.
Pearl's Picks: Pet water bottle.
Several years ago, a fellow bird-owner friend converted Pearl from a water dish (which he insisted on roosting in – and pooping in – every single night) to a small pet water bottle. This was an awesome call!
Ever since, Pearl has used Petco’s You & Me small water bottle. It is easy to keep clean. I clean it and fill it with fresh spring water once per week, adding the four drops of Milk Thistle with Dandelion at that time. It is much more safe and hygienic than a water dish.
By the way, these types of water dispensers are typically sold in the small pet section in stores (here, think guinea pig/hamster rather than cockatiel).
Pearl's Picks: Cockatiel perches.
We have tried so many different kinds of parrot perches over the years. I try to add in some different surfaces and thicknesses for foot fitness and health and to keep his claws filed down, but since he spends most of his waking hours outside his cage, this isn’t as vital as it would be with some pet birds.
He still has his original cockatiel cage with his original plastic ridged wall-to-wall perch and he likes it so he gets to keep it.
Then he has two shorter perches that screw on to his cage bars. One is a Sweet Feet and Beak Safety Pumice Perch for birds and the other is a Petco You & Me 1/2-inch Natural Hardwood bird perch. He seems to like both of these a lot and uses them for sleeping and roosting daily.
Pearl's Picks: Winter birdie warmer.
A few years ago when we were living in a particularly icy and drafty little casa, I bought Pearl a cockatiel birdie warmer. The one I chose for him is the K&H Pet Products Snuggle Up Small Grey Warmer.
Pearl loves it…and I mean he REALLY loves it.
It is small. And grey. And emits warmth. And sits on the side of his cage right by his sleeping cup (formerly a water dish that is now filled with soft nest-able paper towels). So you can see where this is going….I finally had to get a washcloth and cover it up from the inside with bird-safe clips so he wouldn’t get territorial and hiss and try to bite when anyone (like his mama) got too close to it.
But it is a great resource, especially as winters seem to be getting colder here and he gets older. Now in the mornings when I go to wake him up he has warm little pink feet. 🙂
Pearl's Picks: Parrot toys.
I used to buy Pearl lots of very expensive, intricate and colorful so-called “parrot toys” until I realized that in his eyes, everything is his and thus everything is a cockatiel toy. In other words, he doesn’t look at something and think “Oh that has chewable colored paper and straws and finger traps on it – that must be my designated toy.” If it is interesting and crispy and – especially – clearly off-limits, he is going to want to investigate.
So no need for pricey parrot toys. The whole casa is a parrot toy when you are a parrot.
Speaking of which, Pearl loves to chew. He loves it. And this makes sense, since in his species, he needs to chew to keep his sharp beak filed and smooth. But in a domestic setting, this also means he tries to chew paint, wood, mini blinds, towels, laptop keys, his mama’s purse, anything he can get his beak on that looks chewable. He especially loves to chew anything I specifically do not want him to chew – like the kinds of things that can get a rental security deposit withheld when we move.
So I work very hard to keep him supplied with more productive (i.e. less expensive) chewable. Wicker is the hands-down favorite – right now he has a wicker basket and a wicker wheel and in the past he had a whole wicker couch, until it became clear he was the only family member still willing to sit on it.
He also enjoys chewing on plain white adding machine paper, crinkly plain brown packaging paper, paper towels, toilet tissue rolls (here I mean the ones with all the paper still on them – the inner brown rolls I steer clear of because they can have glue/adhesive on them) and cardboard.
And he loves to chew the crap out of banana peels, but only while they are still on the bananas. No telling how many bunches of organic bananas he has chewed up, but then again, we really aren’t counting around here as long as he is chewing on them and not on the crown molding or the mini-blinds.
Pearl's Picks: Pet supplies.
As I mention in much greater detail in Pearl’s popular book, “Love & Feathers,” our entire casa pretty much revolves around that greatest invention of all times – the paper towel.
What would we do without those wonderful white select-a-size rolls? I honestly don’t even want to think about it.
Thankfully I will never have to. Pearl’s grandparents keep us fully stocked through their award-winning “all you can use” grandbird plan (aka their weekly trips to Costco). 🙂