Raising a cockatoo can be an enormously rewarding experience if done correctly. If done incorrectly, however, you will have a real problem on your hands. A sullen, moody teenager is more delightful. It's a lot easier to raise your cockatoo right than it is to address problems later on.
Purchase a high-quality seed formulated especially for cockatoos and supplement it with fresh produce and nuts. Fruits can be fresh or dried. If you feed dried fruits, however, make sure they are organic with no additives. Dried fruits and vegetables are advantageous because they last longer, which is great for traveling. If you wet them with a little warm water just before feeding, your cockatoo is sure to do the happy dance. Cockatoos get most of their protein from legumes, cooked eggs, cheese, sprouts, beans and spinach. Occasionally, a small piece of cooked meat or fish is fine. Cockatoo pellets are available if your vet feels your avian friend is not getting enough of his nutritional needs met but back off on the citrus fruits if feeding pellets.
Exercise and Sleep
Your cockatoo needs exercise to be happy and healthy. Give your cockatoo three to four hours of playtime outside the cage and at least an hour of interaction with you each day. Play gyms, made especially for large birds, are also great for getting your bird to meet his exercise requirements. The cage should be big enough that he can move about and accommodate plenty of perches and toys -- about 40 inches wide and 36 inches deep. Cockatoos love big, shelled nuts so allow him to open the nuts himself to keep him occupied and provide an outlet for his energy. Your cockatoo should get plenty of rest, at least 10 to 12 hours in a dark quiet room.
Cockatoos are highly intelligent birds and require a great deal of entertainment, enrichment and challenges. There are plenty of books and videos on the market to teach you how to train your cockatoo to perform all kinds of cool tricks like talking, rolling over, tossing a ball and just about anything else a dog can do. Teaching your cockatoo tricks will not only bond you with her, but will ensure you have a happy, well-adjusted cockatoo that does not bite or self-mutilate. Provide plenty of puzzles, games, toys and things to chew and explore so she can keep herself occupied while you aren't home. Leave a television or radio on to keep her company.
Cockatoos come down with the same illnesses that affect other birds but are especially susceptible to several. Psittacine beak and feather disease is one such disease. This is a virus,often fatal, that attacks the system responsible for creating and maintaining feathers. Obesity is also a problem because many cockatoos are getting too much fat in their diets and not enough exercise. Obesity leads to lipomas, or fatty tumors, and fatty liver disease. Bumblefoot is characterized by swelling of the feet and lesions that discharge a pus-like substance. Self-mutilation and feather plucking can be caused by either a physical or emotional problem; it should be checked out immediately before it gets too advanced to address.
If you're getting the idea that cockatoos are challenging, expensive and time-consuming, you're right. These highly intelligent, fascinating birds are not for everyone. Be sure you have the time, money and resources to raise him right or he'll wind up just another cockatoo looking for a home.
Michelle A. Rivera is the author of many books and articles. She attended the University of Missouri Animal Cruelty School and is certified with the Florida Animal Control Association. She is the executive director of her own nonprofit, Animals 101, Inc. Rivera is an animal-assisted therapist, humane educator, former shelter manager, rescue volunteer coordinator, dog trainer and veterinary technician.