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Hormones & 'Tiels

Is your cockatiel acting mean or strange and you're not sure why? It might be hormones. Find out the signs of hormonal 'tiels.

Linda S. Rubin

Cockatiel

If you observe your cockatiel , you are better prepared to gauge your cockatiel’s immediate needs, wants — and most importantly — any warning signs that can help you head off trouble and respond effectively.and its behavior closely and often, you can learn how to interpret its basic emotions, disposition, health and welfare. Once you decipher normal behavior and abnormal behavior you are better prepared to gauge your cockatiel’s immediate needs, wants — and most importantly — any warning signs that can help you head off trouble and respond effectively.

Cockatiels & Hormones
Most cockatiel owners find that by their cockatiel’s first birthday a shift in hormone levels
has occurred, and their formerly affectionate pet’s needs turn toward the urge to reproduce. As hormone levels rise, changes in behavior can occur. Sometimes hormone changes can make a cockatiel less friendly, even downright nasty. However, once hormones return to normal levels, cockatiels return to their loving and cheerful selves.

Male Hormonal Behaviors
Cockatiel owners sometimes cite concern over their male cockatiel becoming aggressive. As their hormones begin to rise, males may become nippy and may outright bite; however, don’t take it personally because hormones now rule!

Male courtship behaviors include hopping, strutting and rapidly striking shiny or attractive objects with their beaks repetitively. Males sing a loud, repetitive courtship song, seemingly unending, with wings stretched open and wide during the mating "dance.” Courtship is successful if the female allows the male to mount her back, while the male stretches a wing out to hold her as they mate.

Male courtship songs can be elaborate and become enthusiastically loud, while female cockatiels appear to "cry,” emitting soft worrying chirps, which is normal.

Female Hormonal Behaviors
In general, it is not a matter of whether a female cockatiel will lay eggs; but rather when. Female cockatiels usually become interested in starting a clutch by 12 months of age, although sometimes much later.

An early cue to broody behavior is when a cockatiel starts to show a lot of interest in tearing up paper at the bottom of her cage to create a hollow depression for future eggs. If there is no access to paper, cockatiels are likely to shred other materials.

It may seem that cockatiels select the oddest places to nest when allowed outside the cage. If your cockatiel spends a lot of time in a particular area (e.g.,bookcase shelf, top of a bureau, behind a pillow, etc.), be aware she may be preparing a very private nest. Some cockatiels remove a few of their soft, downy feathers, or an occasional flight feather as nesting material for a future clutch of eggs.

When sitting eggs inside a nest box, it is not unusual for a cockatiel to jump and hiss and threaten upon any intrusion. Some birds open their wings in a wide "fan” (to appear larger) at the nest entrance hole in an attempt to warn you off and protect the nest.

Broody females squat low on the perch, and emit soft, little "piteous cries,” sometimes accompanied by trembling. This is normal, hormonal behavior signaling the desire to reproduce. You can continue your usual head- and crest-scratching sessions, but resist touching your cockatiel on her body, which can mimic the process of mating.

Once eggs appear, do not remove them! Allow your cockatiel to incubate her eggs a full week  beyond the usual hatching schedule (18 to 21 days). Or, preferably, allow her to abandon the eggs on her own. Removing eggs prematurely can stimulate further egg-laying to make up for eggs lost.

Egg-laying cockatiels should be watched carefully for the possibility of egg-binding. Risk of egg-binding increases when cockatiels do not receive enough daily exercise to strengthen muscles involved with egg-laying, if they lack enough calcium in the diet or when laying continuous clutches. First-time layers and older birds are also more prone to egg-binding.

Unusual or rigid posture (a "penguin-like” appearance), tail pumping, straining, abandoning the nesting site and either perching or sitting dejectedly with closed eyes, can signal egg-binding problems. If a heat source does not relax muscles and produce an egg in a few hours, seek qualified medical help from a veterinarian immediately.

Egg-binding can lead to a more serious condition called dystocia, which can be fatal. 

Want to learn more?

My Cockatiel Laid An Egg, So Now What?


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Posted: September 20, 2013, 5:15 p.m. PDT

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