May 2002 Magazine
Socializing is one of the most important things that you can do for your tiel chicks. It is a critical part of your tiel chicks early development. By socializing, you seek to develop a secure, friendly, tame pet who is self-confident and a content member of his human flock. As a responsible breeder it is your job to teach the chicks how to function as members of the flock. Socialization is essentially teaching chicks the skills they will need to fit in with the family. Since cockatiels are flock animals you will be teaching them how to survive in the human flock.
Early socialization when to start
You will want to start early socialization as soon as the chicks are able to be handled. This is usually around 7-10 days of age. Taking the chicks out and gently petting and talking to them is an important part of socializing the chicks. Encourage other family members to handle the chicks under your supervision and closely monitor their interaction with the chicks. It's important for the chicks to be exposed to a number of different people to prepare for interaction in their human flock. Have family members cleanse their hands with a bacterial cleanser and make sure their hands are warm when picking up one of the chicks. When the chicks are really young, this time should be limited to five minutes twice a day. Cockatiel chicks will hiss as they get older, mostly out of fear that there is some stranger entering their nest. Don't let the hissing discourage you. Simply talk very gently to the chick as you pick him up. Make him feel safe and protected in the same way you would with a human infant.
Why socialize chicks?
The purpose for socializing chicks is to make it easier for them to adjust living with their human flock. The best way to do this is to raise them in an environment much like the home and family that they will be a part of the flock. In this way you provide your chicks with the tools they need to survive and be a contented member of the flock. When the chicks are between three and four weeks this is a good time to give them mixed frozen veggies. While the chicks are actually to young to eat the veggies, the bright colors help to prepare them for brightly colored toys. And most chicks will carry the veggies in their beaks running up and down the brooder with them. The chicks react to them as they would playing with toys.
The parent birds in the wild spend time with their chicks teaching them how to live in the world around them. They spend their time training the chicks how to survive and how to interact with the other members of the flock. As a responsible breeder you take the role of the parent birds teaching the chicks survival skills and their place in the social order of the flock. Dependent upon you for emotional support, the chick learns love, affection and self-confidence from being in social situations with you and other members of the family.
Tiel chicks are very suspicious of anything new, with early socialization, you prepare them in advance for new toys and new activities that will enrich their lives.
How to socialize chicks
Cockatiel chicks are very social creatures. One of the ways you can socialize your chicks is to teach them to eat. Eating is a social experience. Flock oriented animals eat together. Teaching the chicks to eat can be an opportunity for socialization with the entire family. Select a variety of foods that you would enjoy and allow the chicks to share the food with you. Imitation is one of the greatest ways in which you can teach the chick to eat food. If they see you, as mommy or daddy bird, they will want to eat what you are eating. This is a great way for the chicks to learn about weaning foods. Starting this when the chicks are four to five weeks old gives you an ample amount of time to teach the chicks about eating, thus preparing them for the next critical stage in their development which is weaning.
A good experience for the chicks is to get them involved with the different members of the family. This helps to prepare them for the family that they will be a part of after weaning. Let family members hold, pet, cuddle, and play with the chicks. Exposure to many different individuals in the family provides the experience that is so critical to socializing the chicks properly. The chicks need to learn about the family environment and to find themselves comfortable with the noise of the vacuum cleaner.
I had a lutino tiel chick who thought one of the most fun things he could do is ride on my shoulder while I was vacuuming. Because he had been exposed to the regular routine of seeing and hearing a vacuum he wasn't the least bit afraid. He enjoyed the event and sang to the vacuum. This is an important part of socialization - teaching your chicks to be comfortable in a family setting while activities that are typical of families are happening. You want the chicks to enjoy new visitors coming to visit the family and the normal everyday noises of family life such as the new baby screaming, the dog barking, the radio playing, or the many different sounds outside of the home.
Fledging another important time for socialization
This is a critical time in your chicks' lives. They are learning all about flight and need to be given time to fly and to learn to land safely. With flight the chicks develop coordination, build strong muscles in the chest, wings, and shoulders. This flying ability gives them self-confidence and makes for a very happy well-adjusted chick. Chicks learn how to manuver while flying and how to land safely on two feet. It is important to the chicks that they be able learn flying in a home environment, since they will need to negotiate the dangers that are present in the home. This type of socialization will better prepare the chick for living in a home, as he will have learned to coordinate the speed of his flight with what is in front of him and so that he will not crash into windows and walls which may result in serious trauma injuries. This is an important part of socialization, in which you teach the winged members of the flock how to survive in the home. Teaching survival skills is a necessary part of socializing your tiel chicks.
Playing a necessary part of socialization
It is important for your chicks to be taught how to play as a part of their socialization. A number of toys can be provided. There needs to be a variety of shapes, colors, and textures which provide the chicks with an excellent learning experience. This training will provide the chicks a way to escape boredom in the future, by having the ability to play with toys. You will find that your tiel chicks are able to invent games to play. Most of my cockatiel chicks enjoy playing fetch. The chicks are curious and interested in everything around them. Their inquistive natures will cause them to go running after a ball that has just been rolled past them. They will, just as a human toddler, drop toys over the side of the cage and wait for their human to pick up the toy so that they can throw it over the other side. This is part of learning and part of growing for the chicks. A responsible breeder provides ample time for the chicks to learn how to play independently. As a breeder who wants to have chicks that are confident, happy, healthy and well socialized, providing a number of interactive playtimes between you and the chicks is an integral part of early socializing.
Need for attention part of socialization
Tiel chicks as members of the parrot family are intelligent birds. The more intelligent the bird, the more it needs attention. The chicks have very complex social and psychological natures and therefore much greater needs for love and companionship. Your chicks, once fully feathered and able to be held for short periods, need love and attention. Take time to hold your chicks so that they feel warm, loved, and safe with you. Companionship with their clutch mates is for a very short time. The chicks need to feel secure as companions of their human flock.
As a breeder it is important to provide for the needs of the chicks that are in your care. Receiving attention that is totally focused on the chick is an important of part of socialization. This kind of focused attention should be given to the chick for at least one hour as a day. The chick needs to feel loved, secure, and assured that it's needs will be taken care of by his human flock. Cuddling, petting, holding, warmth and love are some of the most basic needs of the chicks during socialization. You must provide companionship for your chicks so that they are not lonely or bored. If the emotional needs of the chicks are not being adequately provided, this may result in a chick that has behavioral problems. Teach your clients how to continue the socialization process with their new bird. Understanding and providing for the needs of the bird will result in a loving companion and trusting pet.
Our responsibility as a breeder
We are the ones who are responsible for our tiel chicks quality of life. We must give them a stimulating environment. Train them with the tools that they will be to be comfortable with their human flock. Help them to adjust to the sounds of a home which is not a natural environment for them. Allow them time to interact with other members of the flock. Provide opportunities for them to be active participants in family activities. We are the ones who can make a difference as to whether or not our chicks have the skills to survive living in the human flock or have a life filled with loneliness, despair, and misery because the necessary socializing was neglected. May all of your chicks find happy homes filled with love and the joy of being part of a family.
Winged Wisdom Note: Iris, Bob, and their three children live in Maryland. They are owned by 19 birds. The flock consists of a bare eyed cockatoo, a Congo African grey, a quaker, a senegal, a green rump parrotlet, a lori and 12 cockatiels.
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