9 essential elements for a cockatoo to roam freely in your house

If you let your bird spend TONS of time out of its cage, like I do with my Goffin’s Cockatoo, Boo, you’re going to need a few things to keep your sanity. I use the term “free-range cockatoo” because Boo spends most of his time outside of his cage and is pretty much a “house bird” (except he goes into his cage when I’m away for an extended period of time or when he’s in his sleeping cage at bedtime). The phrase also makes me LOL. The items on my list seem to fall into the home cleaning and upkeep categories.

Here are some products I own and use, or wish I had:

  1. A good vacuum, for carpeted areas. Right now, I’m using a Eureka that clogs every five minutes. Somehow it does the job. I’m thinking the Hoover F5918-900 SteamVac Spinscrub Pet is going to be my next purchase, although Dyson is hands down the leader in pet vacuums. I’ve had a lot of luck with shop vacs in the past, but they’re pretty ugly…and if you’re like me, you won’t want to put the vac away because you’ll only be using it. again in a few hours.
  2. A good floor cleaner, not carpet! I just use a regular $10 mop from Walmart with something to mop up.
  3. As for cleaners, it’s important that they’re non-toxic, especially if your bird is likely to put its mouth where you’ve cleaned (unless you’re deep cleaning and scrubbing the pristine corners of your home, and even then, better prevent to cure). I’m a big fan of the Poop Off, especially the one with the nifty brush cap. I find it works great on carpets and floors, and the brush bottle is always out in case of a quick cleanup, which was needed about every 20 minutes until Boo decided to potty train.
  4. Pet dig up! Boo is afraid of random inanimate objects, so placing a “Scared Boo” where I don’t want him to chew always works… for at least 20 minutes. Boo is quite stubborn and quickly realizes that NOTHING in the house will eat or hurt him (the downside of raising him so well), so this doesn’t work out so well. The best way to prevent damage to my home is to not have what I don’t want him to chew on out of his reach. This was VERY hard to do when he was a baby going through the wire-chewing stage, and that was one of the rare bad behaviors where I actively punished him (since he could die if he encountered a live wire). Unfortunately, I made the mistake of punishing him with a spray bottle and to this day he hates being sprayed or misted (but at least he learned real quick not to chew on my electronic wires!). I haven’t found a commercially available parrot deterrent that works yet, but I just found Bitter Apple for Birds and I’m going to give it a try. Pepper solutions don’t work and do the opposite of making you chew MORE, because you love spicy flavors. Oh, and the tin foil worked for about a day, until he found he could find the tasty door frame by ripping it off.
  5. Newspaper. I put this under where Boo likes to sit a lot. It’s free, if you get the documents from the local cafeteria community. If you’re worried about newspaper on the floor looking like your house is a birdcage, use clear plastic (to make it look like you’re one of those rare people who keeps everything preserved) or carpet scraps (which can look white trash, so especially don’t use it if you’re in a mobile home). I find that putting old bills and mail where Boo likes to poop can feel like they’re there “accidentally” (which gives the impression that I’m atotalsluggard). Unfortunately, there is no aesthetically pleasing solution to bird poop.
  6. A Parrot Playstand is essential. Currently, I am using a pendant that I put together from a wire curtain hanger, a rope hanger, and a rope swing. After being afraid of the wire hanger for a whole day, Boo decided this was the place to perch, and now he sits in the spot that looks the most uncomfortable and chews on the bumps on my textured ceiling. Hanging game stands are NOT recommended for aggressive or fearful birds. I’m dying for a Manzanita activity tree. Being able to carry the playstation around the house with you is almost a necessity and will help you control the screaming, the amount of poop you have to clean up, and the destruction your pet bird can cause. Of course, it’s important to train your bird to stay in the game stall, otherwise you’ll have wasted a lot of time and possibly money. What has worked for me and Boo: Make it the ONLY place you give your bird “treats” (except his cage), and give him TONS of attention when he’s playing on the play stand. Having a play stall, even an extra cool and expensive one, is no excuse for giving your bird less attention; it is only a preventive measure of destruction of houses.
  7. Things that are “okay” for your bird to destroy, possibly disguised as household items. Commercially available bird toys are great, but can be expensive to replace. Parrots are supposed to destroy toys, and it’s as good for your sanity as crossword puzzles are for people, so don’t complain about the price! If you noticed the toilet paper roll on Boo’s hanging hanger…it’s a really cheap fun toy. Boo also likes cat balls and take-home paper boxes with treats inside. Anything that is fun to scoop or mash food is usually a hit in my house. One of Boo’s favorite pet shop toys is a parrot piƱata – he loves to chew on this relatively inexpensive toy!
  8. Treats are also essential, especially if you want your bird to stay at his play stall or not chew on other things in your home. Boo loves pasta, pizza, and eggs. I’m kind of a health freak, so I often eat from my bowl of soy milk and whole grain cereal. Since the vet recently reprimanded me for going on a 70% parrot diet (for good reason, as there has been a ton of recent research on the dietary needs of parrots and cockatiels), I have been buying more than its yummy from the pet section instead of the human section. Lafebers Parrot Avi-Cakes are Boo’s all-time favorite, and are good for hiding in paper towel tubes and other places to encourage foraging and keep him entertained. Treats also often function as toys.
  9. …that’s about it, as far as the actual products I use or want to use with my Goffins Cockatoo! The final essential to owning a pet bird is bonding with your companion and paying close attention to him so he thinks you’re the guru at what’s fun and popular. Taking time to redirect destructive behavior to more acceptable objects is a must, as is convincing your bird that his toys and treats are MUCH cooler than the boring pens, computers, and electronics you have elsewhere in the house.