Owning a Cockatoo is a lifetime obligation. This is the first thing I tell a person when they fall in love with the breed and want one of their own. My next thought is that you never own a Cockatoo, they own you!
My husband Bill and I share our home with a Moluccan Cockatoo. Satch will be 8 years old in May of 2007 and he's shared our home since he was a little featherless chick. We have hand raised him ourself and sharing our home with Satch is like sharing our home with a perpetual 2-3 year old.
Had I read many of the articles written today about Moluccans, I would never have brought one into my home! I did read a lot about them but none of the horror stories I've read over the years since bringing Satch into our family.
Cockatoos are famous for the amount of attention they demand. This is true, they do demand a lot of attention. The trick for us in raising Satch has been not to meet those demands. When sharing your home with a Moluccan cockatoo you must always be top bird in the flock and never let the bird take that place. You must set the rules and the bird learns to follow his leader.
The best advice I can give anyone that is determined to raise a pet Cockatoo is to never give a baby bird more attention in the beginning than you are willing to give it when it's 5 or 10 or 20 years old. A Cockatoo will try to demand a large amount of your time and attention. You must train them to accept what you have to give and no more.
Satch is a prime example of a Moluccan Cockatoo that has learned to adapt to a family with a busy work schedule and limited time to spend meeting his demands. Satch gets our complete attention every day but for short periods of time. He has learned to entertain himself. This is an important step in raising a Cockatoo and especially true of the Moluccan. They are well known for being screamers! If you don't want noise in the house, don't bring a Cockatoo home. Even a Moluccan can be taught not to go into excessive screaming phases. At the same time you must remember they are a bird and in the mornings and in the evenings they are going to make very loud noises! They will celebrate the morning sunshine by acting like a bird and showing off and calling to you. In the evenings they will spend another ten minutes or so screaming and making loud noises to call in their flock for the evening.
How do you teach a Cockatoo not to scream? Go back to the basics. Do not respond to their loud outbreaks. Ignore them. When no one responds in any way, the bird realizes this will not gain them the attention they need. If you yell or start talking to them, they get a response from you and that's all they want. They will quickly learn that screaming produces attention and it will become a daily way of life for your bird and one that can be very difficult to break.
Should you share your home with a cockatoo? I don't recommend the breed to a lot of people but for those of us that are willing to love the bird for what it is and not what we want it to become, it's one of life's most rewarding experiences.
Cockatoos are lovers by nature. They like to be held and cuddled. They are very much a hands on bird. Cockatoos do talk but not with the delight and expertise of the Grays or the Amazons. Satch has a few phrases that he says and he says them clearly. What is so special about a Cockatoo and especially the Moluccan is their clown disposition. They love to show off and play. They can put on a show that will keep you and the family laughing for a long time!
As with other birds it's very important to remember how intelligent a Cockatoo is. They cannot sit for hours alone in their cage with nothing to do. This will drive a wonderful, intelligent creature crazy. They will start acting out, become very agressive and start plucking their feathers out. A Cockatoo must have enough toys in their cage every day to keep them entertained and busy.
Cockatoos are chewers and will destroy anything within reach of their beak. Wood is their favorite chew object, but they are the least partcular in what they destroy. If you don't want something chewed and ripped apart, keep it away from a Cockatoo.
I've been ask about the expense of constantly replacing toys for Satch. It can be a expensive problem if you don't think with a creative mind. I buy most of his toys at yard sales and thrift shops. He loves baby toys and baby shoes most of all. I buy every set of wooden blocks I find at these places. Satch can threw several wooden blocks in one day. Most of his toys are not bought at a pet shops.
If you want a life long friend and companion that will live as long as you do and will entertain you every day and love you non stop, think Cockatoo! They aren't toys or something cute to decorate your home with. They are live animals, very intelligent and take a lot of time and care. If you are truly considering a Cockatoo in your home, think 'lifetime obligation' because this pet is probably going to outlive you! It is so unfair to bring one home to bond with you and the family only to be re-homed later because it's too noisy, too messy or you have grown tired of it. If you aren't sure that you are ready to spend a lifetime loving your cockatoo, you are not ready to take this big step in life.
A Cockatoo in your home isn't just another pet. The Cockatoo will be an extension of your family. If you always view them as an extension of your family your chances of becoming a successful Cockatoo owner will be much better.