Examples of the colors I produce.
All images are Copyright © 2019 by Karen Trinkaus and may not be used without permission.
Examples of the colors I produce.
All images are Copyright © 2019 by Karen Trinkaus and may not be used without permission.
How do I get added to your waitlist?
How long is your list?
Never ask me this. 🙂
It’s long. What happens is that I get a lot of people messaging me at the end of the breeding season, after everything has already been reserved. These people then make up the top of my list for the next breeding season. But by the time I have a bird for them, their life circumstances may have changed and a good many either don’t respond or are no longer interested. At least half my waitlist drops off.
The other half is often composed of people who want something very specific. Unless you’re looking for the exact same thing, odds are good that you won’t be competing with them for a bird.
So don’t stress about the length of my list, especially for cockatiels and green cheeks. I always have plenty of those.
How does the waitlist work?
I add you to my list, along with the color/sex you’re looking for, if any. When I’m ready to take deposits (usually after I know color and sex of a clutch) I will start going down my list. The more lax your requirements, the faster you’ll get a bird. For instance, if you tell me you want a boy, I’m going to skip over you if all I have are girls. I won’t contact you until I have a bird that matches your description.
Do I need to pay a deposit to be on the list?
No. A deposit is only required once you’ve decided to purchase a specific bird.
What can I do to improve my odds of getting a bird?
Don’t be particular about color or gender. This is my 2020 waitlist for cockatiels (sans names).
Boys are extremely popular in ringnecks and cockatiels, so if you don’t specify sex, your odds are a lot better. Likewise for color. Violet and blue are the most popular colors for ringnecks. “Yellow” is popular in cockatiels (lutino or heavy pied). Many people want lutino males, even though these are difficult to make.
I get a lot of requests for pineapple green cheeks. People know the name, so they ask for it. I’ve gotten ONE in four years. But I get yellow-sided dilutes all the time (which looks similar, but better). If you’re waiting around for a unicorn of a color, you’re going to be waiting a long time.
For ringnecks, get on the list in the Fall the year before you want to buy.
I’d like an Indian ringneck.
These guys are seasonal breeders, December through April here in the U.S. I do not breed in winter, so mine are set up around late February. Ringnecks usually don’t double clutch so I have a limited supply every year. I highly recommend getting on the waitlist the year before you plan to purchase so you’re near the top of my list. Violet and blue are the most popular colors, and there is a lot of competition for them.
I do screen ringneck buyers more intensely. A lot of people think they want them, because they’re gorgeous and they can talk, but what they really want is a conure. Ringnecks are not cuddly and they go through a nasty bluffing stage where they bite a lot. They are not for everyone. I generally send out my information sheet early to potential ringneck buyers, but please do your research on these guys before contacting me.
©2020 by Karen Trinkaus and may not be reprinted or used in any way without the author’s permission.
What is enrichment?
Enrichment is an animal welfare principle that aims to increase a captive animal’s quality of life by going above and beyond the bare necessities (food, water, shelter). In particular, it strives to address the mental health of the animal as much as the physical.
Some common methods of enrichment:
Techniques are going to vary depending on what species you are working with, and why the animal is being kept. You would not enrich a parrot’s life the same way you would an elephant or a snake. Some methods of enrichment can satisfy multiple drives for an animal, such as this vinyl ball for a giraffe. It encourages the giraffe to stretch its neck and simulates wild foraging behavior. It also provides something novel to explore.
In pet birds, enrichment often takes the form of toys.
Foraging has gained popularity in recent years, and not just with birds. The concept of foraging is that it makes the animal work to get its food, as it would have to do in nature. One of my veterinarian professors fed his dogs out of a tool box filled with rocks. They had to shift rocks around and to get every bit of kibble, rather than wolfing everything down in seconds.
Many foraging toys are available on the market. The options below are designed for repeated use, but it’s important to have destructible toys as this better mimics how parrots forage in nature.
Most psittacines have a desire to chew. Their beaks are specially designed to eat fruit/seeds in their green state. This gives them a competitive edge against other species that have to wait for food to ripen. Offering destructible items, be they wood or paper or food, can fulfill this need to chew.
With the wide variety of toys available to pet owners, it can be easy to associate enrichment with toys alone. This narrow view of enrichment has resulted in many laypeople criticizing breeding enclosures based on their distinct lack of toys. There are several problems with this.
Toys are dangerous.
Safety is a huge problem with toys. Although things have gotten much better in recent years, the fact remains that birds, like children, are great at finding ways to injure themselves. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen birds hung up on toys, either by their band or a toe or a foot. Yes, they can get hung up without a band. Leave the band alone and check the cage and toys for hazards instead.
This is especially dangerous for breeder birds, who are generally not tame and may panic if approached, injuring themselves further.
As fun as toys may be for pet birds, they are still an unnatural element designed by humans and there are risks of injury, toxicity, and death. I’m not saying toys are bad, I’m saying breeders often employ safer enrichment options.
Nesting birds often ignore toys.
Pairs that are actively nesting are generally too preoccupied with the business of raising the next generation to be bothered with toys. An incubating hen isn’t going to be playing with toys, but what about the male? Males will usually sit on guard duty outside the nestbox when they are not feeding. Play is not a concern for them at that time- safety and security of the nest site is. As soon as chicks are pulled for handfeeding, pairs will go back to playing with toys.
Safer, Alternative Methods of Enrichment
Tony Silva gives several ideas here. I’m a big fan of food enrichment. Psittacines are naturally destructive and offering whole food items is a great substitute for manufactured toys.
This is a Brussels sprout stalk. I tie a rope around it and hang it in the cage. The right image is what it looks like after my ringnecks have been at it for a week. They LOVE edible toys.
For smaller species, leafy greens work well. Skewers are also a favorite. I can throw several whole carrots in with my ringnecks and they will have great fun destroying them. It’s safer and gets birds to try a wide variety of foods. Chop is nice, but my birds have much more fun with whole items.
Planted aviaries are very difficult to do with psittacines. I tried putting a ficus tree with my kakarikis once and it didn’t go well for the tree. Tree clippings are a more realistic option. We have numerous citrus trees around our property and they give us plenty of fresh branches for play. Just make sure your clippings are from nontoxic species and haven’t been sprayed or collected next to a road (exhaust builds up on the plants).
Flocking is another method of enrichment. Pet birds are often kept isolated in small cages. Their owner may be their only source of social interaction. If the species is naturally very gregarious, this can lead to stress if, like most humans, their owner has a job away from home. This is why I recommend having at least two birds.
Many parrot species live together in large groups and break off into pairs for breeding. This can be mimicked by housing birds in smaller cages for breeding and then flocking them together during the off season. It gives them a chance to socialize, but also exercise.
Which brings me to another source of enrichment…
My first batch of show cockatiels came from a breeder whose husband developed Bird Keeper’s Lung. She already sold most of her stock by the time I got to her, and was considering taking the leftovers to a bird mart. But then she lamented that pet owners might buy them and keep them in tiny cages. After living the good life in an aviary, fully flighted with an actual flock, being stuck indoors in a pet cage seems a cruel fate.
I want to be clear–there’s nothing wrong with keeping birds indoors, in pet cages, or clipping wings. My own personal pets are kept that way. BUT, nothing beats an aviary for enrichment. Nothing. They can fly–not in a house, where there are lots of hidden dangers–but in a space designed for birds. They can feel the sunshine and fresh air. They can feel the seasons change (yes, even winter). It’s a whole different level of care, and if you have the ability to build an aviary, even just for nice summer days, I highly recommend it.
© 2020 by Karen Trinkaus. May not be reprinted or used in any way without the author’s permission.
Cockatiels are dimorphic, which means males and females look different. They’re pretty easy to sex IF you know what to look for. Unfortunately, there’s a plethora of misinformation online. When it comes to sexing cockatiels, mutations matter, and most people simply don’t have the expertise to do it accurately. This is because certain rules of sexing are conditional, and if you don’t know the conditions under which the rule applies, you’re going to be wrong.
Let me give you an example. Pretend you’re an alien studying life on Earth, and one of your fellow aliens tells you that humans are easy to sex. All you have to do is follow two simple rules: Males are tall and have short hair. Females are short and have long hair.
The problem with this blanket statement should be obvious, but in case it’s not:
Likewise, there are a lot of incorrect generalities when it comes to sexing cockatiels. This has led to a lot of well-intentioned people repeating things they’ve heard without any concept of why they’re applying the information incorrectly:
Cheek Patch Intensity/Color
Cheek patch color/intensity is one I see commonly, so we’ll tackle that first. Cockatiels have been bred in captivity for a long time, and while this rule might apply to wild cockatiels, it’s useless for sexing pets, which are likely to carry a number of color mutations and are very far removed from their wild counterparts.
All the examples I give here are adult birds. Scroll slowly if you’d like to test yourself.
Above we have two normal colored birds. Male on the left, female on the right. The rule seems to apply, right?
Okay now what about these two? The bird on the left has a very nice orange patch, just like the male above. The bird on the right doesn’t even have a cheek patch.
The problem here is that these birds have obvious mutations. The right is a pearl; left is whiteface. Whiteface birds can’t produce any yellow/orange color, so they don’t have a cheek patch. To someone inexperienced, it might even look like the bird on the left has a facial mask. There’s yellow there, right? Nope.
This is why knowing the mutation matters. Females keep their pearls into adulthood. Males don’t (unless they’re pied–another rule broken!).
Okay now what about these two? The bird on the left has a much brighter cheek patch than the bird on the right.
I hate to break it to you, but that nice orange patch belongs to a lutino pearl hen. The male on the right has the yellow cheek mutation. There are several mutations that alter the cheek patch color like this. Pastelface is another one.
“No problem,” someone says. “I can just look for the facial mask!”
Go ahead and try sexing the birds below.
On the left we’re missing the distinct facial mask and the cheek patch is dull. The bird on the right is lutino, so it’s difficult to see if there’s a mask there, but the cheek patch is bright. Which one is male and which one is female?
Lutinos are really difficult to sex visually, because a lot of their identifying characteristics, like the mask and tail barring, are hard to see. It’s even more difficult if they’re pied lutino, which you may not even know from looking at them.
I cannot tell you how often I see people claim that a pied bird must be male because it has yellow/white on its head. Mutations matter!
Petrie, the male on the left, is what’s called a dirty-faced pied–he has melanin on his face. Pied males do not get a facial mask, and pied females can have yellow heads. They cannot be sexed visually. Pearl pied males may lose their pearls, but they can also keep them. Pieds should really be sexed by behavior or DNA. Just to give you an idea:
So, how do you sex your cockatiel?
There are a few methods. If you’re impatient and want to know now, or if you have a pied or lutino, I recommend DNA sexing. It’s important to note that lutino is a sex-linked gene, and it is statistically far more likely to be female.
The other method is to wait until the bird is at least nine months old and has gone through a molt. Males will have begun to show their standard characteristics by then (except for pieds!). At this point you can use my guide to sexing or ask an expert. If you post in a general Facebook forum, you’re going to get a lot of inexperienced people giving you their incorrect opinions about head/cheek color, which is why I’m recommending a professional forum.
For more about how sex-linked genes work, see my article on Genetics.
© 2019 by Karen Trinkaus. May not be reprinted or used in any way without the author’s permission.
I’m tired of people acting like starter pets aren’t a thing. Cockatiels and budgies do well in just about every household. Cockatoos and lories absolutely do not. Would you recommend a macaw as a first bird? I didn’t think so.
Starter does NOT mean disposable. It means easy to for beginners to keep. Starter pets are your most laid back, your most versatile. They’re the chill animals who go with the flow while their owner learns the ropes, and they’re an essential entry point for budding bird people. So stop acting like “starter pet” is an insult. Starter pets are AWESOME. That’s what makes them starter pets.
What makes an animal a good starter pet?
People are going to make mistakes, even if they are trying their best. No one starts out an expert. Some knowledge is gained better through experience (bird body language for one). Researching everything prior to purchase can still leave someone with conflicting advice, thanks in part to the many armchair experts that give misleading information online.
Starter pets are physically hardy. They’re able to withstand mistakes here and there. Budgies and cockatiels are native to the Australian outback. Their bodies are designed to deal with food and water shortages, and greater temperature extremes. They’re tough, unlike kakarikis, who can pass out or have a heart attack if stressed.
All animals have a baseline of care, but for some, this baseline is higher than others. Starter pets are at the lowest possible bar. If an animal has a specialized diet (lories, eclectus) or needs heavy-duty equipment (macaw), then it’s not a starter pet.
Few Behavior Problems
Why are cockatiels starter pets but cockatoos are not? Because cockatoos turn into a neurotic mess if handled wrong.
Some animals are more likely to develop behavior problems if incorrectly handled. Perhaps they are nippy, flighty, or tend to attach to one person. Maybe they don’t take commands easily and need a person who can handle their strong will appropriately. Such animals do not make good starter pets. Behavior issues are not the fault of the animal, but simply a byproduct of an inexperienced owner reacting inappropriately to certain innate behaviors.
Good with Children
This quality is important if the pet is intended for a family with children or access to grandchildren. Starter pets should be reasonably tolerant of handling, especially as children tend to be overzealous even when coached. You want to avoid species which are nippy when excited (green cheek conures) or bite hard when their personal space is invaded (Indian ringnecks).
Budget absolutely matters. It’s classist to say otherwise. Not all families can afford expensive pets. There’s a vast difference between setting up a budgie vs a macaw. Larger birds have greater long-term costs as well. Working within your means is not a crime. It’s sensible.
This one is hard, as outside of rodents, you’re going to have a starter pet for at least ten years. Some people may find that birds are not for them, and in this case rehoming is best. A longer lived pet is more likely to run into the problem of major life changes. What happens when a child grows up and moves to college? Gets married? Has kids of their own? Moves? What happens if your job changes and you have less time to spend with your pet? What if your bird outlives you?
The longer a pet lives, the more likely it will encounter situations like these and the more likely it will be rehomed. We can’t always plan for the future, but lifespan should definitely be taken into account when acquiring a pet, especially if there’s a good change it might outlive you.
What a starter pet is NOT.
Any time you purchase an animal, even if it is a starter pet, you need to consider your life situation and do your research. While starter pets are a good way to find out if a particular type of pet is good for you, that doesn’t mean they should be discarded the moment you feel like you can move on to something better. This is an animal that is bonded with you and your family. It isn’t going to understand why it is being cast aside, and few pets are rehomed just once. Pets, even starter pets, should be purchased with the intent to keep them for the long term.
© 2019 by Karen Trinkaus. May not be reprinted or used in any way without the author’s permission.
One of the things I typically ask potential customers is “do you have any birds now?” If they do not, I try to convince them to get two. Wild psittacines live together in large flocks or small family groups. They are not mentally designed to live alone and when you have a single bird, even if you spend a lot of time with it, there are going to be times when you’re not around- work, school, weddings, vacations, running errands. When you make yourself your parrot’s only source of social interaction, you unintentionally set it up to have a stressful life. Toys can keep birds busy, but they only do so much and they don’t satisfy any of the bird’s social needs. When a bird has to rely on humans to be its only flock, it will scream when they are out of the room (contact calling, a bird version of “where are you?!”) and can develop stereotypies (purposeless, repetitive behaviors like pacing or plucking). Stereotypies are an indicator of poor animal welfare.
I have kept birds for 27 years. In my professional opinion, a bird housed in a large aviary with a flock of its own kind is far more psychologically healthy than a single bird kept in a pet cage with a zillion toys. Aviary birds have the benefit of exercise, flight, and socialization. The research agrees with me. A UC Davis study found that: “Paired parrots used their enrichments more, and spent less time screaming, less time preening, and less time inactive than singly housed parrots. . . . Isosexual pair housing resulted in a more active and diverse behavioral repertoire, eliminated the development of stereotypy and reduced fear responses to novel objects without imparting significant risk of illness and injury or jeopardizing the ability of parrots to relate positively with humans. Thus, it appears that pair housing can significantly improve environmental quality and positively affect the welfare of captive parrots.”
Many people are concerned that if they have more than one bird their bird won’t love them anymore, or that they won’t have as deep a bond. The latter is true, but context is important. When humans speak of bonding to their parrots or being chosen by their parrots, they think of their parrot as their “baby” and themselves as a parent or caretaker. That is not how the parrot sees it. When a parrot bonds to a person they see the human as a mate. This can lead to all kinds of behavior problems when the parrot’s sexual advances are rebuffed or intentionally squashed. It can lead to aggression when the human prefers their spouse, or shows affection to their child. It definitely leads to stress, as mates are typically not apart during the day unless one is incubating eggs. It’s not a psychologically healthy relationship and it’s unfair to the bird. However, if the bird has a mate (same sex is fine!) you won’t see the same issues. (Please note: a mirror is NOT a substitute for a real bird and can be detrimental).
Will the bird still be tame once it has a companion? Yes! Birds still enjoy interacting with humans even if they have a buddy. You can see evidence of this every time I walk into my aviary:
The relationship won’t be less, it will just be different. You will be someone they enjoy spending time with. Do people stop loving their parents or siblings every time they enter a romantic relationship? Do they love their spouse less because they had a child? Their child less because they had another? No. Love is not a finite resource. People (and birds) can have multiple healthy, loving relationships that are all somewhat different. Each relationship has its own dynamic and fulfills various needs.
To me the ideal is that birds be raised and housed with their own kind from the start- if you’re buying a baby bird, get two. If you do not wish to breed I recommend a same sex pair. Even a mature solo bird that prefers humans can benefit from having a buddy. They don’t have to be housed together, be the same species, or even particularly like one another. They just have to be kept in the same room within sight of one another. My pets ten years ago were my Goffin cockatoo, Loki, and a mitred conure, Verde. They disliked one another. When I first started having children I had little time for my birds. I’m sure Loki and Verde missed me, but they never developed any psychological issues from lack of human contact. In fact, over time I saw their poop piles move towards each other’s cages. When Verde passed away Loki immediately began to scream more. I gave her as much attention as I could but it didn’t really die down until I got her a replacement buddy (my pionus, Lando).
This is something very serious to consider: Birds are long-lived and regardless of how much time you have now, there will always be a point (or more likely, many points) in your life when you just won’t have as much time as you’d like to spend with your birds. These periods are temporary, yet many people rehome their birds anyway, mistakenly believing it is the best interest of their bird. A bird with a companion is easily able to weather these patches of reduced attention, where a solo bird will feel isolated and forgotten and start to show it by screaming, plucking, or otherwise acting out.
If you are on the fence about getting a second bird, know that your concern is quite common, but the best thing for birds in the long run is to have access to other feathered friends. It will reduce their stress, frustration, contact calls, and help alleviate boredom. It will also reduce your urge to rehome unnecessarily when you find you suddenly have a life event that takes a majority of your time.
Copyright 2018 by Karen Trinkaus. May not be reprinted without author’s permission.