Although I’ve been hand-raising Lineolated Parakeets for the past 4 years, hand-raising cockatiel babies is totally new to me. Nonetheless, when my cockatiel pair finally produced their first babies, I figured, “no problem, they will be just the same as the linnies. I know what I’m doing!”
How wrong I was. Oh, there were definite similarities that ensured that I was raising them correctly, but the few little differences made a world of a difference!
You see, linnies are inquisitive by nature. They are barely able to balance on their feet before they are already crawling around their brooder, chewing on anything and everything that comes their way. They usually try solid food from a dish before they are fully feathered, and weaning them is just a matter of allowing them to learn that they can “fill up” on the solids. In fact, most linnie babies wean themselves relatively early on!
Cockatiels on the other hand, are very different by nature. I knew this ahead of time, but I never imagined how it might influence weaning. These four cockatiel babies were perfectly content to just sit -- on your shoulder, on the rope, in their cage -- it didn’t matter where! That’s great if you are looking for a cuddly bird who loves to be on your shoulder. What it means for learning to eat however, is that they don’t experiment with food, and as a result, though my five-week old babies needed solid food and were voraciously hungry, they refused to touch anything that vaguely resembled real food.
After praying about it, I hit up on an idea. Why not introduce vegetables, hard-boiled egg, rice, etc. into their baby-bird formula? So I did.
The response I got was varied. Pogo, the youngest, a little lutino male, didn’t think twice about the lumps sliding down his throat. He just took them in without batting an eye. I figured that this wasn’t a bad reaction … He was getting the added nutrition. But it wasn’t a great reaction, either. He wasn’t learning how to peck at and chew solid food.
Petra, the second youngest, a beautiful pearl female, gave me the best response. She realized right away that her formula was “lumpy”, and began pecking at the lumps. Excellent.
Pegasus and Peppy, my two lutino pearl females and also my two oldest babies, quickly learned to sip the formula around the solid chunks. If they by mistake managed to get a piece of solid food in their mouths, they spit it out and looked up at me with the funniest expression on their little faces. I would say to them, “Go ahead and eat it. It’s good stuff! It will help fill that big hungry spot in your crops!” And they would shake their heads and spit again, for all the world as if they were saying, “But there’s LUMPS in my gravy!”
When God is in charge, the idea is always a good one. It only took Petra another day to completely wean herself. It took Pegasus two days to learn to peck at the chunks, and another two days to completely wean herself. Peppy quickly learned to just swallow her lumps, like Pogo, and it took them another week before they were finally eating, but in the end, all four babies had weaned themselves.
The whole story reminds me of a Bible text: “We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” (Heb 5:11-14 NIV)
As baby Christians, God is more than happy for us to thrive on the elementary truths of God’s Word, referred to as “milk”. But He expects us to one day mature to the point that we can teach others, that we can dig in and understand the more weightier matters! He wants us to understand the teachings of righteousness! That’s what the writer of Hebrews refers to as “solid food”.
Just what are these teachings of righteousness? The Bible Illustrator emphasizes the idea that we need to stop being the ones who “receive” (feeding on milk). Instead we must learn to be “teachers” -- we must be the ones who go out and feed others!
This is right in keeping with Jesus’ last command on Earth: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matt 28:19-20 NIV)
So many times, like Peppy and Pegasus, we take one look at a teaching on righteousness and we cry out, “Wait! This wasn’t part of the bargain! I thought I’d just get ministered to the rest of my life! Now there’s lumps in my gravy!” Friends, let’s not get stuck on “baby bird formula” -- basic Biblical truths, rudiments of religion, always receiving! If we do, then just like my five week-old baby birds were always hungry, we will always feel unfulfilled! Instead, let’s be like Pogo, or even better, like Petra! Let’s learn to feast upon the lumps, ever understanding that this is really what our Spiritual lives need: Solid food! Let’s dig into God’s Word and acquaint ourselves with the teachings of righteousness! Let’s go forth, as Jesus commanded, and spread the Gospel to others! Let’s let God’s Word work that righteousness into our spirits!
In His love,
Lyn Chaffart, Bird breeder, Mother of two teens, Speech-Language Pathologist, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, www.scripturalnuggets.org , with Answers2Prayer Ministries, www.Answers2Prayer.org .
 BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATOR New Testament Volumes, by JOSEPH S. EXELL, Originally Published in 1887, London