Healing Cockatiels


This case study was written by Kathy Hampel, a member of the Healthy Bird Project. It covers the experiences that she and her husband, Jack, have had with their two Cockatiels: Jordyn an Albino, and Tilly a Lutino. Tilly came to them with some prior physical injuries they had not been told about at adoption time. Kathy and Jack love their Cockatiels, these birds are their feathered children.

Written by Kathy Hampel, photos by Kathy and Jack Hampel 

Jordyn with Mommy Kathy.


Our Hearts were Touched

We adopted Jordyn and Tilly on May 19, 2018 from Molly in Montrose Colorado. Molly need to re-home Jordyn and Tilly and two Conures due to her work schedule and wanting to travel.    

Jordyn is an Albino Cockatiel that was hatched August 2015.  Molly purchased Jordyn from a breeder.  We are 99% sure she is a female.  

Tilly is a Lutino Cockatiel.  Her age and sex are unknown, but I believe Tilly is a “she” and is about 9 years old.  

Tilly, Kathy and Jack’s precious Lutino Cockatiel.

In the beginning, we only wanted Jordyn. Tilly was the bird we did not want. After discussing this in depth, we decided to take Tilly too. We are so glad we did!

As every bird owner knows, it can sometimes take a long time to build trust and a bond between you and your birds. While getting acquainted with Jordyn and Tilly, we started to notice Tilly’s issues. The things we noticed right away were that she seemed to struggle when moving around on her perches and did not stand upright like a ‘normal’ bird. After a quick phone call to Molly we learned that Tilly cannot fly because of a fractured left wing that happened in June 2014. 

We also noticed that there was something wrong with her left foot. The back toe seemed to just dangle and it could be moved in a circular motion.

Tilly’s ‘big wing’ stance. You can see her left wing had been fractured, an old injury. When she’s excited she does this pose, as if to try and take flight.


Food wise, Tilly had difficulty eating the pellets being fed her without looking as if she were gagging them up. Because of the way Tilly stands, she cannot clear her feathers when she poops. The poop gets caught on her back end and accumulates. Several mornings a week she needs a cleaning.  Tilly also does not drink a lot of water. Without water the poops are very dry and she struggles during the process. Sometimes it takes several tries to achieve success!    

When we first got the Cockatiels, Jordyn was the friendly bird and Tilly was not a friendly bird at all! We could not pet her and when we tried, she screamed loudly and tried repeatedly to bite us. It took 10 months for us to gain Tilly’s trust. Today she loves affection, loves being touched, and loves being held by either one of us. 


A Trip to UC Davis

On March 7, 2019, we took Tilly to UC Davis Exotic Animal Clinic for a medical workup with blood work and x-ray. It was noted that Tilly was dehydrated during her visit. The avian vet also said that her lameness could be caused by previous trauma, historical pododermatitis, severe arthritis, infection or cancer. When we explained that her left wing had been fractured the vet thought that her left foot may have also been injured at the same time.

Now in hind-sight, I’m sure malnutrition played a big part. Tilly was deficient in Vitamin A which was the reason given for her nose becoming crusted up with debris.

Because of her decreased mobility and limited range of motion due to her arthritis, she cannot preen herself like normal Cockatiels. I help her out and shower her which really helps with the dander. Tilly also likes the steam in the warm showers when Jack and I shower. Both birds join in.

Tilly snuggling with Daddy Jack.


Meeting Leslie

In March 2019, I met Leslie Moran at a RAAVE (Reno Area Avian Enthusiasts) bird club meeting in Reno and learned about her Healthy Bird Project. I started both birds on Leslie’s balanced Food Plan. This included the Best Bird Food Ever! (BBFE!) sprouts and BBFE! cooked as a MASH. It took a while for me to understand the different vegetables and proteins to feed my birds to give them the full nutrition they needed. With reading articles written by Leslie in Parrots Magazine and the information in her newsletter articles, I feel I’m giving my birds the best nutrition possible.  


Our Results


Jordyn and Tilly have been on Leslie’s food programs now for 21 months. The two birds love the sprouts and cooked MASH along with the other vegetables and foods I give them. I have not seen any health improvements in Jordyn but I would expect that with her being a young bird, my hope is that she will live a long healthy life with proper nutrition in this balanced food plan.   


Tilly is Another Story

I’ve seen improvements in Tilly since she has been participating in the Healthy Bird Project. Some of the changes I’ve seen in her is that the condition of her nose has improved significantly. Tilly does not get the constant cell buildup in and around her nostrils like in the past. Her left foot has improved also. Her back toe is not 100 percent, but her grip has improved significantly and is much stronger.

The other change is her demeanor. She is active, loving, and wants to be part of any activity taking place. She will not be left out. She chews on her toys and does her ‘big eagle’ stand with her wings spread out. I believe if she did not feel good, she would not be active and show us these kinds of playful gestures.

Tilly loves being scratched, by her loving Mommy Kathy.

I also believe that if we still had Tilly on the pellets and seed diet, she would not be with us today. She is so precious to us both, we want her to have a long, happy, healthy life with us.

Jordyn (left) and Tilly (right) enjoying their balanced food plan meal.
Jordyn (left) tries to sneak a taste of Tilly’s food bowl. Too cute!

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