Posted Jun 26, 2013
In 2011, we acquired our first bird - a lovely black-headed caique. After meeting the breeder and selecting the bird, I prepared for his homecoming by learning as much as I could about caiques.
Caiques are energetic, fairly high-maintenance parrots. They are absolutely hilarious, entertaining little birds, with a lot of love to give. They are very intelligent.
First and foremost, training is vital with caiques. It's good for them, both intellectually and emotionally, as it keeps them from getting bored and bonds them with their owner. We started with basic "step up" and "step down" training, then progressed to "come" when his name is called. After that, we started trick training for fun little things, like "turn".
Caiques can and should be potty-trained as well. People are often surprised when I tell them that Avery is potty-trained. Caiques have a very telling butt-wiggle that lets you know they are in the process of going to the bathroom. If you see this tell-tale sign, gently relocate them to the appropriate place to potty. In our home, we lined our window sills with newspaper and attached suction-cup perches to each window for Avery, both as potty places and for him to look outside. Another way to potty train a caique is simply to make sure you place them in the appropriate area every 20 minutes or so, and say "Go potty", then reward them when they do. Every morning when he woke up, Avery would have a very large bowel movement, and we used that as a training opportunity.
Caiques do best on high-quality seed mixes, and with a daily diet of various fruits and vegetables. Our breeder provided us with a list of foods that were safe to eat, and we slowly added to it over time. It took a little extra time each day to make sure Avery's bowls were clean and to put together his little "salad" at lunch time, but it wasn't a huge lifestyle change for me.
We also wipe down the bars of his cage and clean his perches every few days. An easy way to keep the bottom of the cage clean is to place several pages of newspaper in it, and take out one layer each day.
We found that caiques have long memories. When we brought Avery to see his breeder 2 years after acquiring him, he warmed right up to her. Caiques are also prone to boredom, so we invest a pretty decent sum of money in new toys every few months. They particularly enjoy toys with treats in them that they can either shove around until the treat falls out, or shred to get to the treat.
Caiques are not particularly cuddly, but when they are tired, they will rest quite contentedly on your shoulder for their evening preening. We also tend to keep our caique away from young children. While he seems to really like children's high-pitched voices, and our 10-year-old son handles him well, I don't let him near children any younger than that.
The only downsides to owning caiques are their stubbornness and some of the sounds they learn to imitate. Avery gets several hours out of his cage each day, but sometimes I need some "me time". He can get a little crabby about being put away for an hour or two if he doesn't have sufficient playtime. So it's important to help your caique get their energy out!
He learned to imitate some really cute things, such as saying "Step up" on his own... However, he also learned to imitate some really annoying sounds, such as our telephone's ringing. Avery will also respond to the telephone when it rings or our infant daughter when she cries.
Overall, I think caiques make wonderful pets for families where there is at least one person who can stay at home and give them the time they need for play and socialization. Anyone considering a caique should do plenty of research first, as understanding their behavior and training them is just as important - if not more so - as it is with a dog.