Introduction Cockatiels are a small but attractive member of the parrot family that has been bred in captivity for over 150 years. They come in a variety of colors, from the normal grey (with yellow, white, and orange accents), to the brilliant yellow lutino, to the nearly-albino whiteface lutino. Their basic needs are not as demanding as other parrots, though they still require daily attention and cage maintenance. And because they are so easy to breed in captivity, cockatiels are typically available anywhere that pet birds are sold. Perhaps these facts contribute to the cockatiel being one of the most popular pet birds in the world.
Housing Cockatiels are playful birds that need a large cage to accommodate their head crest and long tail. The larger the cage, the more comfortable it will be for the bird. The minimum size cage for a cockatiel should be 24" long by 18" wide by 24" tall. A good cage should have horizontal bars on at least two sides, as hookbills love to climb. Horizontal bars help to make climbing easier. Bar spacing should be no more than 3¼4" apart to prevent injury.
Most birds can be kept at room temperature. Be sure to place your bird and its cage off of the floor and away from drafty areas or hot places like open windows, air vents and doorways. Some birds may catch a cold if exposed to a draft while they are wet (after a bath), so it is best to keep a wet bird in a warm area (at least 70 degrees) until they are fully dry.
Your cockatiel cage should have at least two or three perches of various sizes, shapes and textures so that its feet stay healthy and strong. Make sure the perches are thick enough for the bird to stand comfortably on them without losing its balance. The smallest perch a cockatiel should be given is 3¼ - 4" in diameter. Choose perches made from a variety of materials such as wooden dowels, natural wood branches, bonded sand/concrete (for keeping their nails trimmed) and rope.
If your bird is housed in a quiet room, you may want to get a cover for your bird's cage to help it to sleep at night. If your bird lives in a more active room, it may be kept awake by even low volume sounds, and will not get the proper rest that it needs to stay healthy. Cockatiels should have between 8-12 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. If it is not possible to keep their room quiet for this amount of time, you may want to get a smaller cage for your bird to sleep in and place it in a quieter room. Using a sleep cage will give your bird a safe, quiet place to get a good night's sleep.
Diet The natural diet of cockatiels consists of seeds, fruits, nectar, and insects. For a healthy, balanced diet, it is necessary to provide a variety of foods for your pet bird. Pellet foods and seed mixes can be fed as a daily base diet. We are currently feeding our birds Kaytee Rainbow Exact and Kaytee Forti-Diet. Pellets or seeds should not be fed exclusively, because it does not provide proper nutrition and will lead to health problems in the future.
It is very important to include a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in your bird's diet. Some healthy fruits include apples, grapes, berries, papaya, and mango. Vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, zucchini, squash, cooked sweet potatoes, and dark leafy greens (such as romaine, kale, chicory, dandelion leaves and turnip or collard greens) make great cockatiel food. Other healthy treat foods include cooked whole grains (like brown rice), whole grain pasta, multigrain breads, unsugared cereals, or even small amounts of cooked eggs. When feeding fresh foods, be sure to remove anything uneaten after a few hours so that the food does not spoil, and to wash the dishes thoroughly before using them again.
Your cockatiel can share many of the foods you eat - just try to keep their consumption of fried, greasy, sugary, and salty foods to a minimum. However, NEVER offer your bird alcohol, chocolate, or caffeinated beverages. These substances can kill your bird, even if given in very small amounts. Also avoid: avocados, rhubarbs, onions, asparagus, raw legumes (beans and peas), and dairy products.
Grooming & Hygiene Birds like to bathe, but different birds prefer to bathe in different ways. Some like to bathe in a shallow dish, some like to be sprayed with a fine mist and still others like to get in the shower with their owner. Cockatiels come from dry areas of the Australian outback that don't receive as much rain as the native environments of other parrots, but it is still beneficial to their skin and feathers to be soaked with water at least once or twice a week.
Clipping your bird's flight feathers is not necessary but usually helps in taming your bird. It also helps to prevent escape and injury. Birds like Cockatiels cannot survive in the climate of most of the US and would not survive without a flock (a flock protects them from predators as there is safety in numbers). For this reason, please consider carefully before allowing a bird to remain flighted. Consult your avian vet to have the wings clipped by a qualified professional. Nails should also be trimmed by a qualified person if they get too long, unhealthy, or hinder the bird's movements.
Maintenance We recommend using warm water and a mild soap solution for the everyday cleaning your bird's cage (the tray and dishes should be cleaned every day). Once a week remove the bird from the cage and use a diluted bleach solution to disinfect the cage. Rinse the cage thoroughly then place the cage in the sun to air dry if possible. Be certain the cage and bowls are completely free of any bleach smell prior to placing your bird back in the enclosure as bleach is toxic to birds.
Replace toys and accessories that become worn or damaged, as they can injure your pet. Make sure you rotate toys when your bird becomes disinterested in them (or at least once a week) but remember never to place an unfamiliar toy in the cage without first introducing it to the bird in a neutral location. You may want to hang a new toy on a lamp near your bird's cage or on the outside of the cage for a few days until the bird gets used to it.
Mirrors should not be given to cockatiels due to the bird's tendency to bond with the "bird in the mirror". If a single bird is kept alone in its cage, a mirror will interfere with its training. If there are two cockatiels in a cage, they have no need for a mirror because they have each other to play with.
Behavior & Interaction Cockatiels are highly social birds that live in large flocks in the wild. For this reason, cockatiels need a lot of social interaction with their owner or with a mate in order to stay happy and healthy. If you would like to be able to train your cockatiel to be friendly with humans, we recommend getting only one bird . Wild cockatiels mate for life - in captivity, your pet will bond with a human just as readily as it would bond with another bird.
A tame cockatiel is a friendly, affectionate animal that will demand its owner's attention. To keep your bird friendly and well-socialized, make sure that you spend time interacting with your cockatiel every day. Single birds that have been trained will lose their tameness if that training is not reinforced daily. Also, cockatiels are instinctually very social and can become moody or aggressive if not given attention and time out of the cage every day.
Male cockatiels are typically very active and outgoing and will often learn to whistle before they molt into their adult colors. Some males can learn to talk, but this often takes a great deal of repetition. They are much better at whistling than they are at talking. Also, every bird is an individual, so not all male cockatiels will choose to learn how to talk. Females are more sedate, affectionate pets, and while they are sometimes a little more protective of their cage than males, they make equally good companions. The major difference is that females rarely ever learn to whistle or speak - but they will still vocalize and let you know when they want your attention!
Helpful Hints When taking your new bird home please remember that the surroundings in your home will be new to it and it may take some time for the bird to feel settled in the new environment. Speak softly and move very slowly whenever you are near the bird's cage. Do not try to handle the bird for at least the first few days as the bird needs time to adjust to the new home.
With a well-balanced diet you should not need to give your bird vitamin supplements. Before adding supplements to your bird's diet you should consult with an avian veterinarian. When giving any supplements in the bird's water, make sure you clean and wash the water dish daily to remove any residue from the supplements.
We recommend taking your bird to the vet for regular checkups and purchasing a book about your new pet.
Always wash your hands before and after handling each animal. Germs that birds carry can be transmitted to humans (and vice versa), which in some cases can cause serious illness.
You should have toys in the cage to prevent boredom. Bored birds are known to have behavior problems. Birds need to be active to maintain good health and to prevent them from getting overweight. Foraging toys are excellent because they stimulate the natural avian instinct to search for food. Toys should be changed regularly to keep your pet interested, and if the toy becomes worn to prevent injury.
Birds can be scared to death. Frightening a bird can cause the bird enough stress to harm and possibly kill it. Move slowly and talk quietly to your bird until it is comfortable with you and its new home. It may be advisable to keep the bird in a separate room away from any other animals in the home until it gets used to the noises of its new environment. Predatory animals such as cats, dogs, and ferrets should never have direct contact with your bird.
We recommend using a cuttle bone or mineral block for your bird. Many birds enjoy chewing on these items but only absorb a small amount of minerals from them. A cuttlebone or mineral block should never be used as a substitute for a proper, nutritious diet of pellets, seeds, fresh vegetables, and fruits.
If you notice signs of illness it is very important to get to the vet promptly as most birds will hide illness until it is in an advanced stage. We recommend taking your bird to the vet BEFORE the bird ever becomes ill. Visiting your vet before the bird is ill will allow the vet to see your bird when it is healthy and help the vet create a routine preventive health care program for your new pet.
Signs of a Healthy Animal
• Active, alert, and sociable
• Eats and drinks throughout the day
• Dry nostrils and bright, dry eyes
• Beak, legs, and feet appear normal
• Clean, dry vent
• Smooth, well-groomed feathers
• Beak swelling or accumulations
• Fluffed, plucked, or soiled feathers especially around the vent
• Constant sitting on floor of cage
• Wheezing or coughing
• Runny or discolored stools
• Favoring one foot when not asleep; it is normal for birds to sleep on one foot
• Eye or nasal discharge
• Red or swollen eyes
• Loss of appetite
If feeding fruits the stool may become runny for a while. Many birds cannot tolerate too much acid that is in many citrus fruits, therefore we recommend limiting the amount of citrus you feed to your bird. Any bird which has runny stools when it is not eating fresh foods should be seen by a veterinarian, as diarrhea is often one of the first symptoms of disease.
When changing the food your bird is given, do so gradually. A sudden change may upset your bird's digestive system, or the bird may refuse to eat the new food. We currently feed Kaytee seed and pellets along with many fresh fruits and vegetables to our birds.