Caring for a Cockatiel You’re Adding a Cockatiel to the Family!

Learn About Caring for a Cockatiel

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For a smooth transition, take some time to learn how to care for a cockatiel before your bring your new pet home. Preparing for your pet before bringing it home will help it feel safe and secure and ready to bond faster.

Before you bring your new pet home, set the cockatiel cage up so that your baby can settle in as quickly as possible.  It is always stressful and scary for a Cockatiel to move to a new home and cage so give your new pet every opportunity to feel safe by insuring that the first several days are as stress free as possible.  Keep young children and other household pets away and talk to your new pet in a quiet, calm voice.  Mimic your birds vocalizations. Once your bird starts to feel comfortable in its new dwelling, it will start bonding with you and want you to be its favorite companion.

Cockatiel Cages: Bar Space and Size Considerations

Always choose a cage with 1/2” bar space to insure your cockatiel cage can’t get its head stuck between the bars.  From there, choose the largest sized cockatiel cage that you have room for and that you can afford.  An absolute minimum size cage would be 20” x 20” to prevent damage to sensitive wing feathers.  Set the cage in a draft-free location.  If your bird is timid, put the cage in a corner where there is minimal traffic.

You’ll want to make sure to let out of cage each day on an appropriately sized bird stand for both socializing and exercise.  Socializing over a meal is a favorite way to bond with your new pet.  Never let your bird wander about unsupervised.  Small birds like cockatiels are “attractive play things” to even the tamest, most gentle dog or cat.  Ferrets can kill a cockatiel the second you turn your back. Please learn other household dangers, too. You’ll want to “parrot proof” your home to insure that your little bird can enjoy a long life without a deadly accident.

Perches – Why, Where and Choice

Birds have to stand on their feet 24 / 7, even when they are sleeping.  That’s why they need a variety of appropriately sized perch textures.  Your cockatiel will enjoy ½” thick perches give or take a smidge. Refrain from using cheap dowel perches that have no variability as they will cause foot cramps and damage. Instead, go for natural wood bird perches or branches, a rope perch or a bird bungee and a Sandy Perch conditioning bird perch. Remember that your cockatiel naturally enjoys the highest perch in the cage, especially for sleeping.  In the wild, a bird on the ground is lunch. Use that psychology to your advantage by placing the nail conditioning perch high in the cage.

The first time you set the cockatiel cage up, we recommend that you put all of the perches in at a middle height, not the top so that your bird feels comfortable exploring and using each of them rather than just fixating on the highest perch. Once your bird becomes accustomed to its” new digs” and starts exploring the entire cage you can start moving perches to preferred positions. Wash the perches when they become soiled. 

Food and Water Bowls

Small bird experts recommend that your cage have at least as many food bowls as it has birds.  If you house two birds in a cage, you need at least 2 food bowls and one water bowl to nip dominant or territorial behavior in the bud. A more assertive bird may nip and peck at a nervous cage-mate when it eats.  Be on the watch for territorial or aggressive behavior and separate birds as needed. Each bird has a right to eat and sleep in comfort.  Each bird needs access to fresh food and water during their waking hours in order to sustain their activity level. Since birds are animals of prey, they have the potential to always be nervous, even if they are hand-fed. Place bowls higher in the cage where birds don’t feel as vulnerable to “perceived predators.  While hooded cups are nice, just make sure that your bird isn’t afraid of them.  The hoods don’t allow them to see a potential predator around the corner. Being animals of prey, a nervous pet bird may feel so vulnerable with a hooded dish that it may choose to not eat.

Make it a habit to clean the water dish with hot soapy water a minimum of once a day but more in warm weather.  Even if the dish looks clean, a white filmy bacterial film coats the bottom and sides of the water dish leaving your bird vulnerable to disease. Water bottles help keep water fresher, longer since crumbs don’t fall off the beak into the water dish, but some birds have a habit of trying to stuff their pellets inside the water bottle tube to soak them.   You’ll need to make sure to keep a water bottle tube especially clean too.

Change the bird food every 24 hrs. as well.

A Cuttlebone and Mineral Block

Your bird needs the all minerals available in cuttlebone and mineral blocks.  These are must have items for long-term bird health. Provide both of these affordable supplements to your cockatiel at all times to supply trace minerals that your bird requires for optimal organ functioning, skin health and feather production. Cockatiels, like all birds have an instinctual need to chew.  Tiels love soft woods.  And, since a cockatiels beak is always growing, mineral blocks and cuttlebone provide double work duty - minerals and free beak trims! 

Make it easy for your bird to access these important nutritional supplements by using a treat holder with a perch or by placing a perch near the mineral block.  If your bird has to cling to the side of the cage to chew on a mineral block it just may just refuse it.

Cockatiel Toys

Wild cockatiels love shredding and preening blades of grass, scratching the round for bugs and seeds and chewing twigs and sticks.  Keep these instincts in mind when picking out cockatiel toys.  A bird will need to chew more during breeding season.  Cockatiels prefer soft woods like balsa and pine.  If the wood parts on the toy are too hard or too big, the bird can’t make a dent in it and it’s no fun.

Other cockatiel favorites include natural fiber toys like the “mini” line from Planet Pleasures.  Crunchy palm leaf, coconut fiber and yucca are cockatiel favorites. Smart cockatiels also enjoy interactive toys that produce sound when the bird engages with the toy.

One toy birds always like is a bell. Something about the sound the bell makes, and the opportunity to grab the clapper, is endlessly appealing. Many birds also like to wear a bell as a hat. What this has to do with life in the wild is unclear.

While all pet birds require specialized care, cockatiels and other small birds are fragile and vulnerable to life inside of a human home, especially when the home has other pets.  You’re your cockatiel the best shot by making sure that its cage is safe, that you understand its vulnerabilities and that your bird always feels safe with you and you’ll have a lifelong companion.

Now that you know about caring for a cockatiel, you'll enjoy years of bonding with the little feathered friend.


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