Caring for Your Cockatiel




Cockatiels, named for their physical similarity to their larger cousins, the cockatoos, are ranked second only to the parakeet in popularity. It’s no wonder they are so popular – they possess all the qualities desired in a pet bird. Besides being attractive and intelligent, cockatiels are hardy birds and easy to care for.
Cockatiels are native to Australia, but wild-caught birds have not been exported from their native country for many years. The fact that they are readily available is due to the ease with which cockatiels have adapted to life as caged birds. They are excellent breeders. By using selective breeding techniques, aviculturists (those who keep birds as a hobby) have established many attractive colour mutations. These colours include, grey, white, pied, pearl, cinnamon and silver.
No matter what colour or sex you choose, your cockatiel will be an excellent student! When approached with a gentle voice and a little patience, a cockatiel can be finger-tamed in a few hours. Cockatiels even have the ability to speak, whistle and do a few tricks. The instinct for hand-reared babies (spoon-fed) to bond with people make the initial adoption experience more enjoyable.
Our pet counsellors are bird lovers and because they are, they hold and play with the baby cockatiels in our store. Our guests also play a big part in our cockatiel’s social skills through handling and interacting. This is why a Petland cockatiel is quick to bond with his new caregiver.
To provide a happy, healthy atmosphere for your cockatiel, Petland recommends the following necessary and fun accessories. We have listed them as your new pet’s four basic needs: Environmental, Nutritional, Maintenance and Behavioural. When these needs are met, along with a loving environment provided by you, your cockatiel can live a long and happy life. Typically, a healthy cockatiel may live between 10-15 years, sometimes up to 25!
Your Cockatiel’s New Home – When choosing a cage for your cockatiel, keep the following in mind. Get the largest cage that you can. Even if your cockatiel will be out of his cage a lot, provide him a roomy, secure home that he will not feel claustrophobic in. When he spreads both his wings, they should not touch the side of the cage. The bars in a cockatiel cage should be spaced far enough apart that he can climb comfortably; however, they are not so far apart that he can get his head caught between the bars.
You may want to place his cage on a cage stand. Make sure the room in which he is placed is draft free, away from heat or air-conditioning vents, and not in direct sunlight. A cage cover helps your cockatiel to get the rest he needs. Remember that birds wake at sunrise and sleep at sunset. Last of all, your cage should be square or rectangular, not round which can make them nervous and feel insecure. Your pet counsellor can show you the homes available made specifically for your cockatiel.
Lighting – Your cockatiel requires exposure to ultraviolet light on a daily basis. Since it is not possible in our climate to have them outside on a daily basis, and placing them in front of a window only allows ineffective filtered light inside, the use of a full-spectrum light is vital. UVA and UVB is necessary to prevent calcium and vitamin D3 deficiencies, which can cause a tremendous amount of health problems. As well, depriving your cockatiel of UV light will make them colour blind. It has also been suggested that UVA light is beneficial in reducing or eliminating abnormal behaviour, such as feather damaging disorders, screaming, phobias and aggression among just a few. An avian floor lamp and UVA/UVB bulb will be a necessary part of your cockatiel’s basic environmental need. For more information ask a pet counsellor for a copy of the Ultraviolet Lighting for Birds and Reptiles tip sheet.
Perches – Birds should not stand on the same diameter of a tree branch or perch. You should offer your cockatiel a variety of perch sizes to allow his feet proper exercise. Sandpaper perch covers should be used on only one out of three perches. These covers will help to keep nails trim and are fun to pick at. Situate the perches at the same height as the seed and water dishes, not directly over them where fecal matter could spoil the food.
Play-pen/Portable Perch – Your cockatiel will be much happier and develop a closer relationship with you if he spends some of his day out of his cage. When he is out, wood playpens and portable perches are an ideal safe place for him.
It is not reasonable to expect any living thing to remain healthy when fed only one or two types of food. You must give your cockatiel a balanced diet if he is to live a long and happy life.
Staple Diet – His diet should consist of cockatiel pellets, as his staple food. You should also offer a cockatiel seed mix. It is best that your cockatiel eats pellets, and that you offer only small quantities of seed as a supplement.
Daily Salad – Offer a healthy mix of vegetables (ie. carrots, broccoli, green beans, snow peas, lima beans, sweet potatoes and eggplant) and pasta, rice and  whole wheat toast as part of their morning meal. Fruits should be considered a treat, and offered minimally. These perishable foods need to be offered in a separate dish that should be removed after one to two hours (otherwise will grow harmful bacteria). Every bird is different in his tastes. While your cockatiel may love certain fruits or vegetables, he may reject others. Keep trying, and offer him a variety.
Vitamin/Mineral/Amino Acid Supplement – If a cockatiel’s diet is made up primarily (90%) of pellets and he enjoys a variety of vegetables, fruits, seeds and other nutritious table foods, then a vitamin supplement is not necessary and could, in some instances, be harmful. If however, a cockatiel’s diet is not ideal (strictly on seed), then we recommend the addition of a high-quality powdered vitamin. This is best administered on top of his daily salad or sprinkled on his millet.
CuttleboneCuttlebone will supply your cockatiel with calcium, phosphorus and other minerals necessary to keep him in optimum health. Change it every two months, as they are very porous and absorb smells and tastes in the environment, such as smoke and cooking fumes. If your cockatiel does not show any interest in his cuttlebone, grind it up into powder and mix with his salad or favourite treat.
Iodine Block – Provides iodine, copper and many other minerals, in small quantities. The iodine block is fun to chew, tasty too. A pellet staple diet meets the required iodine levels in birds, making the iodine block unessential unless feeding a seed staple diet.
Spray Millet – Millet is the only food available for birds that they would typically find in the wild. When you bring home your cockatiel, you should provide spray millet for them on a daily basis. This may be the only thing that your cockatiel will feel comfortable eating in the beginning. Once your bird has adjusted to their new home, offering them spray millet once or twice a week is fine.
TreatsPackaged seed treats, honey sticks, egg biscuits and spray millet are great options. They give your cockatiel the variety he craves and the behavioural requirements he needs. Treats will keep him busy picking and gnawing, while giving him a tasty alternative to staple foods and salads. Ask your pet counsellor about the most popular treats and supplements for your pet.
Bird Bath/Showering – Rainfall and early morning mists are missing in the companion bird’s life. Treat your cockatiel daily to a misting shower, or if he prefers, a bird bath consisting of a large shallow dish of warm water (supervised). Bird misting may be offered by using hot tap water and spraying from a clean water spray bottle (intended only for that use), resulting in a warm morning shower while on their playpen outside of the cage. Spray from over your bird’s head if he does not enjoy direct misting. These baths encourage preening and grooming, and will provide your bird with an enjoyable pastime, similar to what they experience in their natural habitat.
Water bottle and Bracket – The fresh water that you serve to your cockatiels in the morning may be soiled in very little time with food or droppings. A secondary water source, such as a water bottle is a good way to keep your cockatiel’s water clean and free of droppings. Cockatiels quickly understand how to use it and many enjoy playing with the spout.
Additional Food Cups – Food and water should always be available for your bird. Hooded cups may seem threatening to a bird accustomed to open cups. If your bird does not readily eat and drink, remove the hood from the cup and replace it for a few hours a day until he is used to it. Your bird will need one additional cup for salad and another for seed treats.
SubstrateCage paper is easy to remove and will not become a soppy mess like paper towels or newspaper when water is inevitably splashed onto it. Bedding such as Eco Bedding or carefresh® may be used if there is a grate overtop to prevent the cockatiel from foraging amongst its feces.
Nail Clipper and Coagulant – Nails and wings are important to keep trimmed. Use nail clippers made for birds to keep your cockatiels nails from becoming too long. Take care not to over trim or cut into blood vessels running through each nail. Have a blood coagulant waiting and ready to use. Flight feathers should be trimmed regularly to prevent accidents, injury or worse. If you prefer, ask your pet counsellor to make an appointment to have this done for you.
Toys – Everyone has behavioural needs; a dog’s may be to fetch and chew a bone, a person’s may be to lounge in front of the television. Your cockatiel has specific behavioural needs as well. Along with the regular day-to-day relationship that he will enjoy with you and your family, you must provide other activities. This will help give him the extra mental stimulation and entertainment he needs. Toys play a significant role in your bird’s life. As with a child, he will be less interested in some toys if they are always left in the cage. Petland recommends you purchase several toys and rotate them every two weeks. A pacifier toy is fashioned to encourage preening. Rope toys with bells, fibrous toys for shredding, and puzzle toys are all great options to play and stimulation.
Please ask your pet counsellor what other items your particular pet will need.
Cleanliness and Safety
All pets can potentially carry diseases that may be contagious to people. Young children, infants, pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems and the elderly are at greater risk of infections and should use caution when in contact with pets or their environments. Regular cleaning of your pet’s environment with a pet safe cleaner may help avoid the spread of contaminants.
Hygiene procedures such as washing your hands before and after handling your pet and/or after having any contact with their habitat, is a necessary routine. Children should be assisted with hand washing and always have adult supervision when interacting with pets.
Attention: Certain cookware, aerosols, incense, aromatic candles and household cleaners may be harmful or worse to your bird’s health. Ask a pet counsellor for a copy of the Safety Tips & Household Hazards tip sheet.
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