Cockatiels are a favorite parrot species here at BirdTricks.com. They are happy and inquisitive little birds that will keep a smile on your face all day long. But there are some things you should understand so that you can have a cockatiel like the fun loving ones you see online.
The truth is, a cockatiel is no different from any other parrot when it comes to potential problems with behavior and health. They will bite and scream and can cost you a fortune in vet bills if you don’t provide the care and training that every parrot needs.
When you make the decision to bring a cockatiel into your home, you take on the complete responsibility for its health and well being. There are many more facets to cockatiel care than might meet the eye.
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Mistakes To Avoid With Cockatiel Care
Your cockatiel’s cage is its home and a place that should represent security and happiness. It should also give YOU peace of mind that your bird is safe and sound while you are away.
As most Cockatiels spend the majority of their day in the cage while you are at work, you must be sure that there is plenty of entertainment and opportunities for exercise inside. One big mistake we make with our birds is to accessorize the cage in way that WE feel will make life comfortable for them. In fact, placing toys and food dishes at perch level promotes inactivity and makes life dull.
Try placing a favorite toy in an area of the cage that your bird doesn’t typically visit, such as the center of the top of its cage, and watch your cockatiel defy gravity to get there, and stay there, to play. This is the level of activity that wild birds encounter everyday, as should YOUR cockatiel, who will be grateful for the exercise and mental stimulation.
While many people tend to look the cage as a place that keeps dangers OUT, there are many dangers that can lurk within. The cage itself can be hazardous if it is not chosen with care.
Picking Your Cockatiel’s Cage
Cages should always be selected with safety in mind . A good cage is expensive, but it is designed to house your bird for the entirety of its life. When you divide the initial cost amongst the years you will have your bird, it doesn’t seem like such a great expense.
Even though a cockatiel is a small bird, a parakeet or budgie cage is not suitable for a few reasons: the size is inadequate, the flimsy wire bars are coated with with a plastic that cannot withstand the surprising power of the cockatiel beak, and the joints that attach each side are areas for foot and wing entanglement. A high quality powder coated or stainless steel cage are recommended.
The cage should be NO LESS than 24″ x 24″ x 24″ for a single cockatiel, and bar spacing should be NO MORE than 5/8″. It is always advised that you get as large a cage as you can afford for your cockatiel, HOWEVER, you must get one with appropriate bar spacing. Unfortunately, the tendency in the pet cage industry is to increase the bar spacing with increased cage dimensions. While the cage intended for an amazon parrot might look like a dream mansion for your cockatiel, it is an accident waiting to happen. Heads and wings frequently get trapped in bars spaced too widely.
How To Choose Your Cockatiel’s Perches
Your cockatiel’s feet are involved in everything it does: eating, climbing, playing and at least one foot is always in service while it sleeps. Maintaining good foot health is important. To do this your bird will need a variety of perches in different shapes, textures and sizes. The ideal perch for a cockatiel is one that its foot wraps 3/4 of the way around and will likely be the perch it chooses to sleep on.
When you determine your cockatiel’s favorite sleeping perch (it will be the one with the biggest pile of poop beneath it!), you should be aware of the fact that this is your bird’s launching place during night fights, a middle of the night affliction that is unique to this species. Be sure to keep partial perches on the other side of the cage and have no toys that can cause entanglement or injury too nearby.
How To Choose Your Cockatiel’s Toys
Cockatiels love to chew!! Provide them with plenty of shreddable toys made from palm and rafia strips, twig balls and safe, vegetable tanned leather strips. They love wooden toys just like the big birds when they are appropriately sized. Unused popsicle sticks and balsa wood are a favorite. And if your cockatiel loves to spend time with you in your home office, a balled-up piece of notebook paper always get their attention.
To keep your cockatiel entertained and active in the cage (and out!), you will want to supply lots of foraging opportunities – wild cockatiels are serious foragers and yours has that same instinct. It is a great source of physical and mental activity.
The Birdtricks.com toy line has a great selection of toys that are shreddable and foragable, as well as those swing-able, climb-able, punish-able and whatever other use your cockatiel may find for them. Be sure to keep toys in constant supply to keep your cockatiel mentally and physically fit by clicking on this link: Parrot Toys.
How NOT To Feed Your Cockatiel
One of the biggest mistakes new cockatiel owners make is in feeding their birds an all seed diet. Many people take their birds home having been instructed to do just that. Seed does play an important role in the diet of many small birds, but alone, it will not sustain good health.
Cockatiels may be small, but they have the same dietary requirements as any of the larger species of parrot. All parrots need vegetables, fruits, grains and legumes to complete their diet. The lack of specific nutrients will lead to immune system dysfunction and disease susceptibility and will ultimately lessen your cockatiels quality of life and increase your vet bills.
Knowing that diet is the biggest area of concern for most parrot owners, we put together Cooking For Parrots – a nutrition course and cookbook that explains all of your birds dietary needs and offers solutions to common feeding problems and includes over 100 recipes and foraging ideas. I’d highly encourage you to watch the Free Diet Video where we explain what a perfect diet looks like.
In addition to fresh foods, a cockatiel needs to be fed a high quality pellet to fill in any inadequacies in the diet. Our Feed Your Flock pellets come directly from nature and use only 100% human grade ingredients. They are formed using a cold pressed method that does not destroy vital nutritients through the application of heat. Other brand cannot make that same claim.
Keeping Your Cockatiel’s Feathers Healthy
All birds produce down feathers, but a select few species, including the cockatiel, produce “powder” down feathers which, over time, disintegrate into a fine dust. This dust will layer your furniture and be transported through your home’s air system. Even a small bird like a cockatiel can create an annoying mess unless he is frequently bathed.
Most cockatiels love to bathe. It removes debris from the feathers and keeps their skin from becoming dry and itchy (sometimes a precursor to plucking!). Some have different preferences in the way their bath is administered: some like to be misted, some like a shallow tub of water to wade through, others might like to join you in the shower.
Observe your bird’s preferences and offer a bath at least 2-3 times a week – more often if your Cockatiel so desires.
Your Cockatiel’s Health & Safety
The cockatiel is a hardy little parrot and the vast majority of illness this species faces is related to a poor diet, lack of exercise or an unclean environment. This means that preventative measures are your best bet for keeping your bird in good health.
Feeding your bird a varied diet, promoting active play and keeping the cage papers, perches, toys and food bowls clea n and free of decaying food and bacteria is how to keep those illnesses that are within your control at bay.
Cockatiels in captivity will reproduce year round and the females of the species might produce clutch after clutch. This is referred to as chronic egg laying, something that cockatiels are noted for. It creates a health hazard for the hen whose own calcium supply becomes more depleted with each egg produced. This increases the possibility of egg binding, a condition in which the female is unable to pass the egg.
In order to prevent this from happening to your female cockatiel, it is necessary to make changes to the environment that deter the urge to breed. The hormonal surges that can result in aggressive behaviors and destruction in your home can be minimized by knowing which foods, interactions and even toys to avoid at “that time of the year”.
Our course devoted entirely to this confusing subject will make you an expert in understanding your parrot’s springtime behaviors can be found here: Hormones.
Your cockatiel will need 10-12 hours of undisturbed sleep every night. Unfortunately, most cockatiels, at one point or another, experience episodes of terror in their cage referred to as “night frights”. This usually happens after the house is completely quiet in the middle of the night. A mouse or a family pet moving through the house, a draft blowing their cage cover or the headlights from a passing car have all been identified as causes of these events.
In fear, your cockatiel will try to take flight in its cage and ultimately falls to the bottom. When this happens, turn on a light and go over to reassure your bird. More often than not, your cockatiel will recover quickly and go back to sleep, but there are many reports of injuries resulting from night frights every year. Keeping a night light illuminated in your bird’s room is effective as is the background noise of a fan or air purifier.
Many owners allow their birds a lot of out of cage time and your active and intelligent cockatiel will want to explore every corner of your home. As ground foragers, they will often inherently make their way to the floor – a place that can be dangerous for them. Aside from placing themselves amongst the foot traffic of large, sometimes unaware, humans, there is danger from other pets and things found on the floor, such as electrical cords. Always be alert when your cockatiel is out and about.
The KEY To A Happy Cockatiel — Socialization!
The cockatiel is a highly social and intelligent bird that will want to spend as much time with its human flockmates as possible. It is important that all members of the family contribute its care to keep it willing to interact with everyone.
A properly socialized bird is one that is exposed to as many different events and people as is appropriate and safe for a bird. This will make the occasional vet visit less stressful and boarding necessities tolerable for everyone involved.
An improperly socialized bird is the one that bites you when you reach into the cage to take it out, and the one who flies through the house, determined not to be caught, when it’s time to go back in. It is an unfortunate situation and one that is completely unnecessary given how easy a cockatiel can be trained.
Out of cage time, in the best of situations, is not always spent in the most productive ways. Often a bird will sit on a perch or shoulder while the humans go about their daily chores. While your bird will enjoy being in your presence, and free from its cage, one could hardly call that “interaction”.
The most intensive interaction happens during training when your bird has your complete focus and attention. It allows your bird to use its remarkable brain and provides a bonding and trust building experience like no other activity can.
The most certain way to ensure that life with your cockatiel is everything you’d hoped it would be is to begin training your bird with positive reinforcement from day one.