I have two cockatiels and one?is always getting picked on by the other. The one gets bitten, thrown off his perch, and gets his feathers plucked by the other. I want them in the same cage without fighting, but how do I do that?
Safely socializing parrots can be tricky depending on their specific situation. Here are some things to consider when attempting to house two birds together who are not comfortable with each other: Age, Size, Breed/Species, Gender, Location/Environment.
Age: Don’t mix mature with immature.
It’s not safe to attempt to house a baby bird with an adult and fully matured bird. If one of your cockatiels is under a year, and the other is around 4-5 years old or older already… the mature bird will naturally pick on the younger one because it can. You should really wait until the younger bird is fully developed and can hold his own before putting him in with an older, more mature bird.
Size: It matters when socializing.
You don’t want to be attempting to socialize a budgie with a macaw; keep the birds very close in size so it’s an even battle field. Intimidation plays a role.
Breed & Species: Different side of the planet, different ways.
Some research says not to mix African species with South American species. I, for one, successfully socialized my Australian Galah (also known as a rose breasted cockatoo) with my Congo African Grey to where they could share a cage happily together. However, it is something to keep in the back of your head when it comes to making your own decision about this.
Gender: Males and females.
Keep in mind that males and females can bond to where they decide to be mates and that can give you more than you bargained for. They can also reject one another as mates and severely pick on one another when breeding season comes around and they both have different ideas for the season.
Location & Environment: This is the biggie.
In order to two birds to get along and live happily together in one cage, you have to start NEW. This means a brand new cage that neither bird has ever been in before. By starting with a new cage, neither bird has the option of being territorial and each one will be more focused on the cage itself and their new environment than one another.
Another huge factor with their environment is that you must provide more food and water dishes than there are birds and they must be on different sides and parts of the cage. This is just in case one bird picks on the other and defends the food bowls. If both birds realize they will always have enough food for the both of them early on, it won’t become an issue and you can eventually take out the extra dishes as time goes on and the two birds get more comfortable with one another and their surroundings.
And I know we talk about food finding toys, a lot… but that’s because we want to beat it into your heads! Birds NEED them! Especially in this situation; they can keep busy and focused on something OTHER than each other.
If one bird is naturally more possessive of food, make sure you feed that bird first AND last, always.
The steps you take with your current cockatiels are to socialize them OUTSIDE of their current cages first. This may take you a few days, it may take weeks or even months. It goes faster if your birds are fully flighted. This comes down to the “fight or flight” in the wild. Birds see conflict as having to do one or the other, and if they can fly away, they are more likely to get to know another bird and less likely to fight because they don’t feel like they HAVE to. If they can’t fly, then fighting is their only choice and they often feel too pressured.
Your socializing space should be your house or large area where both birds can fly around and have plenty things to do. You don’t have to start them next to each other – you want them to choose to check out one another and not make them meet. Start them a comfortable distance away from each other and give them both something to do. Reward calm and happy behavior. You don’t need to spend a lot of time doing this. 5-10 minutes or less is fine and ALWAYS end on a positive note.
Back in their cages, it’s best if they can see and hear one another to get used to the other bird’s presence.
Do this type of socializing in a large area with no pressure and constant rewards for leaving one another alone. They will naturally come into contact and feel each other out. If they are reacting fine with one another, use another person or yourself (if possible) and put one on each hand and place them into the new cage at the exact same time. Make sure food finding toys, water and food is already placed inside before putting the birds in. Place them on opposite sides of the cage and watch them.
From my own experience doing this with the above birds, they both had their “sides” of the cage (keep in mind I was dealing with birds of the same gender) and always respected the other bird when it was on one side. With time, they loosened up about having sides.
Just make sure the birds are getting along in the huge area outside their cages before ever attempting to put them into a cage together. You also want the biggest cage possible as they HAVE to be able to get away from each other if they feel the need.