Cockatiel Care

Important things to know about Cockatiels before you purchase one.

Facebook has lots of amazing Cockatiel groups that offer a ton of advice and help. They are a great resource. There are also several cockatiel forums online with more information. Both of these sources allow you to search for specific information, ask for advice and share/see photos and videos. I will link some of my favorite groups and forums below.

Basic Information
If you’re looking for a bird that is full of personality, look no further!

Cockatiels live on average between 15-25 years. They can be loud, messy, and sometimes a little destructive, but they can also be so sweet, cuddly and absolute characters. They carry a lot of dust/dander so if you are sensitive, that is something to think about. It can be toned down by misting your birds with water or offering a larger bowl of water for bathing, but they are one of the more “dusty” parrots. They also molt a couple times a year or just randomly drop feathers, plus lots of seed shells and poo. So expect to clean daily, including sweeping/vacuuming around the cage. I also recommend getting an air purifier to keep near your cages. These help a lot with toning down the dust. They love to chew on wood, so protect your window trim and sills especially, and some of our birds try to chew on the actual walls so be aware that’s a thing. Provide your cockatiel with different toys and sizes/types of perches. Natural wood perches are the best and they come in a variety of types/textures and sizes.

Males tend to be more vocal than females, often whistling and mimicking different sounds. It is more rare for females to make much noise, but some do. Both sexes “flock call”, which is a very loud and ear piercing screech that is meant to be heard over miles in the wild. They will often do this when you enter/leave a room, when startled, or sometimes just because. Cockatiels that are left alone will often flock call more than cockatiels who have a partner.

Cockatiels are sensitive to smells/odors/fumes. They have delicate lungs. Non-stick anything (pots and pans being the biggest concern) can quickly kill them. It is also highly recommended not to use any scent stuff around them like candles, plug-ins, wax melts, incense etc. If you want to use these things in your home, please keep your bird in a closed-door room away from these things and use at your own risk. I personally use plug-ins in my home away from my birds (and on the other side of a closed door) but some people will say not to use them at all, so you will need to decide what is right for you and your home. It is also important to keep your birds cage and area clean, as their own messes and dander can make them sick. Use stainless steel food and water bowls, and clean them daily. Birds will often contaminate their water on a daily basis, and if your bird is exceptionally messy, you may need to change their water multiple times a day. Many houseplants are toxic to cockatiels so be sure to know which are safe and which aren’t, because if your birds have access to your plants they will likely chew on them. Common signs of illness are listed below.

Signs of Illness
Cockatiels, like all birds, are excellent at hiding illness, often until it’s an emergency or even too late. Before getting a cockatiel, find an exotic bird vet in your area. Most usual vets will not see exotic animals like birds. Keep in mind that exotic vets can be more expensive then usual vets, so it is important to prepare for this. Observe your bird daily and learn what is and is not normal for them.
Some of the most common signs of illness are bird sitting puffed up (especially when not cold), lethargy, not eating, struggling to breathe or noisy breathing or wheezing, tail bobbing, sitting at the bottom of the cage when they usually don’t, and variations in droppings (be sure to research what is and what is not normal with droppings). Blood feathers are also something you will want to research and learn about, there’s nothing scarier then finding your bird covered in blood and not understanding what a blood feather is and what to do.

Cockatiels live in giant flocks in the wild and so it is highly recommended to keep at least 2 Cockatiels together so they can have companionship. Always keep an even number in your flock so everybody has somebody. With that being said, each individual bird has their own individual personality and so you are never guaranteed any two birds will get along. You can have same sex pairs, but don’t worry about male/female pairs if you don’t want babies. There are many steps you can take to help tone down hormones to prevent breeding, and also they make fake eggs to replace your hens eggs if she does lay.
If you do not have birds yet, I recommend getting one and spending a few months bonding with it. Then get your second, which you will want to quarantine away from the other bird for at least 30 days. Spend that time bonding with your second bird before introducing them to each other. Be prepared that they may need or prefer separate cages, but may enjoy having the cages next to each other and be outside of their cages together during the day.

We feed a mix of seed and pellets as well as fresh chop daily. Cockatiels need fresh veggies and other foods aside from seeds/pellets every day. Here is our chop recipe that I make once every couple weeks in a large batch and freeze the excess. There is a lot of debate about what the best diet is for cockatiels, so be sure to do your research and figure out what works best for you and your birds. Be aware that a bird fed entirely seeds may take awhile to get used to pellets and fresh foods.

Making Chop Easy
Make sure all of your ingredients have no salt added. You can pick up a bag of frozen mixed veggies (green beans, peas, carrots, broccoli, etc) and simply run that through a food processor to chop it up in to tiny bites. Kale, cilantro, collard greens are also great to either mix in (run through the food processor) or serve fresh. You can clip a whole piece of kale to the side of the cage to give them something to nibble on. Also cooked sweet potato (don’t serve raw) is great. I cook quinoa and steel cut oats daily and mix it in with the serving of chop to warm it up, which is great if you forget to pull some out of the freezer also. I cook the oats and quinoa together in the same pot at the same time to make it easy. Be aware that when you pull your chop from the freezer, it will be very wet when it thaws. You can strain it or mix in some seeds/pellets to absorb some of the moisture.
Feed chop in the morning, remove in the afternoon and then offer your seed/pellet mix.

Whenever you want to try something new, the groups/forums or even a simple “google” will let you know if something is safe or not for your bird.