Cockatiels are one of the best avian pets because of their modest size, relatively quiet disposition, and long history of domestication. They are resistant to many of the virus diseases that threaten larger parrots. Although not usually gifted talkers, a few learn to speak some words, and many can whistle long and complicated tunes and TV themes! A handfed, weaned young cockatiel is a good choice for a new pet. Check with retailer or supplier about a health guarantee, and find out exactly what type of feeding your weaned baby is on at the time of purchase. Avoid weaning onto seed if possible (keep on the much healthier formulated diets such as Hagen Tropican granules). These contain vitamins and minerals so there is no need to add supplements to the drinking water each day. Cockatiels tend to be very fussy eaters and it is rare to find a seed eating 'tiel that will also eat greens and vegetables. Pellet eating birds tend to take other foods more readily and have a lower fat intake. Seed eating birds can become prone to fatty liver syndrome (ask your veterinarian for more information). Also ask your veterinarian about routine testing for psittacosis. Psittacosis (chlamydiosis) is a non-viral respiratory disease that can affect humans, so it is always a good idea to discuss this issue with your veterinarian shortly after purchase.

It is usually best to start off with just one cockatiel. If the family becomes very busy, or you would like to try breeding cockatiels, you can add a second one to your collection at a later date. Keep a new cockatiel in a separate room from an existing bird for at least 30 days. New birds need a safe, clean cage in a quiet location. Place food on the floor (away from overhead perches) until the bird has found the new food cups. Water can also be offered in more than one location until the bird is oriented.

Use perches of several different diameters to exercise the feet properly. Most veterinarians recommend fresh, natural branches as part of the cage furniture. Your cockatiel will enjoy perching on these and peeling the bark from species such as apple, alder, beech, maple, eucalyptus, citrus and many others. Toys are highly recommended for such intelligent birds as cockatiels. Those with mirrors, open bells and chewable items such as rawhide and plaster are particularly valuable for cockatiels. Check with your retailer and veterinarian about toy safety for your particular bird.

Always select the largest cage you can afford. Make sure the bars are not spaced incorrectly for a cockatiel (watch for head entrapments). Always allow your bird out once daily; check the "flight room" for safety first. Kitchens are not recommended as they contain many hazards such as hot pans, non-stick bakeware fumes, and oil or grease. Make sure other family pets are kept separate. Many owners trim their cockatiels wings in the summer months when the pet is more likely to escape through an open window or door. Your pet retailer or veterinarian can show you how to do this safely.

Louise Bauck BSc, DVM, MVSc.

Return to List of Information Sheets
Return to H.A.R.I. Home Page