TameTiels Aviary of VA

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Cockatiel Care

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Asthma, Allergies & Respiratory Conditions
Cockatiels produce a great deal of feather dust. This feather dust is created during preening. A cockatiel's down feathers are very fine. When cockatiels chew these feathers, they turn to a powdery dust, which the bird spreads throughout it's outer feathers while grooming. Most people with allergies, asthma and other respiratory conditions are highly sensitive to this powder which is also dispersed throughout the home. Frequent vacuuming with a hepa filter, installing high quality air filters, preferrably hepa, and frequent changing of HVAC filters can help reduce the amount of dander and powder in the home. Spraying your bird daily and keeping the cage cleaned regularly will also help reduce accumulation of this feather dust. If in doubt about how owning a cockatiel will impact your allergies or asthma, see your physician. It is far better to get the bad news before bringing a bird into your life than to be forced to find your beloved pet a new home after your condition worsens. Be fair to the bird and to your family, check with your doctor first.
Although somewhat easier to care for than many larger hookbills, cockatiels still require your companionship. Being flock birds, they need daily interaction with either their humans or other cockatiels to remain happy and secure. In order to thrive, your cockatiel should have plenty of one-on-one time with you on a consistent basis. If you cannot give your cockatiel attention everyday, and it will not have another cockatiel as a companion, a pet bird is not suitable for your lifestyle.
Toys & Exercise
Curious and playful, your cockatiel needs a wide variety of bird-safe toys to amuse itself with when not spending time with you or your family. Toys, ladders and swings are thoroughly enjoyed by most cockatiels. Be sure toys include bells, leather strips, wood blocks, plastic beads. Do not buys toys with jingle bells as toes and beaks can become stuck, causing injury. Choose a variety of brightly colored toys with many different textures. Toys that make noise are even better. Just as a small child, cockatiels soon become bored with their toys, so be sure to switch them often. You do not have to buy new ones all the time, just buy a few extra, and rotate regularly. If a toy becomes soiled and cannot be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, you must discard it. Additionally, if toys become frayed, chipped or otherwise broken, inspect them closely. If you think your bird could injest small pieces, or snag a toe, or worse, slip it's neck through the toy, throw it away immediately. If in doubt, toss it. It is not worth taking a chance with your bird's safety.
Please visit this site to read about metal poisoning from cages, toys and other hardware: http://www.savelocke.com/index.html . When choosing a cage for your cockatiel, be sure to choose one that has good width, preferrably one that is wider than it is tall. It should be at least 20 inches wide. Do not select round cages. Tall, extremely narrow cages are highly inappropriate for cockatiels, no matter what the store clerk may suggest. You should always buy the biggest cage you can afford. Cages sold on e-bay are priced much more economically than those you find in pet shops. You get much more cage for your money, even with shipping costs. Most of my clients have found suitable cages from the e-bay store Demsond Pet Depot. The store offers a fairly large cockatiel cage and stand for about $60, including shipping. The same set up in the average pet shop will run about $160. When deciding on a cage, remember that amongst all the toys, your cockatiel still needs room to spread it's wings out fully, without touching anything. At least one side of the cage should have horizontal bars to allow climbing. If there are no horizontal bars, be sure to have at least one ladder in the cage. Do not buy cages that have bar spacing over one inch, as anything larger can contribute to injury.
Cage Supplies
Your cockatiel will need two feed cups and one water cup and/or bottle. Glass bottles are preferred, as they are easier to keep clean and sanitized. If you choose to use water bottles, remember to check them daily as they can malfunction. A few days without water can cause severe dehydration, even death. Do not use water cups with lids as your bird can get it's head stuck and drown. Water cups must be changed and cleaned at least once daily. If your bird likes making poop-soup, you should seriously consider switching to a water bottle. Install the bottle right above the water cup. Monitor the water level in the bottle daily. Once it is apparent the bird is drinking from the bottle, you can remove the water cup.
Spending most of the day on it's feet, your cockatiel needs a variety of perches. The perches should vary in texture and circumference. Rope perches (boodas), mazanita perches, and cholla perches offer a good variety. They can be found at most pet stores. DO NOT buy sandpaper perch covers. They will only irritate your bird's feet. In order to keep your bird's nails trim, I also suggest you include a pedicure perch in the cage. Place it where it will be used daily, such as by the favorite toy, the feed cup, or water bottle. Mineral blocks and/or cuttlebones are placed in all of my cages. The birds use them for calcium and to sharpen, clean and condition their beaks.
Grit, Gravel, Bedding  Cage Liners
Cockatiels do NOT need grit. They remove the outer parts of the seed (hull), eating only the meat. Ingesting large amounts of grit, gravel can cause problems with your bird's digestive tract, even impaction. You should use newsprint to line the bottom of the cage. Colored inks can be toxic, so do not use the sales papers or comic strips. Corn cob, pine, aspen, cedar and gravel are all inappropriate to use to cover the cage bottom. You must inspect your bird's droppings daily. Yes, you must be a poop snoop! It is much easier to study droppings on news or plain white paper liners. Change the cage paper daily, otherwise you will miss subtle changes in droppings that indicate illness or injury.
Feeding Your Cockatiel

Cockatiels hatched at TameTiels are weaned to a varied diet, consisting primarily of pellets. They are also offered a small amount of seed. I use a no or low sunflower blend, and prefer using parakeet mixes over cockatiel blends, as they tend to have no sunflower and are lower in fat. Fresh, human-grade foods are offered to my cockatiels several times a week, sometimes daily. Birds feeding babies get fresh foods daily. My cockatiels enjoy the following fresh foods:

  • Cooked, cooled brown rice
  • Cooked, cooled, cous-cous with garlic
  • Untoasted, unbuttered 100% wheat bread
  • Washed, cooked & cooled lentils
  • Washed, raw summer corn on the cob
  • Half-baked sweet potatoes
  • Washed, uncooked shredded carrots
  • Washed, raw broccoli florets and stalks
  • Washed, raw zuchinni and yellow squash
  • Washed, raw greens: kale, collard, turnip & mustard
  • Thawed, uncooked frozen peas and corn
  • Corn muffins made with any of the above ingredients

I offer my birds fresh foods in the evenings, so I can be sure to collect leftovers out of the cage within two hours to avoid spoilage and the growth and spread of bacteria. Food left to sit over two hours will spoil, mold and can contribute to illness. Adding cinnamon to moist, fresh foods can help reduce the occurence of certain e.coli bacteria strains. Do not give your cockatiel chocolate, caffiene, advocado (guacamole), sugar or salt. These items are harmful, even deadly to your pet bird.


Your cockatiel should get regular baths. Some birds enjoy daily baths. Cockatiels can be bathed either by spraying them, using a water bottle, or by being offered a shallow pan of water. Most of my birds relish daily water bottle showers. If you choose to use a shallow bowl for your birds bath, be sure to remove it once the bird has bathed. The longer the bowl sits in the cage, the dirtier the water becomes. The bird will drink the bath water. Yuck! Be sure the birds have plenty of time to fully dry before retiring for the evening. Morning showers are preferred as they allow plenty of dry time before bed time arrives.

Clean out the cage daily, wiping off droppings and changing paper. Thoroughly clean the cage on a weekly basis. This involves deep-cleaning and sanitizing. Cage sides, tops, as well as the bottom grate must be cleaned. Use only bird-safe cleaners. Household bleach properly diluted in water works well. For an even safer cleaning agent, try apple cider vinegar, diluted with hot water. When cleaning the cage, check for nicks in the paint, rust spots, broken wires, jagged edges, etc. Cleaning time is the perfect opportunity to make sure the cage is still a safe home for your bird. Perches must also be kept clean. You can use Poop-Off Spray and/or a small wire brush. Toys must also be cleaned regularly. Inspect toys for safety as well.


Always be aware of things than can be harmful to your bird. If you cook with Teflon, never, ever heat it above medium. Overheated Teflon releases toxic gases into the air, and can kill your bird in a few hours, if not quicker. Most scented candles, air or room fresheners and household cleaners can cause problems. Birds have very sensitive and efficicient respiratory systems, so are more susceptible to airborne toxins and contaminants. DO NOT smoke around your bird. If you are a smoker and have a bird, you MUST smoke outside.


No matter how much you trust Fluffy or Fido, never leave your bird unattended in their company. True, your beloved furred friends have been around birds for 10 years and have never caused a problem. Unfortunately, it only takes one split-second exception to that pattern to kill your bird. Is it really worth the gamble? I think not. A mere scratch from a cat can kill your bird. Cats carry a bacteria that is deadly to birds. Even other birds can pose a danger to your cockatiel. The bird does not have to be bigger than your cockatiel to cause injury. Lovebirds, although smaller than cockatiels, can be very territorial and aggressive. A lovebird can cause severe injury with a simple bite to the toe! Always supervise your birds when out of their cages.


Cockatiels love to chew, especially branches, twigs and leaves. Numerous household plants are extremely poisonous to birds. I do not have a list, but you can find one at www.cockatiels.org .

Ceiling Fans, Windows, Doors, Etc

Ceiling fans must never be on when a bird is out of it's cage. Birds love to roost in high places. Be cautious when closing doors if your bird is out, checking the top of the door before closing it. Make sure all screens on windows are in good repair if you plan on having the window open and bird out at the same time. If your bird can fly, or it's cage is near the kitchen or bathroom be aware of open toilets, pans of dishwater and uncovered pots of water on the stove. All these things are very dangerous for your bird should it accidentally fly or walk into those areas.

Humans, the Wee Ones

Cockatiels typically do very well with children, however many young children do not understand how truly fragile these birds are. A child might become excited and hold the bird too tightly, causing the bird to suffer fractures or be unable to breathe. Always supervise young children when interacting with your cockatiel. Teach children how to be responsible and how to properly handle such a small bird. Children can also help with the caring and feeding of your bird, provided you teach them and continually follow-through. Never give a child 100% responsibilty for the care of a pet bird. A bird can starve in a few days. Oversee the care of your child's bird. You must be the primary caregiver, not the child.

Medical Care

Cockatiels can suffer many illnesses, accidents and diseases, even bacterial infections. Cockatiels are exotic pets, and should be seen by specialized practitioners. Be sure to find an avian-certified Vet for your new pet bird. Do not assume any Vet can properly care for your bird. Do your research and find the right Vet. My Vet takes great care of my birds (and cats). I highly recommend him if you live in the Charlottesville/Waynesboro, VA area. His contact info:

Dr. William Olkowski, Cedarcrest Animal Hospital, (540) 943-7577.

To Fly or Not to Fly

Because I show my birds, many are flighted year round. I do clip all  birds sold as pets. They are given a graduated clip before leaving TameTiels. I trim a feather from each wing, one at a time, testing the bird's flight after each trim. I leave enough flights intact to allow the bird to fly a distance of about 3 to 4 feet, maintaining a height of about 3 feet above the floor. Many people remove too many flights. A wing trim should be based on the bird's weight and strength of flight. Cockatiels should never be clipped so severely that they plop to the ground when attempting to take flight. Cockatiels should never be clipped before properly fledging. Clipping the wings of a bird before it learns to properly take off, fly and land can detract from the bird's confidence and sense of security. Never clip a bird on your own unless you have been instructed how to clip the bird. Be very careful, as accidentally clipping a blood feather can cause your bird to bleed to death. Most Vets and pet stores will clip wings for a reasonable fee, most under $10. Even though your bird will leave TameTiels clipped, it only takes the regrowth of one or two new feathers to create enough lift for your cockatiel to go into full flight again. I am willing to maintain the wings of any bird bought from TameTiels as long as you are located within an hour's radius, or are willing to bring the bird back here for the service. I will clip for free at my home, but will charge 10 cents a mile if I must drive to you.


I am sure there are areas I failed to cover. You can also find great information at the National Cockatiel Society website. Membership is very affordable and has many benefits. You do not have to be a member to use the site.

Still have Questions?

Feel free to e-mail HERE or find me on Facebook to send a message. If your bird is sick, please call an Avian Vet first. I cannot offer medical advice.

Copyright 2000-2012 TameTiels (TM) Aviary of VA. All rights reserved. No text, photos, graphics, artwork or otherwise can be used from this site without the expressed consent of Sherri A. Lewis (aka Sherri Inskeep-Lewis).