Of the many parrots and parrot-like birds available, the Coackatiel appears to be one of the ideal pet parrots. In popularity it occupies a position between the budgerigar (parakeet) and the larger exotic parrots. Their popularity is well deserved because of their gentle nature and elegant beauty. Coackatiels are very sweet, lovable birds that love attention. Many like to be scratched or stroked behind the crest or on the cheeks. The Coackatiel has a relatively long life span of about 15 to 20 years or more in captivity. Coackatiels are very affectionate birds that will often learn tricks to delight their owners. They can mimic speech and sounds, but their voice is very high-pitched so it can be hard to hear the words. However, their whistling ability is well known, and many tiels can be taught whole songs with practice. Coackatiels are approximately 13 inches in overall length and need to be housed in a suitably large cage. The ideal pet Cockatiel should be taken into the household as soon as it is feeding on its own (approximately 8 to 10 weeks after hatching). Some are naturally tame and friendly, while others may require coaxing and patience. When the bird comes home, it should be left for a few hours to explore and adjust to its new cage without disturbance. The bird will usually settle down after a few days. Cockatiels are very social birds and will appreciate time out of their cages every day. Time spent in a cage will be more fun for your bird if you provide it with toys and something to watch or listen to. Cockatiels see colors and like to chew and manipulate moveable objects.
It is very difficult to sex young Cockatiels. This is because until the first molt at about 6 months, all Cockatiels look like females. However, if you catch a young bird trying to whistle a lot, it is probably a male. It is much easier to sex a Cockatiel after the first molt. Males of most color mutations get bright yellow heads, while females have only traces of yellow on the face. The underside of the tail feathers is solid colored in males, and barred in females. A Pearl Cockatiel is especially easy to sex after the first molt- the males lose their spots, while the females keep them! Both sexes make good pets, although it is recommended that you not put mirrors in the cages of male Cockatiels as they will strut about to show off and can become aggressive to protect this "mate."
The diet should consist of seeds and pellets plus all the fresh, frozen or canned (without salt) vegetables they want. Some vegetables and other favorite foods are fresh greens (romaine, kale, spinach, chard, carrot tops, herbs, chickweed and dandelion), vegetables (corn, peas, carrots, beets, broccoli, etc), fruit (apple, pear, melon, grapes, berries, etc), cooked rice, beans or pasta, brown bread, cornbread, unsalted nuts, tofu, cheese, and scrambled or hard-boiled egg, pasta, and some cereals such as Total, Shredded Wheat, Cheerios and others which are low in sodium and sugar. Cockatiels won't eat a lot of fruit, but most of them will at least taste apples, kiwi, bananas, mangos, strawberries, cranberries and some melons. Since vitamin A deficiency is frequently found in Cockatiels, try to provide vegetables that have a high amount of vitamin A or Beta-Carotene in them. These include carrots, leafy green vegetables, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin. Most Cockatiels love breads, muffins and cookies with carrots, pumpkin or sweet potato in them. In fact, most foods that are good for you are good for your bird too! However, there are some foods that should never be fed to birds: avocado, rhubarb, alcohol, chocolate, and any foods high in fat, sugar, salt or caffeine. And, for those picky eaters who prefer not to eat pellets, try putting the pellets in with their other foods All green food should be given fresh daily and obtained from clean sources and be sure that anytime you give fresh foods to your birds that you remove them from the cages within a few hours or they become a bacterial breeding ground.
Calcium is a must for your birds. Provide them with cuttlebones and mineral blocks at all times. If they won't eat these, you'll need to scrape them onto your birds' food. Cockatiel hens are famous for egg binding problems. Single pet hens WILL lay eggs, they just won't be fertile. Another means of getting calcium into your birds is to give them crushed, sterile (cooked in oven until light tan color) egg shells. If you can get your tiel to eat Tums, they also provide calcium.
Bathing is natural for tiels. It helps keep feathers clean and skin moist. It also keeps down the amount of dust the Cockatiels put out. Use a plant mister or give a dish with water. Cockatiels grow down feathers that disintegrate into a fine dust. Keep this in mind when considering cage placement.
Cockatiels are very playful. They should be given as large a cage as possible. Make sure the spacing between bars is no greater than 3/4" and make sure there are plenty of horizontal bars to facilitate climbing. Add toys to keep your bird amused and content. Make sure your bird has adequate room or play and exercise. Cages which have more floor space are much better, especially for birds who spend a lot of time in them. Since Cockatiels are ground feeders in nature, a larger space gives them more room to move about. Use a grate on the bottom of the cages. This keeps the birds from eating their droppings and spoiled/discarded foods which can be a major cause of bacterial and fungal problems in captive raised birds. You can line the tray with black & white newspaper (never colored!), brown paper bags, or paper towels, all of which need to be changed daily. Do not use kitty litter, ground corn cob, or crushed walnut shell to line the tray. These not only grow mold easily, but can be fatal if ingested. Pine or aspen shavings (never cedar!) can be used, but are very messy. Shavings tend to blow everywhere!
Try to provide a variety of perch sizes and materials. Perches with varying diameters and shapes, such as branches, help exercise the feet. If a bird is using the same size perch all the time, it can cause foot problems later in life. If you use natural perches, please, make sure you are using safe wood and only from trees which have never been treated.
Cockatiels are intelligent and can become bored. Providing your bird with lots of toys in the cage will keep him entertained, especially if he is alone. Wood toys are also good for keeping beaks trimmed. Use a variety of toys and rotate them. You can buy bird toys or make your own from items around the house or purchased at craft stores The possibilities are unlimited.
Keep both of your bird's wings properly clipped. The bird will stay much more tame, and it also reduces the risk of the bird escaping through an open door or window. Clipping wings is not painful, as you are not actually cutting off part of the wing, rather you are just trimming the long flight feathers. This hurts no more than when we get a hair cut! These trimmed feathers will be replaced by new, long ones at the next molt, and the bird will be able to fly again unless you have it re-clipped. Have an experienced person or veterinarian clip the wings for you, as doing it wrong can cause the bird severe pain and bleeding. Also, make sure you have both wings clipped, never just one. Having only one wing clipped is dangerous, as the bird is off-balance, can't control its movement well, and it may injure itself
Spending Time with your Bird:
Spend time with your bird. Talk to him as you pass by or work near the cage. Take your bird out of the cage each day. Give him time out on a playpen and time playing with you. How much time will your tiel require out of the cage? That depends on the individual bird. The easiest way to have a happy, lovable pet Cockatiel is to spend as much time with him as you can. A handfed or tame Cockatiel will remain tame if you take him out and play with him for only an hour a day. But, the more time you spend with your bird, the more loving and tame he will be. If you want your bird to be a member of the family, include him in your daily life. Provide a playpen or perch where he can enjoy his toys and be part of family activities. When you eat, offer your bird some of the healthy foods. This provides variety in the diet as well as interaction with you. If you are watching TV, allow your bird to join you.
Cockatiels fear being unable to see things at night. They can have what is referred to as "night frights" which almost looks like some sort of seizure. They'll flap around the cage wildly and can even injure themselves. It is a good idea to have a night light near their cage. Not covering their cages can help eliminate night frights. If you do cover a cage don't cover totally, but leave at least one side uncovered. During a night fright, some feathers will often get damaged. If one of these happen to be a blood feather, try to remain calm and remove it. If you don't and the bird has further frights or bangs the broken feather on something, it can continue to bleed. Too much blood loss on a small bird can cause it's death. To remove a broken blood feather you would grasp it with a needle nose pliers close to where it enters the skin. Generally it is a wing or tail feather. In this case, hold the wing or tail where you will be removing the feather. Jerk firmly on the feather with the pliers to remove it. Using your fingers, place firm pressure on the spot where the feather was removed until all bleeding stops, usually a minute or two. If you cannot stop a blood feather from bleeding, this is an emergency. Call your vet immediately.