Cockatiel Babies

When a cockatiel baby hatches, it is only about an inch long and covered in yellow down. They look a bit like prehistoric miniatures, with heavy heads that loll on rubbery little necks. On day one, they are too weak to stand, but that doesn't mean they won't try. Their parents take them under wing, and keep them warm and well-fed. It's amazing how fast they grow. In just six to eight short weeks they are fully grown and ready for a loving home.

Baby Lutino Cockatiel
Baby Lutino Cockatiel | Source
Babies grow fast
Babies grow fast | Source
Father and mother take turns on the nest.
Father and mother take turns on the nest. | Source

Incubation Period

It takes anywhere from 18-23 days for cockatiel eggs to incubate. One breeder pair I owned hatched babies like clockwork, 18 days after laying the first egg. Another pair took 21 days, and my current breeding pair is not quite so regular though they do fall within the 18-23 day range. Eggs are most often laid a day or two apart and hatch following that order. This is why you often see chicks of different sizes within the same brood.

Role of Cockatiel Parents

Male and female cockatiels share the responsibilities of incubating the eggs, feeding the young and keeping them warm. While incubating the eggs, the female stays on the eggs at night and the male takes over the day shift. While on duty responsibilities include:

  • Egg turning – eggs are turned once an hour. This helps ensure the baby cockatiel inside stays a uniform temperature. Turning also helps prevent the baby from sticking to the shell membrane.
  • Maintaining proper humidity – parents bath in a shallow dish of water and with their wet feathers maintain proper humidity for the eggs.

Egg tooth

Before a baby cockatiel hatches, you can hear it chirping faintly within the egg. They start to break through the shell by using a small protrusion on the top of their beak, known as an egg tooth. The process of breaking free of the egg is called pipping. It takes hours and a lot of energy for the baby bird to work free from the egg.

Baby Cockatiel
Baby Cockatiel | Source

Cockatiel Baby Eyes

When baby cockatiels first hatch, their eyes are closed and remain closed for about eight to ten days. The skin over their sealed eyes is transparent enough to see whether their eyes are red are dark brown. Eye color is the first clue as to what color the baby cockatiel will be when its feathers grow in. In some cases color is a sex-linked mutation and in others it is a recessive mutation. I'll save all that for another article, but basically, red eyes will mean the bird will cost a little more to buy because they are rarer. Cockatiels with red eyes may be one of the following:

  • Albino
  • Fallow (also called cinnamon)
  • Lutino
  • Recessive Silver

Getting Their Feathers

By the time baby cockatiels are two weeks old, they've lost most or all of their down and have started to grow feathers on their wings, down their back and sprout crest feathers on top of their heads. By three weeks, they are almost fully feathered but a little mangy looking, and by four weeks they almost look like an adult bird.

Young Cockatiels as Pets

Cockatiels are an ideal choice for a first time bird owner. They are a smaller bird with a big personality. Males are more vocal and often learn to whistle and talk, but either sex bonds affectionately to their owner as a loving companion. Finding a baby cockatiel who is just weaned is the ideal scenario as they adjust quickly to new surroundings.

Four week old baby cockatiel.
Four week old baby cockatiel. | Source

Hand Fed Baby Cockatiels

Hand fed baby cockatiels make friendly, gentle pets. Hand-fed means the babies are pulled from the nest (usually 10-14 days old) and fed by humans. This practice establishes trust between birds and humans and eliminates the fear of human hands. Hand fed babies often cost a little more because of the extra time and effort it requires to raise them. However when buying a pet take time to handle baby cockatiels to see how they act toward you. Some breeders hand feed babies but handle them very little other than that. The best choice are babies raised by breeders who hand feed and interact with the birds to produce the best pet quality.

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Comments 18 comments

homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 5 years ago from Texas

This was a very nicely written hub. I found it interesting that you could know what color a baby cockatiel would become by the color of their eyes that was apparent through closed lids.

Welcome to hubpages! It's a great place to be!

Donna Sundblad profile image

Donna Sundblad 5 years ago from Georgia Author

Thanks for the warm welcome and for commenting homestead! It is amazing, isn't it!

graceomalley profile image

graceomalley 4 years ago

I have two young cockatiels (about 18 months old now) and we are hoping they have babies. I'm going to get them a nest box for Christmas. I know it's not automatic, but we think it would be a lot of fun. We would probably keep the babies if all goes well.

Donna Sundblad profile image

Donna Sundblad 4 years ago from Georgia Author

Hi Grace,

I have three babies right now myself. It is very rewarding watching them grow. Are your birds a bonded pair?


graceomalley profile image

graceomalley 4 years ago

Donna - I got my birds from a pet store which sold just birds. They were the only two cockatiels in the store, shared a cage, and had come from the same breeder but were not related. So theoretically, they could have babies.

Are they a bonded pair? I'm not sure. These are my first birds. I have a friend who has kept budgies for years, ans she told me that sometimes a male and female bond, and then sometimes they remain just friends. Angus and Selchie (my birds) seem quite attached to each other. They groom each other, and like to perch close while resting. They call to each other, esp if they just changed position (they are allowed out of the cage most of the day), but these are maybe just flock calls. Angus (the male) is more of an explorer, and Selchie is more of a home body. She gets kind of fussy with him to my mind - he likes to explore a bit, check if any food can be found on the ground, spend some time with the humans - and she gets nervous and calls for him if he has been away from her too long. She seems to like him to try new things first, she will hang back and follow his lead. He is much more aware of looking around, always checking what's going on, reacting to sounds. It seems to me he watches over both of them. She seems much less concerned about watching out - she will eat with her head down, whereas he checks his surroundings after each bite. They do bicker. You're in my way, i'm eating out of this dish right now, that sort of thing. Seems like bickering happens often when settling down for the night, maybe they are tired? If they argue over a perch too much, I rearrange the cage. This ends the dispute.

Is there a way for me to tell if they are a bonded pair?

How can I tell if they are a bonded pair?

Donna Sundblad profile image

Donna Sundblad 4 years ago from Georgia Author

Their behavior sounds like a bonded pair. The way they groom and call each other. When you give them the nest box, time will tell whether they are a "proven pair" which means they will produce offspring. You'll have to let me know how it goes. Hand feeding your babies will make them awesome pets and will be a very rewarding experience for you, too. I pull my chicks at about 2 weeks to start hand feeding.

graceomalley profile image

graceomalley 4 years ago

I'll keep you updated! I imagine I would benefit from a mentor for handfeeding baby chicks. The owner of the local pet store would most likely help me - I've seen her handfeeding baby cockatiels behind the counter.

Donna Sundblad profile image

Donna Sundblad 4 years ago from Georgia Author

I'm hoping to get a video of feeding this clutch of babies. I have one that had a hard time hatching (long story), and who is under size but now thriving. You can catch the pictures on my facebook page if you like. You can find me as Donna Sundblad.

Bonnie 4 years ago

Amazing and interesting

Donna Sundblad profile image

Donna Sundblad 4 years ago from Georgia Author

Thanks for reading my hub, Bonnie, and letting me know you enjoyed it.

Gail Meyers profile image

Gail Meyers 4 years ago from United States

I enjoyed reading your hub, Donna. I worked with a lady who had a cockatiel for years. That bird was her baby. I have never owned one, but your hub reminded me that I want to look into it. They are such beautiful birds! Thanks for sharing this information.

Donna Sundblad profile image

Donna Sundblad 4 years ago from Georgia Author

I raise them and fall in love with each one. They each have their own unique personality, too. I hope you find one who picks you. :)

Louie Laffend 4 years ago

My cockatiel parents were over-feeding my 5 day old chick. His crop is never empty and seems over filled. What should we do??

Donna Sundblad profile image

Donna Sundblad 4 years ago from Georgia Author

The crop does get quite full...usually the only time it looks empty is in the morning after they've slept at night. Is that the case?

graceomalley profile image

graceomalley 4 years ago

I wrote about 6 months ago about my cockatiels Angus and Selchie. Here is the update:

We brought home another cockatiel. The pet shop owner was sure he was a boy, based on shape of pelvis, and we named him Axel. Now it appears Axel is a girl, and she and Angus are...well, it appears they are mating. At first i thought it was some sort of fight, but then i did a little research, and both their behavior matches what boy & girl cockatiels do during courtship. I'm so used to thinking of Axel as a boy this was a bit of a stunner. Selchie, our original girl cockatiel (who i thought Angus was bonding with) is a bit left out in the cold by this, though she seems to have accepted it.

So now I am wondering about giving Angus and Axel a nest box. Some things I've read say if you let them become parents you can't expect them to keep their bond with you - birds are either pets or breeders. They both are very bonded to us, and we're very attached to them. The idea of them having babies seems like a lot of fun. Is it your experience that they aren't pets anymore after producing babies?

Donna Sundblad profile image

Donna Sundblad 4 years ago from Georgia Author

Hi Grace,

I have had cockatiels who were bonded with me and remained bonded with me even after they mated, laid eggs, and hatched chicks. How old is Axel now? You want to make sure she is a year old before you give them the nest box, but otherwise, I'd go ahead. Before you do, think about what you'll be doing about the chicks. Do you plan to hand feed? Keep them all? Find them homes? Something to think about or your can end up with a flock before you know it. :)

graceomalley profile image

graceomalley 4 years ago

I love the idea of a flock ! Of course i know I could get overwhelmed quickly :)

My daughter wants a cockatiel of her own, so this would be a perfect opportunity for her. Thanks for getting back to me so quickly! Axel is about a year old now.

I am thinking i would have the parents feed them, but handle the babies regularly so that they are socialized. I've found a few sites where people talk about doing this, and give specifics of what they did when. If it isn't working, I'll adjust. With any new endevor, you have your ideas at the beginning, and then the actual experience can change things.

Its nice to have an expert i can bounce things off of.

Donna Sundblad profile image

Donna Sundblad 4 years ago from Georgia Author

If you handle them often, they will be socialized. It is such a rewarding experience. I never tire of it. Have a couple babies just about ready to go to new homes and four eggs about to hatch. :)

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