How to Prepare for a New Pet Cockatiel
Meet Paddy, My Cockatiel
What is a cockatiel?
Not everyone wants or even likes pet birds, but if you do, cockatiels are a good choice. The cockatiel is a member of the cockatoo family and comes, originally, from Australia. In the wild they are found near water as they need water to survive and they happen to like to bathe as well.
Cockatiels have a very varied life span. It is said they normally live from ten to twenty years but they have been known to live up to thirty-two years. My first cockatiel died at twelve years of age. My current cockatiel is about eight or nine years old. The funny thing about cockatiels, or many birds for that matter, they will often appear healthy and just die for no apparent reason. Many times you will wake up to a bird laying in the bottom of its cage. I tell you this as it is something you need to be prepared for if you are going to own a cockatiel.
If you want to know if you are buying a male or female cockatiel it is just about impossible to tell in a young bird because male and female coloring is similar in the young. As they mature, the male, like all animal species, becomes the more colorful. The color on his 'cheeks' is much brighter and more pronounced than that of the female. Males are also more vocal and will mimic more than females will. Males will actually start to whistle on their own at about six months of age. How or why, I don't know, but their first whistle seems to be the "wolf whistle".
As for the color of a cockatiel, the most common is the gray. However, there are fifteen different colors in the cockatiel family, from the gray to pearl to yellow cheeked. They range in size from twelve to fourteen inches.
Did you know they are one of the most popular pet birds in the United States? Probably because they are very social birds and like lots of attention and interaction. If you put a mirror in a cockatiel's cage he'll love it and treat it like a friend, the problem is with his new 'friend' he won't be as interested in you. The other issue is, if you're not going to be around a lot, he will get lonely. When we leave the house for a few hours and come home our cockatiel starts singing and jumping around because he's so glad to see us. You can solve the lonely problem by getting two birds at the same time. The sex of the birds doesn't matter because they will bond as long as they are young and purchased together. We tried putting two birds together once, one was a few years older than the other and they had never 'met'. The younger bird was very aggressive and we had to separate them.
Cockatiels make a lot of noise when they wake up in the morning and often before they go to bed at night. I guess they just want to let you know they're there. They are fairly noisy birds. I know every time I'm on the phone mine will start screeching or whistling and people will ask, "Oh, do you have a bird?" If you ignore them when they scream they will learn its not good behavior. If you reward them when they are quiet or whistling they will learn that's good behavior. It takes a lot of patience.
A Look at a Cockatiel Cage
- Cage - at least 20x20x26 - with feed cups
- Bag of seed or pellets
- Cockatiel treats
- Bird toys
- Cuttle Stone
- A least one different size and texture perch
- Clean spray bottle
- Newspaper or paper towels for bottom of the cage
- Last but certainly not least - A Cockatiel
Things You Need for a Cockatiel
Cockatiels are very active birds so they need lots of room to move around. The smallest recommended cage is twenty inches by twenty inches and twenty-six inches high. The bigger the better. However, be careful as you get into larger cages, if the bars are too far apart your tiel will wind up with his head stuck between the bars which can lead to disaster! Also make sure there is some kind of latch on the door your tiel can't open, they are very crafty.
Inside the cage; dishes, one for food, one for water, and one for special treats. Perches come with cages and are usually uniform in size. To keep your tiel happy and exercised it is a good idea to put in different sized and shaped perches and to place them at differing levels. It is also good for their feet. Most cages come with swings, and many tiels will play and swing on them. Some will just jump on them occasionally.
The beaks of cockatiels continue to grow so it is a good idea to keep a cuttle bone in the cage. You will see your teil rubbing his beak against the bone, chewing on it, and maybe playing with it.
The cage should be placed near a window (without drafts) so the tiel can look outside.
The first thing to think about is your cockatiel's diet. Diet is very important to keeping your cockatiel healthy. Not surprisingly, tiels like variety in their diets. First is their main food. This can be seeds or pellets. However, like any animal whichever food you choose is the one you should stick with. If you decide to change later on you will need to do so gradually by mixing a little of the new with the old for awhile. I chose seeds because Paddy seems to like them better.
What else? In the wild, cockatiels eat millet. You can buy millet sprays loose or in packages at any pet store. Your tiel will love you for it. You can also purchase various treats in pet stores for your tiel. Cockatiels can also eat "human" food. Paddy likes fruit, nuts, corn, chicken (yes they are cannibals), rice and mashed potatoes. Other foods tiels may eat include broccoli, carrots, pumpkin, hard boiled eggs, cottage cheese, and sweet potato. Some tiels prefer their veggies cooked, others will eat them raw. A little bit of human food is a good occasional treat.
Water and Bathing
Water is a staple for all of us. Cockatiels, like most birds, are very messy and will turn their water into pea soup in short order. You need to provide them with fresh water daily. Regular cleaning of the water dish is necessary as well. Some tiels, like Paddy, like to be sprayed with warm water for their bath. Paddy will spread his wings out and move all around so he gets all the benefit of the water. So add a clean spray bottle to your list.
Toys are always good. Cockatiels love to play and will play with whatever is in their cage. They may be leery of new toys at first but will soon adjust.
I found my cockatiels liked bands of straw woven together (you can buy them at the pet store), they chew them up which keeps them from wanting to chew other things. Cockatiels LOVE to chew. I had my cage too close to the wall and my first cockatiel chewed the wallpaper right off the wall! You can buy special toys made of rope or untreated wood
Get Ready for Your Cockatiel
You've made the decision, you've purchased everything you need for the cockatiel, now you need the bird. Buy your bird from a reliable source. If you can talk to other people who have purchased birds at that place or from that person that will be your best recommendation.
Make sure he is healthy. Don't buy a bird that has a runny nose or eyes or one that seems lifeless or withdrawn. When I purchased my first cockatiel he was in a walk-in cage with other tiels. When the lady opened the cage he took off and it took us about twenty minutes to catch him. I knew he was healthy and happy so I bought him. My second tiel, Paddy, I bought from Pet Smart. He was just a baby and I had to go to the store every day and hand feed him three times a week for three weeks. I knew by then he was healthy and we had both bonded.
I hope you've found some helpful hints here. Good luck with your new pet. You should enjoy many years together and have lots of fun with this curious little bird.
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