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How to Prepare for a New Pet Cockatiel

Updated on February 15, 2013

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

Shopping List

  • 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

Cage

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.

Food

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

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


Paddy

Paddy our cockatiel
Paddy our cockatiel | Source

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.

Copyright Tillsontitan - All Rights Reserved

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    • Valene profile image

      Valene 10 months ago from Missouri

      I've never owned a bird, but I pet sat a cockatiel in my home once and thought it would be a great pet. My grandparents used to have parakeets and they weren't too noisy.

    • tillsontitan profile image
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      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      Yes they are noisy LongTimeMother. Mine starts making a racket soon after the sun comes up. They must be a sight in the wild though, flying in a group!

    • LongTimeMother profile image

      LongTimeMother 4 years ago from Australia

      I am used to seeing cockatiels in the wild. Our native birds are so noisy in the garden, I can't imagine having one inside the house ... lol. I know from experience that they love fresh fruit. I just wish they'd eat one whole apple instead of taking a few bites from lots on my trees. :)

    • tillsontitan profile image
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      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      Thanks Alicia for stopping by. People who don't have birds can't understand what wonderful companions they can be.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I have birds, but I've never had a cockatiel in the family. Paddy is a very cute bird! I hope my present two birds live for a long time, but I may eventually get a cockatiel. Thanks for the useful information about taking care of tiels.

    • tillsontitan profile image
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      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      Thanks Saffron, the gym is an excellent idea and they do love being busy and playing. Sorry you had to give your cockatiel away. I do appreciate you reading and commenting.

    • Saffron23 profile image

      Saffron23 4 years ago from New Mexico

      Your cockatiel is beautiful! I had a cockatiel while growing up, whom I absolutely adored, but I had to give him away to a friend when I moved away for college, and I still miss him! I especially appreciate your point about cockatiels needing a buddy if their owner won't be home much. A lot of people don't realize just how much attention birds need; they're very social animals. And I definitely remember the noise, too. Never needed an alarm in the morning while Buddy was around!

      In addition to toys, I'd suggest crafting a home-made jungle gym for a cockatiel. I built mine one complete with ladders, climbing ropes, various perches, rope swings, and a few toys. He loved that thing, and it helped keep him entertained while I was busy with homework and couldn't give him attention.

      Thanks for sharing!

    • tillsontitan profile image
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      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      Oh Peg your friend's cockatiel sounds a lot like our first one...he imitated the microwave too! Along with the phone, a spoon stirring coffee...really fun. Thanks for adding the great comment.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 4 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      You've covered all the basics of birding here, Mary. I've enjoyed my friend's cockatiel for nearly 20 years. His name is T.C. and he sings "Yellow Rose of Texas" and many other medleys of songs he's learned. He even imitates the dogs barking and the ding of the microwave. What a character. I have a video of him walking around on the floor asking the dogs to take a bird bath. They never bother him but the cat is watchful.

      Your info is quite thorough and makes me want to get a new bird friend one day. Thanks for sharing about your Paddy.

    • tillsontitan profile image
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      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      Thanks Katsmeow...they are fun birds and you are probably right about the male getting stressed more easily than the female. So glad you took the time to read this and comment!

    • TheKatsMeow profile image

      TheKatsMeow 4 years ago from Canada

      A hub about my favorite bird! I have owned a total of 3 cockatiels in my life and they have been my favorite birds without question :) I have noticed that the males can especially get stressed out if they are not taken care of properly (my first was a rescue who had a very bad plucking problem when we got him). This hub is very useful and I really loved watching the video of Paddy!

    • tillsontitan profile image
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      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      There's no doubt you had a cockatiel as you've described them to a tee! They are affectionate and fun but like anything else they come with a price tag..care and your time. Thanks for leaving such a great comment.

    • profile image

      Poetic Fool 4 years ago

      Hi, Mary. I had a beautiful lutino cockatiel for many years. Unfortunately, I had to find her new home when I went off to college. I still miss her. She was great to have around, very affection too. She loved to climb up on my shoulders and nuzzle her crest in my hair.

      It's funny what you said about them making lots of noise in the morning. As you know, cockatiels are creatures of habit and love routine. Eventually Sheba became so accustomed to my routine I no longer needed my alarm clock. She would start squawking within a couple of minutes of 6 am without fail!

      This is a great hub for people considering adding a cockatiel to their family. They are very intelligent and social birds as you say. If you can't give them the attention they need and deserve, it's better to get a less social bird. Thanks for the great hub!

    • tillsontitan profile image
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      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      So sorry that you lost your cockatiel DDE. Glad you thought my hub was helpful.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Afew years ago we had cockatiel but by accident flew away it was such a sad moment for my son. We didn't get another. You have such helpful ways in preparation for a cockatiel.

    • tillsontitan profile image
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      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      Sorry to hear you had to get rid of them but their dander can be irritating and its easy to see how someone could be allergic. Thanks for sharing, reading and voting!

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 4 years ago from America

      We use to have a Cockatiel and a BeBe Parrot. We found out our daughter was allegic to them so we had to find them a home. I forgot we also had Doves. Voted up on your hub. Cute Cockatiel.

    • tillsontitan profile image
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      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      People who've never owned a bird don't realize how much fun they can be Joy...thanks for stopping by.

    • joym7 profile image

      Joy 4 years ago from United States

      great hub. I like the hub. I was owning few pigeons and I love them.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      I'm afraid my dog might like a bird too much. Growing up my grandmother's neighbor had a cockateil and I loved that bird, even when he bit me. They are fascinating to watch.

    • tillsontitan profile image
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      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      Good ear Nell! Paddy actually does whistle Happy Birthday but I couldn't keep him going...birds are very 'dusty' and that's what makes people sneeze. Thanks for the vote girlfriend. Good to see you.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      What a great little bird, I love paddy! lol! he nearly got happy birthday in the video, just a bit more practice. Seriously this is so useful for anyone wanting a cockatiel, they are lovely but a handful and need really looking after. we had an aviary once years ago, yeah I know talk about ambitious! haha! couldn't do it now, turns out I was allergic to their feathers, figures! they have a smell to them that tickles the nose and I couldn't stop sneezing! voted up! nell

    • tillsontitan profile image
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      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      How nice of you to stop by Angelo, guess all birds are cannibals ;) I appreciate your share and vote as well.

    • Angelo52 profile image

      Angelo52 4 years ago from Central Florida

      A lot of good information on Cockatiels and how to keep them in this article. I see they eat meat just like chickens, ducks and other birds will. Must be the dinosaur in them. Shared and thumbs up.

    • tillsontitan profile image
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      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      I know what you mean Rajan. You would think you wouldn't get attached to a little bird but you definitely do! I appreciate your votes and share so much. Thank you.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Very interesting Read Mary. Right now, we do not have any pet bird but we've kept a couple pf parrots and the other time we had a couple of love birds. It is amazing how one gets attached to these wonderful pets.

      Very useful information here. Voted up, useful, interesting and shared.

    • tillsontitan profile image
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      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      I am really surprised at the number of people who have or have had cockatiels. I know they're out there because the bird is so popular but it still surprises me as more and more people tell me! Thanks so much for reading and voting it is nice to have you visit.

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      I had two cocatiels before I had my daughter. The male looked just like your Paddy, his name was Skyler. The female was white with orange cheeks, her name was Daisy. I actually wrote a hub about Skyler. Skyler contracted a bird disease and died after having him for only about 2 years. Because of all the bird feathers, "dust" and seeds, I gave Daisy to a friend of mine. This has been 25 years ago! I would really like to have another pair, but the dogs say they won't let me. Great hub, lots of really good information here! Voted up and more. :)

    • tillsontitan profile image
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      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      My pleasure Vinaya. The cockatiel is very popular here. Thank you for taking time to read and comment, you are always appreciated.

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 4 years ago from Nepal

      When I saw the thumbnail picture with this hub title I thought cockatiel was a parrot. I did not about this bird before reading this hub.

      Thanks for introducing us with wonderful pet idea.

    • tillsontitan profile image
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      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      They are definitely noisy Michael. Thanks for stopping by.

    • cleaner3 profile image

      cleaner3 4 years ago from Pueblo, Colorado

      great hub, I had one once but my wife made me get rid of it (gave it to my nephew) it made too much noise.! ha,ha, .

    • tillsontitan profile image
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      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      Oh MP, now I'm jealous. Three baby cockatiels...I can't imagine how adorable they must've been. I know, lots of noise but so darn cute.

      Thank you for the compliment. Choosing Exclusive Titles is challenging at times but hopefully I'm learning from the experience ;)

    • mperrottet profile image

      Margaret Perrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      My son had a pair of cockatiels who mated, and they had three baby cockatiels. He kept the entire bird family, and they all did well. You can imagine the racket that they made when they all got going. I loved them though. Great hub, voted up and interesting. You really are writing on such a variety of subjects with the apprentice program, and you're doing such a wonderful job.

    • tillsontitan profile image
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      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      Eddy, did you read a lot of hubs this morning? You know I'm Mary, right ;) I know how unforgettable these little guys are. Thanks for reading and sharing. XO

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      I loved this one Debs as we many years ago had two in our family called Sion and Sian.

      They were true characters just as Paddy is.

      Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful hub.

      Enjoy your weekend.

      Eddy.

    • tillsontitan profile image
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      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      I do agree avianvoice....thank you for stopping by and reading?

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Several friends have had cockatiels, so I have met a few of them. They are endearing little ones.

    • tillsontitan profile image
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      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      Tsadjadko that is hysterical and I believe every word. A friend had two macaws and they sounded like kids arguing! Thanks for stopping by.

    • tsadjatko profile image

      TSAD 4 years ago from maybe (the guy or girl) next door

      Great article on cockatiels! I have a lutino, one off the older versions before they bred out the bald spot. Twice in one day I was on the phone with business and the person on the other end heard my cockatiel chirping in the background and said they have cockatiels too!

      I also have a sulphur Crested Cockatoo and an African Gray. The Cockatoo only squawks (loud enough to break your eardrums!) but the gray puts her in her place. If I leave the room this is what transpires:

      The Cockatoo SQUAWKS!

      The Gray says SHUT UP!

      The Cockatoo SQUAWKS!

      The Gray says WILL YOU SHUT UP!

      The Cockatoo SQUAWKS!

      The Gray says WHAT'S YOUR PROBLEM?

      The Cockatoo SQUAWKS!

      The Gray says AWE SHUT UP!

      The Cockatoo SQUAWKS!

      The Gray says BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH!

      No lie I hear these two do this every day. If the Cockatoo doesn't feel like squawking the Gray will mimic her squawk exactly and then tell himself to SHUT UP!

    • tillsontitan profile image
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      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      I have to admit HawaiiO I am constantly amazed and entertained by this little guy. You can thank the Apprentice Program for my variety of hubs and I have to thank you for always being here for me. Aloha to you dear friend and enjoy your weekend as well XO

    • hawaiianodysseus profile image

      Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

      Hi, Mary! Relative to some pets, these birds have long lifespans. I had no idea! Paddy looks really healthy, and I love his coloring. Of course, I notice his feathers in a different way, having been a fly tyer at one point in my life. About the wolf whistle...are you sure hubby didn't have some extra quality time with your first couple of cockatiels when you weren't looking? How in the world would they know that whistle? Amazing! LOL! Once again, you reinforce my vote of confidence in your ability to cover a wide range of topics here on HP! Thank you for the entertaining and educational read, and have a wonderful weekend with your family! Blessings and aloha from Washington state!

    • tillsontitan profile image
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      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      Thanks BD, we love Paddy, he is a lot fun. Glad you enjoyed this.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Mary. Paddy is beautiful. My brother-in-law had a Cockatiel many years ago, they are wonderful birds. Thanks for this very insightful look at what it takes to own a Cockatiel.

    • tillsontitan profile image
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      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      They're great fun but they are messy and make a lot of noise. If Bev is used to peace and quiet you're out of luck Bill, no matter how good you are ;) Hope you have a great weekend too.

      I know what you mean Bob, sometimes they just up and die for no apparent reason and it is heartbreaking. As for being alone, fortunately for us Paddy has adjusted well and between hubby and I we aren't usually gone for too long.

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 4 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Yeah...he's more stoopid than jealous, but he is a year younger than Woody who is happy with her toyboy and him with his queen! I worry about her dying...budgies don't live nearly as long as cockatiels...I will have to get him another mate within weeks as he will be inconsolable.

      The only trouble with having a solo bird is, being flocking birds, budgies at least get very lonely and nervous if left for long.

      Bob

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You know, Mary, I have always wanted to own a cockatiel, but for whatever reason it has never happened. Thanks for the primer on ownership. Maybe some day Bev will let me have one, if I'm a real good boy. LOL Like that's going to happen.

      Have a great weekend Mary!

    • tillsontitan profile image
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      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      Wow Bob, you were fast on the trigger here! Unfortunately our first cockatiel, Trouble, did not get along with this cockatiel Paddy. Trouble went everywhere with us (his wings were clipped) inside the house, outside, even in the car. Paddy was a gift to my Mom and when she passed he became ours. He's friendly enough but nippy so we just talk, sing and whistle together. Seems you have a jealous budgie...they are great though aren't they?

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 4 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Hi Tilly: Glad for you and your new pet. I suggest to anyone keeping cage birds that they get a pair, not a solo bird and they get the biggest enclosure/cage their property will allow, so the birds can at least flutter around. Watching a pair bond and fall "in love" is at least as pleasurable as bonding with a bird yourself.

      After all, he is an avian, not a Homo sapien and we need to be with our own species as far as possible.

      I still get a lot of affection from my female budgie - Woody, although not from Sparky - the male, who is convinced my attentions towards his mate are less than honorable!

      Bob