Cockatiel Care – A Complete Guide To Looking After Your Bird

cockatiel care

Cockatiels are popular companion birds. But, if you’re getting one, you need to know everything about Cockatiel care. Socializing your bird is an important step towards handling and holding your Cockatiel. Their cage needs to be at least 18 x 18 x 18 inches. However, the bigger your Cockatiel’s cage is, the better. Now let’s take a look at more detail about every aspect of Cockatiel care. From how to interact with a cockatiel to finding the best cages, we’ll cover all the basics so you can provide the best cockatiel care for your new feathered friend.

Cockatiel Care 101 – Getting To Know Your Cockatiel

Comical, curious, and cuddly, these sweet birds pack a lot of personality into a body that weighs just over three ounces and measures about 12 inches—half of which is tail feathers.

Although cockatiels are friendly and sociable, don’t try to handle them right away. You need to earn their trust first.

It can take anywhere from a couple of days to two weeks for a cockatiel to become comfortable in their new environment.

Cockatiel Care – Interacting With Your Cockatiel

When you first bring your cockatiel home, give him some alone time to get acclimated to his new surroundings.

After a few hours you can spend time near his cage so that he can see you. At this point you want him to get used to you being there without feeling anxious.

His body language will let you know if he’s comfortable having you around.

The next step is to talk to him in a calm, soft voice.

As your cockatiel gets used to your presence you can offer him a treat.

Hold it close so he can reach it. But don’t stick your hand in the cage yet.

cockatiel care

Cockatiel Care – Handling Your Cockatiel

Once your bird has become socialized and doesn’t shy away from you, he can be trained to climb onto your finger.

Do this by putting your hand into the cage slowly and leaving it there. Repeat this until he gets used to you. Give him a treat when he allows this.

When he’s comfortable, stroke his abdomen gently so he gets accustomed to your touch.

Gently nudge him in the abdomen. This should trigger him to move onto your finger.

As he starts to step onto your finger, say, “Step up.” Say this consistently every time.

Once he’s moved to your finger, give him a treat.

Cockatiel Care – Holding Your Cockatiel

The best way to hold a cockatiel is to place your other hand around his back, cupping his wings lightly in the palm of your hand.

Hold his head with your thumb and finger.

It’s time for another treat, to ensure he connects being held with something he likes.

The Best Cockatiel Cages

Choose a cage that is at minimum 18 x 18 x 18 inches.

Bigger is better. And width is more important than more height because these birds tend to fly side to side.

Cage bar spacing should be between 0.5 and 0.875 inches.

Curious cockatiels can get their heads, wings, or feet stuck in spaces that are too narrow or too wide.

Also choose a cage with a door that opens to one side or from the bottom rather than a top hinge, which can fall down.

Yaheetech Bird Cage

This large, sturdy wrought iron cage* measures 26.1 x 25.8 x 61.6 inches.

This makes it big enough for two cockatiels.

Super Deal Large Bird Cage

This versatile cage* comes in three sizes with .6 inch bar spacing. It includes a play area with a ladder and other extras like wooden perches and stainless steel bowls.

This article gives you more cockatiel care info about cages.

Where To Put Your Cockatiel Cage

When it comes to how to take care of a cockatiel, you also have to consider the best location for his cage.

Cockatiels are social birds who want to be close to their family.

This is particularly true if you only have only one bird.

His cage should be kept in the family room or den.

They should never be kept in the kitchen because birds can be sensitive to strong odors and smoke.

In fact, the fumes from burning a non-stick Teflon® pan can actually kill a cockatiel.

Cockatiel Perches And Feeding Trays

Make sure your cockatiel’s cage has a minimum of two perches that are of varying thickness and different heights.

This is so that they’re not always putting pressure on the same spots on the bottom of their tiny feet.

Ensure that none of the perches are located right over their food or water bowls where bird droppings are likely to fall.

Cockatiel Food And Feeding

When it comes to how to care for a cockatiel, what you feed them is a crucial element.

Not so long ago it was common to feed birds a diet primarily of seeds.

We now know that this diet doesn’t meet all of their nutritional requirements.

Pellets are nutritionally complete and should make up 70% to 80% of your pet’s diet for optimal cockatiel care.

The other 20% to 30% should include fruit, vegetables, seeds, and an occasional treat.

They should also always have access to clean, fresh water to drink.

Cockatiel Care And Feeding

There are some foods that are dangerous for a cockatiel to consume. These include:

  • chocolate
  • avocado
  • fruit seeds
  • onions
  • garlic
  • anything with salt, sugar, or caffeine.

Cockatiels can be prone to iodine deficiency, egg binding, and obesity if they don’t eat a proper diet.

Here are some good-quality brands of pellet foods that should make up the bulk of your cockatiel’s diet.

Harrison’s Adult Lifetime Fine

Non-GMO and certified organic, these pellets* are formulated for small to medium-sized birds.

They contain no preservatives, artificial colors, or sweeteners.

ZuPreem AvianMaintenance FruitBlend Premium Bird Diet for Medium Birds

In addition to 21 vitamins and minerals, this blend* also includes ground pieces of five different fruits in various colors for a unique taste.

Check out this article to learn more about the best cockatiel food.

Cockatiel Care Facts – Grooming Your Cockatiel

Two or three times a week, give your cockatiel a shallow bowl of lukewarm, chlorine-free water so he can bathe himself.

The bowl should be heavy enough so that he can’t tip it over.

Cockatiel nails wear down naturally in the wild. But they need to be clipped every few months in captivity.

Have a professional do this before trying it yourself.

This way you can see how short you can trim them without cutting the blood vessel running down the middle of the nail known as the quick.

Cockatiel Care – Cockatiel Toys

To keep your cockatiel happy when he’s in his cage, you need to provide him with plenty of different toys.

In the wild, cockatiels spend their time searching for food, building a nest, or finding a mate.

Without something to keep them mentally engaged, a bored bird can become irritable, aggressive, and engage in abnormal behaviors such as plucking their feathers.

These active creatures enjoy foraging, exploring, chewing, and shredding, so give them an assortment of entertaining playthings.

Cockatiel Care – What Are The Best Toys For My Cockatiel?

The number of different bird toys that are available is pretty incredible.

You want to choose ones that are not only fun and interesting for them, but safe.

Cockatiel care tips for toys include choosing ones that don’t have any lead, zinc, or copper in them. These metals are all toxic to birds.

Petsvv 0.6-Inch by 43-Inch Rope Bungee Bird Toy

This twisting, spinning bungee toy* can be reshaped due to the bendable internal wire.

The 100% cotton rope is comfortable for their feet.

Penn Plax Bird Activity Center

Think of it as a jungle gym for your avian. This activity center* features rope perches, ladders, swings, bells, and toys and comes in different sizes.

Find out more about cockatiel toys by reading this article.

Cockatiel Care – Lifespan

Although cockatiels live only 10 to 14 years in the wild, those who are pets can live anywhere from 15 to 25 years.

One of the best ways to extend your cockatiel’s life is to ensure he gets a balanced diet.

They should also have an annual check-up with a qualified avian veterinarian.

Cockatiel Care – Health

You can’t have an article all about cockatiel care without discussing certain health problems.

In addition to nutritional deficiencies, reproductive issues are also quite common in cockatiels.

They’re proficient egg layers which leaves them susceptible to egg binding, which occurs when the eggs get stuck in the reproductive tract.

They’re also at risk for gout which is associated with renal dysfunction, the cause of which is often attributed to protein toxicity.

Cockatiel Care – Summary

First impressions matter and how you initially interact with your cockatiel will impact the bond you share.

Once you’ve earned their trust with gentle handling, they can be very affectionate.

Many cockatiels enjoy having their head scratched behind their crest and their bright red cheeks rubbed.

Hopefully this cockatiel care guide has answered your questions on caring for a cockatiel.

Have we missed anything?

Share your cockatiel experiences in the comments.

Affiliate link disclosure: Links in this article marked with an * are affiliate links, and we may receive a small commission if you purchase these products. However, we selected them for inclusion independently, and all of the views expressed in this article are our own.

More Cockatiel Reading

Are you a Cockatiel lover? Make sure you take a look at our other guides to this popular pet bird!

Simply click on the links below to go to some other great articles!

References and resources

  • Pet MD – All About Cockatiels
  • Kroshefsky, RD, “Teflon® Poisoning: How Dangerous Is Your Cooking To Your Birds?” Journal of the American Federation of Aviculture, 1980
  • Harper, J., et al., “Clinical nutrition of small psittacines and passerines,” Seminars in Avian and Exotic Pet Medicine, 1998
  • Clayton, LA, et al., “Egg Binding in a Cockatiel,” Veterinary Clinics Exotic Animal Practice, 2006
  • Lightfoot, TL, et al., “Pet Bird Toxicity and RelatedEnvironmental Concerns.”


  1. My cockatiel is turning 32 years. He travels back and forth from Madsion, WI to Florida each year in my car. The question I have is when traveling in a car there is a lot of movement from the car he needs to ajust for. I think it is a lot of balancing during the ride which he has a lot of foot movement. Is there some thing that would help in the car travel time?

  2. I have just aquired a 8 month old cockatiel believed to be a Latino male. Apparently he hasn’t been held and handled since he was a baby around 2-3 months old. We chose to take him and try to see what we could do. We have had him 2weeks as of this post. He is still very agitated if we try and stick our hand in his cage. We have let him out,but to get him back in his cage we have to capture him. This is tramatic for both of us he has bitten and bites very hard breaking skin. He sings and wolf whistles eats well chews toys seems happy he turns upside down in his cage wings spread out. What I am wondering with the above email about what kind of time frame could we expect to be able to get to our finger and stepping up??


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