Caring for Your New Cockatiel
Inside scoop from Aqualand on Nymphicus hollandicus

 
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Different Watersprite

Cockatiel Factoids

Origin

Australia

Life Span

15 years +

Training to Talk

Use a cassette tape

Water

Use a water bottle 

Attitude

Perky,  unafraid, vocal, inquisitive

Perches

Provide a variety of sizes

Humidity

Loves misting

Foods

Seeds, egg biscuits, greens, vegetables

Supplements

Germinated seeds, fruits

Lighting

Full-spectrum


LA
You for sure want a hand-tamed cockatiel.  No one wants a biter.

Humans Love Hookbills.  People like hookbill birds – especially cockatiels.  They’re pretty, trainable, easy to keep, affordable, long-lived, easily trained, and even learn to talk.

LA

Hookbills Love People.  Cockatiels like people, too.  They’ll eat out of your hand, sit on your shoulder, and nuzzle your ear for attention.  Once you train your cockatiel, you’ve got a buddy for life.

LA
Cockatiels get along with each other (usually).

Clip One Wing.  Eagles make poor pets because they always want to fly away.  If you don’t clip one of your cockatiel’s wings, he’ll think he’s a little eagle and fly away.  Wing clipping is half the training battle.  A flightless bird learns much faster.  And he won’t be zooming out the nearest open door or window.  Clip one wing only.  Leave the last two feathers.  When you leave the last two feathers he doesn’t look chopped.

Heather, CA, October 25, 2006
Hi, I started reading your info on ghost shrimp before my curiosity lead me onto the rodents then cockatiels. I just wanted to say that only clipping one wing is just making it worse for them, they can still fly, but lopsided. Every book I've read on 'tiels and birds have said to clip them both if you're going to clip them. Also, you should add that whenever you see an extra non-blood feather grown in, you should clip it because it only takes one or two feathers for them to be able to lift off and fly. I've had 'tiels for 6 years and seeing the pictures of them on your site makes me want to get my little baby and hold him PS I wish I could work at Aqualand cause I love pets and that would be one job I wouldn't mind going to, but I live in CA. Hope this bit of information helps and you change it on the info pages. Thanks for your time,

A:  I prefer to clip just one side leaving enough feathers so they glide to the floor.  If you clip both wings, they usually fall on their butts.  And most people that clip both sides clip the flight feathers and make them look like they're crippled.  I'll put your info on the 'tiel page for those that are interested.  LA
PS  I get to go to work at Aqualand twice a day, because I go home for lunch.

 

LA
Give him a flat surface and he can't get a grip.

He’ll Bluff You.  Cockatiels can bite very hard.  But they don’t need to, because most people flinch back when that plucky pile of feathers makes a potential pass at them.  Who’s in charge?  You or four ounces of feathers?  Don’t let the little rascal bluff you.  You’ll never train him if he thinks (or knows) he’s in charge.

Train Daily.  Cockatiels tire out after five or ten minutes.  Let yours take a rest – especially when you first get him.  Start by training him to climb from finger to finger.  Birds always climb UP -- except when sliding down their cage bars to grab a treat from you.  Their tail prevents them from climbing down without falling on their beaks.  They also rarely walk backwards,  Say "UP" when you want him to climb UP to your other finger.  He’ll soon sit on your shoulder.  He’ll decorate it, if you leave him there too long.  Want him to eat out of your hand?  Don’t leave the food in his cage 24 hours per day.  Feed him for 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the evening.  He’ll be much more cooperative once he knows who the food comes from.

Train Him to Talk.  Cockatiels learn to talk very well.  It just takes time and lots of repetition.  Many people use tape recordings to help teach their bird to talk.  This frees up your time if you have a tight schedule.  You can train him to whistle quite easily.  They learn the Andy Griffith song very quickly.

LA
The entire top of this cockatiel cage opens.  The front door opens like a landing ramp.

Select a Large Cage.  Cockatiels flap their wings in their cages.  Small cages pose a serious threat to their wings and feathers.  Give your tiel room to “spread out.”  And let him out of the cage frequently.  The more you play with him, the friendlier he gets.

Avoid Drafts.  Cockatiels adjust to nearly any temperature you find livable.  However, they hate drafts.  Keep yours away from air conditioning and heater ducts.

Consider a Cover.  If you want your cockatiel to quiet down for the night, a cage cover shuts him up just like flipping a light switch.  No lights, no noise.  Cockatiels also wake up and start carrying on when the sun rises.  If you like to sleep late, use a cage cover.

Tiels Like Roosts, Toys, and Mirrors.  Birds like different size roosts to keep their toes flexible and healthy.  Actually, tiels climb all over the wire bars of their cages.  And it makes no difference if the bars go sideways or up and down.  They trundle all over the insides of their cage like circus monkeys.  Cockatiels especially love toys.  You can switch the same toys around every few days and your cockatiel will think they’re brand new.  Cockatiels also love mirrors.  They need heavier ones than the ones you give to parakeets -- metal not glass.

LA
Cockatiels and other hookbills take about two seconds to learn how a water bottle works.

Provide Fresh Water Daily.  Birds don’t know diddly about basic sanitation.  They’ll bathe and defecate in their own drinking water.  Change it often.  Water bottles make a much cleaner water source than the cups that come with the cages.

Mist them Often.  Birds groom themselves all day long.  Grooming keeps their feathers shiny and neat.  Misting them increases their grooming activities.  They quickly learn to spread their wings wide for their “daily shower.”

They Waste Seeds.  “Messy eaters” describes cockatiels.  They throw hulls and excess seeds everywhere.  A cage skirt helps reduce the litter – either plastic or cloth.  Special covered seed cups also help.  Cutting back on the quantity you feed helps, too.  Putting them on a twice-daily feeding schedule also helps.  They think their food is a toy when you leave it in there 24 hours a day.  The new pelleted foods also help reduce litter.  There’s no seed hulls to throw around.  No matter what you do, cockatiels still find a way to make a mess.

LA
The best cockatiel foods have no sunflower seeds.

Feed a Good Food.  Today’s bird foods far surpass the foods available only a few short years ago.  Bird vets realized seed diets were inadequate long ago.  They just couldn’t come up with better solutions until these last few years.  Seed-only diets lack many significant nutrients.  Some foods increase their vitamin and protein intake with special fortified pellets.  Some inject additives into the hulls.  Others dust the seeds.

Pellets Work Best.  Some manufacturers grind up all the needed nutritional components and make pellets.  This insures your tiel gets 100% of the correct diet in every bite.

Some cockatiel object to these new foods at first.  They were raised on seeds all their lives.  They change over very reluctantly.  Pellet-fed cockatiels are friendlier, healthier, prettier, longer-lived, and easier to breed than seed-fed birds.

LA
White face cockatiels.  Not common, but not rare.  Heads start out grey also.

Birds know nothing about nutrition or much of anything for that matter.  You have to provide what’s best for them.  Don’t let your cockatiel decide what’s best for him.

 

Feed Sunflower Seeds Sparingly.  All hookbills love sunflower seeds.  All seven-year-old kids love Hostess Ho-Hos.  Both for the same reason:  They taste good.  Both are equally nutritious.

The better cockatiel foods contain few if any sunflower seeds -- lots of hulled safflower seeds instead.  The only reason sunflower seeds are in there at all is to please you.  Cost Comment:  Sunflower seeds are really cheap.  They’re mostly air and hulls.  You don’t get much for your money if your bird seed contains lots of sunflower seeds.  Nutrition Note:  The high fat content in sunflower seeds is another reason for avoiding them.  Excessive sunflower seed consumption also keeps your bird from eating the right foods.

LA
Females bear the brunt of most feather picking.  She needs her own cage for a while.

How to Treat Feather-Picking of the Head.  Obviously another bird’s picking off the head feathers.  Usually the male denudes the female.  Sometimes spraying her head with one of the “bitter sprays” will stop him.  If it doesn’t, separate them.

How to Treat Feather-picking of the Chest.  Birds pluck out their own chest feathers for one or more of these reasons:

             Mite infestation

             Poor diet

             Sheer boredom

Spray for Mites.  If you see any evidence of mites, use a mite spray to kill them.  Many people use a mite repellent to keep them out of their cockatiel cage in the first place.

Feed a Sound Diet.  Sometimes cockatiels pluck their own feathers in an attempt to find certain trace elements missing in their diet.  Feed a better food if you suspect poor diet.

Relieve Boredom.  Play with him or her more often.  Provide a mirror and/or other toys.  And get him out of his cage more often.  Let him stretch his wings and walk around a bit.  Don’t keep your cockatiel in prison all day, day after day.

Use a Collar.  In severe feather-picking cases, you (probably your bird vet) need to fit your cockatiel with a special collar that keeps him from reaching his chest.  One of the bitter tasting sprays may also work.

What about Mites in General?  Mites are more of a pest than a real problem.  If your bird scratches at itself continually, it may have the start of a mite problem -- more likely a nervous habit or lack of nutrition..  If his beak and feet get a scaly growth, you know he’s got mites.  Spray for mites – him and the cage.  Follow the directions carefully.

LA
Cockatiel eggs somewhat larger than life size.

LA
Okay.  They're really this size.

How to Breed Cockatiels.  Some bird owners say they breed their birds.  Actually, they just set the stage.  The birds do all the work.  To breed cockatiels you only need to add a standard cockatiel breeding box.  You can wire it to the cage’s front door or one of the cup openings.  Without the box you cut your chances.  Feed your birds well.  Stress them as little as possible.  And it never hurts to make sure you have a male and a female.  Cockatiels can fool you.  Males sport a redder blush on their cheeks.  Most females show less of this rouge pattern.  Males are a bit larger and sometimes feed bits of food to the females.  Females have more stripes in the underside of their tails.

LA
Cockatiels need a pretty good size breeder box.

Use a Breeder Box.  Females provide some of the nesting material from their own chests.  An additional box of nesting fluff saves her a lot of work.  Two cockatiels of the opposite sex usually breed readily if they’re fed a good diet.  Some people try to coax them along with fake eggs.  Cockatiels need little coaxing.


Young cockatiel.

LA  
Hungry cockatiels growl at you.  Hand feed them till they fall over.  Kinda ugly.

LA
One of the same chicks exactly six days later.  That's how fast cockatiels grow.

LA One week later he's a real bird -- still with nestling food on his face. 

Hand-Raise Your Babies.  Parent cockatiels eat their food, semi-digest it in their crops, and regurgitate it into their babies’ mouths.  It’s a lot of work to provide this service for your little birds but it really pays off in primo birds.  Best of all, you need not chew it yourself.

LA
Hand-fed cockatiels make perfect pets.

Use a Special Nestling Food.  Some of the new nestling foods on the market take all the work out of the process.  You don’t need to chew it for them.   Or even use a blender.  When you take very young birds from their parents and hand-raise them yourself, you get birds that imprint on you.  They think you’re their mommy.  They think they’re little people.  And they act like little people.

LA
Work with your cockatiel every day.  Kellie hand feeds our baby birds.

LA
Hard to beat a hand-fed cockatiel.


Last Word.  Hand-raised cockatiels make some of the best pets in the world.  They cost more due to the extra trouble, but they’re easily worth the extra cost.  LA.

© 1983, © 2003, © 2004  LA Productions

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