Getting a cockatiel – At the level of thought

The decision of getting a parrot shouldn’t be done too quickly. You must consider many things before you start to do anything in practice. Do you have enough space for your bird? Can you share enough time with it? Do you have the possibility to let it fly daily? Are you afraid of the bird poo and do you have the energy to clean up? How will the bird settle down with your possible other pets or kids? Would you preferably have a male or a female? Are you interested in breeding your cockatiels? What’s going to happen to your little cockatiel if you have a tough life situation or you get allergic?

You can not get a bird on the spur of the moment just to get rid of it if you get bored. (…And you won’t, if you know how to bring the best out of the bird hobby!) In the same way as for other pet species, you are responsible for your cockatiel. Thus, read the following topics carefully before bringing the bird home!

Helping questions

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You can answer the following questions to outline

-Do you have enough time for a parrot?
– A human can never replace fully another cockatiel – Are you prepared that one day you will need to get more birds?
– Cages are expensive. Can you still offer your cockatiel a decent cage? If you can lift it alone easily, it probably is too small.
– Can you provide your cockatiel the possibility of regular flying moments to maintain both physical and mental shape?
– Are you ready to accept the fact that birds are messy? If you are afraid of bird poo on your bookshelf, a cockatiel might not be for you.
– Can you still carry the responsibility of your pet if you won’t succeed to tame it?
– Can you tolerate the cockatiel voice? …Also the morning screams? …What about your neighbor?
– Who’s going to take care of your cockatiel while you are gone?
– What’s going to happen to your cockatiel if you go to study or join the military?
– Are you ready to accept the fact that your cockatiel might destroy things? (Of course there are ways to avoid this, but anyway.)
– What if you become allergic?
– Do you still have time for your bird if you get pregnant?
– How does your family react to your bird hobby? What if your future companion doesn’t like your cockatiel or is jealous? (Believe me, this is sadly common.)
– What happens to your cockatiel if you are having a hard time? (Divorce, burn-out, depression, death of a close person, etc.)
– A vet often costs more than the bird itself. Are you ready to carry your responsibility and collect the money to take your bird to the vet if needed?

How many?

The Cockatiel is a flock and pair bird which means that has intense social needs. It is true that a loner cockatiel gets easier tamed, but this is just because the birds need someone to interact with. This “someone” is a human. The birds have no choice. But human can never replace the real communication of the species mate, nor can human reply to the primal urge of breeding.

I strongly recommend buying at least two cockatiels. At least get a companion for your bird after you’ve tamed it. In this case, remember not to bring new birds to the house too early, as it may be stressful to your first cockatiel. Let it calm down first. It is also possible to tame two cockatiels at the same time, you just need to be patient, and the cockatiels should not be a bonded pair or adults. So get two youngsters – or you can do a good deed and offer a home for an abandoned cockatiel.

Do not think that you can buy a cockatiel and just give it a mirror. The mirror causes behavior problems and aggression and is quite addictive to the cockatiel. And don’t think that you want as much different kind of parrots as possible. Different species may not get along, and even if they do, they quite rarely enjoy each other as much as if they would do with the same species.

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Cockatiels enjoy the company of their species. It might be a good idea to get one tiel at first and get to know the species a bit. After that, it is always wise to provide your cockatiel some company of their of own species.

Male or female?

There are opinions of which sex makes a better pet, but mainly it just depends on what do you want from your cockatiels. Males are often described as lively and energic. Females are quieter but also warmer, and they don’t have the same kind of a need for any show-offs. The color may be one of the factors when considering the sex of the cockatiel. Excluding some of the color mutations, hens are often less colorful than cocks, except the yellow-black stripes under their tails and the spots under their primary and secondary flight feathers. Females usually have softer body structure whereas cocks are sleek and slender. Males also sing and are vocally versatile, whereas female voice consists mainly screaming, screech and some muttering.

If you do not want to let your cockatiels breed, I’d advice to get two birds of the same sex. Opposite sexes usually sooner or later bond, start the mating behavior and begin to demand a nest. If the nest box isn’t provided, they may even lay their eggs on the cage floor. Cockatiels of the same sex can form a harmonious pair. Sometimes the lack of the opposite sex makes one of the birds to switch the gender role and the pair may even mate.

Check out also the broader article about the cockatiel gender differences!

Allergic to cockatiels?

As well as African grey parrots and larger cockatoos, also cockatiels have so-called powder down. This down makes them secrete this very fine dust which makes the plumage matty and water resistant. Most people are not allergic to feathers, but this dust and house dust mites. A dust allergic may survive with medicine and a good cleaning. Even some asthmatics can keep birds. Remember that the level and form of the allergy is very individual. Even some have no trouble being allergic and keeping birds, someone else may not take it. That’s why the cockatiel isn’t the most excellent pet if you tend to have allergies.

Allergy often causes rhinitis, shortness of breath and itching eyes. If the house dust mite allergy is included, one may also have some red rash. Even if you are allergic to some other animals, you may not be allergic to birds. The allergy test is the best way to find out.

Air cleaner is the best friend of a cockatiel hobbyist. Good air cleaners cost hundreds, but they are worthy of investing even if you are not allergic to birds.

Getting another bird

Many cockatiel hobbyists start with one bird. Since cockatiels are pair and flock birds, they are highly social, and they also need a lot of company. Even if you spent your whole day with your cockatiel, you could never replace the company of a fellow cockatiel. Thus, one day or another you need to get your second cockatiel.

Cockatiels are relatively calm species, and they accept new flock members easily. It’s not a necessity to introduce the new bird in a separate cage (as it usually is with other parrots). But if you have the possibility, it might be a good idea at first to let the birds check out each other without allowing physical contact. This is how you can quite soon notice how will they react to each other.

The gender doesn’t play that significant role either when it comes to getting more cockatiels. Both males and females get along together just fine. The most important is to know what is it that you want from your hobby. Because the cockatiel tends to have overdriven sexual instincts, you should consider taking birds of the same sex – unless you want chicks some day. It’s not always the case, but if you happen to have a particularly virile pair, you might get in trouble with egg laying. If you can’t be entirely sure about the new bird’s gender, at least make sure that it’s not the relative of your bird. It’s quite common that people make mistakes in identifying young cockatiel’s sex and if you have a sibling pair the severity of the breeding problem reaches way new levels…

The good, the bad and the ugly sides of cockatiels

Cockatiel eating books

This is the thing people don’t want to talk about. But the fact is, every species has their own bad sides. Some downsides are common to all parrot species, and some are “cockatiel-only.” If you are considering of getting a cockatiel you probably already know some of the good sides. I have owned cockatiels, an African grey, a caique and quaker parrots and taken care of several other species from amazons to macaws. Based on my 20 years of experience about different parrot species I have listed some things people may not like about cockatiels – and then again some things why a cockatiel is the number one choice of so many people around the World!

High pitch voice
– Cockatiels have a high voice. The alert sounds and mate calls are somewhat unpleasant. They are not very loud compared to many other parrot species bit some people rather listen to the lower but louder growling screams of a macaw than the cockatiel’s higher toned sounds.
Mess
– Cockatiels are seed eaters. Peeled seed husks are light and get easily carried with air flows around the apartment. They get stuck under your socks and spread quickly. You can luckily have many cage solutions that help you to keep the places cleaner, but the fact is that no matter what you do if you have indoor parrots, you will have some mess. And the more you have birds, the more you will have the mess.
Powder Dust
– As cockatoos and African greys, also cockatiels have the so-called powder down that produces this very fine dust like particles that are sometimes called powder dust or bird dust. This “dust” settles and piles up on different surfaces fast, making your apartment to look like you did your last vacuum cleaning a month ago, especially if you have a flock that lives indoors. In my flat, the television screen is never fully dust free, even if it was wiped just a few hours ago. A cockatiel is not the species for one that is too neurotic about cleaning.
Propensity to chronical egg-laying
– Cockatiels could be described as the bunnies of the parrot world. Wild cockatiels have gotten used to the changes of rain season and dry season but the surplus surroundings in captivity won’t let their hormones settle down. This means that their bodies are constantly telling them “Hey, there’s plenty of food and water. It’s a good moment to make some babies!” You can prevent the breeding heat in many ways but you should be aware that the tendency to lay eggs more than is healthy and the overheating breeding mood is not rare. These things are also partly genetical.
Small and fast signals
– The fast body language and tiny signals make the cockatiel a bit harder species to train. When the larger parrot starts to wonder whether it should take a treat from the owner’s hand or to step away as a sign of beginning to escape, cockatiel has already made the decision and is probably sitting on a higher perch. Training a cockatiel means you need to have fast wits and a good eye for the bird body language. Larger parrots are also often faster in learning some things. The cockatiel has a bit more slender physics, meaning that you usually have to exclude tricks that include the strong use of legs (making a coil or hanging upside down, etc).

…But, on the other hand!

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Size
– Cockatiels are very compact and it’s much easier to build good surroundings for them.
The price
– Cockatiels are rather cheap – and so is their food. Their diet often costs much less than a larger fruit eater species diet would.
Good and kind nature
– With a cockatiel, you pretty much never have to be afraid of the hormonal seasons causing strong and erratic aggression being fearful of being attacked by the bird. If a cockatiel attacks, you can be sure that the owner has made one level deeper mistake whereas easily heated species can get aggressive even when reaching just too much excitement.
The quality of the mess
– Living with a larger parrot is like owning a fruit blender that is continuously on – without a cover. If the cockatiel makes a mess at least, the seed husks end up to the floor and not the walls and ceiling.
Crest making the bird reading easier
– The crest of the cockatiel helps you often when reading the body language – and it’s also adorably cute!
Breeder’s choice
– A cockatiel is a good bird for someone who would like to breed birds. They are relatively easy to breed, their reproductive cycle is quite fast, and they also have several color varieties – but not too many. Many breeders love to learn about cockatiel colors, and they do give a fun dimension to the bird breeding hobby!

Forgiving
– Cockatiels forgive the owners smaller mistakes easier than some other species.
Adaptability
– Cockatiels aren’t neurotic about everything new. Even though new surroundings can cause excitement and stress, cockatiels get used to things fast, and they adapt to new cage organizations, toys, people and new flock members fast.

Cockatiels are overall quite easy to live with. You don’t have to think about them every minute and create your life to roll only around them. It’s a species making it possible for you to have also other life. Some other species may suit other people better than a cockatiel, and some people just fancy larger or smaller parrots better. In my case, after all the other species that I do love, cockatiel still holds the place as my number one favorite parrot species.