Cockatiel cage decoration
In the wild cockatiels have a lot of things to explore. Also in captivity, they should be offered different activities. If you are decorating the cage for the first time, try out different solutions and make sure that you won’t fill the cage too constricted.
Cockatiels use perches as a place to sit, stand and rest. A perch is a wooden stick, thick enough to feel sturdy under the feet of the bird. The best perch is made from natural wood, and often cockatiels love it when there are curls and curves! Use perches that have variation in thickness so that you offer your cockatiels variance. Safe perch materials are for example apple tree, birch, elm, beech, aspen, willow, maple and mountain ash (which you can serve with rowans, too!).
The perch should be at least so thick that when gripping it, cockatiel’s front and back nails won’t touch each other. You can also offer thinner branches and sticks but they are mostly for activities, and they should not be the only option for the bird to sit on. Perches should not be plastic; plastic perches are behind many feet problems and infections, and they won’t offer the feet any exercise and it won’t help the nails to get drained. Some pet stores offer sandpaper for the nails, but that is not a good option since the sandpaper may cause chafes and irritate the skin. If you must use sandpaper, place it only right under wooden perch so that just the nails will touch it. But in general, natural wood branches are an excellent help for nail growth and much better solution. There also exist so-called pedicure perches, designed for the foot and nail care. Sometimes they even contain minerals that the parrot can chew.
Tip! Place some of the natural perches in sloping diagonal. This way the cockatiel must use more strength in climbing, and the caused friction will consume the nails.
This cinnamon split to pied female enjoys good and firm perches.
Toys and activities
The play of the cockatiel is somewhat exploring by nature, often based on handling things with beak and sometimes with feet. Cockatiel toys usually consist of grid balls, little bells, leather strings, small wood pieces and such. Cockatiels also love to chew on thin branches, especially if they still have the leaves on. Anything that offers an activity for the beak is often something cockatiel enjoy. If you can combine the use of instincts to play, it will be twice as fun for your bird: hide millet for the bird to seek it. In the wild, they would use several hours a day searching food. You can, for example, thread a robe through egg container boxes and hide treats inside the boxes. Or you can drill holes to wooden perches and stuff them with sunflower seeds. This is how you can offer your birds surroundings that are closer to what their life would be in the wild.
The traditional toys such as the mirrors or plastic swings are not that good options. The mirror may cause false sexual attachment and even addiction; swings don’t offer much activity. Remember that the brightest colored toy may not be the best in the eyes of the cockatiel – or then it just might be the thing. Try out what your bird likes! Some cockatiels prefer different toys than others. And some cockatiels just aren’t as playful as others. The tendency to use toys can be encouraged when the cockatiel is still a baby. If the bird learns to play at a younger age, it will probably know how to use equipment even in older age.
If you have energy, you can do most of the toys by yourself. Use your imagination. Combine branches, sticks, leather pieces, letters, robes and other such materials. If you want to add some color to the toys, you can use paints that would be safe also for a human child to eat. You can also use blueberries, beetroot, and other natural pigments.
Make sure that the toy is safe. Some robe toys have tassels that consist of strings. These tassel strings may wind around the cockatiel’s neck or toes, causing the bird to get stuck or even to choke. I have also heard of a few cases in where the bird ate the strings and had digestion problems. Some bells have small holes. See that the cockatiel can’t get its tongue stuck in those.
A nest box is NOT a toy and should NOT be given to cockatiels unless you want your birds to reproduce. All kinds of boxes, little houses, and other darker holes are not part of the cage decoration since they will stimulate the breeding behavior and nesting instincts. Breeding hormones may cause your pet bird to become more aggressive, and the females may start to lay eggs for nothing. Since this species has the tendency for chronical egg laying it is not wise to encourage such unless the bird is a breeding bird.
There should always be more than just one activity offered at the time, and you must also change the provided toys regularly so that the cockatiels won’t get bored.
Cockatiel food dishes
There are many kinds of food dishes from many different materials. Most common materials are plastic and metal bowls. Some of the food cups can be hanged on the cage walls, and some factory-made cages have ready places for the dishes. Some cages offer a system where you can change the foods by taking the dishes from outside the cage. There are also long tube-shaped cups that are automatic feeders, releasing more seeds whenever the old ones have been eaten.
If you can switch the dishes from outside, it helps a lot in many cases, especially if you have breeding birds. You can place the food bowls also on the cage floor but be sure not to place them under perches. Make sure that the hygiene is maintained well.
The amount of the cups depends on the size of your flock and the served foods. If you have one large but flat dish placed on the floor, many cockatiels may eat from that. But if you have smaller cups hanged to the walls, you need almost as many seed cups as you have birds.
Cockatiels also need fresh water daily. They can drink from a water bowl or a bottle that is hanged to the cage wall. They learn very quickly to dring from the metal tube of the containers used for rodents! I prefer bowls since it helps the birds if they want to moisten their food a bit.
Cockatiels need a bird lamp
Sun produces UV light. But because birds can see colors that can only be seen under UV light, your cockatiel needs a proper bird lamp, a UV lamp. This is not similar to black light (the one you see at rave parties). Instead, it’s a full spectrum light with UV dimension. Bird lamp replaces the sun light. WIthout the bird lamp, your cockatiel can’t see all the colors that it could see. UV lamp has many effects. It influences eating and choosing a mate, and it also affects the genders of the babies (studies have shown that without the UV lamp you may get slightly more male offspring). UV also helps a bit with the D vitamin synthesis that is the primary key for calcium absorbing. Many people ask if the bird lamp is necessary for an indoor parrot. Yes, it is. Your cockatiel can live without it but can’t see properly without it. How would you feel if you would always have to check out the world only in sepia colors?
UV lamps won’t overheat – but their UV carriage is often quite short. So the lamp must be positioned right next to the cage. One quartermaster surface needs 40 w light – meaning at least two 18 w lamps. You can also do so that the other lamp is a bird lamp and the other is natural daylight full spectrum lamp (for example BioVital). Arrange the lamps so that the cockatiels won’t get to chew on the cables. The lamp must be changed in every 6-12 months since the UV content fades away.
On left, there’s a timer. You can set the timer so that the lights go on at 9 AM and off at 9 PM.