Routines with a cockatiel

Living with a cockatiel can be great – but the owner must also remember his or her duties. Daily or weekly routines consist of cleaning, serving food, letting the cockatiel fly, taming it and training it. Cockatiel owner must be prepared to be flexible about many things, and at a certain level also a little bit careful. Cockatiel’s safety must be ensured even after the bird has settled.

Pied cockatiel


Flying is one of the most important things for cockatiels. Excercise keeps the bird in good health both mentally and physically. If the cockatiel can’t fly for a while, it will express the urge by yelling and flapping its wings inside the cage. You can let your cockatiel fly as often as possible. It would be recommendable to let the bird out from the cage daily.

For some birds, it is hard to go back to the cage. This might be because of the fact that it is much more entertaining for the cockatiel to be out from the cage. The reason could also be that the new bird still hasn’t learned the place of the cage and the other elements of the room. This can be prevented by keeping the cockatiel inside the cage from week to two weeks after arriving at the new home. Sometimes you may rush into a situation where you must leave the house, and there’s no-one to watch for the bird. The cockatiel might cause destruction or hurt itself. You can always move a tame bird to the cage on your hand, but an untamed cockatiel might be harder. Firstly, don’t serve food to your cockatiel outside the cage. A cockatiel will return to its cage when it feels hungry if it knows that’s the place from where the food can be found. One way is to put some millet or other goodies near to the door of the cage. The other way is to turn off the lights but leave a small lamp shedding the light on the cage. The last way is to leave the whole room dark and catch the cockatiel carefully with hands. This is stressful for the cockatiel and should not be done unless it’s necessary. A wild bird will probably try to bite the catcher so if the beak does damage use some thick gloves or a towel to protect your skin. Avoid catching your pet cockatiel. It is a very strong act and will damage your bird’s trust.

Read more about the returning to the cage from the training section!

“Should I clip my cockatiel’s wings?”

This is a risky topic since many of those who do clip the wing flights will react with a great defense when the subject is mentioned. I will do my best talking about this in a friendly way, but I will already apologize for the possible provoking tone of this text. It is very hard to argue about a serious thing like this without sounding passively aggressive, and since my English is a bit clumsy, I might express myself more unfriendly than I intend. I still hope that you read this text and stop for a moment to think about it.

Read a wider article about wing clipping!

Wing clipping means an act where a human trims the flight feathers. Wing clipping prevents the cockatiel from flying. Clipping is often done because it gives the owner more control over the bird: a cockatiel without the capability of flight can’t escape. It means that the cockatiel gets tame a bit easier. Or does it…?

Wing clipping seems to be common in the USA. In Europe, it’s very repulsed thing, and Australia doesn’t seem to be too enthusiastic about it, either. Flying is one of the most important things for the cockatiel that is one of Australia’s fastest flyers as a traveling bird. Flying gives the cockatiel exercise and keeps the mind and body healthy. A cockatiel can adjust to a situation where it knows it doesn’t help to try to fly and it stops begging for it. But if the bird is offered a chance to fly, it will use this chance.

Some people try to justify this act by saying that this is how the cockatiel won’t escape. But if you are ready to get a cockatiel, pay for it, train it and take care of it can’t be too hard to close the door or get some net to your windows and cover the window glass. I heard one hobbyist once saying that the cockatiel gets still exercise while flapping its wings while holding the cage bars tightly. Well, the same behavior occurs if a cockatiel that is fully capable of flying has not gotten away from its cage. And unfortunately flapping without rising to the air won’t fulfill any instinctive needs of the bird.

Some people also argue that they can’t let the cockatiel fly because it’s so clumsy. Parrots actually have a sensitivity age for learning to fly. This period lasts for a couple of weeks and if during this time the bird gets clipped it will never be as good flyer compared to a bird that has always had the possibility to fly. But it can learn to be good enough to get the exercise.

Should you clip your cockatiel’s wings? My answer would be definitely “no.” Trying to “tame” the cockatiel by clipping the flights is pretty much cheating since the human then forces the bird to interact and if the cockatiel once grows its wings back, it may no longer be tame or as tame as it was. When taming the cockatiel gently, without forcing, the bird will also remain tame, and it likes you just because it does that – not because it has to.

By cutting the wings, the owner makes the cockatiel entirely dependent on humans. They can’t move as their should. They have to walk. On the other hand, the wing clipping doesn’t guarantee the safety. I’ve seen a bird with clipped wings flying 200 meters right next to the car road. And then there are some sad cases of the cockatiels that got killed after the owner stepped on them or left them between the door.

Bathing or showering

Cockatiels love to bathe! Bathing also helps them to maintain their feathers in better shape. You can offer them a bathing bowl. There should be about an inch of water but not much more so that the bird won’t drown.

A great option for a bathing bowl is a water spray bottle! For most of the cockatiels, it is even better and simulates rain. You can shower your cockatiel daily, and I would recommend you to do it at least once a week. During the “dry season” or when you don’t want them to go to the breeding mood you can shower them a bit less. A cockatiel that enjoys the bath spreads its wings and fluffs the feathers, bowing and swinging.

Kynsien leikkaaminen

Neitokakadun kynnen leikkaaminen


Cutting the nails

The beak and nail growth is constant. In the wild, they wear down because of the number of different kinds of seeds and braches to chew on. Caged birds should always have the same chances, good perches and some material to use their claws and beak. Cutting them is always a stressful situation, so it’s much better to try to prevent it than just cut the claws regularly. Sometimes, even you offered good perches, cockatiel’s beak and claws may overgrow. When this happens, eating gets harder for the bird, and it may be uncomfortable to sit, and its toes may turn to the side. Cutting the beak is rarer and should be done by a vet, but you can cut the bird’s nails yourself. It may be wise to ask someone to show you the first time. Many birds don’t stretch their legs out to their owner, so the cutting should be done as instructed next.

Take a towel, a pair of cat’s claw-scissors, someone to help you to keep the bird still, and some farina. If you don’t have any, you can use an ice cube. Once you are used to cutting, it’s fairly easy to cut your bird’s claws alone.

1. Wrap the bird gently in the towel. Make sure it can breathe.Cutting the claws of the cockatiel

2. Take the bird somewhere in a good light, possibly a lamp, that you can point to any direction you want. Being calm is a good thing. You can place the bird on a table on your lap. If it wriggles or fights back a lot, you can give something interesting to its mouth – something that it can’t choke on but is interesting enough to keep its attention. For example, you can give a bracelet to a bird that loves shiny things. It can also help to cover the bird’s head with something. When it doesn’t see what’s happening, it won’t stress so much.

3. Keep the bird still with your other hand – or ask someone else to hold it – so that it won’t escape. Find the bird’s foot with your other hand and grab it gently so that you can see its toes. Your cockatiel will likely try to pull it’s leg back inside the towel or bite you, but try to keep the leg so that you can see it ( without crushing it ).

4. Examine the nail in the light. Depending on the darkness of the nail, you can see the vein inside the nail. Be careful not to cut it! Leave at least one millimeter between the vein and the place you cut from. You should have no problems seeing the vein with light-colored cockatiels that have lighter feet. If you can’t see the vein, another good rule is that the nail ends at the level of the toe. Be very careful when cutting the nails with this rule.

5. Cut the nail. Preferably at once, and not in small pieces. If the edges are uneven, you can smooth them with a rasp. Do this to all the nails, and then the same with the other foot. A cockatiel should have four toes on each foot.

(6. If you cut too deep, you cut the vein. This is painful to the bird, and it usually screams. The nail will start to bleed. It bleeds surprisingly much, so it’s important to stop it as soon as possible. In this case, put far into the bleeding nail. If you have no farine, press the nail with the ice cube. This is more difficult because the ice feels uncomfortable and the bird may struggle. )

If the nail is really long, it may be wiser to let a professional cut it.

Cleaning up

Cleaning up your cockatiel's mess

To be honest, one of the worst sides of owning a bird is the mess they make. The reasons for this are many. When eating, they don’t really look where they throw the peels of their seeds or where the pellet crumbs fall. It is likely that you will find them from outside the cage. Fresh food is usually partly eaten and partly dropped. When taking a bath, the bird splashes water around. Wherever the bird goes, there is a mess to be found. It sometimes drops feathers and fine dust that quickly gathers up in the corners. Many decide against getting a bird when they hear that they leave their droppings everywhere. Some birds can be house-broken, but only some of them, and it usually takes a lot of time for the bird to understand what it’s owner wants. The good side is that the droppings are fairly easy to clean and it usually doesn’t even smell. As for the size, cockatiel droppings are normally about the size of one’s fingertip, and their color is normally white and green, and they harden over time. If the droppings get hard before you clean them up, it’s easiest to spray some water over it and scrape it off with a scraper used to scrape ice off your car’s windows.

Water and fresh food must be changed daily. You must also check, that the bird has seeds and pellets and that they haven’t become rotten for some reason. You should clean the cage weekly for example by wiping the bars and perches with a moist cloth. The ground material should be changed even more frequently. Once a month it’s good to do a thorough cleaning when the cage and all that’s in it from toys to cups are washed well. Water and a brush are enough for this – no detergents are needed and even shouldn’t be used. Also, keep the rest of your home clean. The place for the bird should be thought well, for the room where you have your guests isn’t probably the best place for the bird. Even if you have the bird only in a single room, seeds often find a way around the house.

Cockatiels make a mess, and this fact can’t be changed. However, this isn’t a reason to confine the bird to its cage – it must have the opportunity to fly around as often as possible. You can’t avoid having to clean up even then.

Cockatiels and molt

Feathers are not eternal. Therefore the plumage experiences a renewal in certain intervals. This renewal is called the molt or molt. The first molt happens during the puberty as the cockatiel starts to reach maturity. This is around six months of age but might begin a bit earlier, too. It lasts a few months. The molting is regulated for example by thyroid and sex hormones, and often it follows nesting. Also if the conditions get improved remarkably, a cockatiel might start molting. You can recognize the molt from the plumage that is filled with little “spikes” that are growing feathers. You can also notice that the floors get filled with larger amounts of feathers than usually. Sometimes a vitamin cure is needed to help the cockatiel with the feather renewal. I would recommend for example Bird Care Company’s Feather Up.

Cockatiels and other pets

Neitokakadu ja koira

As you can probably already tell, cockatiels and cats are usually not a good combination. Birds tend to get stressed by the cats just by their instincts, and if you still do own a cat, you should not let it stare or threaten the cockatiels. Some cats may ignore the birds, but there still might come the day when the bird does something that awakes the cat’s instincts. If the bird and the cat are allowed to grow together, they may get along better. In other cases, you can never be sure enough to leave them alone without watching. I have had a cat that was very calm and kind and mostly scared of my birds. But there was one time when a baby escaped from my bird spaces, and suddenly the cat started chasing it, after almost three years of living in peace with my tiels. Never trust too much.

Dogs can be a bit easier to cope with cockatiels. Depending on breed, they still may have hunting instincts that are too strong to live with a bird. When the cockatiel takes a flight, it may trigger the predatory instinct. Then again, some dogs and cockatiel get along so well that the tiel may ride on top of the dog without the dog minding it at all. Sadly, there are cases where the dog has gotten too enthusiastic and bitten the bird to death.
A cockatiel and a dog. Shutterstock / Antonio Guillem

Rhodents and cockatiels are usually quite safe to keep together. The cockatiel probably just hisses and escapes the rodent or goes to say hi, preening the other animal gently. If the cockatiel is too excited, check that it won’t bother the rodent too much. Also, remember that not every species is suitable for same spaces. For example, rats are predators and can easily catch a cockatiel even from the air. Same goes for ferrets. Keep them away from your parrot.

Reptiles are usually quite harmless. But you should allow no physical connection with birds and reptiles due to the risk of salmonella.

Cockatiels and cats

Even there are exceptions; a common rule is that cats and cockatiels are not a good combination.

Stock photos: Shutterstock / Tobkatrina / You Touch Pix of EuToch