When it comes to the food of a cockatiel the code word is versatility. Shortly said the cockatiel diet consists of seeds, fresh food, pellets, supplements and water. This chapter explains what can you and what can you not give to your cockatiel, plus it gives you some advices attached to certain foods.
Seeds and grass are the main nutriments of the wild cockatiels. A common misconception is that the seeds don't contain any valuable nutrients and that they shouldn't be fed to cockatiels. Seeds are, however, good food which not only contain the nutrients but also will be accepted by every cockatiel. The seeds alone can't still keep the bird fully healthy.
You will find different seed mixtures from your pet store. The parakeet seed mixture is the most suitable for cockatiels but you should see that the mixture doesn't contain too much sun flower seeds. The sun flower seeds should only play the role of a delicacy. You may also give budgerigar or canary mixture, millet and hemp but do not let them be the main food. The seeds alone aren't enough; the cockatiel also needs other foods to maintain its health. The seeds are at best when sprouted. The nutriment they contain is the greatest just before the sprouts are breaking through.
( From left to right: 1. Oat 2. White sun flower seeds 3. Sun flower seeds 4. Parakeet seed mixture)
Pellets are the dry food of birds. They consist of crushed seeds with their peels, some color substances and supplements. Pellets can be found in different colors, shapes and sizes. The bright colored ones tend to dye the excrement, so the excrement easily becomes slurry, though there are also those kind of pellets where the use of color substances has been avoided.
Even though some parrots may have pellets as their main food you can't say the same when it comes to cockatiels. The cockatiel breeders outside Finland tend to avoid giving pellets at all. There are, for example, too much of proteins for cockatiels in many pellets. It has also been noticed that if the cockatiels have been fed only with pellets the bird's bowel might suffer because the pellets are digested too easily, and so the digestive organs gets used to a faster speed digesting. Because of this the natural foods might not become
digested as easily as the body has already used to the way too easy digesting of pellets.
On the other hand the pellets, used as supplement, are a good source of food especially for the weak birds. They are also good food for the nesting parent birds when moistened in water since they are easy to vomit for the chicks. As a supplement the pellets can help improving the quality of the feathers. Still you shouldn't wait for your cleaning to become easier when offering pellets. Especially cockatiels that are just starting to eat their pellets and getting used to them often mess up, as the breaking pellet crumbs are slung to the surroundings. If the pellets are grind by the bird and the powder somehow gets moisten the powder will turn hard and it will no longer be that easy to remove - unless you remove it right away! If the pellets also contain the color substances, the dirtiness is granted.
One of the problems is that especially if there are only a few cockatiels at the same house and the flock is small the cockatiels don't seem to accept pellets very easily. One of my birds still eats rather the cover papers than touches to pellets. Since there are so much different pellets it might take a while to find the right product for your bird. Offer the pellets persistently but remember that the pellets alone aren't that good thing and that you should offer also some seeds to keep the digestion healthy and strong. The best pellets for cockatiels are the kinds of where the slight need of protein is taken into concern.
The pellets can be found on pet stores or from web pet stores (In Finland for example Espoon eläinkeskus.) Some examples of pellet products are for example Harrison's, Kaytee, Pretty Bird and Zupreem. If your cockatiel doesn't approve one option, it might approve another one.
( From left to right: 1. Pellet crumbs from a seed mixture 2. Zupreem Natural 3. Kaytee 4. Zupreem Fruitblend, parakeet-size)
Besides the seeds you must offer your cockatiel also fresh foods: vegetables, fruits and berries. Apple, carrot, pear, peas and corn are usually liked among cockatiels. One should not offer too stong tasting foods, for example many cockatiels avoid the sour taste of citrus fruits. Some cockatiels are very fond of a cucumber but the cucumber doesn't really contain much more than water. Remember to clean the fresh food daily to avoid it to become rotten.
The pet stores often sell different seedbars that are spiced with fruits, egg or honey. Cockatiels often love these goodies among the millet. You may also offer sometimes cheese, cottage cheese or rise chrispies/corn flakes for example as a reward. Remember to be moderate since the salt isn't very good for the birds. Be reasonable with everything as also birds can suffer from under- or over weight.
Cockatiels unfortunately tend to be quite fastidiouss, especially when it comes to new foods. A cockatiels is still a very curious bird and when it sees its companion or flock mate eating some food it may at least oay attention. You may try to make the cockatiel interested in, eating the food (apple, for example) yourself, acting like it was the greatest food you've ever eaten, without paying attention to your bird at all. This just might do the trick!
Vitamin supplements can sometimes come in need, especially if the cockatiel refuses to eat comprehensively. Vitamins and minerals are at hand often either liquids, powders or blocks. The best benefits are gained when the supplements are fed on the fresh food, because the cockatiel might not drink enough and won't get the amounts needed. Some vitamins make the water loom yellow but that's not dangerous. The water does, on the other hand, get easily spoiled because the sugar contained by supplements, so taking care of removing the water early enough is important. At the picture: liquid calcium (Calcivet) and Necton-S vitamin powder for nesting birds.
The cockatiel must also have a calcium block. You can also give calcium to water. D-vitamin is needed to help the calcium to get absorbed. Because of that, it is highly recommended to give vitamin supplements at the winter time when the bird can't get the D-vitamin from the Sun as much as in summer time. An option for a calcium block is a cuttlebone (right) that contains calcium and minerals.
There is also calcium gravel, containing often also oyster shell and grit, but nowadays the need for grit has been questioned with parrots. Leaving the grit away hasn't killed any parrots, but eating grit too much in stressful situations has. The subject is argued a lot and there might not be the correct opinion.
Egg food is a supplement that is often given to nesting birds but it doesn't do harm to give it also outside breeding. The egg food looks mostly yellow powder that feels greasy between fingers. The egg food of the picture contains also dry fruits. Sometimes crustaceans are mixed to egg food.
What does a cockatiel drink...?
Water is just enough for cockatiel to drink. You may still give sometimes mild juices. You must remember to change the water often enough, especially if you live in a warm area where the water gets spoiled faster. Spoiled water leads to health conditional problems. Some birds tend to moisten their seeds or pellets in the water coup, throwing the food first to the coup and picking it after it's wet enough. Because of this the water will quickly become dirty... and needs to be changed.
Poisoned and harmfull - and that's why denied - foods and drinks are... avocado, alcohol, coffee, chocolate (because of the caffeine and theobromine) rhubarb (oxalic acid-> kidney problems), green potatoes, cabbage family (Brassicaeceae/Cruciferae) and all the sulfur treated dry fruits. Salty, sugary, raw or fatty food must also be avoided. Again... be reasonable: your bird won't die if you give him a little piece of your chips. But remember that you are responsible if the unhealthy food makes your bird ill.
Last updated: 24.01.2010