Cockatiels at Home
By Eleanor McCaffrey,
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printed or reproduced without permission from site owner.
My single female bird is laying eggs. What should I do?
Do NOT remove the eggs. Leave
them in the cage. Replace the eggs with white marbles or wooden dummy eggs
if they break or if your bird starts pecking at them to eat. Broken eggs
should be removed immediately and the area cleaned thoroughly to prevent bacteria
from growing. You can put the eggs on top of a wash cloth or put
them inside of a little plastic container that has been lined with a wash cloth
or white paper towels. This will make her more comfortable and
prevent the eggs from rolling around. Allow your cockatiel to nest (sit) on the eggs for 21-30 days.
Cockatiels usually wait until they lay 2 or 3 eggs before starting the nesting
process. If you remove the eggs, your bird will just go into another breeding cycle and
start laying more eggs. This will lead to chronic egg laying. The hormone prolactin is
needed for her to stop the egg laying cycle.
When the first egg is laid, her level of prolactin is low. The prolactin level
will increase with each additional egg laid and the amount of time she nests on the eggs.
(Source: Facts on Hormones: Exotic Bird Report, Psittacine Research, Univ. of Calif. Vol 2, Number
Cockatiels are opportunistic breeders and will lay eggs all year long
if conditions are right. Normal breeding season is Spring to early Fall.
Manipulating a bird's environment to resemble Winter months may help stop
chronic egg laying. First try cutting back by 2 hours, the amount of daylight
hours that your bird is exposed to for 2 weeks. If this doesn't help, only expose your bird
to 8 hours of daylight then cover the cage so it's in complete darkness for
16 hours for 2 weeks. Cut back on the
amount of baths or water misting as well as any soft foods your bird eats.
Re-arrange the toys, perches and feeding dishes in the cage, move the cage
to a different location, so the cage does not feel like a secure place to nest.
If you notice your bird investigating dark, enclosed areas like cabinets, open
bureau drawers, the inside of shoes etc. don't allow it. Your bird may
be seeking a place to set up a nest. Those little sleeping tents that are sold
for birds can also encourage a cockatiel to start laying eggs. Don't use them.
Do not pet your bird on the back or stomach and take out any mirrors that are
inside of the cage, all of which can stimulate breeding hormones. Hopefully,
future egg laying will be prevented. If your bird continues
to lay more than 2 clutches of eggs per year,
despite all of these measures, take her to an avian veterinarian.
Hormone therapy is available for chronic egg layers. Chronic egg laying leads to
low blood calcium, soft shelled eggs, egg binding and sudden death.
Note Females laying eggs will lose calcium. Provide plenty of
extra calcium in her diet from cuttlebone, fresh dark, leafy green vegetables
such as boy choy, kale, endive, chard, carrot tops, chicory, endive, mustard
greens, watercress and other dark lettuces. Make sure your bird has access to UVA/UVB lighting, 15
minutes each day in order to metabolize calcium. Low blood calcium causes soft
shelled eggs and egg binding as well as seizures and sudden
death in birds as young as 2 years of age. Click Here to read more about
Egg Binding It may save your bird's life.
Click Here to read more about chronic egg laying
and the egg laying process as well as more ways to prevent it.
Egg Laying, Egg Laying Process and Chronic Egg
I have a question about breeding. Can you help me?
Please read the 2 pages about breeding on this site as well as
the links on the bottom of both pages.
Here .They will most likely provide you
with a much more
detailed answer than I can in an email. If you have a question that you can not find
the answer to on either page, then by all means, please email me. I will gladly help you if I can.
If you think one of your babies is sick, it probably is. Please take it to an avian vet immediately.
If you don't have an avian vet and live in the USA or Canada you should be able to find one
How can I tell if my bird is a male or female?
Most cockatiels are monomorphic, meaning there are no visual differences in the
appearance of a male or female bird for most color mutations. Normal grays are
dimorphic, with males having bright yellow faces and crests, females having
bars on tails and wings. The 100% accurate way to determine gender of most
color mutations is for a bird to have a DNA test performed from a blood
sample, chest feathers, or the actual egg shell from which a bird hatched from.
Surgical sexing is usually reserved for large species of bird. Your avian vet
can perform both of these tests. For more background information on DNA
testing, visit Avian BioTech There are
some visual signs that suggest whether or not a cockatiel is a male or female. Females may have bars on the undersides of their tail
feathers, but these can be very difficult to see. Cockatiels have 2 bony ridges at the base
of their abdomen. In the female, the ridges are more flexible and further apart. An avian
veterinarian or an experienced breeder may be able to feel the difference when examining the bird.
and read my page on visual clues. This will help you.
I work all day, should I get a cockatiel?
No, not unless you plan on getting a pair of birds. Cockatiels are
intelligent, sociable companion birds and need interaction with a human or
another bird throughout the day. Leaving a single cockatiel home alone all day will
eventually cause problems like screaming, feather plucking, biting,
territoriality. Singles that are left home alone are also high candidates for
becoming depressed and cage bound .Cockatiels suffer from loneliness
the same as a human. A single cockatiel is totally dependent upon you for
companionship. It just doesn't seem very fair or very kind to leave a sociable
bird home all day with a TV or radio either.
I have allergies should I get a cockatiel?
Those with allergies should consult with their medical doctors before bringing any new pet into
their home. Pets are a life time commitment and they deserve a forever home. Getting a bird "to see" if allergies and asthma worsen
isn't fair or kind to a bird. Having said this, if you do have allergies or
asthma, birds are probably not the best pets for you to be around. The majority
of people I have met who have allergies or other family members with allergies,
sadly ended up giving their birds away. Excessive dust from a bird's
feathers can aggravate a person's allergies or asthma. All birds have a
type of feather called Powder Down Feathers. These feathers disintegrate
when a bird preens to form a white powder which conditions and waterproofs
a bird's feathers. Cockatiels and cockatoos in particular are known to be
birds because they have an excessive amount of powder down compared to other
species. You'll find white powder all over the cage, on objects near the cage
and on your cloths. Watch a cockatiel or any bird shake out his/her feathers after preening and
you may see a small cloud of white dust. If you pet a bird with your chin or
cheek, you may even have a coating of white powder on your skin. For those
with allergies who already own birds, frequent misting baths will help to remove
and control some of the excess powder that is
on your bird but will not eliminate it. When changing cage papers,
misting the paper with water right before rolling up for the trash will prevent
some dust from dispersing into the air. Some people with allergies have found
that hepa-filters help to control dust from their bird as
Should I get 1 bird or 2 and will it affect my first one's
bond with me?
I think most birds would enjoy the presence of another bird in the home but if you
can spend enough time with your single cockatiel throughout the day and do not
work or go to school, getting a 2nd bird is really entirely
up to you. People who work or go to school should always get 2 birds. Factors to consider
before getting a 2nd bird include the cost of medical treatment for 2 birds, the possibility of unexpected breeding or possible incompatibility. There is no
guarantee that any 2 birds will be compatible and want to interact with each.
Each bird is an individual and there isn't any way to predict how they are going
to react to another bird outside of the cage. Mama and my rescue cockatiel,
Cookie are good examples. Cookie enjoys watching Mama from a distance, but Mama
would be a "loving memory" if I let her get near him when he was
eating, playing, preening,, breathing. The sad thing is that Mama really likes
Cookie and I thought he would be company for her. They are both just about the
same age too. Some birds don't want anything to do with a new bird and will only
have eyes for you. Others will be so enamored with another bird they will start
courting rituals before the second bird even comes out of quarantine. If
you spend enough time with each bird separately, you should still be able to
maintain a strong bond with your first bird. The unexpected can
always happen and the close bond could be lost.
If I get a second cockatiel, can I put it in the same cage as my other bird?
No, not immediately. The birds may fight over territory and one bird may peck the
other bird to death, or prevent it from eating and drinking water.
Keep the birds in separate cages in the same room after the 30 day quarantine. In a few weeks, move
the 2 cages closer together so the birds can get to know each other better.
After another week or so, take the 2 birds out of the cage
and play with both of them together to see how they get along. Let them play together for a few more
weeks, then put them in a brand new cage so that neither one of them fights over
Can I keep a parakeet or lovebird in the same cage as my cockatiel?
Some people do, but it's not safe or advisable. Only the same species of birds
should be kept in the same cages. Parakeets and lovebirds are much more
aggressive than cockatiels. They will aim for a cockatiel's feet and toes, pecking at
or attacking them. Your cockatiel can be
severely injured and may end up with missing toes or other types of injuries. Parakeets
also tend to over preen their companions. Your cockatiel may end up with bald
Do I really have to quarantine my new bird?
Yes, absolutely and for 30-60 days. New birds should also be taken to an avian vet for a new bird
check up and to be screened for major diseases. New birds may have fatal diseases, viruses and
infections which can be transmitted to birds we already own, through the air
that they breath or though direct contact. Quarantining new birds helps to
protect birds that we already have from getting sick. Besides
infections there are some deadly diseases lurking in pet shops. Psittacine
Beak and Feather Disorder (PBFD) Proventricular Dilation Disease , (PDD), Polyoma,
Pacheco's Disease, Chlamydia (Psittacosis) Aspergillosis, Giardia, E.
Coli are some of them. Many of these diseases are transmitted via airborne spores or air
circulation of dried feces, nasal discharge, dander or other particles. All new birds,
should be kept in a different room where breathing air space isn't shared with
birds you already own.
Sometimes healthy looking new birds have a serious/fatal disease or
illness in the early stages and clinical signs are not present. The
stress of moving into a new environment will trigger the onset of symptoms. (Source: Exotic Bird Report,
Psittacine Research, Univ. of Calif. Vol 2, Number 2) What about taking birds to pet shops for wing and nail clippings or going into pet shops to purchase supplies? If you
take your bird into a pet shop or go into a pet store to shop, contaminated
particles listed above can infect your bird or get onto you skin, clothing and into your
hair to bring home to your bird. Never take your bird into a pet shop.
Shower and change your clothes when you come home
What type of cage should I buy?
Purchase the largest cage that you can afford. The recommended minimum size cockatiel cage
by most manufacturers is 20 inches by 20 inches by 30 inches in height.
Other manufacturers state that cages which are 18 inches by 18 inches by 23-27 inches are
safe as well. Your bird should be able to
completely stretch out its unclipped wings and flap them vigorously. Cockatiels
will grasp onto a perch and start flapping their wings for exercise. If the cage
is too small feathers and blood feathers will break. Spacing between bars should
be no wider
than 5/8ths of an inch. Manufacturers claim that 5/8 to 3/4 of an inch wide bar
spacing is safe. However, I personally think that smaller sized cockatiels could get their heads stuck in
between bars and break their necks if bars are
spaced 3/4 of an inch apart. Cage bars that are constructed horizontally instead of
vertically will make it easier for your bird to climb up and down to food dishes,
toys and perches that are placed in the upper level of the cage. Having little doors to access the food
and water dishes is very convenient. A cage that has a door that will stay open for a
landing or perching platform is also a desirable feature. Purchase a cage that has 4 corners
instead of one that is round. A cockatiel feels more secure
in a cage with corners. The cage should also have a grate over the bottom to
keep your bird's feet out of droppings. Cockatiels will hold pieces of food with
their feet. This will also prevent your bird from eating contaminated food that
has fallen to the bottom of the cage. Perch
diameter should be 5/8 to 3/4 of an inch. Use a variety of different materials
for perches. Avoid abrasive and sandpaper perches that claim to keep nails trim. They will eventually cause pressure
sores and lesions on your bird's feet.
Where should I place my bird's cage?
Place the cage up against a wall in a well lit area, but out of direct sunlight, where there
is plenty of family activity. The bird's perches should be about level with your
chest. Keep it away from any inside
doorways or halls. People coming and going unexpectedly can startle your cockatiel. Keep it away from
drafty windows and outside doors. Hold a lit candle in the area to test
for drafts. If the flame flickers, there's a draft.
Should I have the cage all set up before I bring my bird home?
Yes, have all of the perches, feeding dishes and toys already set up.
This way when your bird enters the cage it can immediately start becoming familiar
with its new surroundings without being disturbed by you and your hands. You can buy a little travel
cage and bring your new bird home in that. A travel cage will also come in handy
when you bring your bird to your avian vet.
What should I put on the bottom
of the cage? Is the ink from newspaper toxic?
One of the most essential elements in helping to keep a bird healthy is a clean cage, free from dust, fumes, droppings, mold spores
and bacteria. The use of corn cob, walnut shells, kitty liter, pine, aspen or cedar shavings
or chips on the bottom of the cage should be avoided.
Corn cob, walnut shells, kitty
litter, pine, aspen and cedar all contain excess dust or fumes, (pine and cedar)
which can irritate a bird's eyes and
delicate respiratory system. All of these materials retain
moisture, decay rapidly and promote the growth of bacteria and fungus that can make your bird
sick as well. Although the bottom of the cage may look
nice and clean, it's not clean at all. Feces are buried under wet,
decaying, moldy material. Urine soaked bedding produces ammonia fumes that
are harmful for birds to inhale. Living in a cage
with a a buildup of feces and fumes is not a healthy environment for birds. If
your bird ingests any of these materials, health complications include internal bleeding, deadly digestive impactions or obstructions that may require surgical
recommended cage liners include white paper towels, black and white newspaper, butcher
paper and commercial paper cage liners available at pet shops, (NEVER gravel or sand coated
paper.) Plain paper liners are dust and fume free. Paper liners
also dry quickly when wet to help control bacterial and fungal growth. ( IF changed daily. )
Black and white newspaper is probably
the most popular cage liner because it's so economical, Newspapers are usually printed with a
safe, non toxic, soy based ink in the USA. (Call your local
press to check first).
Most newspapers also sell their end rolls of paper, blank, ink free paper that
is left on a roll after
printing. By pre-cutting an entire newspaper or two into a stack of pieces
that custom fit the bottom of the cage, daily paper changing takes less than 30
seconds. If you are concerned about your bird chewing on paper, having a
grate over the bottom of the cage will help to discourage this behavior. If
ingested paper can usually be partially digested.
What should I do when I bring my bird home?
Place your new cockatiel in his cage and try to keep the noise level in your
home low. Avoid shouting and loud noise from TV or music. If your bird is not
tame, give him a few days to a week, to adjust to you and a new environment
before trying to take him/her out of the cage and
actively taming or teaching the step up command. Go about your normal routine,
and let your bird observe the family activities. Do NOT put your hand inside of
the cage or grab your new bird. This will frighten him and could start
biting problems. (Most cockatiels do not like to be held or restrained with a
closed fist.) You want your new bird to come to you willingly, not by
force. Go over to your bird and talk to him throughout the day in a soft, reassuring voice.
Cockatiels respond to our voice tones the same way children do. This will help start the bonding process between you and your cockatiel. Don't
hover over your new bird every second of the day for the first few days or
handle it during the first week. Keep strangers and visitors away from your bird until it adjust to you and its new family.
If your new bird is a hand tamed, hand fed bird he may want to come out
of the cage within a few hours. Hand fed, hand tamed birds are not afraid of
humans from day 1 and they will enjoy the attention and companionship that they
are already accustomed to from being with their breeder and clutch mates. (or
family if you adopted a previously owned bird). Take your new bird out of
the cage by using the Step Up
Command. DON'T EVER put your hand inside of the cage and grab your bird. Keep
bonding sessions short, 10-15 minutes and have several bonding sessions a day.
Always return you bird to the cage before you bird becomes over tired and
aggressive. You want the last experience out of the cage to be a positive one.
Learn to read you your bird's body
language. Body language can be found on the fourth page of questions
Keep strangers and visitors away from your new bird until he has bonded with you
How do I tame my bird and teach the Step Up Command?
DON'T EVER put your hand inside of the cage and grab your bird to take it out
of the cage for taming or for any other reason. Cockatiels can become very
territorial about their cages, toys, food dishes etc. and will become biters if
they feel you are threatening their home or their possessions. Think how you
would feel if somebody barged into your home, picked you up bodily, tied you to
a chair and forced you to sit in it. You want your bird to come to you willingly and not by
force. Keep taming sessions short, 10-15 minutes and have frequent sessions
throughout the day. Taking the bird into a different room where it can not see
the cage as well as getting the wings clipped will help by making your bird feel
more dependant on you. Ask for a moderate clipping, just the tips of the first 4
flight feathers so your bird will not drop to the ground like a rock, get hurt
or break tail feathers and blood feathers when it does try to fly. An avian vet
will clip them for you and can teach you how to safely and properly clip the
wings yourself at home. Specific directions for taming your bird and teaching it
both the Step Up
Command for taking it out of the cage, as well as the Go Home command, so it
goes back inside of the cage, can be found on this page
Click Here There
is no average time for taming a bird because each one is an individual. The more
time you spend with your bird the sooner it will trust you and become a tamed
bird. Watch your bird's body language. Body Language be found on the fourth page of questions
My bird is facing the wall and won't turn around. Doesn't
my bird like me?
Your cockatiel is very frightened. All cockatiels will face the wall when they are frightened. This does not mean that your bird doesn't like
you. It's also normal behavior for new birds the first few days in a new home.
Think of the back turning bird as having the same thoughts as a toddler.
"If I can't see you, then you don't exist."
Do you have more questions?
CLICK HERE or Use the Back Button To Return to Question Index.
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