• Cockatiels


    Everything you need to know to raise Cockatiels

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Raising Cockatiels
Have you ever caught yourself talking to animals at the zoo? You've probably had a cat or dog as a pet at some time or the other, and have spoken to them like you'd speak to a friend. I'll bet you've sometimes wished they could actually talk back!

Well, if you had a cockatiel (pronounced cock-uh-tee-il), it probably would, as long as you trained him or her to say what you wanted - after all, they do belong to the parrot family!

Although their 'voices' aren't as clear as those of larger parrots, and they aren't really the best choice if you're looking for a talking bird, cockatiels make great companions - they love to be handled and stroked, perch squarely on your shoulder as you walk about the place, take fruit from your hands, and are as loving as they are lovable!

This bird is native to Australia (don't expect it to have an Australian accent, or say "G'day mate" without teaching it to!), and flocks of hundreds of these birds fly wild in most of the inner regions of the country. Best of all, they're quite easy to care for, and inexpensive to buy, unlike larger parrots like African Greys and Cockatoos. Also, they do not fall ill as easily as larger parrots and other birds do, and chances are they will be around for as long as twenty years, well after you've graduated from college!

A name for your cockatiel

The name that springs to my mind is 'Tintin'! And you know why, don't you? It's because of that cute tuft of hair that curls upwards like that famous comic character.

I'm sure you'll think of some great names for your bird, but if you need some suggestions, here they are:

Some interesting names for boy cockatiels:

  • Tufty
  • Cheep Jack
  • Biggles
  • Featherick
  • Nicholas in the Cage
  • Bill (as in beak)
  • Elvis (after all, he had a tuft on his head too!)
  • Spike

Some interesting names for girl cockatiels:

  • Frou-frou
  • Wispy
  • Margie (after Marge Simpson, who has a towering hair-do)
  • Flyaway Faye
  • Amelia (after Amelia Earheart, the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean)
© 2004 - 2020 Leonard Rego

Before you buy

Your parents might like the idea of buying you a cockatiel if you're prepared to take good care of it, so make sure you do so, or else you'll let both them and the 'tiel down! Good pet stores look after their birds well, and also keep great books on taking care of your pets, so visiting a well known one is important.

Best buddies are often the ones you've known for the longest time, so you have to decide to be a faithful friend to your bird for a long time to come. Ask the pet shop attendant to show you the largest cage your mom and dad are willing to buy, a minimum of 24" x 24" because keeping a bird in a small cage is cruel. Be sure that the bars are spaced properly, not more than 3/4 of an inch apart, as they could get their heads trapped in between badly spaced bars, and if at least one side is made up of horizontal bars, the bird could climb to the top easily.

Think about spending a part of your allowance to buy this intelligent little bird toys that have mirrors, open bells and chewable items such as 'rawhide' and plaster; far from being birdbrains, they are smart and very active.

Also ask the attendant to suggest food granules that have vitamins and minerals, which are essential in keeping your cockatiel healthy.

Choosing your pet

It is best to start off with just one of these pretty birds, and look for one that is at least eight weeks old, so as to be sure it has learned to eat by itself, although you'd probably be much better off buying one that is about five to six months old, by which time it has developed fully.

Here's a new twist to the selecting game - let your cockatiel choose you! The one that's bright-eyed and friendly will come up to you and step-up, and might even want to sit on your shoulder while you stroke its head lightly. If you don't find one that does this, don't lose heart! It just means that it has to get to know you better before it can trust you fully. Its mother probably taught it never to talk to strangers!

'tiels are fussy eaters, and you should ask the pet store owner what the one you choose has been weaned on. Avoid seed-eating 'tiels because they could, in time, develop a disease called fatty liver syndrome.

Care and feeding

You will need to clean the cage at least once a week, so choose a cage that can be cleaned easily. Newspaper is the best floor covering for a cage, and you can take off the top sheets to clear the droppings. Feeding and water dishes should be kept away from places where droppings fall.

Try and fit at least two perches in the cage, one different in thickness from the other, to exercise the cockatiel's feet. If the perches are natural, so much the better.

As far as food goes, vitamin- and mineral-containing pellets are probably your best option, and you can also treat your bird to fresh chopped fruits, vegetables and other greens. While chips and coke might be the 'best thing ever' (OK, that's a joke) for most kids, avoid feeding your bird foods high in salt, sugar or grease.

For your bird's health and safety, keep it away from:

  1. Electric cords, motors and moving parts of machines
  2. Plants that are poisonous to birds, such as poinsettia, the Boston fern etc. (look in the book for more of such plants)
  3. Avocado pits and peel
  4. Household cleaners, perfumes and insecticides
The book you buy will also teach you how to trim your bird's wings, but if you're uncomfortable doing so, take it to a vet or back to your pet store. A bird with unclipped wings is going to do what all birds do - fly away! Get used to your cockatiel waking up about 6:30 in the morning and going to bed at about 7 or 8 in the evening. Be nice - put a 'do not disturb' sign on the cage door! Birds, like you and me, can fall ill, and watch out for ruffled feathers, a runny nose and unusually watery stools. If your book doesn't tell you what to do, take it to a vet who will definitely know how to treat your fine feathered friend.

Cockatiel Trivia

  • The basic colours of the cockatiel are yellow, red, and black, but they come in a variety of colour mutations like Pied, Lutino, Pearl, Cinnamon and Silver.
  • Cockatiels like to be misted with a water spray because it makes their feathers soft and manageable
  • You can learn to communicate with your bird through body language!
  • The cockatiel gets its name from the Portuguese word 'cacathitho' which means 'little cockatoo'