Candie Bradley & Julie Lewis

The least understood part of owning Cockatiels as pets is their need for attention & affection, which should be given consistently in conjunction with regular handling. These basics are an essential part of owning a Cockatiel.
Cockatiels often prove to be gentle and loving pets, but without human handling and attention, Cockatiels can & will revert back to their natural, survival instincts and they will lose their tameness.

Cockatiels can be quite adaptable. They often quite easily adjust to our human foibles including dealing incredibly well with small changes in their routine, but be warned, anything to do with major changes such as “house moves”, then, like the majority of the parrot species, the bird may become extremely stressed.

Lots of owners worry about leaving their feathered ones at home, whilst at work. They tend to wonder if Baby Tiel needs a cage-mate to keep him company. Owners also worry that their baby will bond better with another bird and the owner will loose the bird’s affection.

We have found that human bonded birds usually want no part of an “uninvited bird” coming into their family domain; also a human- bonded bird may not take kindly to becoming a friend to another bird. They may even perceive it as a threat! We have also found that no matter what species of bird, if it is provided with plenty of attention, love and frequent handling, the bond created between owner and bird will endure.

Besides the emotive response required by the bird, another essential routine is that of maintaining a good standard of environment. All birds need a clean, hygienic and as bacteria free living space as possible. Food and water dishes should be changed or cleaned each day, more if they become soiled. Their cages need to be washed regularly and disinfected with a good proprietary disinfectant every week. The flooring material needs to be changed regularly and it should be of a dust free, non toxic substance. NOT Newspaper as this can be harmful to the birds. Perches need to be cleaned regularly and they also need to be of the correct size, to prevent sores, obesity and bumble foot occurring.
All birds need plenty of indirect light. If the cage is in a darker area, you could provide lighting that’s sold especially for birds. This should be placed near to or above their cage. If the cage receives direct sunlight, be sure to provide ample shade in a large area of the cage, as no bird should ever be left in direct sunlight, due to the possibility of sunstroke. On warm or hot days, check the water pots frequently, ensuring that there is always an ample supply of fresh clean water. If the temperature rises to 80 or above, try to provide extra ventilation in the form of a room fan. Shower the bird with tepid water regularly in the summer, but ensure that this is done before mid-day, in order that the bird will dry completely, before roosting.

Daily showers or baths seem to be enjoyed more during moulting. Cockatiels love to bathe often wanting to you to continue spraying them, even though they may be already soaking wet. Reduce bathing, slightly, during the winter months. Be careful to keep them warm and in a draft free environment. Cockatiels are warm blooded, their normal body temperature is about 41C, a great deal higher than that of a dog or cat. Frequent showering/bathing also helps to keep the dander dust down and under control and helps the bird to preen correctly.

If you wish to train your Cockatiel, like all birds, they will need you to make time for this, on a regular daily basis. Work on one training procedure at a time, not half a dozen at once. Multiple and long training sessions only confuse the bird and usually result in nothing practical being achieved. Training should be fun for the bird and fun for you. It is also advisable to train the bird in a different room to that which contains its cage. When one technique is mastered, then move to the next. Continue to repeat and practice once or twice, the training that was done on previous lessons, during each training session. Remember to keep sessions short, 5 minutes is ideal and always make the sessions enjoyable. Reward with ample praise, whenever the bird achieves a desirable result. If you find sessions are becoming a hassle for you or the bird, then stop.

Cockatiels can and mostly do talk, but they are not always as prolific and verbose as their parrot cousins, the greys, amazons and macaws. Their vocabulary is limited, but with patience, simple words can be learnt.
Remember too, that Cockatiels breed readily in captivity, so if you keep a cock and a hen together in a cage, they may well breed and produce chicks. A suitable and correctly sized nest box should be provided should they display signs of mating. It will need to be about 1ft wide, 10inches deep and 1ft tall (30x25x30cms). The entrance hole should be about 3inches (7cms) in diameter, with a sturdy perch to facilitate entry and exit from the box. The roof should be hinged to help cleaning and inspection and wood shavings should be laid on the floor. A hen can lay between 4 to 7 eggs per clutch and incubation is between 17 to 21 days.

Getting them to eat a healthy variety of foods, can prove to be difficult,
The list provided is by no means ‘daily’ or ‘required’ it is intended merely as a guide:

* Fresh fruit & vegetables
* Sprouted seeds.
* Grit.
* A little lean meat, chicken.
* Millet, but in small amounts.
* Formulated pellets.
* Mixed cockatiel seed.
* Hard-boiled or well-cooked scrambled eggs
* Whole grains.
* Rice. Pasta.
* Hard cheese.
* Yoghurt.
* Toast.
* Legumes.
* Dry cereal (non-sugar types).
* Apple juice.
* Selected tree branches such as apple, (Not every tree is safe)
* Egg Food, for nursing hens and chicks.

NEVER FEED – coffee/caffeine. Carbonated fizzy drinks, Avocado. Chocolate (in any form). Lima bean sprouts. Milk (tiels are lactose intolerant).

ALWAYS provide clean water, which should be available at all times.

Also provide cuttlefish, iodine block or better still, a good Calcium supplement.

Never ever leave your birds playing out of the cage unattended. Not even for a moment, return them to the safety of the cage or take the bird with you.

ALWAYS use extreme caution when another animal is around (puppy, dog, cat, or even a larger bird) or if they are in the vicinity and able to come into contact with your precious charge. Honestly no matter how well you know your other pet’s behaviour, their basic inert instincts can kick in, dogs are canines, cats are felines and so on.
It could all be too late, as within a slight heartbeat, your cockatiel could be in the mouth or beak of a larger individual.
Cockatiels, like any other birds, will benefit greatly from being outside on a warm sunny day. Sunshine will improve their feathers, as will light rain. If your bird is not clipped and has to be outside in its cage, then make sure that cats and other predators are not able to reach the cage or knock it from its stand. Partially cover the cage with a cloth and make sure that the cover is secure. This will provide a shaded area for the bird. Check the water pot frequently. If your bird has had its wings clipped, then do a test flight in the house, before allowing it to go outside. It may have been a while since the clipping was done and the feathers may well have grown back sufficiently to facilitate flying. Also beware of the plants in your garden. Birds are naturally curious and will chew plants and leaves, however many common garden plants are extremely toxic to birds, so always place your bird well away from forna, so that it is not tempted to chew.

Basic First Aid Kit

Always have a basic first aid kit to hand. It should contain a few simple things that will be useful should your bird become injured. These are the basics:
A stop bleed substance (Cornflour is good for this)
A good bird approved disinfectant.
Cotton wool balls or cotton buds.
Tweezers and sharp scissors
Savlon cream (the only human medication that can safely be used on a bird)
A soft, dark, non stripped towel, for restraining an injured bird.

These little birds are chirpy and cheeky companions and you should always remember that your cockatiel depends totally upon you & your family to meet its needs. We must all act as responsible keepers, to consistently provide birds with what they need. These precious charges depend upon us; we need to ensure we provide them with everything possible, within the limits of captivity.

” The cage must be large enough for the bird to move around without his tail touching the sides. If the bird cannot perch without the tail touching, the cage is too small. Suggestion, the cage be no smaller than 18″x14″. The optimal size is 3′x3′.
” Extra food dishes.
” Extra perches.
” Supply a variety of toys to be changed on a regular basis in order to prevent boredom.
” A variety of foods. Cockatiel specific pellet food, Cockatiel mix, fresh fruits and vegetables, millet, cuttle fish bone, iodine block (pink chalk like block) and suitable birdie treats.
” Bathing dish garden/spray bottle available from any local DIY store.
” MOST IMPORTANT: Your time and attention.
” If you have no experience hand-feeding baby birds, please do not buy an un-weaned bird. This usually ends tragically. A reputable breeder will not sell un-weaned birds to anyone who has no experience hand feeding.
” Is the vent (anus) clean? There should be no staining or faecal matter on the feathers around the vent.
” Does the bird have all of his toes and toenails? How do the legs look, are they bent or bowed, this could be a sign of vitamin deficiencies?
” Is the bird perching well?
” Is the bird active and alert?
” Are the eyes bright and clear, without redness, swelling or discharge?
” Is the mouth and beak clean, free of caked up baby hand rearing formula and also free of injury? There should be no lesions, wetness, or white spots up inside the mouth.
” The beak should be free of deformities. (I.e., overgrown or misaligned)
” Are the nares (nose) clear and without discharge?
” Do the wings look smooth and even? If the wings have not been clipped, they should lay smoothly and evenly on the sides of the body.
” Is the body firm and fully developed? Feel the keel bone (breast) in the front. Does it feel sharp? (Like the back of a knife blade) If so, the bird may be underweight.
” Does the bird have all of his feathers?
” Does he look plucked?

” Are there any bare areas on the body?
” Are the feathers fluffed in appearance?
” The bird should be fully feathered and sleek. And depending on his age, his tail may be somewhat ragged due to other siblings tugging at them during play.

A cockatiel can live for many years and will thrive on being a faithful and cheekily lovable companion. They can and often do pine if they are left alone. There is no substitute for TLC, time and patience, but the rewards of having a wonderful and happy little bird as your friend are immeasurable.

Copywright. All rights reserved by Candie Bradley

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