14 Things to Know Before Getting a Cockatiel
Cockatiels are one of the most famous pet parrot species. Gorgeous, friendly, avid singers, playful, and with pretty long lifespans, Cockatiels are great pets in a lot of regards. Originally from Australia, these lovely birds are now an exceptionally common pet bird across the globe.
Are they the right pet for you, however?
While we can say that Cockatiels are great pets in general, everyone has their own preferences and circumstances. It’s also very common for someone to think that they can get along with a bird when, in fact, they’d be a pretty bad match. The opposite is also true – a lot of people think they won’t like living with a bird or that they won’t be able to give the bird a good life when they would actually be phenomenal bird owners.
So, let’s go over the 14 key things you need to know about the Cockatiel before you make up your mind:
1. A very sociable bird
When people think of parrots they imagine that they are all social and playful. That’s not actually the case as many parrots are fairly asocial. However, as far as the Cockatiel is concerned, this bird loves people.
In fact, the Cockatiel very much needs people around it to be happy and mentally healthy. If you work away from home and you plan to leave your bird alone in a cage for 8-12 hours a day, this is not the right pet for you.
The social nature of the Cockatiel does bring the additional question of whether you should get a second parrot. Our recommendation is – definitely yes. You should be careful as to what the bird is – too large or aggressive of a parrot can be dangerous for your little Cockatiel, for example. Putting a male and a female together can also lead to some obvious issues.
However, you should definitely get your Cockatiel some company in addition to your frequent presence near the bird. Just make sure that you also have a large enough cage for two birds. Here’s a quick breakdown by Raju World Pets as to what such a cage looks like.
2. Loves to play
Cockatiels are not just social, they are also playful. They love most types of parrot toys and they very much enjoy exploring their homes – not just their cages. A Cockatiel isn’t going to be satisfied with just a couple of durable toys – this bird needs diverse toys and new stuff to fiddle with every other week. Here’s a good video about the best Cockatiel toys.
And, here’s a good video about DIY toys.
3. Great with kids
The Cockatiel’s social and playful nature makes it an excellent pet for kids. Especially if your child is a bit introverted and loves to spend time at home, such a parrot can be a wonderful companion for them.
How young is too young for a Cockatiel, however? Isn’t such a bird dangerous for kids?
Generally, small parrots like the Cockatiel are recommended after all children in the household have reached at least 6 years of age. This isn’t so much because the parrot can harm the child, however, but the other way around. A kid that hasn’t been taught – or is too young to understand – how to take care of such a small bird will simply be too dangerous for the Cockatiel.
Once the child is old enough to learn how to take care of the parrot, however, the two can be best friends for decades to come.
4. Affordable bird
Another reason to love Cockatiels is that they are not an overly expensive bird. Of course, as with most other pets, the main expense comes over the years – the food, the toys, and the vet care. However, the initial price is a concern too and Cockatiels aren’t at all as expensive as many other parrots and pet birds.
In general, this bird can cost you from $70 to $300. Everything depends on where you're going to buy the bird and which mutation type. For example, the cost for Gray Cockatiel is affordable, but it may raise once you want some special mutation.
5. Loves to sing but not to speak
Cockatiels can learn a couple of words but they are generally not the talking type of parrots. They are, however, great singers. For them, singing to you is the equivalent of talking. And they do love to sing a lot.
On the one hand, this means that you should be ready for some noise. On the other hand – that’s one of the best things about being a bird owner.
The size of the Cockatiel’s cage will depend on whether you have one or two birds. The general recommendations are 20” x 20” x 24” for two birds but I’d recommend at least 30” in length or a so-called “flight cage”. Naturally, such a cage isn’t enough for cockatiels to fly but it’s enough for them to be comfortable most of the time. We’ll get to their flying in a bit.
Aside from size, a good Cockatiel cage must also have a good tray at the bottom for cleaning, at least two cups of water and two cups for food, as well as several different spots for rest and sleep. It should also have enough platforms and handles for the Cockatiels to jump around and play.
7. Get ready for some mess
Cockatiels may be drop-dead gorgeous but they can certainly make a mess. That’s why we said that it’s important that your parrot’s cage has a practical tray underneath it.
8. Fly time
Cockatiels can’t be kept in a cage 24/7. They need at least several hours of “fly time”, playtime, and socialization outside the cage every day. This will not only give them the opportunity to literally stretch their wings, it’s also essential for their mental wellbeing.
9. A bird-proof home
If you are to let your Cockatiel out of its cage every day, you’ll have to make sure that you have a bird-proof home or room. This means no open windows and doors, no precious things the Cockatiel can damage, as well as nothing that can hurt the parrot.
Cockatiels need a varied diet of fruits, veggies, and seeds. Fortunately, there are good pre-made bird mixes for Cockatiels in pet stores. Here’s a good breakdown of the best pellet foods for Cockatiels:
Combine this with some chopped veggies and fruits every day and your Cockatiel will be healthy and happy for a long time.
Make sure that your Cockatiel has access to at least a couple of water sources in its cage, even if it’s alone. Also, clean and refill the water daily as these birds can be a bit messy. If you neglect your Cockatiel’s water, dehydration can quickly become a major issue.
Cockatiels are a fairly healthy parrot species but that doesn’t mean that they are immune to health problems or that you don’t need to keep their health in mind. If looked after incorrectly – or if just unlucky – a cockatiel can develop problems in any of the following areas:
- Respiratory problems
- Vitamin A and calcium deficiency
- Fatty liver disease
- And more
How can you avoid this? With the five big things that apply to any pet:
- Good diet
- Proper exercise
- Regular vet check-ups
- Proper socialization
- Get health certificates for the bird and its parents from the breeder
The first four are self-explanatory (even though people still skip them) but the latter may seem confusing. Most people purchase their birds from pet shops but that’s the worst thing to buy a pet from. Instead, getting your pet from a reputable breeder will ensure that it has a proper lineage and that you’ll be given adequate health certificates. This way, you can make sure that there aren’t any significant genetic predispositions toward health problems.
If all the steps we mentioned above are followed and you’re not incredibly unlucky, your Cockatiel will be 10-14 years at the very least as that’s the average. In fact, it’s very common for Cockatiels that are taken good care of to live up to 20 years and even more.
That’s fantastic for people who want a bird for their 6-7-year-old child that will accompany them to adulthood. It’s also good for middle-aged folks who want to have a feathery friend into their golden years.
14. Good vet
Last but not least, we do have to accent on the importance of routine vet check-ups. Ideally, you should take your parrot to the vet about twice a year even if there aren’t any noticeable issues. If you see any change in behavior (lack of appetite, lack of thirst, decreased playfulness, irritability, etc) you should also immediately consult your vet.
All this is contingent on you finding a good vet that knows birds and Cockatiels, however. Not all vets specialize in parrots or have much experience with them. IT’s wise to research the vets in your vicinity before you even take a Cockatiel to make sure that there’s someone nearby you can rely on.
Is the Cockatiel the right bird for you?
As you can see, Cockatiels are absolutely perfect for anyone who spends enough time at home and doesn’t have a predatory pet or a <6-year-old child. Some budget is required for looking after a bird, of course, and you will need to bird-proof your home or living room. However, as long as none of that is a problem, nothing is stopping you from bringing a couple of feathery companions into your life for at least a couple of decades.