Getting a Cockatiel – All you need to know

Wondering about getting a cockatiel? Cockatiels are second in popularity only to the budgies . On this article, we go over every detail you need to know before getting this curious bird.

Cockatiels have a famous nickname, “mini cockatoos”. It’s because they have a lot in common with cockatoos in their behavior, despite their small size. They are cuddly birds that love attention and make for a great bird pet.

These birds are easier to handle when they’re hand-fed as babies and raised in positive environments. While they don’t normally learn to talk, cockatiels are exceptionally intelligent.

Many cockatiels learn to whistle quite well. Males are better at singing and whistling while females tend to be quieter.

Cockatiel’s Lifespan

In the wild, cockatiels can live 10-15 years or more. As pets cockatiels can live in average 20 to 25 years and in rarer cases they can even pass their 30s.

Cockatiels’ Cost

Cockatiels prices range from $65 to $300 depending on where you live.

Cockatiels that are fairly young (less than a year old) and are hand-fed are usually more expensive. That happens because the breeder took the time to get the bird acquainted with humans and comfortable around hands since it was a little chick.

However, that consider that you also need to buy a cage, toys, and food.

Should I get a cockatiel?

Before getting a cockatiel, read the cockatiel’s pros and cons below, as long as the general care info below. It’s important to familiarize yourself with your pets needs before bringing them home.

A must-have for cockatiels is being home a lot of the time. If you’re never home, don’t get a cockatiel. They’re very social creatures that need company during the day, otherwise, the loneliness will make them sick.

Cockatiels’ Pros

  • They are very affectionate birds who like to be held and petted. Probably one of the cuddliest birds!
  • They have a lot of character for a cute “small package”.
  • In a way, they kind of seem like a dog in their behavior, as they are very loyal and tend to form strong bonds.
  • Cockatiels are more than one person bird, good for families with kids.
  • Can coexist with other pets (ideally not dogs and definitively not cats).
  • They come in different colors! Pet cockatiels can have several color variations including albino, lutino, pied, pearl, cinnamon, and silver.
  • Not as loud as other birds. All cockatiels whistle and vocalize but they are not nearly as loud as most other parrots.

Cockatiels’ Cons

  • They require a lot of attention in order to maintain a healthy mental and physical state.
  • Cockatiels can get pretty clingy. They will want to be around you all the time. Be ready to share attention between your plate and an inquisitive cockatiel trying to see what you’re eating.
  • If you just can’t tolerate screeching, that will be a problem as it will probably scream for attention.
  • Like any other parrot, they don’t like being stuck in cages for a very long time and they love flying around.
  • Like cockatoos, cockatiels have dandruff and that may be bad if you have some allergies.
  • They like to chew, so they might get a bit destructive.
  • Female cockatiels may get egg binding, which is a urgent care situation.
  • Cockatiels are prone to night frights. They get completely desperate if something wakes them up and flap their wings around, harming themselves in the process.

What is the best age to get a cockatiel?

As young as 12 weeks to one year old. The older the cockatiel, the harder it might be to get used to humans if it wasn’t handfed. Of course, it depends on the bird and other factors, but usually, the younger, the best.

Is a cockatiel a good starter pet?

No bird is a starter pet, that’s for sure. Birds are loud (almost all the time), poop a lot, demand specialized pet care, and can be really hard to train and keep healthy. If you’re looking for an easy pet, go for a dog, that is definitively much easier to handle and care for. Plus, most pet cockatiels live past their twenties. It’s a long time commitment.

However, if you did your homework and are aware of how challenging owning a pet bird can be and have lots of time to spent with your bird every day, go ahead and get a cockatiel. They are absolutely a delight to have around. They are very warm to our presence and enjoy our company. Cockatiels might take a while to train, but it’s definitively possible and they are not as expensive as other parrots, such as cockatoos or macaws.

They can be wonderfully affectionate birds who can provide those around them with a great deal of love and entertainment if you do things right.

Is it better to have 1 cockatiel or 2?

It depends on a lot of factors. Fact is, cockatiels don’t handle loneliness well. If they’re by their cages all by themselves almost every day they will develop anxiety/depression symptoms. They need to be engaged by in a meaningful way. Their owners need to be available to spent time with them at least 1-2 hours a day.

Getting a second bird could or not help the bird cope with loneliness. That happens because it doesn’t necessary mean that the two birds are going to get along well.

cockatiels snuggling
Having two cockatiels might be good to keep each other company

If getting a second bird, always try to introduce the new cockatiel slowly, and closely monitor how they respond to one another. Getting a second cage is advised in the beginning. This way you can quickly separate them if they fight.

On the other hand, bringing two birds home that are already bonded seems to be a good way to keep each other entertained. There is a bigger chance that may difficult the taming process though.

Noise wise: a single cockatiel may be noisier than two cockatiels, which will chatter with each other. 

Do not house cockatiels with lovebirds or larger birds because the cockatiel is unable to defend itself against these more aggressive parrots.

Should I get female or male cockatiel?

If you enjoy a little show off and don’t mind some loud scritches, a male cockatiel might be ideal for you. They love whistling, drumming their feet, and basically just showing off in general.

Now if you wish for a quieter bird, try going for a female. Females can also whistle, but not as much as males.

With females, be prepared for the possibility of eggs laying, regardless if they have a male counterpart. This can bring a whole miriad of problems, such as being egg bound. This happens when the egg gets stuck and becomes a blockage in their body and requires urgent vet care. Most of this hormonal behavior (also found on males when they become territorial) can be dealth with by reducing daylight hours.

A common choice if you’re getting two cockatiels is to get two males if you don’t mind the extra noise or two females. Don’t get a couple if you’re not ready to deal with baby bird needs.

How to differentiate in between a male and a female cockatiel?

If someone is trying to sell you a cockatiel chick and promising you that is a female or a male, be aware. To determine the sex of cockatiels, you have to wait for the first molt, which happens from the fourth month. Before this age, it is very hard to determine the sex of this bird.

Male vs female cockatiels - Main differences
Male vs female cockatiels – Main differences

As adults, cockatiels males will have brighter facial colors than females. Also, the orange of the cheeks is darker, as is the color of the wings.

Females will have bars on the underside of the tail feathers, as well as spots on their wing feathers.

Cockatiels diet

Offer your cockatiel a varied diet. Pellets, seeds (with moderation), dark colored vegetables, low sugar fruits, and grains are a good mix.

Cockatiels are susceptible to vitamin A and calcium deficiencies, just like larger parrots, so a proper diet is the best thing that you can do for your bird.

  • It’s recommended to use pellets as 25-50% of their diet.
  • Never allow your cockatiel to have more than 2 level tablespoons of seed/day. This should be seen as a treat, since excess of seeds can cause a sickness called fatty liver disease.

What food to avoid when feeding your cockatiel

  • Avocado – Highly toxic!
  • Chocolate – Highly toxic!
  • Onions – Highly toxic!
  • Coffee – Highly toxic!
  • Alcohol – Highly toxic!
  • Acorns
  • Milk products: Cheese, milk, and yogurt
  • Peanut Butter – high in fat and sugar and low in nutrients
  • Sugar – birds have difficulty digesting sucrose (common sugar)
  • Cooking oil
  • Green Cabbage
  • Mushroom
  • Honey
  • Boxed Mixes (Muffin, Bread, or Pancake)
  • Breakfast Cereals (Sweetened, Vitamin Enriched)
  • Sweet pea
  • Sage
  • Uncooked beans
  • Nutmeg
  • Raw Fish
  • Peanuts
  • Garlic
  • Do not feed pits/pips/seeds from Apple, Apricot, Aprium, Cherry
  • Coriander
  • Eggplant
  • Catnip
  • Persimmon
  • Yucca/Cassava & Horseradish

Prepare your home for your cockatiel

Get your cockatiel a cage

A cage, 32” long x 25” wide x 35” tall minimum, ideally with horizontal bars to allow them to climb. Get one that is big enough for two in case you decide to get a friend for your bird The bigger the cage, the best.

The cockatiel cage should not have a greater than a 3-inch gap between horizontal segments to prevent injury to your birds. Another cool feature to have is a little play and perch area at the top.

cockatiel inside cage
Your cockatiel needs to have enough space to flap its wings when its inside the cage – Image by Albina01


The cage should also have at least 2–3 perches. Vary their size, shape and texture so your baby’s feet stay healthy and strong. Don’t get those boring straight up perches only.

There are three main types of perches: rope, wood, and platform perches, and each one is important for your birds’ lifestyle! When buying wood perches, remember to buy different shapes and sizes to mimic different branches from the nature!


Get stainless steel bowls. They reduce the risk of keeping bacteria in your bird’s food and water. Another note is: get three bowls. One for dry foods, such as pellets. One for fresh water. And finally, one for wet foods, such as vegetables or fruits.

Cleaning the cage

Make sure to get substrate like shavings or paper pulp to line the bottom of the cage. You can spread either on top of newspaper. Cleanup is a little easier when you can roll up the paper when you change things out. However, it get be hard to get newspapers nowadays.

Only use natural, non-toxic materials for cleaning the cage. A warm and soapy solution, crumpled newspaper, and rags or paper towels should do it.

Where to place your cockatiel cage

Situate the cage in an area where your cockatiel will have lots of interaction with you and your family daily.

Get a sleeping cage

When it’s bed time, it’s best to bring your cockatiel to a quiet room where they can sleep without any interruptions. Birds are lightsleepers! Some people move them to a smaller sleeping cage where they safe and protected while resting.

Most people usually send their birds to bed between 6 pm to 9 pm.

Cockatiel night frights

Cockatiels have a tendency to have night frights. Night frights happens when cockatiels wake up at night with something that scares them off. They fly around the cage, completely desperate, and end up hurting themselves.

Have a night light set aside for your cockatiel or completely cover the cage to prevent night frights.

Cleaning the air for the cockatiel

First of all, if you are a smoker, don’t get a bird. They have incredibly delicate lungs are vulnerable to the toxines from smoke and fumes.

That means that if you enjoy incense or candles, you will have to do it while the birds is not in the area, ideally cutting off completely.

Teflon has to go

Everything that has teflon and the following substances: PFASs, PFOA, PFOS, and PTFE is bad for your bird and ultimately, even for your health. These substances can usually be found on non-stick cookware.

Teflon and these substances are known to be released mixed in fumes when exposed to high heat. When ingested by the fumes, the cockatiel’s lungs can’t handle the toxics and may collapse in less than 24 hours.

Careful with cleaning products

Avoid having the cockatiel in the same room as you clean the house with chemicals such as bleach and alcohol. In fact, even spraying perfums or doing your nail polish around them can be bad.

Ensure air quality

Get the cockatiels’cage in a room that has air circulation and ideally, get a air purefier. Also, place the cage in an area free of drafts and stark changes in the temperature.

Birdproof your windows and doors

Everybody in your household needs to get into the habit of being careful when opening windows and doors while the bird is out. If possible, put a screen on your windows and birdproof them with so the birds doesn’t accidentally hit itself on the glass.

Plenty of toys

Cockatiels love their toys. They like to play with movable parts on toys, and enjoy chewing soft sticks and soft balsa wood. They love to climb ladders and most also appreciate a swing. Be sure to get cockatiel-sized toys for your bird. Don’t get budgie stuff.

Avoid the toys made with string and avoid mirrors as well. The same goes for plastic toys. Prefer to buy paper, palm leaves, or natural wood toys. Watch for the coloring used to dye the materials too. It should be using natural colorants and no chemicals.

Another fun thing to do is make or buy foraging toys. They are toys that have a tasty treat inside and your cockatiel has to “work” to discover it. These are the best toys to keep them busy.

cockatiel foraging toy
Cockatiel playing with a foraging toy made of paper

Be ready for emergencies

We never know what may happen in the future. Before you get your cockatiel, make sure to have a friend or a family member that can take of your bird in the case of an emergency while you are away.

Have a phone number of your avian vet and phone for the nearest 24-hour emergency vet clinic that treats birds.

Another good thing to have in the house is a first-aid kit. Some items for this bird first-aid kit could be:

  • Styptic pencil
  • Small pair of scissors
  • Tweezers for broken blood feathers
  • Cornstarch to stop bleeding
  • Topical antibiotic cream
  • Cotton swabs
  • Pedialyte
  • Magnifying glass
  • Soft/plushy blanket or towel to hold and comfort
  • Heating pad

 Also, be aware that a bobbing tail means respiratory distress and you don’t have any time to waste. It’s an emergency.

Cockatiel care tips

  • Limit the cockatiel’ exposure to daylight to 10 to 12 hours to avoid overestimulation.
  • Spent at least 1-2 hours giving them attention and rich entertainment every day.
  • Do not have your ceiling fan running while your cockatiel is out.
  • Never have your cockatiel hanging out with you at your kitchen while you’re cooking.
  • Change their water bowls twice a day with fresh filtered water.
  • Clean their cage daily or at the maximum every two days.
  • For food and water dishes, make sure they don’t have corners on the inside (corners are harder to clean and can harbor bacteria).
  • Spray your bird with water everyday and provide them a bowl for bathing. They are known as dusty birds so you’ll want to mist them down frequently.
  • Don’t forget to get a small travel cage for transporting the cockatiel into your car to the vet.
  • If you note any significant change on their behavior, bring them to a doctor to check it out.


To sum things up, the results of getting a cockatiel depend largely upon the owner’s patience and schedule, as well as the personality of the individual bird. One thing is for certain, make sure that you have time to hang with your cockatiel every day.

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