- The best advice we can give is to get the largest cage you can afford. A minimum size for a cockatiel is 24" by 24" by 24". The bars should be no farther apart than 3/4", and it is helpful if at least one wall of the cage is constructed of horizontal bars, to make it easy for the bird to climb around. Stay away from dome-topped cages, because the bird's foot can become caught up near the top where the bars meet. Cages with play-pens on top are a good idea, or buy a separate play-pen to give your bird a place to play by himself while it is out of the cage and not on your shoulder. Caution: Do not leave the bird alone while he is out of his cage. There are too many things he can get into which will harm him, like electrical cords and toxic plants. Since you will need to clean the cage at least once a week, choose a cage that can be easily cleaned. Newspaper is the best floor covering for a cage; you can inspect the birds' droppings occasionally to assess the state of his health, and can take up the top sheets frequently to remove the dirt. Make sure feed and water dishes are not placed under perches where they can become soiled by the bird's droppings. Perches should ideally be of at least two different diameters; the more natural the perches are, the better the exercise for the bird's feet. Never put a sandpapered perch in your bird's cage. If you are bothered by sharp toenails, you can get special terra-cotta or cement perches which will keep nails dull without injuring your bird's tender feet.
- Keep the cage out of direct sunlight, unless it is large enough for the bird to get away from the sun. They can overheat easily during the summer. Put the cage where there is activity; your bird is a colony bird, and lives in large flocks in the wild. Birds this intelligent can become bored easily. They need socialization with "their" people, and they love to play with chewy toys. Pet stores have huge selections of appropriate toys for cockatiels. Indulge, but be careful; a cage with too many toys can be hazardous to the bird's safety.
- A small carry cage is suggested for transportation. No matter how tame your bird is, if it is on your shoulder and is startled during a trip in your car, it can flutter under a foot or brake pedal, causing a serious hazard. A carry cage can be a plastic terrarium or a wood and screen rodent cage. These are available for a reasonable price at most pet stores.
- This bird is used to eating a combination of seed (a vitamin fortified cockatiel diet is good), a pelleted feed (Roudybush pellets, Pretty Bird for cockatiels, Exact for small hookbills or cockatiels, or any other similar bird pellet), and fresh chopped fruits, vegetables, and greens. We also prepare a cockatiel "muffin" for the birds, but this is most preferred by our parent birds, and the youngsters lose interest in it as they mature. Be sure to offer a variety of foods, because once a cockatiel is "set in his ways" about food, it is very difficult to introduce new things into his/her diet. Miscellaneous tidbits from the table are fine, just avoid feeding your bird foods high in salt, sugar, or grease. People health food is bird health food; people junk food is bird junk food.
An ideal diet (according to a study by Univ. of Calif. at Davis) should consist of:
- 25% vitamin fortified cockatiel seed mix
- 25% pellets or crumbles for cockatiels
- 25% vegetables, fruits, and dark leafy greens
- 15% rice/beans/corn mix (available commercially or create it yourself)
- 10% table scraps, munchies from your hand, bread, pasta, etc.
- Avoid salty, sugary, and greasy foods.
- There are some things in our home environment which are dangerous for birds. Many houseplants, like philodendron and poinsettia, are toxic to birds; spider plant, Boston fern, wandering jew and many others are fine for them to chew on. Avocado skins and pits are toxic; best keep these away from birds altogether--the fat in them is bad stuff, too. The fumes in many household cleansers, insecticides, etc. are also not good for your feathered friends, and non-stick coating can produce deadly fumes when overheated (above 450).
- Our best advice is to keep the wing feathers trimmed. Birds with untrimmed wings CAN and WILL fly away. We have trimmed this bird's wings properly so that it cannot fly away, but still has enough stability so that it can't injure itself if it tries to. You can trim new feathers as they come in, following the line we created. If you are uncomfortable doing that, any pet shop or veterinarian can help, or you can return and we will do the trim job for you. The cockatiels love to be sprayed with a hand sprayer or mister from the hose. Keep the bird out of drafts until it dries out. During the winter you can use a blow-dryer on it, but don't allow it to get too hot.
- Most birds need about 10-12 hours of sleep a night, or they get crabby or become ill. We cover our birds at night, because their cages are in the active area of the house, and can't get good rest. This bird is used to waking up about 6:30 in the morning and "going to bed" about 7 or 8.
- The purchase of a book is a good idea. There are a number of good books out there, but be sure you buy one with a recent copyright date. We also recommend subscribing to a bird magazine such as Bird Talk or Sally Blanchard's Pet Bird Report. Other books and magazines are available, and we would suggest buying more than one since no two are going to say the same things. Check the copyright date, because the area of raising, feeding, keeping, and training birds is still relatively new and there are a lot of differing opinions. Learn what you can and then make your own informed decisions.