All About Cockatiel Choosing

Choosing Cockatiel

Choosing Your Cockatiel Guide

Now that you know a little more about the history of the cockatiel, you’ll need to know how to select the healthy, happy cockatiel who is the right pet for you. You’ll need to think about whether you want a single bird or a pair, and whether a male or a female is right for you.

You’ll also need to think about the cost of owning a cockatiel—in both time and money. To maintain his lovable personality, a cockatiel needs companionship. If you can’t devote about a half hour every day to paying attention to your bird, either don’t adopt him or make sure he has a cockatiel companion. That half hour could be spent cuddling on the couch while you watch TV, eating breakfast or dinner together, or having your bird on a playgym in your bedroom while you get ready in the morning. You can also spend time with your bird while making safe toys for him (such as stringing Cheerios or raw pasta on some bird-safe, vegetable-tanned leather), teaching him tricks, or building him a playgym.

If, after considering all these factors, you still want to add a cockatiel to your family because you want a cheerful companion, please read on to learn more about bringing a cockatiel into your life.

Where to Get Your Cockatiel

There are several ways you can get a cockatiel, including classified newspaper ads, bird shows, and pet stores. Let’s look at the pros and cons of each in detail.

Classified Ads

Private parties who want to sell pet birds usually place classified ads. If the advertiser offers young birds, it is likely to be a private breeder who wants to place a few birds in good homes. Some breeders may also offer older birds for sale from time to time. These are most likely breeder birds who are too old to produce chicks but who are still good candidates for pet homes.

If you buy your bird from a private breeder, you will probably be shown only the birds the breeder has for sale. Do not be offended if you can’t see all the birds; some are more sensitive than others about the presence of strangers during breeding season, and the sensitive ones may destroy eggs or kill chicks when they’re upset. Cockatiels are less prone to this sensitivity than larger parrots, but a breeder may keep all of their nesting pairs in the same area. If, however, a breeder is willing to show you around their facility, consider it a special treat.

Bird Shows

Shows offer bird breeders and buyers an opportunity to get together to share a love for birds. Bird shows can give you the chance to see many different types of birds (usually far more than many pet shops keep at a time) all in one place, which can help you narrow your choices if you’re undecided about which species to keep. At a bird show, you can see which birds win consistently, then talk to the breeder of these birds after the show to see if they are expecting any chicks.

Pet Stores

Pet stores can be a good place to buy a cockatiel, but you must you do some checking first. You’ll need to start by visiting the store to make sure it’s clean and well kept. Walk around a bit. Are the floors clean? Do the cages look and smell as if they’re cleaned regularly? Do the animals in the cages appear alert, well fed, and healthy? Do the cages appear crowded or do the animals inside have some room to move around?

The Bottom Line

Keeping a companion bird is a big responsibility. Here are some things you need to think about as you become a cockatiel owner.

  • The cost of the bird
  • The cost of his cage and accessories
  • The cost of bird food (seeds, formulated diet, and fresh foods)
  • The cost of toys
  • The cost of veterinary care
  • The amount of time you can devote to your bird each day
  • How busy your life is already
  • Who will care for the bird when you go on vacation or are away on business
  • How many other pets you already own
  • The size of your home(alert-success)

After you’ve determined that the store is clean and the employees are pleasant, find out what the staff does to keep their birds healthy. Do they ask you to wash your hands with a mild disinfectant before or between handling their birds? If they do, don’t balk at the request. This is for the health of the birds and it indicates that the store is concerned about keeping its livestock healthy.

Buying a healthy bird is much easier and more enjoyable than purchasing a pet with health problems, so look for a caring store and follow the rules.

If something about the store, staff, or birds doesn’t feel quite right, take your business elsewhere. If the store and its birds meet with your approval, then it’s time to get down to the all-important task of selecting your cockatiel.


Selecting Your Cockatiel

Once you’ve located a source for hand-fed cockatiels, it’s time to get down to selecting your pet. First, observe the birds available for sale. If possible, sit down and watch them for a while. Take note of which birds seem bolder than the others. Consider those first, because you want a curious, active, robust pet, rather than a shy animal who hides in a corner.

If possible, let your cockatiel choose you. Many pet stores display their cockatiels in colony situations on playgyms, or a breeder may bring out a clutch of babies for you to look at. If one bird waddles right up to you and wants to play, or if one comes over to check you out and just seems to want to come home with you, he’s the bird for you!


You should try to acquire a young hand-fed cockatiel, if possible. A young cockatiel is weaned and eating on his own when he is about eight weeks old. Most breeders and pet stores have quite a few young birds available from April to September.(alert-success)

Hand-Fed or Parent-Raised?

Regardless of where you buy your cockatiel, try to find a hand-fed bird. Although they cost a bit more than parent-raised ones, hand-fed cockatiels have been raised by people. This process emphasizes the bird’s pet qualities and ensures that he will bond with people. You must be willing to spend time playing with and handling your hand-fed cockatiel every day to keep him tame.

Parent-raised chicks may require extra handling and care to become cuddly, easy-to-handle pets so they are better candidates for breeding programs. As their name suggests, parent-raised birds have imprinted on their parents as primary caregivers and will act like birds when it comes time to raise chicks. Hand-fed pets, however, may pay more attention to their human companions than to other birds, so they may not make ideal candidates for breeding situations.


Signs of Good Health

Here are some of the signs that a cockatiel is healthy. Keep them in mind when you are selecting your pet.

  • Bright eyes
  • A clean cere (the area above the bird’s beak that covers his nares, or nostrils)
  • Clean legs and vent
  • Smooth feathers
  • Upright posture
  • A full-chested appearance
  • Bird is actively moving around the cage
  • Good appetite(alert-passed)

Male or Female ?

You may be asking, “Should I get a male or a female cockatiel?” Generally speaking, male birds are more vocal and outgoing, while females have gentler natures.

Although males may be slightly better talkers, I’d encourage you to get a young, healthy bird of either sex and enjoy your companion for his full pet potential.

If you are getting an adult bird, you can tell them apart by the brighter orange cheek patches in males. This won’t work, of course, on color mutations that lack orange cheek patches.

One or Two ?

Another question you may have (especially if you have a busy schedule) is, “Should I get one bird or two?” Single cockatiels generally make more affectionate pets, because you and your family become the bird’s substitute flock. But a pair of cockatiels can be pretty entertaining as they encourage each other into all sorts of avian mischief. And if you are away from home all day every day, your two birds will keep each other company.

One small drawback of owning two pet cockatiels, especially young ones, is that they may have a tendency to chase each other around the cage, playfully tugging on one another’s tail feathers. Sometimes these feathers come out, leaving you with two considerably shorter cockatiels until the next set of tail feathers grows in. If you have a pair of birds who suddenly become tailless, check the cage bottom for the feathers and watch your birds to see if they do, indeed, chase and pester each other. If so, you have nothing to worry about. If not, please alert your avian veterinarian to the problem and ask for further guidance.

Two birds are also less likely to learn to talk to you, because they can chatter to each other in cockatiel rather than learning the language of their substitute human “flock.”

If you do not bring both birds home at the same time, there is a possibility of territorial behavior on the part of the original bird. This territorial behavior can include bullying the newcomer and keeping him away from food and water dishes to the point where the new bird cannot eat or drink.

To avoid this problem, house the birds in separate cages and supervise all their interactions. Let the birds out together on a neutral playgym and watch how they act with each another. If they seem to get along, you can move their cages closer together so they can become accustomed to being close. Some birds will adjust to having other birds share their cages, while others prefer to remain alone in their cages with other birds nearby.

By the same token, don’t try to put a new cockatiel into the cage of a bird you already own and don’t house cockatiels with other small birds, such as finches, canaries, or lovebirds. Cockatiels may bully other small birds and keep them away from food and water bowls.

To keep peace in your avian family, make sure every bird has his own cage, food, and water bowls. Some cockatiels will get along with other birds during supervised time on a playgym, while others do not work and play well with others and enjoy being the only pets out on the gym.


Bringing Your Cockatiel Home

Although you will probably want to start playing with your new cockatiel the minute you bring him home, please resist this temptation. Your pet will need some time to adjust to his new environment, so be patient. Give your cockatiel a chance to gradually get used to your family. After you set your cockatiel up in his cage for the first time, spend a few minutes talking quietly to your new pet, and use his name frequently while you’re talking. Describe the room he’s living in, or tell him about your family. Move slowly around your cockatiel for the first few days to avoid startling him.

You will be able to tell when your new pet has settled into his routine. By observation, you will soon recognize your cockatiel’s routine and know what is normal. You may also notice that your bird fluffs or shakes his feathers to greet you, or that he chirps a greeting when you uncover his cage in the morning. If your cockatiel learns to talk, he may eventually greet you with a cheery “hello” or “good morning” as you uncover his cage.

Don’t become alarmed the first time you see your cockatiel asleep. Although it seems that your bird has lost his head or a leg, he’s fine. Sleeping on one foot with his head tucked under his wing (actually, with his head turned about 180 degrees and his beak tucked into the feathers on the back of his neck) is normal for many parrots, although it looks a bit unusual or uncomfortable to bird owners. Be aware, too, that your bird will occasionally perch on one leg while resting the other.

It is very important to have a radio or television on for your cockatiel if you leave him home alone for long periods of time. Although cockatiels have been kept as pets for many years, they still retain many of their wild instincts. In the grasslands of Australia, silence usually indicates a predator is in the area, which can raise a bird’s stress level and may make him more susceptible to illness.


If you have other birds in your home, you will want to quarantine your cockatiel for at least thirty days to ensure he doesn’t have any diseases that your other birds could catch. To do this, you will need to keep your cockatiel as far away from your other birds as possible, preferably in a separate room. Feed your newly arrived cockatiel after you feed your other birds, and be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling or playing with your new pet.

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