Are you thinking about adopting a cockatiel, but you’re not quite sure where to start? Owning a bird is a very different experience than owning any other type of animal, but it is very rewarding. Your job as a bird parent-to-be is to do all the research you can on how to take care of your new pet before you bring him home.
There are several items you’ll need to invest in before becoming a cockatiel owner. Keep reading to find our list of the eight most essential supplies you’ll need to keep your new bird happy and healthy.
The 8 Essential Cockatiel Supplies to Get You Started
Perhaps the most essential piece of equipment you’ll need for your new cockatiel is a cage.
Cockatiels are active and playful birds, so they need a cage that can accommodate their head crest and a longer tail. The bigger the cage is, the more comfortable your bird will be in it. The absolute minimum size you should be shopping for is 24”(L) x 18”(W) x 24”(H). If you have the space in your home, though, we recommend sizing up.
Since cockatiels are companion birds, they thrive well in the company of others. If you plan on getting a buddy for yours down the line, keep that in mind when deciding on cage size.
The size isn’t the only factor to consider when looking at cages, though. Cockatiels love to climb, so try to select a cage with horizontal bars to encourage climbing and physical activity.
Bar spacing is another thing to consider. Ideally, cockatiel cages will have bar spacing of 1/2-inch or 5/8-inch.
We love this option from A&E Cage Company as it provides plenty of room for your cockatiel to practice its flight skills and is simple to clean.
Housing a cockatiel isn’t as easy as it sounds. Whether you’re setting up your first cage or looking to upgrade your cockatiel’s home, check out the well-researched book The Ultimate Guide to Cockatiels, available on Amazon.
This excellent resource is packed with information about choosing the ideal perch, selecting the best cage design and positioning, helping your cockatiel adjust to its new home, and much more!
Cockatiels should have a minimum of three or four perches of varying sizes, shapes, and textures in their cage. It’s essential that you don’t overfill the cage with perches, however, as your bird will still need space to stretch out his wings without worrying about hitting a perch.
Birds in the wild are always either in flight or on their feet. In the wild, they have a wide variety of sizes of branches to perch upon. Your goal as a bird owner is to recreate that scenario in his cage.
Birds in captivity don’t spend a lot of time flying which means they’re on their feet all day long as they eat, rest, groom, and sleep. You need to provide a variety of perches to keep their feet healthy while also exercising the joints to keep them flexible.
As you already know, there are many different types of perches to choose from.
Pedicure perches are covered with a rough-textured material that can help keep your cockatiel’s nails in check. It is usually bonded sand or concrete that covers these types of perches. We love this pediperch from Living World as it is made of a strong cement material that can naturally trim your cockatiels nails.
Rope perches come in all sorts of lengths and widths. They have wiring in the core so they’re super flexible, which allows you to customize where in the cage you want the rope to lead. We recommend this comfy rope perch from JW Pet. It comes in three different lengths and features a specially woven cotton material to help exercise and relieve tender feet.
Wood perches are awesome for resting and perching on and your bird will probably also like chewing on them. We like this natural grapevine perch for cockatiels as its easy to use
You can even use real tree branches in your cockatiel’s cage if you first scrub them with a non-toxic disinfectant and then rinse and dry them well. Branches from the following trees can make great perches:
Swing perches are just what they sound like—a perch that swings. They provide a natural motion akin to tree movements that they’d experience in the wild. We like this sand perch swing from JW Pet for its variety of diameters across the length of the perch and the rough texture to help your bird with its nails.
Avoid putting perches directly above your bird’s food or water bowls as you don’t want their droppings to land there.
Cockatiels are very smart birds that need a lot of stimuli inside and outside of their enclosure to stay happy and healthy throughout their life. They need toys that allow them to chew, explore, and play. Cockatiels can be rather hard on their toys which may mean you’ll need to commit to buying new toys frequently to keep them enriched in their cage.
Toys made with natural or plastic materials seem to be the safest. Toys made with cedar, pine, or redwood contain harmful chemicals that can be toxic for your bird. The best wooden toys are made with ash, elm, willow, maple, or almond.
Your cockatiel will need some foraging toys in his cage. These toys allow him to mimic hunting for food and building nests which he would be doing if he were in the wild. Foraging toys are made with natural materials that emulate what your cockatiel might find in his natural environment. The materials inside the toy are easy to shred up and non-toxic to chew on. Once your bird has done all the foraging he can do with that particular toy, you can refill it with materials you have at home or even pieces of his food.
This foraging toy from Planet Pleasures is a big hit with cockatiel owners. It’s 100% natural and utilizes real materials that your bird might find as its natural habit.
Some commercially-made bird toys are covered with layers of paint that are dangerous if ingested. Some metals are toxic to birds which is why you don’t see much metal in bird toys aside from the carabiners you use to attach them to their cage. Rubber is another material you’ll want to steer clear of. Cockatiels are small, but their beaks are mighty and can tear through rubber in no time. Rubber in the intestinal tract of a bird can cause fatal blockages.
If you don’t have the budget to continually buy your bird new toys once they’re destroyed, you can DIY some at home using cardboard paper towel or toilet paper rolls. Be sure these rolls are void of any adhesives, however, as they can be harmful if swallowed.
In the wild, cockatiels will eat a wide variety of seeds, fruits, berries, insects, and vegetation. In captivity, however, their dietary needs change.
Pellets are designed to meet all the nutritional needs of your cockatiel. There are different pellet options for the various life stages your bird will go through as well as different options to help manage health conditions or diseases. Pellets are the ideal diet for cockatiels and their diets should be composed of roughly 80% pellets. So, if you adopt your bird and he’s been fed a predominantly seed diet, it’s important to slowly wean him onto pellets. This process will require a lot of patience and time as many birds who have only been fed seeds won’t even recognize pellets as food at first.
We like ZuPreem’s FruitBlend pellets as they provide the healthy and delicious nutrition your cockatiel needs on a daily basis.
Pellets and seed mixes are the best things you can offer your cockatiel, but they shouldn’t be the only form of nutrition your bird gets.
You should also offer your cockatiel a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. They should account for around 20% of your bird’s daily diet. Some of the best options to offer include:
Not all cockatiels will need additional vitamins. As we mentioned above, pelleted diets are designed to give your feathered friend all the nutrients he needs. In some cases, however, vitamins may be necessary. We recommend having your bird assessed by an avian vet to ensure his current diet is meeting his particular needs. Some vitamins and minerals seem to be more essential at certain stages in your bird’s life. For example, egg-laying cockatiels may need calcium supplementation.
Lafeber’s Avi-Era Powdered Vitamins is a great pick as it mixes easily in water and provides 13 essential vitamins that your cockatiel might need. We recommend reaching out to your vet before providing supplementation to your bird to ensure that it is necessary in the first place.
6. Water Dish
You must provide your cockatiel with fresh and clean water at all times. You will need to change this water out daily to ensure no food remnants or droppings are contaminating the dish.
Some cockatiel owners prefer using water bottles versus water dishes. It may come down to a personal preference for you and your bird. Some won’t look twice at a water bottle, while others prefer to drink from them.
Depending on the state of your tap water, you might need to buy bottled water to offer your pet.
We recommend JW Pets’ Insight Clean Cup as it is simple to install in your bird’s cage. It is also dishwasher safe and easy to refill.
7. Cage Cover
Cage covers are a point of contention for many bird owners. While they are generally not necessary according to many avian experts, plenty of bird owners use them as they do offer some benefits.
Some birds can suffer from night fright, where the dark of night frightens them or stresses them out. Cockatiels suffering from night fright may wake up suddenly and start thrashing around their cage. This can lead to serious injuries and even death. If your cockatiel suffers from night frights, a cage cover can help them feel safe and calm down enough to have a good night’s rest.
Cage covers can also muffle loud sounds from outside of the cage, block chilly drafts from reaching your bird, and keep things dark so they can sleep well. Covers will indicate to your bird that it’s nighttime and time to sleep and rest.
Some cockatiels can be noisy throughout the night so covering the cage also provides you with a way to muffle their sounds.
The cage cover you ultimately wind up with will depend on the size of your cage. We really like this Good Night Bird Cage Cover from Colorday Store. It comes in three sizes and two colors so finding one that suits your bird cage shouldn’t be too difficult.
Okay, so treats for your cockatiel aren’t necessarily essential, but they’re a great way to bond with your cockatiel. Building a relationship with your new pet is fun and fulfilling and helps the two of you to create trust between yourselves. Offering your cockatiel treats shows affection and praise.
You can offer your bird treats in the form of fresh fruit or commercially produced bird treats. Manufactured treats are made with ingredients such as raisins, sunflower, grass seed, and millet spray. Some cockatiels even like the occasional dried mealworm.
Our favorite commercial cockatiel treat is Higgins’ Sunburst True Fruits. These treats are super affordable and made with only the simplest ingredients that birds love like freeze-dried fruits like pineapple, raisins, cherries, and apricots.
Keeping birds is an entirely different experience than owning a cat or dog. Owning a cockatiel is a fun and fulfilling adventure, but it does require some research before you make the jump. We hope that our blog has helped provide you with some insight into the essentials you need to invest in before adopting a cockatiel.
Featured Image Credit: MIH83, Pixabay