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How To Take Care of Baby Cockatiels

Genevieve Dugal

The cockatiel is a very recommended companion bird for beginners and is highly appreciated for its many qualities. If raising and taking care of baby cockatiels without parents is your dream, you’ve come to the right place! Check out our step-by-step tutorial on how to take care of these baby birds to make sure you meet all of their needs.divider-birds

Before You Start: What You Need to Know

Baby cockatiels require lots of care and attention; they are also quite vocal and messy little birds. Besides, with proper care, they can live for more than 20 years! So, before buying or adopting a baby cockatiel, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

  • How much money are you willing to spend? While cockatiels aren’t expensive birds, they do need a large cage, lots of toys, and other items to thrive. In addition, you will also need to budget for annual veterinary expenses.
  • Are you busy all day? Do you work from home or spend a lot of time outdoors? Be aware that cockatiel, and even more babies, do NOT cope well with loneliness. If you can’t spend a lot of time with your cockatiel, consider adopting another species that won’t need your daily presence as much.
  • Do you hate noise? Although baby cockatiels aren’t extremely loud, they chirp morning and night and make a mess in their cages. If you can’t stand clutter or hate being woken up early in the morning, you should go for a quieter pet.
  • Can you raise your cockatiel for up to 20 years? This question alone requires serious thought. Even though cockatiels are not difficult to care for, you need to make sure that you are up to the challenge of raising a pet bird for such a long time.

Get to Know the Cockatiel

Who Is the Cockatiel?

Blue Cockatiel_Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH, Shutterstock

The cockatiel is part of the order Psittaciformes, that is, parakeets and parrots, and of the family Cacatuidae – to which the Cockatoos also belong.

Scientific name Nymphicus Hollandicus
Size between 11 and 14 inches
Weight between 85 and 150 g.
Longevity from 11 to 20 years
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Origins of the Cockatiel

The cockatiel is native to Australia. In the 18th century, when Europe colonized Australia, the first birds of this species were transported by boat by explorers. Easy to tame and endowed with good health, cockatiels are spreading quickly and becoming popular in Europe.

Physical Characteristics of the Cockatiel

The cockatiel is a small parakeet with a crest that allows it to be very expressive. The classic-looking cockatiel is characterized by the yellow color of its head and the bottom of its hut, the orange spots on the ears, the gray color of the nape, and the long feathers of its crest, as well as the white stripes on the wings.

How to Determine the Sex of Baby Cockatiels

gray cockatiel-pixabay
Image Credit: ariesa66, Pixabay

To determine the sex of cockatiels, you have to wait for the first molt, which usually happens from the fourth month. Before this age, it is complicated to determine the sex of this bird: the young of both sexes are identical. However, in adulthood, males have a yellower head than females; the orange of the cheeks is darker, as is the color of the wings.

The cockatiel is a bird resistant to many diseases. In addition, this species rarely has any behavioral disturbances, which is very common in large parrots.

Temperament of the Cockatiel

It’s not for nothing that cockatiels are so popular as pets. Here is a shortlist of the many qualities of cockatiels.:

  • Easy to tame
  • Sociable and affectionate
  • Gentle and kind to children
  • Balanced
  • Peaceful
  • Learn fast
  • Intelligent
  • Curious
  • Lively
  • Expressive
  • Playful
  • Loyal
  • Can coexist with other pets

Be careful, however, if you have sensitive ears: cockatiels can be pretty noisy!

Now that you know a little more about cockatiels in general, follow our guide to help you care for baby cockatiels:

Step 1: Determine if You Want to Buy or Adopt a Baby Cockatiel

Cinnamon cockatiel_Shutterstock_rainyclub
Image Credit: rainyclub, Shutterstock
  • Buying a hand-fed baby from a bird breeder is an excellent option for beginners; in addition, the baby should be at least three months old. A hand-fed baby is indeed already used to human presence, which will make it much easier to care for and tame.
  • Note: If you are a beginner, never try to hand-fed your baby cockatiel yourself. Always seek advice from your veterinarian before attempting such a delicate procedure.
  • Adopt a cockatiel from a shelter. Before buying a pet bird, it’s usually best to adopt one, even if it is a bit older than you might expect. On the other hand, if you are a beginner, adopting an older cockatiel will help you gain experience before purchasing a baby cockatiel. Either way, be sure to take your baby to the vet after adoption to make sure your bird doesn’t have any illnesses.

Step 2: Buy a Large Cage

birds cage_Piqsels
Image Credit: Piqsels

If you plan to adopt a single baby cockatiel, you can put it in a spacious stainless-steel cage of at least 25 inches high x 20 inches wide and 15 inches deep.

If your bird does not have a companion of its kind, put the cage where most of your family’s life takes place: it is crucial for these friendly and affectionate little birds to feel close to you.

Equip the cage with several perches (natural branches will do just fine), lots of toys (bells, swings), bowls for food and water, and cuttlefish bones for calcium.

The cage of your baby cockatiel should be cleaned once a week. That said, you should always make sure that it stays clean by changing the bowls and the bottom of the cage every day. Your cockatiel also needs very good hygiene: bath him once a day minimum. Finally, make sure your bird is not exposed to drafts – this is extremely important!


Step 3: Get Your Baby Cockatiel Used to Your Presence

Cinnamon cockatiel
Image Credit: Barbara Rost, Shutterstock

Sit near your baby cockatiel’s cage every day to get it used to your voice and presence. Talk to it, sing, whistle to him every day. Then, when your baby begins to move closer to you every time you sit by his cage, offer him small treats (usually the most popular is millet, followed by corn and sunflower seeds). After doing this little trick for a few weeks, your cockatiel should be used to eating from your hand.

To do this, carefully open the small door of his cage and show the treat to entice your baby cockatiel to approach your hand. Little by little, your bird will get closer to your hand and start to eat from the palm of your hand in no time.


Step 4: Train Your Baby Cockatiel To Climb on Your Hand

cockatiel in hand
Image Credit: Stewart McClean, Pixabay

As soon as your baby cockatiel starts to eat from your hand, it’s a sign that he trusts you. You can then teach him more tricks, such as, for example, climbing on your hand and your shoulder. But, again, proceed slowly and with a lot of patience; never try to force your baby to climb on you, or you may lose its trust and get bitten.

Note: For your cockatiel to learn to climb up your shoulder quickly, drop a treat on it and praise your bird as soon as it begins to climb up your arm. However, if your bird starts biting your hand, stop the training and try again later.


Step 5: Be Patient

Give your bird some time to get used to when you bring him home for the first time. If your cockatiel was hand-fed, it might only take a few hours. However, babies who haven’t been socialized will need a couple of days to get used to their surroundings. During their adjustment period, do not handle them but do the daily cleaning procedures and talk to them softly.


Step 6: Feed Your Baby Cockatiel a Balanced Diet

cockatiel in cage
Image Credit: Simona Robová, Pixabay

Most specialists recommend special dietary pellets that will provide a balanced diet for your baby cockatiel. This food should be supplemented with vegetables (including green vegetables, highly recommended) and fresh fruits. Occasionally you can give unsweetened cereal, such as millet, once a week.

Your baby cockatiel should always have access to fresh water. You can also offer it orange juice or apple juice added to the water. Be sure to include a cuttlefish bone (source of calcium for its bones) and a mineral block in its cage.

Important: Do NOT feed your baby cockatiel the following foods (as this can be toxic to your bird):

Foods to Avoid:
  • Avocado
  • Parsley
  • Beetroot
  • Raw potato
  • Chocolate
  • Tea, coffee, and all dairy products
  • Onion, garlic, and shallot
  • Mushrooms
  • Citrus fruits
  • Rhubarb
  • Cabbage

Step 7: Teach Your Baby Cockatiel How to Talk and Whistle

Lutino Bronze Fallow Cockatiel
Image credit: kikumin, Shutterstock

Baby cockatiels can learn to talk and whistle as early as eight months old. However, you must be constant in your “lessons”; try to speak to them as often as possible, using simple words that are no more than one or two syllables. Plus, as soon as your baby utters a word or a whistle, offer him a reward right away and praise him!


Step 8: How to Tell if Your Baby Cockatiel Is Sick

It is necessary to regularly check the absence of parasites (beak scab, lice, etc.) and to ensure that your cockatiel’s claws and beak are in good condition. In addition, there are therapeutic perches to ensure proper maintenance of the claws.

Since cockatiels will often hide their illness until it gets really bad, you should watch carefully for signs of disease. Cockatiels that are very sick will sit at the bottom of their cage, puffing up their feathers. The other symptoms that a bird is sick are as follows:

  • Frequent bites
  • Lethargy
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Inflamed eyes or nostrils
  • Drooping wings or tail

Take your cockatiel to a specialist veterinarian at least every year. Also, you should immediately contact your veterinarian if your cockatiel exhibits any of the signs listed above. Remember that even though it is expensive to take your bird to the vet, it can get sick very quickly, and it is not a good idea to “wait and see” as they are fragile creatures.

white faced cockatiel
Image Credit: daphne.t, Shutterstock
Tips:
  • Always handle your baby cockatiel very gently. Remember that these little birds are fragile and can easily get injured.
  • If possible, adopt a second cockatiel. Know that the occupation of these birds with variable and stimulating activities avoids behavioral problems! Boredom is a big enemy of cockatiels and can be harmful to their physical and mental health.
  • Do not plan to mate your adult cockatiels unless you have experience with other bird species.
  • Baby cockatiels love to have their head feathers stroked against the tide. It’s also an excellent way to strengthen your bond with them.
  • Cockatiels love to play with mirrors and shiny objects. However, do not put a mirror in their cage. They think their reflection is another bird and get frustrated when their reflection is unresponsive.
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Final Thoughts

Caring for baby cockatiels is not that difficult if you are well prepared and aware of their needs. If you adopt or buy your young cockatiel from a reputable breeder and follow the steps outlined in this guide, you should become a master at raising cockatiel chicks in no time!


Featured Image Credit: Anne Stauf, Pixabay

Genevieve Dugal

Genevieve is a biologist and science writer. Her deep love for capuchin monkeys, pumas, and kangaroos has taken her worldwide to work and volunteer for several wildlife rehabilitation centers in Bolivia, Guatemala, Canada, and Australia. As a Canadian expat, Genevieve now lives in Argentina, where she wakes up every morning to horses and cows saying hello from the vast plain next to her home office window. She is the proud mom of three rescued dogs, Lemmy, Nala, and Pochi, and a frisky kitten, Furiosa. Having the privilege of sharing her knowledge and passion for animals of all kinds is what makes her fulfilled and happy.