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How to Train Cockatiels (and 5 Tricks You’ll LOVE)

Nicole Cosgrove

Cockatiels are friendly birds known for developing positive relationships with their people. They enjoy spending time around humans and will love the bonding time that you take to train them.

Even if they are one of the more docile and fun birds to own, it is still essential to remember that they are wild animals. These birds will need time to adjust to their owners and other strangers. You will have to work on taming and socializing your cockatiel before anything else.

Have patience during this process as well. These birds are loving and gentle, but they won’t easily forget it if you force yourself on them too fast. You don’t want to scare them, or the entire process will take much longer.

Follow our step-by-step guide for how to socialize your cockatiel. Then, train your cockatiel to “step up.” If you feel like taking it even further with them, there are other little tricks that you can teach the intelligent cockatiel.

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Socializing a Cockatiel

1. Stay quiet to accustom your cockatiel to your presence.

Cockatiel in a branch
Image Credit: jlkramer, Pixabay

Start by making yourself known as an unthreatening presence. Your cockatiel will take time to adjust to their new environment, and having you in their face too often will feel like mental and emotional overload. Instead, wait a couple of weeks before actively starting to tame them. Put their cage in a quiet and calm part of your home.


2. Talk to your cockatiel.

cockatiel with owner
Image Credit: miraclesatwork, Pixabay

Once they have had time to get accustomed to you being around and their new environment, start the bonding process. Talking to your cockatiel from outside their cage is an excellent way to get started.

The key when talking to your cockatiel isn’t what you say but how you say it. You can say anything as long as you keep your voice even and calm. Don’t suddenly change the volume but instead, speak to them softly. You can also position yourself just above the cockatiel’s eye level so you aren’t in a seemingly threatening position.

Do this for at least a couple of days before moving to the next step.


3. Get your bird comfortable with you.

Once your bird knows that you are a part of their environment and are comfortable with you speaking to them outside the cage, they are more likely to feel comfortable getting to know you. You can experiment with their level of comfort by watching if they move closer to you when you enter the room or position yourself near their cage.


4. Offer them treats.

Offering a treat to a cockatiel is an excellent way to win their heart. You can use something like a millet spray to train your cockatiel because they usually love this food. Just make sure anything you give them is species-appropriate so you don’t end up doing more harm than good.

Hold your treat through the bars of their cage but not right next to them. This proximity should encourage them to make their way to you voluntarily. Let them peck for up to 5 seconds, and then move it around to see if they will come again.


5. Repeat the routine daily.

cockatiel in a nest in cage
Image Credit: Chrisad, Pixabay

Repeat your routine of speaking to them and getting them to come to you every day. Don’t work on it for more than 15 minutes, and do it a couple of times each day so you don’t end up making them feel anxious. If your cockatiel stresses out because of your presence, wait with them patiently until they calm down.

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Teaching a Cockatiel to Step Up

1. Open the cage when the cockatiel shows that they are comfortable.

Once your cockatiel has become more comfortable having you around, it is time to teach them how to step up. This is when your cockatiel steps up onto your finger so you can bring them safely in and out of their cage.

Start by simply opening your bird’s cage. If your cockatiel is comfortable, they will either stay calm as you approach them, or they might even move toward you. Just remember to ensure that all windows and doors are closed when you open their cage.


2. Steadily move your hand closer.

white faced cockatiel
Image Credit: daphne.t, Shutterstock

Each time you open their cage, move your hand closer and closer. Your bird might willingly eat from your hand or start approaching you. As you get closer to your bird, extend two fingers out horizontally. Keep your hand in this position, and reward your bird if they stay calm.


3. Encourage the bird to step on your finger.

feeding a cockatiel
Image Credit: M. H., Pixabay

As your bird gets more comfortable with your hand, try to get your bird to step up onto your finger. Eventually, move your hand so you gently push against the bird’s lower chest. A little nudge often knocks your cockatiel off their feet and makes them step up onto your finger.


4. Praise them while keeping steady.

Every time your bird steps up, reward them and praise them. You should also say a short command to train them to listen. For example, you can say “up” or “step up.” Don’t move around too much the first time, but wait to move them out of their cage.

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Tricks That You Can Teach Your Cockatiel

Shake Head

Teach your bird to shake their head by rewarding them whenever you see them do it naturally. It is fun to teach them to do this when you ask them a particular question, so it seems like they respond “no.”

Fly on Command

This little trick helps both you and your bird. You can teach your bird where to fly from to keep them safe. Place a treat where you plan for them to fly from, and use a command to associate it with their flying.

High-Five

Train your cockatiel to high-five by meeting them halfway through the stepping up, where you will place one of their feet onto your raised finger. Say “gimme five” or something similar, so they learn to repeat it in the future and differentiate it from stepping up.

Whistle Songs

Whistling is a typical activity for a cockatiel. They will also try to mimic you if they hear you singing or whistling. Whistle a short tune for your cockatiel. Every time they mimic you, reward them and say “sing.”

Turn Around

Use treats like you would for training a dog. Get them to follow it in a circle by turning around, and reward them once they do. Associate the command with a phrase like “turn around.”


Featured Image Credit: kikumin, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.