Feeding cockatiels is a topic that raises many different
opinions and often arguments as to what is correct and what is not. I have my
own ideas and have outlined these below. The feeding regime I use gives
me healthy, happy, large birds that are willing breeders and wonderful
parents. They do not have any health nor behavioural problems and are active,
bright and alert. Having said this though, I am always eager to hear new ideas
and am not adverse to change if it can be proven to me it will benefit my
birds. Most of my feed requirements are purchased from Wholesale Pet
Products and feed is always good quality and the service
friendly and reliable with the advantage of on-line ordering.
The birds diet is basically grouped into three main
categories. Seed mix, fresh foods and supplements. They do get treats and
extras as well but they are not a significant part of their daily
For those of you that are wondering where pellets come into
this then look no further. I do not feed pellets to my breeding birds
and have my own personal reasons why I don't. I have considered it and read up
on pellets but am not completely convinced they are the best for my birds. I
will not get into the seed/pellet debate as that is an article all on its own
but I have heard negative reports on the use of pellets as well as seed and
have decided that 'when I see a pellet tree growing in the wild and birds
feeding from it then I will use them'. For now though I will admit to the
occasional inclusion in my young handraised birds' diet of 'Prettybird Daily
Select' but this is only to introduce them to all different types of foods
before being placed in new homes.
The basic seed mix I use for my birds consists of a mixture
of the following: White French Millet, Panicum, Canary, Jap Millet,
Grey-striped Sunflower, Safflower and Hulled Oats. In winter I add extra
Hulled Oats and Grey-striped Sunflower to fatten the birds up a bit so they
don't stress during the cold weather. It also has them in good health ready
for the Spring breeding season.
I also give them sprays of Panorama and White French Millet
a few times a week as a treat and to give them something extra to do I hang
the millet in spots that require them to work to get it. They really enjoy the
sprays and spend ages trying to access every seed. This helps alleviate
boredom and reduces problems such as feather plucking.
I used to replace the seed daily but found by doing this
they tend to pick out their favourite seeds like the sunflower and leave a lot
they don't like as much. I have recently changed that practice and now only
give them fresh seed every second day. This means that there is less waste and
they eat all the seed. I do however blow out the husks each day so only full
Each day I feed some type of fresh food. By fresh food I
mean vegetables and fruits and breads. I vary what they get every few days and
each time there is always a choice of a few different selections. The
different things I offer are:
Frozen peas & corn
Baby spinach leaves
Snow pea sprouts
Egg & Biscuit mix
Most of these are purchased fresh from the supermarket when
I do my family shopping. There are also numerous recipes available on the net
for birdie bread or mixes you can make yourself. Personally I am not a cook
and find the above list caters for what my birds need.
With the exception of any dry foodstuffs all the fresh
foods are cut up and served as a tossed salad. I find by serving it this way
the offering is bright and colourful and will tempt almost any bird. Also by
having everything in together it is easy to substitute items or add different
things and the birds don't notice the change. Often something new added to a
birds cage will cause them to stress as they have no idea what it is.
Curiosity will eventually win over and they will check out the new addition
but this can take days. By having everything mixed together it remains
familiar and so getting them to try something new that is added is a quicker
I sprout my own seeds for the
birds and find it simpler and easier to keep a fresh supply at hand at all
times. I am currently using a 'Pigeon Mix' to sprout that contains a large
variety of seeds that easily sprout and are quickly devoured. I add mung beans
and extra wheat to the pigeon mix to make it a more complete offering. The
method I use for sprouting the mix is:
1. Place required amount of mix in plastic container and
fill with water.
2. Stir thoroughly to loosen any dust and debris and
3. Place mix in a strainer or colander and run water
through mix until mix is clean.
4. Place seed back in plastic container and cover with
warm not hot water.
5. Leave mix soak overnight so seed swells.
6. Next morning pour seed into strainer and rinse well.
7. Continue to rinse seed every few hours for next day
or so until seeds begin to sprout.
8. Sprouts are ready to feed when sprout has just broken
free of seed.
9. Sprouted mix can be kept fresh in the fridge for a
Some people claim that an anti-bacterial solution should be
added to the water such as Aviclens but I do not use it and have had no
problems. It is important to rinse the mix regularly and you will tell that it
is fresh by its sweet nutty aroma. If the smell changes then the mix has
become tainted with bacteria and mould and should be discarded. Do not feed it
to your birds if it is at all suspect.
I do not feed many supplements to my birds and have not
found it a necessity. Sometimes it often can cause more problems than it is
worth by overloading your birds with extra things that they do not require.
Too high a level of one substance can cause imbalances in others and it is
often a snowball effect. You then need another supplement to fix that
imbalance and the food bill climbs higher as your birds poop it all out.
The only supplement I use is calcium in the form of
calcium/iodine blocks or cuttlebone. Calcium is especially important for hens
when they are laying eggs and I have each of my breeder cages with a permanent
supply of the calcium blocks and cuttlebone. I have only ever had 1 minor case
of eggbinding which was quickly cleared up with a dose of Calcium Sandoz. That
hen was 1 year old and it was her first egg that was the problem
but since then she has gone on to lay with no further issues.
It is possible to save on costs and make up
calcium blocks yourself. Here is only one of many recipes I have found to work
1 part Calcium Carbonate
1 part ground Limestone
1 part Plaster of Paris
Place all ingredients in a bowl and add water. Stir well
to form a smooth paste.
Pour mix into moulds and insert a wire loop to enable the
block to be hung up.
Allow 1-2 days for mixture to set then remove from mould.
If mixture is still damp allow a further day to dry.
This recipe was actually written by a person by the name of
Steve Jones and was printed in the
Cockatiel Society Journal. The gentleman concerned researched into the
probablity of making his own blocks and came up with this. It contains 56%
calcium in the form of calcium carbonate.
The consistency of the blocks can be altered to be made
harder or softer by adjusting the amounts of ingredients ie. less plaster and
more calcium or lime will give a softer block and the reverse will give a
harder block. Grit or charcoal can also be added to the mix if preferred.
The only other extra I give my birds is fine chargrit which
is charcoal and grit mixed. I do not however leave it available for birds
feeding chicks as it has been known for birds to feed it to chicks and block
done on wild birds have shown that small rocks and the like have been
ingested by the birds and were present in the crop so it seems to be a
The only other thing I give my birds is fresh branches
weekly. These branches are usually either bottlebrush or grevillea and are cut
from trees of my own or friends so I can ensure they are chemical and poison
free. Within minutes of adding these to the aviaries the birds are busy
chewing on leaves and bark and totally tearing it apart. I am unsure if
there is actually any nutritional advantage to be gained by giving them
branches but it certainly keeps them occupied. Within a day or so of putting
the branches in all that is left is a pile of dried leaves on the ground and
some well chewed sticks. I am sure they do ingest some of the leaves but
regardless of this I find it helps relieve the boredom of being confined. They
spend hours climbing through the branches and playing acrobat trying to get
the last leaf or the biggest flower and plus it adds a natural look to my