By far the most common question asked by pet owners is
which sex bird is the best pet. I also have many people that are about to
purchase a pet request one of a particular sex. Usually that request is for
a male bird because they want a pet that can talk.
Firstly let us look at a couple of differences between the
sexes and what impact that behaviour has on its suitability as a pet.
Male cockatiels as pets:
more likely to talk than
usually fairly outgoing
can be taught to whistle
in general noisier than
Female cockatiels as pets:
generally quiet with only a
single pitched whistle
usually do not talk (there
are always exceptions to the rule though)
less dominant normally than
As you can see the main differences between the 2 is the
ability to talk and the fact that the female may invariably lay eggs.
Now a talking bird can be a great pet and will often be
the centre of attention at parties and family gatherings where his
vocabulary can be put to the test. His skill at whistling tunes and songs
will entertain many people. BUT they are not the only vocalisations he will
do. Remember males are very vocal birds and just because he learns to talk
or whistle tunes does not mean he will not still make the normal male
These normal sounds can be wolf whistling, screeching in
a single pitched tone, squeaky wheel routine where he continues on and on
with a two note repertoire, and many more combinations. These vocalisations
are naturally used as way of communicating with his flock, for attracting a
mate and alerting others to danger as well as other reasons. In the wild
these sounds all serve a very important purpose but in a pet bird these
sounds are often not very desirable and can at times be downright annoying
It is therefore very important to consider your living
environment and neighbours and ascertain if a noisy bird will be suitable.
In an intensive housing situation like units and apartments a noisy bird may
cause problems with neighbours. If you are a family that like to sleep late
on weekends and are out most of the time a single male bird certainly has
the potential to be a noise problem.
Hens on the other hand are not likely to talk and are
less vocal although they are certainly capable of making a lot of noise if
they want to. I have personally had no noise issues with females at all and
find they are much more suitable to my particular family life than a more
On what some may consider to be the down side, a hen will
at some point decide she wants to breed and will lay eggs. I have never had
a big problem with this as I respect this is a natural process for her. At
signs of imminent egg-laying I provide a suitable nesting area for her and
leave her to go through her cycle undisturbed. She will lay eggs and then
usually incubate them for around 3 weeks whereby she will eventually abandon
then and return to her normal behaviour. When she is laying she may or may
not get aggressive and protective of her nest and if this is kept in mind it
can prevent being bitten by what is normally a placid friendly bird. There
are methods that can be used to deter egg-laying but that is another article
in itself so I will not cover it here. So with correct attention to her diet
and some knowledge on the breeding cycle of hens this particular aspect of a
henís behaviour should not present a big problem.
Aside from vocalisation and egg-laying the other main
difference I have found between the sexes is dominance and independence. I
have found hens to be more placid and cuddly in general than the more
outgoing adventurous males. Of course this is only my observations and
others may say different. I have also noted that male birds tend to bond
more with their female owners and hens with the male family member. There
are always exceptions to the rule of course but I have found this to be true
in many cases where there are family members of both sexes in the home.
With people these days having such busy lives it is
paramount that things like this be seriously taken into account. It is
certainly possible to adjust your birds behaviour to suit your way of life
but it will still require time and effort. People are always willing to
train a new puppy to sit and stay and to walk on a lead as well as house
train them but when it comes to birds they do not look at them in the same
way. They think you buy a bird in a cage and then just get it out and play
with it when it suits. Unfortunately a bird is a living creature the same as
a dog or cat and should be treated accordingly.
My recommendations to people wanting to purchase a pet
are to keep an open mind. Do your homework into the different traits of each
sex and discuss the options amongst family members. Each person will be an
integral part in the birdís life and everyoneís needs should be considered.
If dad is a shift worker and needs to sleep during the day will a whistling
male bird disturb his sleep? If your family is a fairly active rowdy bunch
with noisy children will a female bird get her private time to nest or will
children be bitten trying to look at eggs? Consider all the possible
scenarios and decide if the sex is going to be a deciding factor at all.
Unfortunately at the age most birds are ready to go to
new homes it is very hard to tell what sex they are visually anyway. They
all look like females and unless DNA sexing is done or the babies are from
parents that produce a sexable nest it is impossible to guarantee what sex
they are. It is possible to get some idea by the birds mannerisms and
behaviour but it is never 100% sure which is which. I always point this out
to people and let them make the final decision. In most cases people choose
a bird that interacts with them best at the time of purchase. I have had
many people come in to buy handraised pets with a specific bird type in
mind. I show them what is available and encourage them to play with the
birds and spend time interacting with them. Ultimately it is the bird that
is friendliest towards them or the most gentle with the children that is
chosen. The sex of the bird suddenly doesnít seem to be an issue at all.
Whatever the choice ends up being the bird will
ultimately become an integral part of the family and provide many years of
enjoyment for all.