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Do male or female cockatiels make

the best pets?

 

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 females

  • usually fairly outgoing personalities

  • can be taught to whistle tunes

  • in general noisier than females

 

Female cockatiels as pets:

  • generally quiet with only a single pitched whistle

  • lays eggs

  • usually do not talk (there are always exceptions to the rule though)

  • less dominant normally than males

 

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 sounds.

 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 to owners.

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 vocal male.

 

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.

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