One of the most important initial things
to consider for your cockatiel is his cage. Regardless of how much time your
bird will spend confined to the cage certain factors should be taken into
account. It is paramount that your bird is safe, happy and comfortable.
The cage should be as large as
possible. The height of the cage is less important than the width and length.
Your bird needs to be able to flap its wings without risking injury. Ideally
the minimum length and width should be 50cm. This size will give more room
for your bird to fly from one side to the other. A taller narrow cage is not
spacing of the bars is also very important. If the bars are too far apart then
your bird may quite easily get its head between them and risk getting stuck. Or
even worse your bird may escape. Horizontal cage bars also make it easier for
your cockatiel to maneuver around the cage sides. Vertical bars are slippery
and make it difficult for it to climb on.
Inspect your cage thoroughly before
introducing your new bird to it. Look for sharp areas that may cut your bird
and any loose wires or flakes of paint. It is a good idea to scrub the cage
and all toys and feeding containers with detergent or vinegar first then it
should be thoroughly rinsed and allowed to dry. This will ensure no harmful
substances are present that can harm your bird.
A cage with a slide out tray and wire
grate in the bottom is the best option. If a wire grate is between the bird
and the floor of the cage then feedstuffs have a lesser chance of being
contaminated by droppings. It also prevents your bird being able to access
his own waste. The slide out tray can be covered in paper and slid out and
the paper changed to make cleaning simpler and easier. Using something like
paper towel in the tray also makes it easier for you to inspect your
cockatiels droppings to make sure everything is normal.
Perches need to be firmly fixed and of
varying diameters to give your birds feet exercise. The use of natural
branches is a good idea, as it will also give the bird bark to chew off and
tear apart. These can be easily replaced.
Position the cage away from draughts
and direct sunlight. It is fine to move it to get the warm sun in winter but
the hot summer sun even through an open window can cause stress on your bird.
Draughts are more detrimental to your bird than cold weather. A place away
from open doors and windows in winter and a cover at night will help keep
your bird safe and warm.
Seeing your bird is a member of your
family he/she needs to be near you. Donít put the cage in a remote lonely
corner where it is away from everyone. A comfortable area in your living room
where it can be a part of the daily activity is much more suitable. On the
same note though donít have the cage in a busy thoroughfare where it will
continually have children running past or be bumped.
the cage is to be outdoors at any stage then care should be taken that all
the doors and latches on it are working properly and the bird cannot open
them. It needs to be placed in a position outside that is protected from the
weather and not easily accessible to other birds and pets. Butcherbirds and
crows are a very real threat to your pet as well as dogs and cats that may
even be capable of knocking the cage over and freeing your bird.
Your bird will be happier if its cage
is not sitting on the floor. Be it inside or outside a bird always feels
safest when it is off the ground. It can see better what is going on and is
less likely to be stressed by other pets or small children.
Last but not least please keep your
birds cage clean. The build-up of droppings and old foodstuffs will only lead
to attracting rodents or even bacteria and harmful parasites. If the tray is
emptied daily and fresh food and water is given each morning then it saves a
huge effort of having to clean a very big mess. The addition of a seed skirt
around the base of the cage may assist in preventing your birdís mess from
spreading too far a-field.
Your pet bird is now
totally reliant on you for all its nutritional requirements and so it is
extremely important you make the right choices on what to feed. Many
commercial seed mixes are readily available on the market as is varying pellet
diets and seed-pellet mixes. The choice is up to you, which you decide to use
but the best option is often to feed the bird what it has been weaned onto as
a baby. It will be used to that particular food and will thus be quite settled
not having to worry about what the strange stuff is in its food bowl. Below
are some things to consider when choosing the most appropriate diet for your
Seed alone is not a nutritionally
balanced diet and birds fed on just seed may suffer a variety of nutritional
Select a seed mix that is designed for
cockatiels. There are quite a few available that have other ingredients added
to help balance the mix even further. Mixes like Large Parrot mix or Wild
Bird mix are unsuitable as a lot of the seeds are unable to be eaten by
cockatiels e.g. corn. Some examples of good mixes are Bird Munchies Gourmet
blend and Breeders Choice Cockatiel mix. Each of these contains a mix of
seeds that are suitable for your birds.
Just because you offer a bird something
new and it fails to eat it doesnít mean that it wonít. All new food is often
ignored until curiosity takes over and the bird actually gets to try it. It
may take a day or as long as a week or more but keep putting it in the cage
and sooner or later your bird will try it.
have favourite foods like humans do and it is up to us to provide them with a
balance of what they need not just what they like. A bird may love sunflower
seeds and pick them out leaving the rest. Donít be tempted to give in to the
birdís whims and feed it only what it selects. Limit the amount of the
favourite food making it consume more variety and thus helping to balance the
Cockatiels in the wild do not just eat
seed. Their diet is often dictated by weather and the availability of food so
they survive by eating a combination of different seeds, fruit, greens and
whatever is available. A variety of different foods also benefit pet birds.
Vary their diet and offer as many different foods as possible to keep their
Be sure to refresh the seed each day. A
full bowl does not mean it is full of edible seed. The bird will extract the
seed from the husks and the bowl may in fact be full of empty husks that the
bird does not consume. Even gently blowing off these husks is enough if there
is still ample seed left.
The following is a list of some of the
other types of foods your bird may enjoy: silverbeet, bok choy, endive,
dandelion, grated carrot, corn kernels, peas, beans, celery, broccoli, apple,
sprouted seeds, soaked seed, cooked egg, multi-grain bread, breakfast cereals
like cornflakes, egg & biscuit mix, cooked pasta, etc. Remember to give a
variety and in moderation. Too much of anything can be bad.
Always provide either a calcium bell or
cuttlebone as a source of additional calcium for your bird.
DO NOT FEED
Avocado or rhubarb as these are toxic. Also avoid caffeine, alcohol,
chocolate, apple seeds and any food high in salt or sugar. Lettuce is also
not recommended. An occasional potato chip is not going to kill your bird but
should be given sparingly because of the high salt content. They are like
children and need these types of treats only occasionally and in moderation.
A more suitable treat would be millet sprays or a piece of apple.
If you are an avid cook then there are
lots of recipes for birdie breads and muffins available on the Internet that
your birds will relish too. Try doing a Google search for bird bread recipes
and see how yummy some of them sound.
There are numerous garden plants and
weeds that are great nutritional value for your birds. Things like Dandelion,
Chickweed, Clover, and some seeding grasses like oats. Always make sure these
are thoroughly washed and preferably from your own yard where there is less
chance of contamination from exhaust fumes and poisonous chemicals.
Native branches also are a favourite of
most cockatiels. Bottlebrush, Eucalyptus and Grevillea are all commonly found
in backyards now and are a great source of entertainment for your bird as
well. Small branches with leaves and flowers intact can be placed in the cage
and your bird will spend hours totally destroying it. When the leaves and
flowers are gone then the branches will be stripped of bark. This provides
great exercise for them and also helps relieve boredom.
fresh water daily is an absolute must. Bacteria can grow very quickly in
water that is soured by seed or droppings and to ensure the health of your
birds it is important that water be cleaned out and replenished on a daily
An important part of keeping your bird
happy is to provide stimulation in the form of bird toys and playgyms to keep it
occupied. A bird that is confined to its cage with nothing to do will develop
behavioral problems created from boredom. Problems like plucking, self
Ėmutilation and aggression are often the result of a bird that is isolated and
bored. Toys and time out of the cage are the best things to ensure these
problems donít arise.
Having said this though there are
certain guidelines that must be adhered to when providing toys and
entertainment for your bird. There are safety issues that need to be
considered as well as the issues of relief from boredom.
Listed below are some important things
to keep in mind when providing toys and entertainment for your bird.
Even though bird toys provide
entertainment for your cockatiel the ones you place in the cage must be
positioned so as to still allow ample free space for it to move around
toys are ladders for climbing, branches, wooden beads and rawhide leather
pieces for chewing
Ensure all toys are made from non-toxic
materials and do not contain small parts that can be ingested by your bird.
Place food bowls in a position that is
clear of toys and perches to avoid droppings getting into the water or feed.
A few toys that are changed regularly
are better than a lot of toys that overcrowd your birdsí cage. By changing
toys your bird will be kept entertained longer.
Pinecones and native tree branches are
great substitutes for toys, as they love tearing them apart and get hours of
fun from it.
Solid wooden toys are safer than and as
much fun as bright coloured plastic ones.
Avoid toys with small chains or nylon
ropes that can catch your birdís toenails or cause choking from ingesting the
fibers. Long pieces of rope can also become knotted and form a loop that can
quite easily act as a noose for your pet.
Strategically positioned millet sprays
can be as entertaining as expensive toys when they are placed so the bird has
to work at accessing the seed.
If you are providing your bird with a
playgym then make sure it is positioned in a safe place away from direct
sunlight and draughts and busy thoroughfares.
Playgyms must be of an appropriate size
and suitable material to ensure your bird is safe from toxic materials and
ingestion of small objects like beads and fibers. Place different foods or
toys on your cockatielís playgym to make it more interesting for him/her
Coloured playgyms may look nice but are
no more appealing to your bird than one made from natural branches. The
coloured dye that is used will often leave stains on your birdís feathers
when it gets wet.
Just because your bird is inside the
house donít think for a second that it is safe. There are a myriad of often
unnoticed dangers awaiting your bird even in the safety of your own home. The
more freedom in your home the bird has access to the more likelihood it is
that he will be at risk of harm.
Risks from injury due to other pets and
small children are common. Children can accidentally grab a bird too tight or
fall on them and other pets can prey on your bird too. Whenever your bird is
out of its cage it is imperative you are aware of its location and what it is
doing at all times. There is nothing sadder than hearing from a devastated
owner that has just accidentally stood on their bird or sat on it.
Ceiling fans can be deadly to a
flighted pet bird. While we turn them on as habit and enjoy the breeze it is
easy to forget they are on and the harm they can cause if a bird flies into
Open windows and doors often signifies
the end to your pet bird if it escapes through one of them. Once birds are
free they get disorientated quickly and with the threat of wild birds and
cats and cars they really do not have much of a chance of surviving outdoors.
If possible keep windows and doors closed and even locked if there is even
the slightest chance they may be opened whilst your bird is free. It only
takes a second for them to be out the door and off.
Glass windows and doors can be a hazard
to a bird in flight. They do not realize there is glass there and risk
serious injury by flying straight into it. If possible have drapes or blinds
at the windows to prevent this occurring.
Ensure any houseplants are non-toxic in
case your bird decides to chew on it.
Be careful of leaving bathroom and
toilet doors open in case your bird flies in and falls. A bath full of water
or an open toilet bowl can result in drowning.
Kitchens are another very dangerous
area. Sinks full of water, boiling water on the stove. Hotplates, cooking
fumes, toxic cleaning products all pose a serious threat to your bird.
Teflon pans when left unattended can
give off toxic fumes which are fatal to your bird. Other strong fumes like
paint, chemicals, even nail varnish can have a serious affect.
Be very cautious with air fresheners
and insect sprays around your bird. If possible do not spray near your birds
cage and always ensure adequate ventilation is available. Insect sprays with
natural pyrethrums or those that are for sensitive people area better
Electrical cords and appliances need to
be kept away from your bird. at all times. Cockatiels are notorious chewers
and it takes only a second for a disastrous result to occur from an innocent
nibble on a cord.
Heavy metal poisoning is another
serious safety hazard. Lead poisoning is the biggest issue and can occur very
innocently. Be very wary of any new bird toys and perches with metal washers
on them that have been manufactured in China as there is a much higher lead
content in use there than here. Another area where lead can be found is in
paint on old homes. Paint used back then was lead-based and peeling paint is
very attractive to a cockatiel. Also curtain weights, leadlight windows and
lead sinkers used for fishing are equally dangerous.
I know this list seems rather daunting
but with simple care your pet can be as happy and safe in your home as the
rest of your family!
Birds are very clever at hiding the fact
that are not feeling 100% well. In the wild a cockatiel that is ill is sure
prey and so it is a distinct advantage to keep the fact hidden as much as
Generally speaking a pet bird that
receives a balanced diet along with adequate housing and care should be on
average free from disease and illness. Unfortunately there are times when
things do go amiss and our feathered friends succumb to an illness or disease
that needs attention.
Only by knowing what to look for and
being aware of what is normal for your bird can you have any chance of
detecting when it is ill. By the time we do detect something is wrong it is
often already too late to help them. If you are at all concerned then a visit
to a qualified Avian Veterinarian is the safest course of action.
Some signs that can indicate something
is not as it should be are listed below. You are the best judge so be aware
and avoid having to be sorry.
Sudden loss of weight or lack of
Inactivity or lack of interest in its
Feathers fluffed up and sitting in a
corner and frequently having eyes closed.
Sudden loss of feathers apart from
One eye partially closed or fully
Weepy or watery eyes or discharge from
the nose or eyes.
Constant shivering or laboured
breathing with mouth open.
Skin around the eyes, on the beak or on
the legs is very dry and scaly or red.
A change to
normal consistency and colour of the droppings.
Any abnormal behaviour that has you
concerned should be looked into. This list is not exhaustive and is a guide
only. With the combined efforts of yourself and your Avian Veterinarian your
bird should remain happy and healthy for a long time.
Aside from food, housing and safety
there are still a few issues that need to be dealt with. These few routine
procedures can certainly make a big difference to the health of your bird and
help extend its lifespan.
Just like other household pets your bird
needs routine intestinal worming and treatment for external parasites. Bird Worms
can be treated by adding medication to their water supply or by direct
ingestion of a liquid or gel. Always check the bottle or package of your
product to determine correct dosages and methods of administering it. It in
doubt at all please contact your Avian Vet.
External bird parasites come in the form of
lice or mites that can be transmitted from other birds especially if your bird
is caged outdoors. There are powders and rinses available but once again read
the instructions carefully and follow directions accordingly.They
are relatively inexpensive but by using them you can make a great deal of
difference to the health and comfort of your bird.