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You are here: myPetSmart.com > Pet Care Library > Ask An Expert > Answered Questions > Is A Cockatiel A Great Bird For A Busy Lifestyle How Do You

How to Care for a Cockatiel

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Question: 
Is a cockatiel a great bird for a busy lifestyle? How do you properly care for a new bird?
Answer: 

Cockatiels love to interact with their Pet Parents as much as possible. They require one hour or more of daily interaction. If your cockatiel feels ignored she may screech or scream.

Nutrition

Staple diet
Feed her 3-4 teaspoons per day of a pellet or seed-based, fortified cockatiel diet.

Fruits & vegetables*
About 5-10% of a cockatiel's diet should be bite-sized fruits and veggies like oranges, melon, apples, sweet potatoes, broccoli, spinach, dandelion, mustard greens and shredded carrots. Offer daily or every 2-3 days.

Supplements
Be sure to provide a cuttle bone or mineral block in your cockatiel's cage at all times.

Water
Cockatiels should have access to clean, fresh water in a bottle or bowl at all times.

*Remember that fresh food requires its own dish and should be removed from the habitat within four hours to avoid spoilage.

Housing
Your cockatiel's cage must be large enough for her to comfortably stretch her wings, climb and play with her toys. The bigger the cage, the better. Minimum cage size is 18"W x 22"L x 18"H.

Perches
Place two perches at different heights, so your cockatiel will be unable to soil her food bowls. Provide perches of differing widths, diameters and textures to help keep her feet healthy.

Cage placement
Place your bird's cage at or below eye level, away from drafts, open windows and the kitchen. Be aware that cockatiels are sensitive to smoke and strong odors. Cover the cage at night to prevent drafts.

Toys
Give her at least 2-3 toys to keep her busy. But, not too many--she should be able to move about freely without bumping into any in the cage. Rotate toys often to keep her interested.

Baths
Provide a birdbath 2-3 times per week. You can offer a warm water bath, or gently mist her with warm water from a clean spray bottle.

Training

The secret to training a bird, is simply gaining her trust. Here's how you can establish this type of rapport with your new bird:

Hand feeding treats - without moving too abruptly, offer her a millet spray or her favorite seed or nut from your hand. She may be more likely to accept this treat in the late afternoon as most birds normally feed at this time. With practice, she will be completely at ease with this feeding method.

"Step up" onto your hand - next, you'll want to teach her to step onto your hand or finger on command. Gently press your finger against her abdomen while saying "step up." You can reinforce positive behavior with a small treat, but only when she obeys the command. Repeat consistently, as often as necessary until she steps onto your hand anytime you press against her belly. If she has a tendency to bite, start by using a wooden perch instead of your hand.

Overcoming behavior challenges

Some birds may develop negative behaviors. With patience and training, these characteristics can be changed. Here are some typical behaviors and how to train a bird to behave differently:

Biting - birds use their beaks for climbing and grasping as well as to show affection. This is not painful biting and is typical bird behavior. If your bird bites hard, firmly say "no" so that she learns this behavior is unacceptable.

Screeching - it's natural for a bird to produce a certain amount of noise. You can help avoid excess screeching by giving her an adequate amount of attention and stimulation, such as plenty of toys to keep her occupied. Covering the cage for a short period of time, then uncovering it and socializing with your bird may also stop this behavior. Never yell at your bird, as she may consider this a favorable response.