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Owning a Cockatiel

Adopting a cockatiel isn't exactly the same as adding a kitten or puppy to the household. Cockatiels have different personalities than canines and felines, and they have different needs, too. Before you bring one home, find out some basics about living with a cockatiel. This way you can decide whether you're up to taking care of him, and you'll learn how to do it properly.

Appropriate Housing

Not just any cage will do to house your cockatiel. This active little guy needs a cage large enough for at least two perches. The cage should also be big enough for your bird to extend his wings, opening them fully no matter which direction he's facing. A cage that's 18 to 24 inches long, high and wide should be big enough. This will keep the tips of his wing feathers from becoming tattered or breaking when he flaps them. Bars spaced half an inch to 1 inch apart should be sufficient. Make feeding and cleaning easy on yourself by finding a cage that allows you to access the dishes without opening the cage, and with a slide-out tray at the bottom.

Feeding Your Cockatiel

Cockatiels love food and should be fed more than a boring diet of seed. That's not to say that you shouldn't feed your bird seed at all, because he does like it. But his diet should have variety. Aside from a quality cockatiel seed, feed your bird a commercial food formulated for cockatiels and a variety of fresh and dried fruits and vegetables. He'll enjoy foods such as berries, carrots, cucumbers, grapes, oranges and broccoli. Just remember to remove uneaten fruit and veggies from his dish after an hour or two, as after that they'd start to go bad and could make your bird ill.

Getting to Know Each Other

You might find that even a friendly bird is shy at first, so don't act aggressively toward your cockatiel, especially if he seems frightened by his new surroundings. Always speak softly to him and let him get used to being around you before you try handling him. When you're both ready, offer your finger and say "up" to get him used to the command and the act of stepping onto your finger. Offer him a treat as a bribe if necessary. Show him the fingers of your free hand and ask him whether he wants a "pet," then gently stroke his back. Cockatiels like attention from their human family, and they can become demanding if they don't get as much as they think they should have. Dr. Crystal Shropshire, an avian vet at Alameda Pet Hospital in Idaho, advises new bird parents to resist the urge to spend every waking moment with their new pets. Give your feathered charge only as much attention at the beginning of the relationship as he normally will be getting later.

Cockatiel Health Care

Before you bring a cockatiel home, find the nearest avian vet and make an appointment. She'll want to see your little guy at the very start, again in six and 12 months, and then yearly after that. Cockatiels in general are fairly healthy, but the information your avian vet gathers at annual checkups will make it easier for her to treat your bird if he has an accident or becomes ill. She'll know his stats when he's healthy, such as his weight and what his blood work looks like. Cockatiels tend to hide their symptoms when they're sick, so watch your bird closely to catch any subtle signs that he doesn't feel well. If your cockatiel isn't eating as much as usual or he isn't eating at all, if he sleeps a lot, if he's listless or if he sits fluffed up in the corner of his cage, he's probably sick. Contact the vet immediately. It's always best to consult an experienced veterinarian.