Once you’ve located a source for hand-fed cockatiels, it’s time to get down to selecting your pet. First, observe the birds available for sale. If possible, sit down and watch them for a while. Take note of which birds seem bolder than the others. Consider those first, because you want a curious, active, robust pet, rather than a shy animal who hides in a corner.
If possible, let your cockatiel choose you. Many pet stores display their cockatiels in colony situations on playgyms, or a breeder may bring out a clutch of babies for you to look at. If one bird waddles right up to you and wants to play, or if one comes over to check you out and just seems to want to come home with you, he’s the bird for you!
Hand-Fed or Parent-Raised?
Regardless of where you buy your cockatiel, try to find a hand-fed bird. Although they cost a bit more than parent-raised ones, hand-fed cockatiels have been raised by people. This process emphasizes the bird’s pet qualities and ensures that he will bond with people. You must be willing to spend time playing with and handlingmyour hand-fed cockatiel every day to keep him tame.
Parent-raised chicks may require extra handling and care to become cuddly, easy-to-handle pets so they are better candidates for breeding programs. As their name suggests, parent-raised birds have imprinted on their parents as primary caregivers and will act like birds when it comes time to raise chicks. Hand-fed pets, however, may pay more attention to their human companions than to other birds, so they may not make ideal candidates for breeding situations.
Male or Female?
You may be asking, “Should I get a male or a female cockatiel?” Generally speaking, male birds are more vocal and outgoing, while females have gentler natures. Although males may be slightly better talkers, I’d encourage you to get a young, healthy bird of either sex and enjoy your companion for his full pet potential.
If you are getting an adult bird, you can tell them apart by the brighter orange cheek patches in males. This won’t work, of course, on color mutations that lack orange cheek patches.
One or Two?
Another question you may have (especially if you have a busy schedule) is, “Should I get one bird or two?” Single cockatiels generally make more affectionate pets, because you and your family become the bird’s substitute flock. But a pair of cockatiels can be pretty entertaining as they encourage each other into all sorts of avian mischief. And if you are away from home all day every day, your two birds will keep each other company.
One small drawback of owning two pet cockatiels, especially young ones, is that they may have a tendency to chase each other around the cage, playfully tugging on one another’s tail feathers. Sometimes these feathers come out, leaving you with two considerably shorter cockatiels until the next set of tail feathers grows in. If you have a pair of birds who suddenly become tailless, check the cage bottom for the feathers and watch your birds to see if they do, indeed, chase and pester each other. If so, you have nothing to worry about. If not, please alert your avian veterinarian to the problem and ask for further guidance. Two birds are also less likely to learn to talk to you, because they can chatter to each other in cockatiel rather than learning the language of their substitute human “flock.”
If you do not bring both birds home at the same time, there is a possibility of territorial behavior on the part of the original bird. This territorial behavior can include bullying the newcomer and keeping him away from food and water
dishes to the point where the new bird cannot eat or drink.
To avoid this problem, house the birds in separate cages and supervise all their interactions. Let the birds out together on a neutral playgym and watch how they act with each another. If they seem to get along, you can move their cages closer together so they can become accustomed to being close. Some birds will adjust to having other birds share their cages, while others prefer to remain alone in their cages with other birds nearby. By the same token, don’t try to put a new cockatiel into the cage of a bird you already own and don’t house cockatiels with other small birds, such as finches, canaries, or lovebirds. Cockatiels may bully other small birds and keep them away from food and water bowls.
To keep peace in your avian family, make sure every bird has his own cage, food, and water bowls. Some cockatiels will get along with other birds during supervised time on a playgym, while others do not work and play well with others and enjoy being the only pets out on the gym.
Signs of Good Health
Here are some of the signs that a cockatiel is healthy. Keep them in mind when you are selecting your pet.
• Bright eyes
• A clean cere (the area above the bird’s beak that covers his nares, or nostrils)
• Clean legs and vent
• Smooth feathers
• Upright posture
• A full-chested appearance
• Bird is actively moving around the cage
• Good appetite