Cockatiels and parakeets (budgies) are popular small birds among pet owners. It’s not uncommon for a person to share their home with both species.
The birds have similar needs and are among the easiest parrots to keep. Although squabbles can arise, neither species is particularly aggressive.
But exactly how well do parakeets and cockatiels get along? Can they happily share a home or even a single cage?
In a neutral play area or spacious, non-breeding aviary, cockatiels and budgies will usually happily cohabitate, but asking them to share a cage or breeding area can have serious drawbacks.
Summary of today’s article:
- How to keep parakeets and cockatiels together
- When not to keep parakeets and cockatiels together
- Tips for a peaceful flock
The key to keeping budgies and cockatiels happily together is plenty of space—open space as well as perch space. Either species can get snippy if their territory is too limited, they are continually bumping into each other, or they feel the need to fight over food dishes or high perches.
While neither parakeets or cockatiels are especially aggressive, their size difference can lead to serious injuries if either species is goaded far enough, and constant stress or fighting will take its toll on their health and wellbeing.
Adequate ventilation and air purifiers are also important as both species are dusty birds with delicate respiratory systems. Finally, you’ll want to keep in mind that the diet needs of cockatiels and budgies do differ slightly.
Similarities Between Parakeets And Cockatiels
Cockatiels and budgies are both native to Australia, which may be one of the reasons they can adapt to living together in an aviary. In the wild, they would spend large amounts of time foraging for seeds and vegetation, occasionally in mixed groups.
Both prefer to be part of a flock and are excellent fliers who will make the most of the space you give them.
Tiels and parakeets can be territorial if defending a mate, nesting site (or perceived nesting site), or a favorite toy/perch. While their natural inclination is to back off rather than engage in a full-out scuffle, arguments do sometimes escalate, and space to retreat is essential.
Both parrots are dusty, though cockatiels produce the most dust and dander of the two.
Despite their physical and environmental similarities, budgies and cockatiels are nearly opposites when it comes to personality. Interestingly, the tiny budgies are the more pugnacious species of the two.
They are pushy, active, and excitable, with the brash confidence of a much larger bird.
Cockatiels, on the other hand, are mellower and more easily intimidated. They are sensitive birds that can be stressed, overwhelmed, and bullied by the smaller, more active parakeets.
How Much Space Do They Need?
Recommendations for cage and aviary sizes vary widely. For reasons that will be discussed further below, cockatiels and budgies should not be placed together in a regular sized cage or even a flight cage.
The best way to allow them to interact is outside of their separate cages in a neutral play area or in an aviary specifically designed for multiple birds.
One recommendation for a pair of birds advises that the aviary should be no smaller than three times their combined wingspan in width and at least a couple of wing beats between perches in length.
The placement of perches and food dishes is another important aspect of keeping cockatiels and parakeets together. Make sure there are plenty of perches for everyone.
If one perch is placed too much higher than the others, everyone will likely fight for it.
It’s also best to include one food dish for each bird so no skirmishes arise at mealtime. Size-appropriate toys are also important, but be careful not to overcrowd the aviary.
Your birds should be able to flap, fly, and hop about without bumping into perches or toys.
Do They Eat The Same Food?
Cockatiels and parakeets share similar diet requirements. Both should be given a well-rounded diet that includes a pellet formulated for small birds, a healthy, millet-based seed mix, and fresh fruits and veggies.
However, cockatiels do well with a slightly higher fat content to their diet than budgies, who are prone to obesity and liver disease. For this reason, a combined diet should only be offered if there is plenty of room for the budgies to fly about and they are already eating a well-rounded diet (vegetables/chop and pellets).
If tiels and budgies are unaccustomed to eating fresh fruit and veggies, both can be tempted to taste them in similar ways. Most take to a fresh chop mix like that recommended by BirdTricks and parrot nutritionists with little coaxing.
Just make sure your ingredients are chopped finely enough that small beaks can handle them. You can also try clipping fresh greens, apple slices, or other fruits and veggies to the side of the cage where your birds will be attracted to explore and nibble on them.
Can They Have The Same Type Of Toys?
Because of their size and preference similarities, budgies and tiels do tend to enjoy the same type of toys. They enjoy shredding toys made of paper, sea grass, coconut, soft wood, and other natural materials.
They also love swings, bells, and ropes.
Do watch out for toys with small or fragile parts that either tiels or budgies can detach and possibly swallow or choke on. Bell clappers should be firmly attached, and plastic/acrylic pieces should not be soft or breakable.
Also be aware that larger toys specifically meant for cockatiels may be somewhat scary for budgies at first and should be introduced gradually.
If you are unable to provide an aviary setting, it’s best not to keep budgies and cockatiels together. A few reasons for this have already been covered.
- Budgies may bully or overwhelm cockatiels
- Size difference can lead to injury
- Diet needs differ slightly
Dust factor is another issue. Cockatiel feathers are coated with a very fine powder that can fill the air and affect the respiratory systems of their budgie companions.
For this reason, a combined habitat should be well ventilated, the air should be purified, frequent baths should be offered, and the two species are best not kept in a regular-sized shared cage.
Cockatiels are also prone to occasional night frights—frantic flapping about inside their enclosure due to a scare. If caught up in this panic, the smaller budgies can easily be injured.
When Breeding Is Desired
Cockatiels’ mellow good nature can disappear during breeding season or in the presence of a nesting box, and budgies are also territorial under these circumstances. As fights are much more likely to take place between breeding birds, cockatiels and budgies should never be kept together if you intend to breed them or have offered nest boxes.
Cockatiels and parakeets can certainly coexist peacefully in your home. Whether you use separate cages and a neutral play area or go with an aviary setup, there are several things you can do to ensure harmony reigns and everyone stays happy and healthy.
- Well-rounded Diet—Get both species on a well-rounded diet that includes vegetables and pellets rather than just seeds. Parrots tend to take quickly to a fresh chop recipe. Tiels and budgies are also often eager to nibble on sprouts, so you can try sprouting things like alfalfa, wheat grass, broccoli, etc. For reluctant eaters, pellets and veggies can also be introduced in a birdie bread mix. A well-rounded diet will go a long way in ensuring both improved health and behavior in your birds.
- Space—This simply can’t be overstated. It’s when birds are fighting over space, feel crowded by one another, or have no room to retreat that injuries occur.
- Gradual Introduction—Just tossing two species together can lead to a lot of stress and a rocky start for everyone involved. Even if you eventually intend to allow your budgies and cockatiels to share a play space or aviary, it’s best to introduce them gradually. Keep them in separate cages placed next to each other for a while so they can get used to one another. When you do allow them into the same space, make sure one bird doesn’t already feel like the space belongs to him or her. This can lead to defensive behavior. The play space or aviary should be a neutral area when both birds are introduced to it.
- Close Observation—Especially during the first few hours and days of your birds being together, make sure to keep a close eye on them. Watch for any potential conflicts and do what you can to de-escalate them. Take note of how they are responding to your aviary layout and make changes as needed. Even after your aviary is established and peace is the norm, you should be checking in on it at least twice a day to make sure all is well.
While parakeets and cockatiels can be kept together, it’s a tricky process that should not be oversimplified. Take care and enjoy learning more about your birds and creating the best possible atmosphere for them and yourself.