Although an awesome cage setup is a great way to start your journey as a parrot parent, time outside of the cage is very important for your bird’s happiness too.
As intelligent and energetic birds, cockatiels need to be able to play, explore, and spend time interacting with you. But is there a minimum frequency or duration that a cockatiel should be allowed out of his cage?
Ideally, your cockatiel should be let out of his cage for at least 2 to 3 hours daily.
However, the quality of time spent outside the cage is more important than the amount of time. This article will discuss all the best practices you need to know when letting the bird out.
As often as possible
The recommended amount of time a bird should spend outside her cage may differ depending on the size of the bird and its gender. This is because it’s difficult to get a cage big enough for larger birds to stretch and flap their wings.
Cockatiels kept in a large flight cage may not need to be let out as often as birds kept in a smaller habitat, but this minimum amount of time also depends on cage placement and the cage enrichment provided.
Two to three hours minimum
As you can see, keeping a cockatiel is quite a time commitment. She should be allowed out of her cage for a minimum of two to three hours daily.
Interacting with your bird during this time is important, but you don’t have to spend the whole time playing with her. Typically, male cockatiels require slightly more playtime as they are generally more active and have more energy to expend.
There are plenty of other activities you can get done while your bird enjoys time outside of her cage, including:
- Desk work—studying, reading, or paying bills
- Chemical-free housework like tidying up, unloading the dishwasher, or folding laundry
- Watching tv or playing video games
Quality over quantity
Letting your bird out of his cage shouldn’t just mean he now gets to sit on top of the cage. If the time your bird spends outside his cage does not differ from the time he spends inside, there’s little point to it. He’ll be bored either way.
The quality of the time he spends outside is even more important than how often you let him out or for how long.
Try to keep things interesting for your bird. One way to do this is to have a play stand that your bird can fly to or that you can place near where you’re working or doing other activities.
Also, allow your cockatiel to hang out on your shoulder occasionally. One of the cockatiel bonding signs is if he wants to be near you.
Having toys outside of the cage is as important as having them inside. Spend a few minutes every hour your bird is out directly interacting with him.
Play with the toys, do a little training, or even just sing, talk, or dance with him.
A healthy balance
The time your bird spends out of her cage should feel balanced for both you and your bird—you should both be able to enjoy it, and your bird should be happy about it.
If a schedule helps you get your bird out regularly, determine when is the best time for you to do this and try to make it happen daily.
Letting your bird out at a different time of day and for different amounts of time is a great way to go as well.
This keeps it interesting for your bird and allows you to let him out whenever you get the time or are doing something he can safely participate in.
Why time out of the cage is so important
A cage is meant to be a safe space for your bird—sort of like her bedroom. Your bird’s time in her cage should be as enjoyable as possible.
Try positioning the cage in a sheltered area where she can still see and participate in whatever is going on in the house and providing comfortable perches and plenty of cage enrichment like toys and foraging opportunities.
No matter how pleasant the cage is, however, a bird that doesn’t get regular time out of it can develop physical and psychological problems just as a child who is never let out of her bedroom would.
A bird that doesn’t get enough out-of-cage time interacting with you and her surroundings may become a pacer, screamer, or feather-plucker.
She may become cage bound—too afraid to leave the cage when the opportunity is offered.
If it is feasible for you, experts now advise that you allow your bird to be fully flighted.
Flying is an awesome exercise for your bird’s body and brain, and a cockatiel that can use his wings will make even better use of time outside of the cage.
You may just need to birdproof your home a little more than you would for a clipped bird. Toys that encourage climbing and balancing, like rope bridges, ladders, or hanging balls, are also great for getting your bird moving.
A bird that gets plenty of physical activity will be happier and healthier inside and out of her cage.
Mental & emotional enrichment
Getting your bird out of his cage allows him to become used to different activities and environments. This will help him be more confident and curious and less easily frightened.
Since life is full of change, this will make it much easier and more enjoyable for both him and you.
A mentally and emotionally balanced bird that feels like he’s part of what goes on in the home is a much happier, funnier, and more enjoyable companion than one that simply observes from his cage and doesn’t know what to do with himself outside of it.
If you got your cockatiel when it is too young and not used to time outside of his cage, you might have to start small with a few minutes at a time. Eventually, he will come to appreciate and enjoy the increased interaction.
Avoid bad timings
Not all times are the best times to have a cockatiel out of its cage. Unless you have an entire room safe for your bird and can be closed off for her, she should not be left out of the cage while you’re not home.
It’s also best to leave your bird in the cage while you are cooking or using cleaning products that could be a danger to her.
A hungry, tired, or overwhelmed bird may also prefer to be in her cage. Pay attention to your bird’s body language.
If you’ve had her out for a while and she’s getting irritated and nippy, she may be ready to return to her cage. It’s usually best to end things on a good note by offering to let her return before she’s too tired or upset.
Finally, if you have any doors or windows open or people are coming and going frequently, it may not be the best time to have your bird out. You don’t want her to accidentally slip outside.
It’s also a good idea to have a note or sign you can place on the door for people coming in, warning them that the bird may be out.
Getting your cockatiel back in its cage
If they can fly or climb on their own, most birds will return to their cage when they get hungry, thirsty, or tired. However, you can also train a bird to return to its cage on cue.
This can be helpful for those days when your bird is having a wonderful time outside his cage and is reluctant to be put back in.
If your bird steps up on your finger when requested, putting him back in the cage shouldn’t be too difficult. Just make sure you are not putting him in the cage every time you ask him to step up.
If stepping up always means the end of fun times, he may grow resistant to it. You can use the request several times while your bird is out to move him to another play stand, or you can simply have him step up and back down for a treat.
As you can see, time outside of the cage is not only important for your cockatiel’s health and happiness, but it will also allow you to enjoy her so much more.
A bird that regularly spends time outside its cage with you will be a more balanced and interactive companion, and your bond will be much stronger and sweeter.
Two or three hours each day is a good minimum amount of time out of the cage to set as your goal, although it’s fine to vary the amounts of time depending on the day. Remember that just being on the outside of the cage bars isn’t enough.
The quality of your bird’s time with you is important as well. Ensure you interact with your bird and include her in your everyday activities whenever possible.