How To Care For An Old Cockatiel

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The affects old age has on a cockatiel has much to do with long-term nutrition and care, lifestyle, and breeding. Some birds may hardly slow down at all, while others will suffer mild to severe symptoms of aging like decreased energy, a weaker immune system, arthritis, decreased feather quality or difficulty molting, and issues with digestion or other internal functions.

Proper care can make all the difference in how enjoyable an older cockatiel’s later years are for both you and your bird and can also keep you from losing a feathered friend before his time to an avoidable disease. Adjusting your bird’s diet, providing him with comfortable perching options, making sure he gets plenty of sleep, and avoiding undue stress all factor into providing an older cockatiel with the best possible care.

Caring For An Older Cockatiel

With proper care, cockatiels may happily live well into their twenties. Although caring for an older bird is not complicated, there are many steps you can take to keep an elderly cockatiel healthy and comfortable.

Proper Nutrition

Proper nutrition is one of the most important factors in caring for any bird, but especially an older one. A good diet throughout its life can keep a bird from developing many of the health issues older birds are prone to.

Even if a bird has had a less than perfect diet in her early years, transitioning her to a more nutritious, age-appropriate diet can greatly increase her health and can even reverse some diseases.

Obesity, liver disease, and painful joints are just a few of the health issues that can be at least partially addressed by a diet change. In general, older birds should have lower fat and lower protein diets.

This means their diet should include fewer seeds, nuts, corn or soy products, and more vegetable content, including alfalfa-based pellets if possible. 

Always consult your avian vet before switching your bird to a specialized diet as each bird is different and it’s important that they get all the necessary nutrients. 

Adequate Sleep

All cockatiels need about 12 hours of sleep at night, but this is especially important for older tiels. Adequate sleep is essential to maintaining their immune system, and older birds may need a little more sleep than they needed when they were in their prime.

Lack of sleep may stress a bird, exacerbating any already present issues and opening the door to others.

Comfortable Perches And Environment

Older cockatiels may have aches and pains that interfere with natural perching. It’s important to keep an eye on them and notice if they seem to be experiencing foot pain or struggling to stay upright on a regular perch. 

If your bird is suffering from arthritis, loss of sight, stiff toes, or uncertain balance, you can help him out by providing shelf perches or padded perches—whatever seems best for your bird. If he has trouble climbing or hopping from one perch to another, or from the floor to the cage, you may wish to connect these areas with thick, bird-safe rope, ladders, or other perches.

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Make sure your bird is safe and comfortable in whatever environment you provide. Temperatures need to be balanced, windows should be sheltered, and your bird should be getting appropriate amounts of light and darkness.

As your bird ages, you should be able to figure out what is getting more difficult for him. Birds that have decreased vision may need for their cage’s layout to stay the same or they’ll bump into things and get confused.

You can still provide new toys by placing them where the old ones were or introducing them carefully so that your bird gets used to them being there.

Enrichment And Interaction 

Although older birds may have less energy than young ones and may appear content to simply hang out in their cage all day long, it’s important that you still provide plenty of interaction and enrichment. Old cockatiels still love toys, especially paper, wicker, or soft wood materials they can shred and destroy. 

They still need company and games that encourage them to keep moving and take an interest in their surroundings. You may be surprised by how energetic your old bird becomes when you take the time to interact with him.

Avoiding Stress

As much as possible, avoid exposing your bird to things that stress them or cause them to go on high alert, especially if they suffer from any heart of respiratory issues. If your bird is afraid of dogs, don’t allow one to play around her cage.

While a short car-ride or a half-hour outside may be just the kind of enrichment your old bird needs, she might not be up to a trip to the bird store or a day at your friend’s house. 

Health Checks And Vet Visits

As with all birds, it’s important to pay close attention to your bird every day so that you know what is normal and can catch any signs of illness or discomfort as early as possible. Do a quick health check every morning, weighing your bird, checking her droppings, and watching her move about for a while.

The earlier an illness is caught, the more treatable it will likely be.

Find an experienced, reliable avian vet and take your bird in for regular check-ups. It’s also good to have an emergency number on hand in case any sudden health issues arise.

Issues To Watch For In Older Cockatiels 

At your daily health check, you want your bird to have the following signs.

  • Clear, bright eyes
  • Smooth, clean feathers
  • Healthy, normal beak and nails (not overgrown or cracking)
  • Steady balance
  • Interest in surroundings
  • Good appetite
  • Healthy weight
  • Normal droppings

In contrast, a bird that is ill may show symptoms like these: 

  • dull eyes 
  • discharge from eyes or nares
  • dirty or abnormal feathers
  • overgrown beak or nails
  • difficulty balancing
  • dull disinterest
  • no appetite
  • sudden weight loss or gain
  • runny or otherwise unusual droppings 

If you notice any signs of poor health, don’t try to self-diagnose. Bird diseases can progress quickly and failing to catch and treat appropriately can lead to your bird’s failing health and eventual death.

Take your bird to the avian vet as soon as possible.

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Difficulty Molting

Molting can be more difficult for an older cockatiel. A well-balanced diet will go a long way in maintaining feather health, but you may still notice that your bird has less energy and needs more sleep while molting.

A complete molt may also take longer than it previously did.

Make sure your bird is getting nutritious food, plenty of sleep, and is not stressed in any other ways while molting. You can also make molting easier with frequent baths or gentle misting.

Make sure your bird does not get chilled after being bathed.

Fatty Liver Disease

This is one of the most common diseases in parrots, especially cockatiels and parakeets. The cause is directly related to nutrition, and thankfully, better nutrition can reverse it to some degree. It is most often seen in obese birds.

Signs of Fatty Liver Disease include:

  • Obesity
  • Overgrown beak
  • Black spots on beak
  • Enlarged liver

Most birds develop this disease after being on a high-fat seed diet for most of their life. These birds should see a vet and be transitioned to a lower fat diet high in vegetable content.


Gout is a disorder of the joints, bones, and muscles that is a result of damaged or unhealthy kidneys. It causes a bird’s joints to become painful, leading to difficulty sitting on a perch or flying.

Again, the main cause of gout is an unbalanced diet.


Any bird can develop tumors, but they are most common in older birds. They may be benign or aggressive, so it’s important to consult a vet if you feel or see any kind of lump developing under your bird’s skin.

Can Old Cockatiels Be Kept with Younger Birds?

An older tiel that is accustomed to being with other tiels will likely prefer to stay with them and may become depressed or anxious if separated. It’s usually fine to keep the birds together as long as the older bird is not being picked on or pushed around. 

If you feel that the presence of other birds is stressing your old bird or if you need to feed separate diets or medication, you can place them in separate cages, but keep them close enough to see and hear one another.

Old and young Cockatiels

If your older bird is not used to being with other birds, a sudden introduction of a younger bird may be stressful and disruptive. On the other hand, he may enjoy the company and the younger bird may encourage him to stay moving and interested in life.

It may be best to borrow a friend’s bird or foster a bird for a while to see how your older bird is affected before committing. 


Obviously, a well-balanced, nutritious diet is the most important factor in keeping your bird healthy into old age. This is followed by a comfortable, enriching environment and lifestyle.

While it may take a bit more attention and more frequent vet visits, caring for an older bird can be a wonderful, fulfilling experience.