When is a cockatiel old enough to be separated from his parents or eat on his own? Is this the best time to introduce him to a new home? Is it okay to adopt an older cockatiel?
These are all good questions to ask if you’re considering a cockatiel as a pet.
A young, fully weaned bird will be quick to form new bonds and become hand tame. An older bird can also be a sweet and rewarding pet.
If you are a first-time tiel owner, be prepared to do a lot of research and learning, no matter your bird’s age.
How old should a cockatiel be when you buy it?
A cockatiel should be eating entirely on her own before being brought home by the breeder. This may happen as early as 8 weeks old, but many young birds still require an occasional hand-feeding of formula.
It is best to wait until a chick is 12 weeks old to be sure she’ll thrive eating on her own. This is the age at which cockatiels in the wild would no longer be dependent on their parents.
A chick younger than 8 weeks old is too young, even if she is being offered for sale. Unless you are experienced with hand-feeding parrot chicks, you should not consider bringing this young a chick home.
A bird sent home before she is fully weaned may lose weight, weaken, and even die.
Hand-feeding is tricky, and doing it wrong can kill your chick, so experience is essential.
12 weeks to 1 year old is the best time
If you are adopting a cockatiel for the first time, finding one that is 12 weeks to a year old can make things a lot easier for you.
However, you should remember that buying a bird at this age means committing to around 20 years of responsibility.
If you aim to get a specific gender, you should also be aware that you can only tell if a cockatiel is male or female after 6 to 9 months.
Make sure to do your research so that you are prepared and won’t find yourself putting the bird up for adoption a few years down the road.
Acceptance to handling
Young cockatiels are handleable. Most young tiels offered for sale by breeders have been hand raised.
This means they are very used to being handled. In their minds, people mean good things.
These babies are often very tame. They’re less likely to bite or avoid your hands and will usually want to be near you.
Easier to bond with
They will quickly bond to a new owner. The adjustment period for a cockatiel under a year old is often quicker than for an older bird.
This makes the transition less stressful for both of you. However, a young tiel will miss his siblings and will need lots of attention from you to make up for it.
Young birds are always learning, which can make introducing a new environment, diet, toys, and schedule more manageable for the bird.
A young tiel will quickly latch onto your patterns and develop favorite treats and interactions. This is a great time to start training and build a strong foundation for a lifelong relationship.
They haven’t yet developed bad habits. A cockatiel at this age will not have had time to become entrenched in any negative behaviors like biting, plucking, or eating nothing but sunflower seeds.
It’s a great time to introduce a healthy variety of foods, teach your bird to play with toys, and train her to step up on your hand and accept a certain amount of handling.
With careful thought and knowledge, you have the chance to do things right from the beginning.
Is it a good idea to adopt an older bird?
Yes! Parrots of all kinds are constantly being re-homed, and many end up spending long months in rescues or in the back corner of a home where they are unwanted.
Adopting is the way to go if you have the heart and patience to work with an older bird.
Following are some of the pros and cons of adopting an older cockatiel.
- An older cockatiel may be more challenging to tame. Some older birds will come to you completely hand-tame and bubbling over with charm. However, if an adult bird has not been handled or has had bad experiences in the past, you will need to gain his trust little by little. Spending time in the same room, offering yummy treats, sitting next to the cage, and talking to him are all ways to begin.
- Old habits are hard to break. An adult bird may be more likely to bite if she is frightened or wants to be left alone. She may have eaten a seed diet all her life and be reluctant to transition to something healthier. She may have experienced little variety in her life and take days to become accustomed to a new toy or piece of furniture. All these habits can be overcome to some degree, but it will require carefulness and patience.
- Unless it has been severely neglected, an adult cockatiel will likely be less demanding and clingy than a lonely baby. He will still need your attention, but he will also have a lower energy level and find comfort in a steady routine. Many older birds will also already have some training or favorite treats and activities that you can rely on to smooth the transition.
- Just because a bird is no longer a baby doesn’t mean she can’t learn new things. Cockatiels are curious and intelligent creatures that will thrive on interaction and continue to surprise and delight you throughout their lifetimes.
- There’s nothing like the joy of enriching the life of a rescue bird and watching him blossom. It is worth every extra ounce of patience, ingenuity, and carefulness. While your connection may look a little different, it will be no less precious and delightful than a connection forged with a young bird.
Are cockatiels good for beginners?
Cockatiels are delicate and demanding pets—as are all parrots. They need a lot of attention, especially if they are kept as an only bird.
Like any pet, they are susceptible to various health issues and have environmental needs that you should be aware of.
That said, if you’re sure you are prepared to take on the care of a bird, a cockatiel is not a bad first choice.
Cockatiels are unintimidating and gentle birds.
This isn’t to say they won’t attack and bite if they feel threatened, but for the most part, a tiel will always choose peace over violence.
He will usually give you lots of warning before biting—hissing and swaying—and his bite will not do nearly as much damage as that of a large parrot.
They do sleep with one eye open sometimes, though, but that is not to be mistaken as being intimidated but rather a natural behavior.
They are less skittish than budgies.
Budgies are another good bird for beginners and can have just as much personality and be just as fun as a larger parrot.
The cockatiel’s size can make it a little easier to handle, however, and you are more likely to be able to find a handfed (tame) cockatiel baby.
They don’t require a ton of space.
When it comes to cages, larger is always better. However, cockatiels don’t necessarily require the same cage size as a cockatoo or macaw would.
Cockatiels need smaller toys and play stands that take up less space and are less expensive. They also love to be allowed some safe indoor free flight, which may be impossible with a larger bird.
They are not an extremely high-strung parrot.
In this way, a cockatiel may be less demanding than many other parrots, although they do require just as much attention and enrichment.
Each individual will differ, but cockatiels are generally a good place to start in learning how parrots think and act without being completely overwhelmed or unduly frustrated.
They have loads of personalities.
While they may be considered an easier or “beginner” bird, this doesn’t mean cockatiels have any less personality than the bigger, more colorful parrots.
They love to be a part of the action and can learn all kinds of tricks. Some are talented mimics. They are smart, funny, charming, beautiful, sometimes bossy, and sometimes cuddly.
Do read more on our popular post on how to teach your bird to do tricks.
Everyone has to start somewhere. Just be sure to do your research and start in the best way you can.
All beginning cockatiel owners should be informed and responsible. A child should never be a cockatiel’s sole caretaker.
Plenty of resources are available to help you learn about, care for, and enjoy your cockatiel to the fullest.
You will also learn much from the bird himself. Even longtime bird owners constantly learn about their parrots and the best way to care for them. One of the joys of cockatiel ownership is this constant discovery.
Remember that purchasing or adopting a cockatiel is a long-term commitment. The babies won’t always be babies.
These birds can live for 20 or more years, and they will need loving care and attention every day of their lives. While they may be a good first bird, a cockatiel should never be considered a starter pet that will be eventually replaced with another animal or parrot species.