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  1. Why is my bird pulling out her feathers all the time?

  2. How do I stop my bird from constant egg laying?

  3. Why is the male of a pair trying to kill the hen now that she's laying?

  4. What do we need to provide a breeding pair to help them make a nest?

  5. Why has my cockatiel become aggressive recently, and how do I calm it down?

  6. How can I treat a recurrent bumble foot?

  7. Are unexpected eggs unlikely to be fertile?

  8. How do I know if the birds have bred if the hen won't allow her mate to take part in  the incubation process?

  9. When can a baby cockatiel be taken from its parents?

  10. Do cockatiels like being sprayed with water?

  11. One egg has hatched and three haven't - what may be happening?

  12.  If the eggs appear to be fertilized, but also seem to be past hatching time, what should I do?

  13. Why is the male picking feather's from the baby chick's head?

  14. Is my all-white cockatiel with red eyes an albino?

  15. One of the pairs in a mating colony have just bred, now the males are fighting. What should I do?

  16. What kinds of plants are safe to put into the aviary?

  17. I was told my baby cockatiel is an all-white, but he appears to be yellow. What is he?

  18. Why does my cockatiel bite me if I pat his chest?

  19. Can I successfully breed with two females and one male in the group?

  20. Might this worm have come from our bird's excrement?

  21. Should we cut our bird's nails?

  22. How long does the incubation process take, and how long does the bird stay on the nest?

  23. For a first-time owner, is it better to have one bird or two, male or female?

  24. A cockatiel flew into our house and we plan to adopt it, but what should we and shouldn't we do?

  25. If I don't the age of my females, when can I introduce a male into the aviary?

  26. At what age do females stop breeding, and why are two of the birds fighting?

  27. Can I tame a 6-month-old cockatiel?

  28. Why would a male suddenly pull the feathers out on both his wings, bloodying himself and the cage?

  29. How can I determine the sex of my birds?

  30. What will my bird feed her chicks, and will she be able to manage alone?

  31. What is the best nesting material to use?

  32. Can I band my bird for identification purposes?

  33. The chicks appear to be afraid of their father and retreat to the nest as soon as they seem him. Is this normal?

  34. What size steel and wire mesh should I use in building a suspended aviary?

  35. Will the stress of taking my bird with me on a flight to New York be too much for him?

  36. If I put my Lutino and albino together, what would I get?

  37. We have eight eggs that we presume are probably dead and it looks like another is on the way.   What should we do with the first eggs and how do we stop the hen from laying more?

  38. If an egg hatches that the birds have lost interest in, can we hand rear it, and can we make our own formula?

  39. How do we hand feed and raise a 14-day-old bird?

Question 1 - Why is my bird pulling out her feathers all the time?

We own a cockatiel and she pulls her feathers out all the time. Is this normal, or does this show that she is frustrated? Please send me some literature on this if you have any. Thank you, Leslie

Dear Leslie,

Feather plucking is quite a difficult habit to break. It can be caused by boredom, so one way you may be able to help is to give the bird something else to do, e.g. put fresh branches of bottlebrush or grevillea or gum in your bird's cage. All cockatiels love to spend hours stripping all the leaves from branches and this may stop her plucking, at least for a little while. Diet can be a cause sometimes too. Does she eat too much sunflower seed? Too much is bad for them, as it has a lot of oil in it. A good-quality cockatiel mix is essential in any bird's diet. Also, extras in the form of celery, silverbeet, corn, endive and carrot all help to ensure that your bird will maintain good health. A visit to an avian vet can also be a good idea, to ensure there are no underlying health problems that may be causing the plucking. Hope this has been of help.


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Question 2 - How do I stop my bird from constant egg laying?

Could you please help us with a problem with my parents' cockatiel. She has laid 22 eggs in the last eight weeks. She is a tamed, caged bird and until she started laying all these eggs, was great with my parents. She had laid eggs previously, but only a few at a time and would then have a break. Now all she wants to do is lay constantly and has become very nasty. My parents have had this bird since it was a baby, and naturally are very upset. We would appreciate any help or information you could give us. This bird is very much loved and very spoilt. Please help if you can. Thank you, Gary

Dear Gary,

Pet hens can sometimes have this problem. I wonder if she is laying the eggs in a particular spot, and if so, can this be changed so as to try to break the cycle. Wherever she is laying is obviously the spot she considers her nest, so a change may just trigger her to stop. The most important thing for you to remember is that she needs to replace the calcium she is using up to lay all these eggs. Whether it is cuttlebone, calcium bells, etc,. it is very important that she have access to it at all times. Another way to trick a hen out of the breeding cycle is to shorten the day's length, i.e. if the bird would normally stay up until quite late with your parents, put her to bed around 5pm, covering her up preferably in a quiet spot in the house. This ploy may signal to her that the days are getting shorter and it is time to stop breeding. Also a lot of people tend to stroke the lower part of the hens' back when they are petting their bird, but this can stimulate her in the same way as if she is being mated by a male cockatiel. So it is best to stick to patting a hen around the head.


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Question 3 - Why is the male of a pair trying to kill the hen now that she's laying?

A friend who doesn't have access to the Internet has asked me to do some research on cockatiels for him. He has a pair of birds in a large aviary and they have been OK for ages, but now that the female has started to lay, the male is trying to kill the female and they have had to separate the birds.

   Dear Sender,

Unfortunately, sometimes a pair of birds may not be compatible, or a cock bird may get too aggressive, as it sounds like this one is. Usually the best thing to do is not try to breed with this bird again. Perhaps your friend can get a new male to go with the hen. If they want to learn more about cockatiels and breeding, they may want to consider joining a club to learn all they need to know.


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Question 4 - What do we need to provide a breeding pair to help them make a nest?

I gave my daughter a female cockatiel a while back and recently she laid four eggs on the bottom of the cage. Everyone got so excited... They were given a mature male cockatiel. They seemed to be getting along just fine in the cage together. They seemed to be mating a lot. My daughter got a breeding box and placed in the bottom of the cage. She placed some hamster shavings in the cage and box so that the female could build a nest. She wants to know what should she make available to the birds so that they can make a nest. Can you explain the procedure to us. Thank you for your help! - Leilani

   Dear Leilani,

In answer to your question, usually you just put pine shavings in the bottom of the nestbox to the depth of about 2 to 3 inches. Cockatiels don't build their own nest as some other species of birds do. The cock bird will just hollow out an area in the shavings that you have provided. The most important thing to remember when setting up your birds for breeding is to make sure the hen has access to lots of calcium to replace what she will lose when laying. Also if they have babies, they will need extra things like multi-grain bread or sprouts and greens daily to help them to fill the babies up.


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Question 5 - Why has my cockatiel become aggressive recently, and how do I calm it down?

Hopefully you can help me or point me in the right direction. We have a young cockatiel. She would be about 10 months old, and we have had her since six weeks. We have handled her since then without too many problems. She flies inside our house and has a ball. In the last 2-3 months she has been getting quite aggressive. She flies to my shoulder without any fuss but as soon as she gets there she just wants to bite my ears HARD. She is chewing on all the wooden picture frames in the house and also all our plants. She loves our palms. We do all the right things as far as her diet and supplements with fresh vegies, which she won't touch. She had an eye infection recently; the vet prescribed some antibiotic drops for her water and cream for her eye, which cleared the infection quickly. I guess my question to you is, how do I go about calming her down and stop her from chewing everything in sight, including me? - Tony

   Dear Tony,

I think the reason your bird has changed in nature would most likely be that it is coming up to breeding age. Are you sure you have a hen and not a male? The behaviour you describe would suggest to me that the bird is exhibiting male tendencies, e.g. chewing the frames on your pictures. In a breeding situation the male bird would chew around the hole of the nestbox in preparation for the hen going to nest. Also the aggression is more like how a male would behave when coming up to breeding age. A bird that is fully flighted sometimes thinks it has the upper hand and tries to become dominant in the relationship with you. You may find clipping the bird's wing just enough that it can still fly but not be quite so direct might help. Be very careful with the plants you keep inside as some can be highly toxic to birds. Good luck.


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Question 6 - How can I treat recurring bumble foot?

We have a female cockatiel which has a recurring bumble foot. Over the past year it has been treated many times by our local vets, but it keeps coming back. She has been treated with antibiotics such as doxycycline (Vibravet) powder in her water, and by wrapping her foot with iodine-soaked gauze. It always recurs in the same spot in the centre of the sole of her left foot, with a lot of swelling at her ankle bone and top of foot. Sometimes there is a core in the centre of the foot , which has been removed by the vet a number of times. This time there was no evidence of a core and the cut was not deep, but the ankle was swollen and she seemed to be in pain. Any information that you can give to us will be greatly appreciated. Thank you, Tammey, Dave G. and of course Miss Cockatiel

  Dear Tammey & Dave,

This really is more of a veterinary problem. It sounds as though your vets have tried a lot of different solutions without much success. I wonder is there a specialist avian vet in your area who may have a solution for you. I can't say I have heard of another situation quite like this. I did know someone whose bird developed a lump under the ball of its foot, however, this was removed surgically and they had no further recurrence of the problem. Sorry I can't be of more help.


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Question 7 - Are unexpected eggs unlikely to be fertile?

I have a cockatiel that I purchased from a woman in August 1998. She is, from what I was told, 2 years old. Yesterday to our surprise she laid an egg, and today she laid another egg. Am I to assume that the eggs do not have a chick in them? I'm not sure on what to do. Thanking you in advance, Tina.

  Dear Tina,

Yes, you are correct in thinking the eggs would not be fertile (assuming you only have her on her own). It is fairly normal for hens to lay eggs from around the age of 1 year. The most important thing is to make sure she has access to calcium ( eg cuttlebone, calcium bells) to replace the calcium she loses by laying the eggs. She will probably lay 4 or 5 ( every other day) then stop for a while. Take the eggs away when she stops laying and you shouldn't have any problems.


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Question 8 - How do I know if the birds have bred if the hen won't allow her mate to take part in the incubation process?

I am currently breeding cockatiels and one of my female birds has laid eggs. It appears that she is the only one sitting on the eggs. She is doing a very good job of incubation. However, I know its the wrong time of the year, but I did not remove the nestbox at the end of the breeding season. I don 't know if she mated with a male, as she is not allowing him to take part in the incubation process. My questions to you are, are the eggs fertile?, and what should I do? Any information that you can give me regarding these questions would be greatly appreciated. Yours sincerely, Anthony Basili

  Dear Anthony,

Cockatiels are easy breeding birds; give them a nestbox and their instincts tells them to get on with it. If she is with her mate, then there's a very good chance that the eggs will be fertile. However, without seeing them or candling them it's very difficult to say. You did not say where you live; where I live, in Brisbane, Australia, the weather is very mild in winter, and the birds would breed all year if you let them. I usually let them have two nests then have a break. Sometimes I will stop breeding around Christmas-time, as it can get very hot and humid. Your other part of the question, regarding only the hen sitting the eggs herself, the danger is that she may get fed up doing this, leave the nest at night when it's cold, and of course the eggs will not develop in this case. You will just have to see what happens, please let me know how things go.


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Question 9 - When can a baby cockatiel be taken from its parents, and how do you take care of baby chicks?

I would like to know at what age a baby cockatiel can be taken away from its parents. Some friends are breeding them and I will be getting one. Any other facts about the care of a new cockatiel would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

  Dear Sender,

Usually a baby cockatiel is ready to come away from it's parents at around 8 weeks of age. Care must be taken to make sure it is independent and able to eat by itself. The best way to do this is by observing it when it is still with the parents, noting how much they are still feeding it and how much it is eating on its own. Once you take it away just keep a check on how much seed it is eating and whether it is bright and happy. Some of the articles on our web site cover lots of details on looking after your new bird.


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Question 10 - Do cockatiels like being sprayed with water?

I would like to know if cockatiels like to be sprayed with water and, if so, how do they like to be sprayed?

  Dear Sender,

Some birds do like to be sprayed, others might not be so keen. Usually you would use a spray bottle and lightly mist the bird or if you are able to do it outside, a light spray through the bars of the cage with the hose. You will know if your bird likes it when it spreads its wings out to enjoy the bath. If your bird doesn't like to be sprayed you can always let it bathe in a shallow dish.


Question 11 - One egg has hatched and three haven't - what may be happening?

I'm hoping someone can help me. I have a pair of cockatiels that has produced a clutch of four eggs. The first egg hatched exactly 21 days after I discovered it in the nest. The subsequent eggs have already gone past the expected 21 days since I discovered them. I'm concerned that something has gone wrong in the development of the younger eggs. Is it common for eggs to develop at a slower rate once the first egg hatches? I'm wondering if the eggs have not been maintained at a constant temperature while the parents began tending the to first hatchling. I'd like to candle the eggs to see if they are in fact fertile but the parents really put up a fuss when I act too interested in their nest. The good news is that the one hatchling seems to be doing very well. Can anyone out there provide some advice? - TT

  Dear TT,

In answer to your questions about the eggs... there can be many reasons why eggs don't hatch. it would appear that the egg that hatched was the first egg laid, as it hatched right on time. If the eggs hadn't been incubated properly, you would expect that the first eggs would not necessarily hatch and that perhaps it would be the last egg that would hatch, as, being at an earlier stage of development, it would not have been as adversely affected. The eggs that haven't hatched may or may not be fertile. Usually, you can tell at this stage just by looking at them. Fertile eggs appear a dull greyish colour, while infertile eggs still look the same pinky colour they were when laid. Sometimes eggs become a bit too dry and the chicks have difficulty hatching. This can happen in very dry weather or if the hen doesn't have access to a large water dish that she can bath in and then go and sit on the eggs, thereby creating humidity that helps them hatch. You can sometimes help out in this situation by moistening the eggs with some water on your fingers, especially around the chipping line. The eggs would normally hatch every other day.

The fact that the parents are still sitting tight would seem to be a good sign. So if it upsets them for you to look at the eggs, you might be best to leave well enough alone and only go in if they are both out feeding etc. Make sure you give the parent birds lots of extras, such as sprouts or multi-grain bread, greens, etc to help them keep the feed up to the baby. The fact that the first baby hatched out OK and they are looking after it well would seem to indicate that the parents are doing a good job, so I would probably leave them to it.


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Question 12 - If the eggs appear to be fertilized, but also seem to be past hatching time, what should I do?

Thank you for responding [see Question 11]. Two of the eggs do have the dull grey colour you mentioned. However, we are now well beyond 28 days for even the last egg. Do you still think there is a chance that they could hatch? I'll try to moisten them with my finger. Since I live in Phoenix, Arizona and it is winter, I can certainly believe that the eggs could be dry. Thank you again, TT

  Dear TT,

At least you know the eggs are fertile. But I would not be too quick to assume they are past hatching date. Circumstances can often mean eggs hatch way past their expected date, and there is nothing worse than thinking an egg is no good and opening it only to find a live chick inside. Usually the parent birds will push eggs aside once they have given up on them. If you allow a few more days, no harm is done and then you are sure nothing is going to happen. Good Luck.


Question 13 - Why is the male picking feather's from the baby chick's head?

Well, my adventures with my breeding cockatiels continue [see Questions 11 and 12]. As you may remember, I had a clutch of four eggs of which only one hatched. The baby is now nearly four weeks old and has feathered out nicely. Now, the new twist. The female has laid another egg, but now the male is picking the feathers off the baby's head. I'm wondering if it is because it is apparently a male baby and we're still in the middle of breeding season. I'm not sure if I should remove the baby from the cage and try to hand feed it (which I really don't have time to do), or leave it in there for another two weeks. Or, perhaps I could put in another nest for the baby to move into? Do you think I should take the daddy out of the cage? I understand that by another two weeks he should be about weaned anyway. Hoping you can offer some advice. Thanks, TT>

  Dear TT,

Your baby is ready to leave the nestbox now that it is 4 weeks old. They usually do so between about 4 weeks and 4 weeks and 3 days. This could be why the father is trying to give him a bit of a hurry up by pulling out a few feathers. As long as it doesn't get too serious, don't worry .Usually as soon as the baby leaves the nest the father stops plucking and still continues to feed and look after it. It is normal for them to go straight back to nest as soon as the first lot of chicks reach fledging age. He will be about 7 weeks old by the time the next lot start hatching, and will most probably be ready to come away from his mum and dad. I wouldn't take the dad away, as he is needed to do his share of sitting the eggs and also help with feeding the baby. If you do want to hand raise any in the future, it is best to take them out at about 3 weeks of age, as by the time they are 4 weeks old they are a bit more difficult to get started.


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Question 14 - Is my all-white cockatiel with red eyes an albino?

My name is Kitty and I live in South Texas in the US and I have a first-time breeding pair of normal whiteface (grey) cockatiels. They gave me two beautiful babies 8 weeks ago. One is grey and the other is all white with red eyes--is this an albino cockatiel? I have never seen one before. It is very beautiful. Would you tell anything about this bird, and is this unusual? Thank you, Kitty

  Dear Kitty,

Yes this is an albino, if you have bred it from two whiteface it must be an albino, also it will be a hen, as only the males can carry the sex-linked colours. I wonder what else the male is split to. If you get any other colours in the nest that are different from the parents these will be hens, too.


Question 15 - One of the pairs in a mating colony have just bred, now the males are fighting. What should I do?

We have 2 males and 2 females in an aviary 6ft high x 8ft wide x 6ft deep with three nesting boxes (we were going to remove an old one but they used it before we had a chance to do so). One pair has mated and laid five eggs within the last couple of weeks, but there is a lot of fighting between the two males, mostly during the early morning. One male, when not sitting on the eggs, seems to be continually attacking the others (the other male in particular) and keeping him away from the nesting box with the eggs. Is this a normal protective instinct and/or is there anything we can do to calm them down? We'd be grateful for any advice. Many thanks, Sue

  Dear Sue,

Unfortunately, this is what can happen when colony breeding. I would suggest that you remove the non-breeding pair for the time being, otherwise the pair who are breeding will be unable to do their job properly. The cock bird who especially will be more interested in chasing the other male rather than sitting and rearing chicks. Sometimes what you tried will work, but it depends on the temperament of the individual birds.


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Question 16 - What kinds of plants are safe to put into the aviary?

I happened upon your home page one day, and found the articles quite helpful. The question I have is, I built an aviary in my backyard for my cockatiels, and would like to put live plants and trees into it. Which are safe to put in there? The aviary is 6ft high x 6ft wide x 7ft long. I live in sunny southern California. Any advice you could give would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Steve

  Dear Steve,

I am afraid it is a little hard to advise you about which types of plants are safe where you live, as some plants that might be OK here in Australia may be of a different variety in the States and therefore not suitable. Perhaps you could check with your local nursery as to which plants are bird friendly. I can tell you that whatever you put in won't have leaves for terribly long, as your cockatiels will delight in stripping them. A better option may be to plant the trees around or near your aviary and cut branches off to hang in the aviary as a treat for the birds.


Question 17 - I was told my baby cockatiel is an all-white, but he appears to be yellow. What is he?

I have just bought a baby cockatiel and was told from the breeder that he is an all-white cockatiel, but he appears to be yellow. Are all-white baby cockatiels yellow when they are young? He is 8 weeks old. Thanks, Justine

   Dear Justine,

Your baby is actually called a Lutino . Some people call them white but they are a pale yellow colour.


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Question 18 - Why does my cockatiel bite me if I pat his chest?

Thank you very much for replying to my e-mail. I'm hoping you might be able to help me with another question. I have only had him for 3 days and he's quite tame, he lets me hold him and he sits on my shoulder and nestles in my hair, but if I try to pat his chest he bites me a lot, though not hard. Am I expecting too much too soon? What would be a good book that I could read regarding cockatiels? Many thanks, Justine

Dear Justine,

Some birds like to be petted in certain places and other birds don't. If your bird doesn't like his chest being touched, just stick to the places he likes. They usually love being scratched at the back of the head. Australian Birdkeeper has some very good books. Two of their books especially may interest you: A Guide to Cockatiels and Pet & Companion Birds. The URL for their website is and their e-mail address is


Question 19 - Can I successfully breed with two females and one male in the group?

Should I breed my cockatiels? I have two female cinnamons and one normal cock, and I don't know if they will fight.

Dear Sender,

If you want to breed, you will have to take one of the females away or they will probably not breed successfully.


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Question 20 - Might this worm have come from our bird's excrement?

My son was outside with our 6-month-old cockatiel on the brim of his hat, when a worm fell on his shirt. He does not know if the worm fell out of a tree or if it was in Lucky Bird's excrement. The worm was green in colour, with stripes, which reminded me of an apple worm. Just curious if this could have come from our bird, or if it was just a regular worm. Your prompt response would be greatly appreciated. Thank you, Kim Brisson

Dear Kim,

I would think the worm came from the tree. The type of worms in bird droppings are usually microscopic, and look more like threads of white cotton.


Question 21 - Should we cut our bird's nails?

My cockatiel's nails have grown long should we have them cut? We have put in sandpaper perch covers but this has not solved the problem. We thought cutting the nails would be too distressing for the bird. Is there any alternative? Should we visit the vet?

Dear Sender,

The first thing to do is get rid of the sandpaper perch covers. These are not only ineffective at filing your birds nails but could result in giving him very sore feet. If your bird is easy to handle, you could try to trim his nails yourself. Hold him in a towel so that he is comfortable, leaving his feet free to be dealt with (best if two people do this together) and then just trim the very tips of his claws, as there is a vein which runs through the claw that will cause bleeding if cut. If this seems a bit too difficult, a visit to your local avian vet will get the job done for you.

As a preventative measure for the future, use natural branches instead of doweling for his perches. Bottlebrush or grevillea are suitable. These give the bird a natural way to keep the claws from getting too sharp by wearing them down as he climbs the branch. The best sort of branches to use are those that vary a bit in size throughout their length, so that the feet get exercised by not always holding the same sized perch.


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Question 22 - How long does the incubation process take, and how long does the bird stay on the nest?

How long does the incubation process take, and how long does the bird stay on the nest?

Dear Sender,

Cockatiel eggs take 21 days to hatch. The parents take turns and continue to sit until the chicks are nearly fully feathered (around 4 weeks after hatching).


Question 23 - For a first-time owner, is it better to have one bird or two, male or female?

I am considering buying a cockatiel and would like some information for a first-time cockatiel owner. That is, is it better to have one bird or two (I do not want to breed them), male or female? Which sex is more likely to talk? Size of cage etc. Thanks for your help, Mandy

Dear Mandy,

Males or females each make very good pets, although males are more likely to talk. The minimum cage size for a cockatiel would be 500mm wide by 500mm high and square in shape. Tall, narrow cages are not suitable for cockatiels. Whether you have one bird or two probably depends on how much time you have to devote to your pet. If it will have you for company most of the time, one would be fine. If you don't have a lot of time to devote to it, then perhaps two would be better.


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Question 24 - A cockatiel flew into our house and we plan to adopt it, but what should we and shouldn't we do?

A cockatiel flew into our house (Cape Town South Africa) a few days ago. It looks just like the yellow one with the red/orange spots on your Web page. The bird is so beautiful, intelligent and used to attention that we immediately fell in love with it. Seeing that we cannot trace the owner of the bird, we plan to adopt it. Could you please help us with the following:,

  • How can I determine the gender and approximate age of this cockatiel?

  • How old do they get on average?

  • Do they like to be handled by more than one person in the household (e.g. children)?

  • Is it OK to keep it outside in a big, sheltered birdcage without any other company?

  • Except for pet shop food, what other food is recommended (e.g. peas, beans, lucerne, grass)?

  • Are any regular medical checkups necessary?

  • If there is a clean (no feather) spot right on top of the bird's head, is that a sign of old age or something else?

Dear Sender,

It is very hard to determine the age of a bird unless it has a leg ring, which sometimes denotes what year the bird was born. Also sexing can be difficult with the mutation you have described (Lutino). If the bird is a mature male, you should find that the underside of its tail feathers no longer have any barring across the feathers. This is hard to see on a yellow bird but if you look in bright light you may see it. Young birds and mature hens retain the barring. The other way to sex them is by behaviour, males tend to whistle and carry on whereas hens are quieter and make a more screechy type of whistle.

Sometimes pet birds tend to bond with one member of the family more than others, but this doesn't mean everyone can't have a relationship with it. As far as housing is concerned, if the bird is very tame it would probably be happiest kept inside the house with the family for company. If the bird is not really tame, an outside aviary would be fine but perhaps a mate for it would be a good idea.

A good-quality seed mix, extras like celery, endive, silverbeet, carrot, sweet corn etc are all possibilities. Cockatiels are fairly selective about what they like, so try a few different things and see what it likes best. Regular worming is a good idea but unless the bird appears unwell at any time regular checks are not necessary. Cockatiels are usually robust birds with few problems. A visit to an avian vet to check him out to start off with would be a good idea to make sure he is nice and healthy (as you don't know his history).

The bald patch on the back of its head is a genetic fault in the Lutino mutation. It has no relationship to the bird's age. The average age for cockatiels to live is around 15 years, however one of our members has a bird that is 30. It depends a lot on lifestyle and probably good genes.


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Question 25 - If I don't the age of my females, when should I introduce a male into the aviary?

I have two female cinnamon cockatiels and I don't know how old they are. Should I wait a while until I introduce a male into the aviary?

Dear Sender,

There is no problem introducing a male as long as you don't supply a breeding box until you are fairly sure they are at least around 12 months old. However, only putting one male in with two females could create problems. The best idea would be to put two males in. When breeding cockatiels both sexes share sitting the eggs and rearing the chicks, so you can see that if both hens went to nest, the male would not be able to fulfil his obligations.


Question 26 - At what age do females stop breeding, and why are two of the birds fighting?

We have three birds. Two of them are females, one grey and the other white. The male is grey. The problem is between to two greys. The greys are a breeding pair, but the female is old. At what age do they stop breeding? The grey female is about 13-15 years old. The male is 9-10 years old. The white is about 10 years old. We had to take the female out of the cage so he would not pull all her head feathers out. Now that we have the white in with male, and all they do is fight. Any answers to the problem? - George & Patricia

Dear George & Patricia,

It would appear that you have a bit of personality clashing going on amongst your three birds. Really, there is no solution other than splitting them up. They are getting fairly old and although they will still breed at this age, it may not be desirable to do so. Sorry I can't offer you any more suggestions to solve your problem.


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Question 27 - Can I tame a 6-month-old cockatiel?

I have a cockatiel that is about 6 months old and I would like to tame her, but she is really frightened when you put your hand in the cage! I have contacted the Birdmunchies site and wrote them an e-mail, but they said you would be better to give me some tips on how to tame her 'cause I really would like to!!! So if you have any clues how to tame her please write back to me!!!! Thanks, Danille B

Dear Danille,

Trying to tame a bird that is older than about 2 or 3 months is a very hard job indeed. The only advice I can really give you is to have lots of patience and take things very slowly. If your bird has a clipped wing, you could try getting her out of her cage (preferably in a confined room such as a bedroom). Let her explore for a while and then try approaching her, give her a treat to eat, then gradually get her to trust you enough to hop onto your finger. As I said, it is a very hard job to train a bird at this stage and some may never like to be handled, in which case it may be best just to leave it in its cage (make sure it is large enough) and enjoy having it around.


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Question 28 - Why would a male suddenly pull the feathers out on both his wings, bloodying himself and the cage?

I don't know if you can help with this problem, but we have two cockatiels, a grey one called Buddy and a yellow called Snoopy. We have had both of them for about three months. They were found separately but live in the same cage and get on fairly well. We came home yesterday afternoon and found Snoopy with blood all over him. He had been pulling out his feathers on both wings. There was blood on the bottom of the cage as well. He didn't seem to be in any pain but he wasn't his usual chirpy self. We sat him under a lamp to keep him warm for around four hours before we went to bed. He seemed to be a little better this morning, but he still wasn't whistling (which is unusual because we can't normally shut him up) though he was eating and drinking. Do you have any idea why he would do this now? We thought of mites but I'm sure if there were mites in the cage we would have noticed Buddy itching as well. I haven't noticed any change in behaviour in the last few days with either of them. The only thing I can think of is that we went out on Saturday at 12.00 and didn't get home until Sunday afternoon. Could he have been fretting? We have gone away before but always make sure someone can stop in with them for a few hours. Should we take him to a vet tonight? He didn't look as though he had been bleeding any more last night however I don't want the sores to get infected. Please e-mail me back if you can be of any help. - Rebecca.

Dear Rebecca,

It sounds as though your bird has had a night fright. If a bird is startled when it is dark it will thrash around and bang it's wings against the side of the cage. This causes the flight feathers to fall out and usually results in some bleeding to the edges of the wings. If this is the problem he should settle down. Putting some heat on him was exactly the right thing to do. As long as he is eating and drinking you shouldn't have too much of a problem. One way to avoid night fright is to leave a low light on so that if the bird gets a fright it can see where it is going and doesn't do so much harm to itself. If you are at all worried though, take him to an avian vet. I am afraid I don't know where your nearest one would be. Hope this has helped.


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Question 29 - How can I determine the sex of my birds?

I currently have six cockatiel birds. One I am sure is a female and two I'm sure are males. One of them has fathered babies. I was sold two that are supposed to be female but they look just like the males. They all are grey with yellow heads and orange spots on the cheeks. Is there a way we can tell for sure what we have without going to the vet? We also have a young bird who has a pied look with yellow tail feathers, and we do not know what sex it is, either. Could you please give us some hints to look for or where we could get the information. I would like to raise some babies if possible. Haven't had any luck so far. Thank you, Sandra

Dear Sandra,

If your greys have yellow faces then they must be males; normal (grey) hens don't ever have a yellow face. With the young pied it is more difficult to tell. The best way is to watch its behaviour, i.e. young males will usually start to whistle and carry on. This is usually a good indication that you have a male.


Question 30 - What will my bird feed her chicks, and will she be able to manage alone?

My 6-year-old female cockatiel and 4-year-old male bred for the first time a few weeks ago. This is the first time for either one of them and an unexpected event, as they have been together for about 3 years without any evidence of sexual activity. I removed the male cockatiel from the cage because he was aggressively chasing and attacking the female. Up to that point he had shared sitting on the four eggs. He is now in another cage right next to her. Today, the first chick hatched and the female is feeding it, I think. I keep a supply of cockatiel seed in the cage, cuttle bone, fresh water, apple, parsley and bread. My question is, what will she feed the chicks and what should be offered, and will the seed be good enough? Should I keep the male away, and if so will she be able to take care of them by herself? Any information would be appreciated and helpful. I'm so afraid of something going wrong. Sincerely yours, Edie Newman

Dear Edie,

Some male birds just don't make very good parents. Most likely because your bird is 6 years old he has not taken to the idea very well. Probably the reason he was after the hen was because he was keen to start nesting again and didn't want any more to do with the current nest. Depending on how many chicks hatch, the hen may be able to cope. You will have to watch closely and monitor how she is going. She could probably manage two or three chicks on her own but any more and she may find it a struggle. For your part keep plenty of soft foods up to her, e.g. multi-grain bread, sweet corn, celery and silverbeet, plus all the other foods you normally give her. The bread is the most important as this will enable her to feed quickly and get it into the babies equally fast. A slice of bread could be given first thing in the morning and again during the day. If she isn't coping too well (you will know if the babies aren't getting full crops and generally don't seem to be thriving), you have a couple of options; either supplement all the chicks whilst leaving them with the mother, or take some or all of them away and hand rear them. Obviously, the longer they can stay with the mother the easier your job will be. If you have to hand rear, use a good-quality hand rearing mix such as Roudybush Formula 3 and keep the babies at a nice warm, stable temperature.

As far as your male bird goes you would probably be best not to breed with him again, as this kind of behaviour would most likely reoccur and give you the same problems next time. If the hen does well and you are keen to breed again, you could buy a new male for her, preferably around one or two years old. It is fairly unusual for a male to exhibit such aggressive behaviour, but it does happen occasionally. However, as a general rule, most cockatiels make good and devoted parents. I hope this has been of assistance.


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Question 31 - What is the best nesting material to use?

I am just interested in the type of nesting material you place at the bottom of your nesting boxes-- are there some better than others? Thanks, Jeff Phillips

Dear Jeff,

We use pine shavings (untreated). Most breeders find this the best material to use.


Question 32 - Can I band my bird for identification purposes?

I found your address on the Internet and I hope you don't mind if I ask a couple of questions. I recently obtained a cockatiel. I found him (at least I think it's a him) half dead on my doorstep and I was unable to locate his owner (there was little chance of this since I live in central Melbourne). I have now decided to keep him and have Christened him Casper. Anyway, to get to the point, I was wondering if there is any way to band my little friend so if he does happen to get lost again hopefully someone can contact me? I am trying to train him and was also wondering if there are any good books that you could recommend, or do you happen to publish a booklet yourself that is available to purchase? Thanks, Dan

Dear Dan,

In answer to your first question, you can put a split leg ring on your bird but sometimes birds don't accept being rung once they are older and can bite at the ring and perhaps damage their leg. A Guide to Cockatiels by Peggy Cross is available through Australian Birdkeeper is a very good book. Their URL is


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Question 33 - The chicks appear to be afraid of their father and retreat to the nest as soon as they seem him. Is this normal?

I'm wondering if you could help us, as we have a pair of cockatiels and they have had three babies. They are three weeks old and the male adult is pecking out the feathers on its head. They seem too scared to come out of the nest; as soon as they see the cock they go back down. Is this normal? We have a couple of books but they don't say anything about this behaviour. Thank you, Don & Karon Wallis

Dear Don & Karon,

This is fairly normal behaviour. The cock bird probably wants to go back to nest, so he is trying to hurry them out of the nest. Chicks will normally look out the hole for a few days before they decide to take the plunge and they usually drop out of site when they see anything coming. You will probably find that once the chicks fledge the cock bird won't bother them anymore. They usually fledge at around four weeks of age, and I would say yours are near to fledging because they are starting to look out. Hope this has helped.


Question 34 - What size steel and wire mesh should I use in building a suspended aviary?

Firstly let me introduce myself; my name is David Fitch and I live in Townsville. I have kept birds for many years, mainly finches, budgies and peachfaces. I have just read your very informative article on suspended aviaries. As I am planning to build some, could you answer the following question please?. What size steel should I use for the frame, and what size wire mesh? I purchased five pairs about 6 months ago and they are housed in 3-metre-square aviaries. I was going to divide the aviaries into flights, but have been considering suspended aviaries for some time. My aim is to have suspended aviaries throughout the garden, and a large flight 6mt x 3mt x 2mt to house the birds when not breeding. As well as cockatiels I have a pair of princesses, and I plan to get other compatible parrots in the near future. Many thanks, David.

Dear David,

I use 25mm steel for the frames and one x half-inch wire. We breed in suspendeds then let them have the off season in a large aviary. I found that colony breeding caused too many problems when nesting. If you can, make them 900 high and wide and 6 to 8 feet long.


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Question 35 - Will the stress of taking my bird with me on a flight to New York be too much for him?

I am going to be moving from Florida to New York, and I am afraid my only option will be to take my cockatiel on the plane with me. The airline said that the bird will be allowed in the cabin with me for a charge of 50 dollars, but I am still afraid that the stress may be too much for him and he may die. Am I just overreacting, or will this really be a problem?

Dear Sender,

Birds actually travel quite well provided a suitable travel box is used. We send birds all over Australia by air and have never had a problem. They aren't allowed in the cabin here, though, and have to travel with the cargo. So your bird will be travelling in style. The best idea for a travel box is a smallish size, e.g. 1ft wide x 9'' high x 10'' deep, made from plywood with solid sides except for one where you have a wire opening. There should be no perches, and you should put in seed and water and any other treats. The idea of a small, closed-in box is that the bird feels safe, and in case it does get a fright it isn't able to thrash about and do any damage, as it would in a larger space. Ideally, before you go give the bird a few test runs in the box, just to get used to it.


Question 36 - If I put my Lutino and albino together, what would I get?

I came across your site this morning, and I was wondering if you could help me. I bought a whiteface cock, no split, and put it in with a normal hen, split for most things. They have had a couple of offspring and one turned out to be a Lutino. So could you tell me, if you can, what sex it is. That's my first problem. M y second one is that I've got an Albino hen and a normal cock spilt for Lutino and whiteface. They had an albino baby; could you tell me what sex it is, and if I could put those two babies together what would I get? Thanks a lot, Lucas

Dear Lucas,

In answer to your question about your first pairing of a whiteface cock with a normal hen, the Lutino baby would be a hen and your cock bird must be split to Lutino. Regarding the second pairing, your albino baby could be either a cock or a hen. Assuming that it is a cock and you put it with the Lutino/whiteface hen, you would expect to get albinos and Lutino/ whitefaces of both sexes.


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Question 37 - We have eight eggs that we presume are probably dead and it looks like another is on the way. What should we do with the first eggs and how do we stop the hen from laying more?

My wife and I have two cockatiels that over the last few weeks have started laying eggs. I read on one of your pages (I think) that young birds may be pretty bad at sitting at first, but after a few weeks will improve. Our birds now have eight eggs and there is sign of another on the way. We are presuming that the first lot of eggs are dead by now due to such irregular nesting. We are thinking that we should take some of the initial eggs out, maybe seeing if there are a chicks in some of them. What to do??? How do we stop our hen from laying more eggs? A note on age: our hen is over 1 year of age, not sure at the moment how many months, and our cock is just under 6 months. Regards, Matthew and Simone

Dear Matthew & Simone,

In answer to your questions, I think the problem may be that your cock bird is too young . He really needs to be closer to 12 months for breeding to go more smoothly. If the cock bird is too young to initiate the correct sequence of procedures, the hen will just go ahead and start laying and probably keep laying. My suggestion would be to check if any of the eggs are fertile; if not, take the nestbox away and wait until around August (which is the optimum breeding time) and then start again, and hopefully the cock bird will ready to do his job.


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Question 38 - If an egg hatches that the birds have lost interest in, can we hand rear it, and can we make our own formula?

We have a couple of cockatiels that are about 10 months old. About 3-4 weeks ago they laid eggs. Everything seemed to go fine, they sat on the eggs and did their job, but the eggs have not hatched yet and they seem to have lost interest in them. We can hear sounds from one of the eggs which has also changed colour but the parents are continuously having sex and have begun laying new eggs next to the old ones. What should we do? Remove the old ones? Take away the nestbox? Are they too young to have babies anyway? If the egg that is making sounds hatches, is it possible to hand feed it if the parents don't take care of it? How can we make our own feeding formula? Thank you! Camilla

Dear Camilla,

Your birds are a little young. Usually, they will do better at around 12 months. Also, it is a good idea to start them off as we get into the warmer months. It sounds as though the eggs were fertile but did not hatch. This could mean they didn't sit them at some point (perhaps one night), or possibly the eggs were a little dry and the chicks were unable to chip through. When you say you can hear a noise from the egg, if it is the sound of a chick tapping, try moistening the egg with some warm water (just dab a bit around with your finger) and leave it with the parents. This may help the chick hatch; however, if it only makes a noise when you shake it, this would just be the dried-up yoke rattling. Since the parents have laid again you may as well wait and see what happens. They will sort out which eggs are good and push the old eggs away. If they fail to hatch this clutch, take the nestbox out ,give them a break and start again. Make sure your hen has access to lots of calcium. Hand rearing from the egg is a very time-consuming occupation. Normally, if you were wanting to hand rear to make a good pet, you would take the chick away at around 3 weeks of age. There are a few homemade hand-rearing recipes around, but the best ones these days are the commercially-prepared formulas such as Roudybush Formula 3, as these take into account all the things needed for a balanced diet for young chicks.


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Question 39 - How do we hand feed and raise a 14-day-old bird?

We have recently purchased a 14-day-old cockatiel. We have not been able to find any information on feeding and hand raising young cockatiels. Would you be able to help us and some info via e-mail. It would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

Dear Sender,

I would be very concerned if someone has sold you a 14-day-old chick. This is a very unethical thing to do, as hand rearing a chick from this age is a very-time consuming and serious job and should only be undertaken by someone who has experience at hand rearing. A chick of this age needs 4-hourly feeds of a balanced parrot hand-rearing food, and temperature and consistency of mix are critical to the chick's survival. If you have been sold a chick this small, I would suggest you either take it back to the breeder or seek assistance from someone in your area who is experienced at hand feeding. Alternatively, seek help from your local avian vet. If on the other hand you mean the chick is 14 days out of the nest, it would mean the chick is about 6 weeks old and, while still too young to be completely weaned, has a much better chance of survival.


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