Last Updated on October 2, 2023 by Ali Shahid
Having a cockatiel is a rewarding experience, but having a tame one is the cherry on top. Many people want to tame their cockatiels but it is not easy overnight. In this article, I will explain to you how to tame a cockatiel in a step-by-step guide.
When considering the purchase of a pet bird, the desire to select one that is easily tamed and capable of forming a strong bond is often a priority. This explains the widespread popularity of cockatiels, particularly among children.
How to tame a Cockatiel?
Nevertheless, as with most things in life, taming a cockatiel requires patience, experience, and a bit of luck. The initial step involves cultivating trust with the bird. Over time, it becomes possible to train a cockatiel to the extent that it can even learn a few tricks.
Having personally successfully tamed eight cockatiels using the approach outlined below, I am inclined to share this guide to benefit others. It is important to follow the sequence of steps while maintaining a patient attitude. I am confident you will succeed in taming your cockatiel by following these instructions.
When Should I Begin Training My Cockatiel?
Similar to many other species, including humans, starting the training of your cockatiel at a tender age ensures optimal results. During this phase, they are highly receptive, making it easier to capture their attention. Ideally, the training journey should commence when the bird is around 8 to 12 months old.
However, if you initiate training a bit later, ensure it falls within the first six months to maximize effectiveness. It is worth noting that training adult birds poses more challenges and might not yield the desired outcomes.
For those seeking guidance on taming an older bird, a dedicated section awaits at the end of this article. If this aligns with your interest, feel free to proceed directly to that segment.
How Long Does It Take To Tame A Cockatiel?
In terms of timeframes, a loose estimate would suggest that taming a bird could span from two weeks at the minimum to a few months of consistent effort at the maximum. However, it is important to be candid here – there isn’t a fixed timeline for a bird to become tame.
Even if you are dealing with a highly social, hand-raised Cockatiel, taming takes time. It is important to note that each Cockatiel exhibits its unique personality and level of interest in new situations and people.
For example, a young, hand-raised Cockatiel typically requires less time to tame compared to an adult bird that hasn’t been accustomed to human interaction. While a hand-raised Cockatiel needs time to acclimate to your presence and voice, they are often more receptive to perching on your hand than a bird that hasn’t been closely associated with people before.
Conversely, training an unhandled adult Cockatiel usually demands more time, given their limited exposure to human interaction throughout their life. Unhandled adult birds not only need to adapt to a new environment and a new caregiver, but they might also be entirely unfamiliar with physical engagement with humans.
Although taming an adult bird is not easy, it can be a rewarding experience. In some fortunate cases, you might come across an adult bird that eagerly embraces your taming efforts. However, it is advisable to be prepared for a more extended process when working with an untamed adult compared to a hand-raised bird.
Tried and Tested Guide to Tame a Cockatiel
Give your new cockatiel space and time to adapt. Avoid rushing into taming until a few weeks have passed, allowing the bird to become familiar with its surroundings. Maintain a serene environment for the cockatiel.
Step-2 Engage in Gentle Conversation
Initiate conversations with your cockatiel from outside its cage. Use a calm, consistent tone, avoiding sudden volume changes. Opt for a gentle volume and position yourself slightly below the bird’s eye level, showing non-threatening behavior. Continue this for several days before attempting any training.
Step-3 Establish Comfort
Ensure the bird becomes comfortable with your presence. Once it’s accustomed to your voice, it might approach you when you speak to it. Now, you can start training gradually, at the bird’s pace.
Step-4 Notice Behavior Changes
As the cockatiel feels more at ease, its curiosity will grow, leading it to explore its cage and interact with toys. A significant sign of progress is when the bird moves closer to you within its cage upon your entry. These signs indicate the bird’s readiness for further taming.
Step-5 Moving to Handle
When your cockatiel is relaxed and familiar with your voice and surroundings, you are ready for the next step: handling. Begin by teaching the bird that your hand brings positive experiences, mainly treats.
A favorite treat like a strand of millet can work wonders. It’s easy to hold and extends from your hand, preventing accidental pecks.
By associating your hand with treats and positive interactions, your bird will welcome your presence instead of reacting aggressively. Avoid directly reaching into your bird’s space; instead, pick a neutral spot within the cage.
Gradually introduce your hand and allow the bird to approach at its own pace, building trust through patience and consistency. Don’t be disheartened if the bird doesn’t respond immediately; some are more cautious.
Eventually, your bird will eagerly approach your hand for treats, even without a treat incentive, showing the trust you’ve built.
Step-6 Advancing to Holding
The much-anticipated step of actually holding your bird is next. Unlike other pets, avoid enclosing the bird; instead, extend your index or two fingers, approaching its chest slowly.
Ensure the bird is comfortable with your hand’s presence from previous interactions. If the bird retreats, remain patient and try again when it settles. Gently pressing against the bird’s side will encourage it to step forward and naturally climb onto your finger.
Let the bird rest on your finger without sudden movements, praising it verbally. To teach stepping off, guide the bird towards a perch, using a similar movement as before. Give your bird time to get accustomed to this process, respecting its comfort zone.
Step-7 Opening the Cage
Only open the cage when the cockatiel is at ease. As the bird becomes more comfortable, it will stay calm around you and might even take treats from your hand. This might take weeks or months for adult birds unused to human interaction. Ensure a secure environment before opening the cage.
Step-8 Gradual Approach
Progress by moving your hand closer during sessions. Once the bird is comfortable approaching and eating from your hand, introduce your hand without treats, using verbal praise for calm behavior. Limit sessions to 10-15 minutes, once or twice daily.
Step-9 Training “Step Up”
Teach the cockatiel to step up on your finger using verbal cues. Give the command “Step up” as it begins to step onto your hand, praising when it complies.
Repeat this for the other foot, rewarding consistently. After practice, the cockatiel will respond to the command without needing treats. Remember, patience and gentle persistence are key throughout this process.
Training Cockatiels for Various Tricks
Cockatiels possess intelligence and can learn more than just stepping onto your hand. Here are some additional training methods:
Utilize clicker training to reinforce good behavior. When your cockatiel behaves well, use a clicker to create a distinctive clicking sound, immediately followed by a treat. Consistently reinforce positive actions, as repetition is key in their learning process.
If you lack a clicker, tapping on the cage can serve as a distinct sound. Over time, the bird will associate the sound with a reward, eliminating the need for treats.
Cockatiels are capable of mimicking human speech. Train your bird to talk by repeating phrases with enthusiasm and a consistent tone. If the bird shows interest by reacting with head movements, dilated pupils, or other responses, reward it when it attempts to repeat the phrase.
Walking on a Tightrope
Teaching your cockatiel to walk on a tightrope is relatively simple due to their natural climbing tendencies. Suspend a sturdy rope between supports and encourage the bird to move along it by offering treats for each step it takes.
As the bird becomes more adept, guide it to traverse the entire length of the rope by holding a treat at the far end and using a verbal command. Always offer praise when your cockatiel progresses. Some birds might appreciate gentle head strokes as a form of encouragement.
Remember that patience and consistent positive reinforcement are crucial throughout the training process. Your cockatiel’s willingness to learn and engage in tricks will depend on its unique personality and disposition.
Is it hard to tame a cockatiel?
The ease of taming a cockatiel varies according to its age. If the cockatiel is an adult, it can be quite challenging to tame, especially if it wasn’t raised by hand. Nevertheless, taming is still possible with some effort.
It is recommended to trim their wing feathers and keep them in separate cages initially, as progress might be slow otherwise. Patience is key, as taming won’t happen quickly. On the other hand, taming a young cockatiel is relatively simple compared to adults.
How To Train An Older Cockatiel?
Training an older bird, particularly one that has experienced neglect or hasn’t been accustomed to handling, can be a bit more challenging. While new bird owners might face some difficulties, those with experience can still successfully train an older cockatiel. Here are some tips for training an older bird:
- If you acquire an older bird, keep in mind that it’s likely to have faced significant challenges in the past. Older birds often become available for sale after being surrendered or rescued due to previous owners’ inability to provide proper care or mistreatment. Establishing trust with these birds, who may associate humans with negative experiences, will take more time.
- Exercise caution, especially with older cockatiels, as they might bite if they feel threatened. If dealing with an overly aggressive cockatiel, it could be beneficial to seek assistance from a veterinarian or a cockatiel expert.
- While spending time near the cage and conversing with your bird, maintain a distance that doesn’t make the bird feel threatened.
- An older bird that is wary of hands might hiss or retreat when approached for feeding. Approach this situation with patience, and gentleness, and speak to the bird soothingly to reassure it.
- The training process is similar to working with a younger bird, but it requires heightened patience and affection.
Ali Shahid is a veterinarian by profession and an animal lover. He loves to give expert opinions about different animals. He has worked in top organization of birds like Bigbird Feed and Poultry Research institute. He loves birds, especially parrots and has great experience in different parrot farms.