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Best Way to Breed a Cockatiel

Cockatiels are the most popular pet bird in the Western world because they are friendly, sociable and funny. They are also quite vocal and their mating ritual is mesmerizing.

Cockatiels are an excellent pet for the family and, ideally, need a home where they’ll get plenty of attention. The fact that the breeding process is relatively straightforward means it’s something anyone could succeed at.

Do make sure you have somewhere for the chicks to go once they are born though! So, how do you breed cockatiels? What is the best way?

The best way to breed cockatiels successfully is to match a pair of non-related birds who are fit and healthy, prepare an environment, introduce them to each other, and then allow nature to take its course.

Finding the right Cockatiel pair

This is arguably the most important part of the whole process.  Get this part right and you’ll be on your way.

Best Way to Breed a Cockatiel

Are your cockatiels old enough? If you want them to breed they should be at the right age and for the male, this is at least 12 months of age.

Females mature around 12-15 months and should not be used for breeding before this point as this can cause egg binding. If you don’t know, egg binding is a potentially fatal condition where a female bird is not able to deliver an egg that has become stuck in her reproductive tract.

Are the birds related? Although related birds can breed it is not recommended as they have a much higher chance of producing deformed offspring.

Of course, you may not know this but do as much research as you can, including talking to the previous owners if possible. If you think they are related, they should not be considered as a breeding pair.

Are they healthy? Perhaps obvious, but making sure the pair are healthy to begin with will give them the best chance of reproduction. If possible, get them both checked out by your vet before you think about starting the breeding process. Not many people are aware but the weight of a cockatiel plays quite a big factor in the breeding process.

For instance, if your cockatiels are underweight it could be a sign that the bird is under-nourished. An overweight bird actually decreases the chances of fertility and increases the possibility of egg binding in the female.

After all that – even after doing all the checks you can you may discover that after becoming parents your birds will neglect the new arrivals. Not much you can do about this one. It’s not as if you can get them both to fill in a questionnaire before they start is it?

Preparation for Cockatiel Breeding

Daylight – Cockatiels need light to be able to breed and it doesn’t have to be natural. Ideally, you should have around 12 hours of light per day but whatever you can do around this amount of time is fine. If necessary put a lamp on a timer so you don’t have to keep remembering to switch it on and off every day.

Diet – Your birds should be kept well fed with good food during the whole process. Actually, this is stating the obvious isn’t it as they should be on a good diet throughout their lives. However, it is more important at this time of course.

So this means lots of cuttlebone, sprouted and cockatiel seeds and if required supplements. Remember to change their fresh water a couple of times a day and clean the container once a day. Also, don’t forget the fresh fruit and vegetables!

Move them together – You’ll need a large cage as they’ll require not only a lot of space for the breeding but also for when the babies arrive. But how big should you make it? Ideally, the size should be about 6 feet by 4 feet and around 3 to 4 feet in height.

This is a big cage and will dominate any small room so make sure you have enough space for it. At the moment, the birds are only just starting to get to known each other so no need for a nest box just yet (this info comes later).

Location – Your birds won’t be happy if you put them in a noisy environment so to keep their stress levels down make sure they’re in a nice quiet location of the house where the temperature (and light) can be regulated and they won’t be disturbed by children running past shooting each other with nerf guns. Or is that just my house?

The nest box – You’ll need to keep the pair in the cage together for at least two or three weeks and if you don’t think they’ve bonded properly by that point, then longer. Once they are though, you’ll need to get them a nest box.

  • These need to be smaller than you probably think, only about 12 inches by 12 inches is required for cockatiels, surprisingly.
  • As far as the material is concerned some people actually use cardboard boxes but personally I wouldn’t recommend this. You can get some great ones (and cheap also) that are made out of wood, plastic or indeed metal. A lot of people end up with the wood option though as they don’t cost much, regulate temperate well and can be used as firewood once you’re finished with it!
  • For the bedding, it needs to be safe and warm for the chicks when they eventually arrive. Some people use newspapers or pine shavings for this although a word of warning, cedar shavings are known to cause problems with the chicks which can be very dangerous.
  • It’s a good idea to have some kind of access to the nest without actually disturbing it. This way you can get a sneaky look at the chicks without actually disturbing them. Another idea, one that I prefer actually is to set-up a little wifi camera in the box. This won’t disturb your birds and you can watch exactly what’s going on whenever you want but from your phone or PC. It’s awesome if you would like some recommendations for a camera by the way (did I mention I’m a bit of a nerd) then drop me a comment below and I’ll give you a suggestion.

Now things are all ready we can get on with the serious stuff …

The Cockatiel Breeding Process

With everything now in place, the fun can begin! You’ve done the hard work already and now it’s up to nature to find its way. You can separate this stage into a series of sub-events, listed below:

Preparation of the nest – when the male starts preparing the nest then it’s a sure sign that your cockatiels are thinking about mating. It’s at this point that the male may start chewing on the nest box (or not if it’s made out of plastic or metal) and they do this to make the size bigger if required, it’s what they do in the wild.

You will see him re-arrange the bedding, potentially several times until he is satisfied that it is just to his requirements. Only when he is happy that both the nesting box and the bedding is just how it should be, can the female cockatiel enter.

Initial mating signs – Next you will notice the male perform the mating dance.  They are certainly not backward in coming forwards! They will appear to imitate a woodpecker and you may see them hitting their beak against whatever is around them. You will also notice them hopping rather than ‘walking’ around.

They will be quite vocal and will be whistling quite loudly as well as bobbing their heads and also grooming each other. The female will decide when it’s time to mate and you can recognize this as she will crouch down near the male. This position makes it feasible for the male to mate. Let the party begin.

Mating – The mating act will take around a minute (lucky girl) and then the male will simply move off, possibly flying if possible (given enough room).  It does vary just a little but the female should lay her eggs about two weeks after mating. If you have a camera set-up then this is perfect as you’ll be able to watch the process after it has happened!

Brooding – Both the male and female will take turns brooding the eggs although you will notice that the female will do most of the work and will spend more time on them than the male.

This next bit is fascinating though (well at least to me) – you might see that both the male and female pluck some feathers out of themselves which expose bare skin. It is thought that they may do this so their skin (which is now exposed) can make some kind of contact with the eggs. Is this the real reason?

Who knows, if you have a better idea then please leave a comment below. Maybe stress-related?

Best Way to Breed a Cockatiel

Hatching – The actual hatching of the eggs takes 21 days from the start of its incubation. However, the eggs will be laid by the female for about 7 days before she is ready to incubate them.

Then, she will lay one egg roughly every 2 days until she has anything from 2 to an 8 egg clutch. During this time you will notice that as the female cockatiel is incubating the eggs, the male is the provider of the food.

Have patience and leave them alone – It’s important that at this point you don’t in any way disturb the process. I know it’s tempting to take a sneaky look at what’s going on inside but you can do more harm than good at this point by disturbing them.

You see, this is where the camera comes into its own again. No need to disturb them at all!  If you don’t have a camera (why not???) then very occasionally take a quick peek just to make sure there are no chicks obviously in trouble or worse, dead.

This is a very important part of the bonding process between the chick and parents so just let them do their thing. It will take a while for the weaning to being (which is when the chicks eat without the parent’s help), usually up to around the 10-week mark.

Separation – Around this 10-week mark you may decide to separate the males from the females to prevent any further breeding which may take place between them.  Brothers and sisters can actually pair-up around this point, assuming the conditions are appropriate.

Also, at this point, you may want to prevent the male and female from breeding further. Which they probably will if left to their own devices. Now how you can do this is up to you but here are a couple of suggestions:

  • Just remove the nest box – it has now served its purpose and you will no longer need it (well, until the next time) so persuade the cockatiels to use the main cage once more and remove the nest box. Without this, they will not mate.
  • Lighting – As we mentioned earlier, cockatiels require around 12 hours of light to breed. I’m not saying turn their environment into darkness for a while but you can reduce it somewhat, so maybe around 6 to 8 hours of light a day. What this does is convince the bird that it’s no longer summer and actually winter (with the long,  dark nights) – this will make it a lot less likely that they will mate.

Starting to raise the Cockatiel chicks (extra content)

The chicks are initially of course raised by their parents, which will last at least for the first week. During the day they provide the food which (if in captivity) has been provided for them and during the night time they will regurgitate the food for them to consume.

They grow quickly and if the mum and dad have been well socialized from an early age they shouldn’t have any problem with you handling the chicks at an early age.

Although, it may be a better idea to handle the chicks whilst the parents aren’t looking! Maybe when they’re outside of the cage.

Monitor their weight daily and record in a spreadsheet. If you’re thinking of keeping the chicks then you will need to ensure the males and females remain separated and invest potentially in a bigger cage!

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