Housing Pet Cockatiels

By Dr. Vanessa Rolfe, DVM
Salem, Virginia


Put as many bird-safe toys in the cage without cluttering, to provide mental and physical stimulation. Offer purchased toys or such homemade toys as rawhide, empty paper rolls, or clothespins without the spring.

Locate the cage in an active, safe area (the kitchen may have dangerous fumes). Allow plenty of time out of the cage for flight or play. You can buy or build a “play-gym” covered in toys and climbing branches to give the parrot independent, supervised safe playtime.


Never allow a pet bird unsupervised flight time around the house. It could become poisoned, drowned, electrocuted, slammed, or attacked by a dog or cat. For its safety, a bird needs to stay in a cage when you are not around. Buy the largest one you can afford that is practical. Minimum size: at least twice the wingspan wide, twice to three times the height. For smaller birds it needs to be much wider in proportion than in larger birds. Make sure you bird has some supervised time out every day.

Only put paper on the bottom of the cage. Use newspaper (black and white), paper towels, wax paper or paper grocery bags. Corncob, shavings, sand, or kitty litter can cause impactions, and the dust can carry fungus spores and infect the respiratory system. You can also monitor changes in the droppings much easier with paper.

Perches of many shapes and sizes will give foot exercise. Do not use sandpaper covers, they are very irritating to the feet. Perches made of terra cotta or cement can help keep nails dulled. Safe branches include dogwood, sugar maple, manzanita, willow, or beech. Most cages only need a few perches, up high.