Cockatiel Egg-laying and Incubation

The information about Cockatiel Egg-laying and Incubation like these large droppings will continue throughout the nesting period and the hen may only come out to eliminate every 12 hours.

Incubating and Hatching Eggs

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Before Egg-laying:

The female will spend more and more time in the nest box, and she will feed from the cuttlebone and mineral block, the nutrients of which she needs to form the eggshell.

At this point it is especially important to provide water for bathing as she needs the moisture for the egg-building process within her, as well as to regulate the humidity in the nest box.

One way you will know eggs are on the way (within a day or so) is that the hen’s droppings will be huge compared to what they would be under normal circumstances. The parents will store their droppings and eliminate less often but with bigger results when they do leave the nest box. Cockatiels, as most birds, are very clean; and they understand the importance of not soiling the nesting area.

These large droppings will continue throughout the nesting period. The hen may only come out to eliminate every 12 hours.

Another indication of impending egg-laying is the hen’s vent. 12 to 24 hours before the egg-laying, the hen’s vent swells quite visibly. The vent takes on the outline of the round egg hours before it is expelled from the hen.

Each clutch consists of 4 to 7 white eggs that are laid on alternate days. Although occasionally you will find eggs laid every day until the clutch is completed. Both the male and female share the incubation of the eggs — the duration of which is usually between 18 – 21 days.

Egg Laying:

The hen may begin laying eggs in as little as two weeks after the first mating. This being said, sometimes a hen may get carried away and begin laying without a mating having taken place.

Eggs are laid every second day with a normal clutch consisting of 4 to 6 eggs.

If the hen has never laid before, don’t be alarmed if the first egg has some blood on it and is elongated. Any chick within the egg may still develop quite normally.

Cockatiel Eggs - different sizes

Eggs can be candled about 7 to 10 days after their incubation has begun to verify fertility and development of the egg. At that time you should see a web of tiny red/pink veins starting to become visible inside the shell.

Eggs Viable or Not

Incubating the Eggs:

Cockatiels usually don’t start incubating the eggs until after the second or third egg is laid, with a clutch averaging 4 to 6.  Fertilized eggs will remain viable at room temperature for up to ten days as long as the incubation process has not begun. They cannot interrupt the incubation process without killing the chick inside the egg.

Both male and female cockatiels share the incubation of the eggs and it is common to see both of them in the nestbox at the same time. Sometimes one bird will be sitting on the eggs and the other just sitting beside and sometimes each bird will incubate somet of the eggs. When one bird is outside the nestbox eating, to relieve him or herself, to eat or drink or to bathe — the other will take over the incubation of the eggs.

The father does a lot of the egg incubation during the daytime when the hen eats and rests outside the nest box. The hen will incubate during the night, while the male usually sits outside the nest box guarding it.

Box Inspection:

You can check the nest box a few times each day without unduly disturbing the birds. In fact, it’s one way to assure the birds are used to having you check on them. Announce your visit by tapping on the box. The reason for this being that if the parents get startled or scared, they may accidentally break eggs or trample chicks to death. Therefore, you really don’t want to scare or surprise the parents by opening the box abruptly during the time of incubation and raising of young chicks.

After announcing yourself, gently herd the parents aside using a sturdy magazine or some other barrier, if they choose to remain in the nesting box during the inspection. Many cockatiels will prefer to leave the nesting box at that time. Even if you know that the birds won’t leave the box, it is a good idea to tap on the box and announce yourself lest you startle them and they break an egg.

The advantage of having well-socialized cockatiels as breeders is that they are less likely to get scared or upset when you check on them.

  Record Keeping:

Proper procedure would be to note the day the first egg was laid. I developed a form that you are welcome to use. Form in PDF FormatWord Format.. The benefits are manifold for maintaining these records. You will be able to make educated decisions as to pairing up the chicks in the future by maintaining records of their heritage. The new owners may request that information. Breeders often use a non-toxic, water-proof soft-tip pen to mark each egg as it is laid (Number 1 for the first, etc.).


The chicks will hatch after 18 to 21 days of incubation. 

Hatching Chicks:

The eggs hatch approximately 18 to 21 days after incubation begins. However, do not jump the gun and remove eggs that didn’t hatch as expected. Sometimes the incubation starts later then the breeder is aware, or the circumstances weren’t optimal prolonging the process.

If the eggs are late, you can candle them to assess fertility. If the egg is anything but translucent when candled, leave the egg at least for 28 days before removing it from the nest box.

Hatching Chicks

As the hatch date approaches, increase the amount of soft food given to the parents so that they will be accustomed to it when they need it for feeding the babies.

Before an egg hatches, the chick inside starts peeping. The chick uses a special egg tooth to peck around the circumference of the egg. It takes from a few hours to two days to peck all the way around it, depending on the strength of the chick and the thickness of the egg.

This process is called “pipping.” Once a chick has pipped most of the way around its egg, it turns inside the shell and breaks out of the egg.

After the exhausting hatching, the chicks can often be seen resting on their backs. During these first few hours of its life, the chick’s main requirement is warmth provided by their parents.

For the next 8 to 12 hours, the parents will not feed the chick, as it receives nourishment from absorbing its yolk sac. This is a very crucial step. If the yolk sac isn’t properly absorbed, the chick isn’t likely to survive. Only after process that is completed, the parents should commence feeding.

  • If the parents don’t start feeding after about 8 hours, the breeder may want to assist by feeding the chick a drop or two of Pedialyte. If they parents still haven’t started to feed the chick after 12 hours, you may need to pull the chick for handfeeding, or — if you are lucky enough to have another breeding pair which is at the same stage of incubating / egg hatching — you could foster the chick out with them. Handfeeding chicks from day one is very challenging as they require night feedings for the first week.

Novice breeders may be concerned to see the chick laying on its back with a full crop and the fat abdomen and think something is wrong.

However, this is perfectly normal. Parents will feed the chicks this way until they are strong enough to get up and beg for food. Generally, the biggest chick that cries the loudest gets most of the food.

  • Sometimes, parents may push a chick aside from the rest and not care for it. This could be because the chick suffers from a medical problem; however, it could just as easily be because the parents of over-whelmed — maybe because they are physically exhausted or feel there isn’t enough food for all the chicks. The situation needs to be assessed by the care taker and remedial action may have to be taken. In any case, the chick may need to be hand-raised.
  • The Youngest Chicks Don’t Thrive or Die: The chances for the smallest chicks are diminished, as the larger chicks are stronger and more demanding and will, therefore, receive more food than the younger chicks. This may result in stunted growth and, in some cases, even death.
    James Anagnos, an experienced canary breeder, suggests the following: “[T]he day [the hen] lays her first egg take it from her and store in safe place in a cup with some tissue or cotton. [Please refer to this webpage about properly storing eggs BEFORE incubation]. Take all her eggs every day as soon as she has laid them. When she has laid all [or her last] eggs, place them all back in her nest. She will now incubate all the eggs at the same time, so all the eggs hatch at about the same time. This will give all birds an equal chance. They are all the same size and strong.”This will greatly reduce the chance of losing the younger chicks.  


The first ten days of a chick’s life is a period of very rapid growth and development.

For the first week, a chick is blind and helpless. A newly hatched chick is wet and has the appearance of an embryo. Its eyes are closed and it has a yellow down (white down if it is a white-face chick) rather than feathers.

The down will be wet initially; but once it dries, it will be rather fluffy. The chicks will lose that fuzz within days and be completely bald.

After about 10 days you will be able to see pin feathers, which are their first feathers. At that time, the chick can easily move around the nest box and beg for food. Their vocalizations change from soft peep, peep, to loud and raspier calls for food.

Chicks with red eyes are probably going to be Lutinos (yellow cockatiels) or true Albinos (white cockatiels). All others will have dark eyes. 


Chicks are usually banded at seven

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6 thoughts on “Cockatiel Egg-laying and Incubation”

  1. Cockatiel eggs
    My cockatiel is laying eggs she and her mate are inqubating the eggs but still have not got any chicks. She is on her third batch now. Pls help us on how to get the eggs hatched

    • Removing the eggs is the…
      Removing the eggs is the best policy. Wait until she is off the nest, and if she has vey recently laid them, say within the last 48 hours, you might want to replace them with plastic beads of the same size, or tiny wooden eggs if you can find some for sale at your local bird/pet store.

      However, it isn’t necessary -or even a good idea- to encourage her to remain on the nest more than a few days, by leaving the eggs -or the fake eggs- in place for too long. You don’t want her to become broody: endlessly trying to warm and protect infertile eggs (or even an empty nest) rather than feeding and caring for herself. So even the replacement eggs should be removed after a short while.

      Another reason to remove the eggs is, if a shell should be compromised, the curious bird may discover that fresh raw egg is edible and egg shells contain calcium which her body needs. Then she may start eating her own eggs. The result is not only messy, but can be smelly and breed bacteria.

      Eggs you remove, if fresh and gently washed, can be fed to other pets. However, it may also be wise for you to break them into a bowl and examine the shells. If the shell is very thin, it will be important to supplement your little hen’s diet with more cacium so that her eggs don’t break within her.

  2. It’s over 3 weeks and my…
    It’s over 3 weeks and my cockatiels are still sitting on the eggs. Should I let them continue or remove the eggs?

    • Incubation takes between 18 …
      Incubation takes between 18 – 21 days after the last egg is laid. As birds generally lay an egg every one to two days, I would count say 25 days from the time that the last egg was laid, if nothing then remove them. Before you remove the egg, take your phone’s torch and look it in the egg if there is a red color in the egg. Wait for few says and just remove them. You don’t want rotten egg smelling up the place.

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