How to Get a Cockatiel to Like You in Just 12 Simple Steps

It’s not easy for anyone to get used to a new home, and cockatiels are no different. In this article, I discuss how to get a cockatiel to like you if it has come recently in your home.

I have a confession to make. There are no easy steps to get a bird to like you. The methods I share in this article are straightforward, but you will have to work with your bird! And I can promise you, it will take time and patience.

What I will share is 12 tips and tricks that might help you bond with your birds – but note that every cockatiel is different, and these tips and tricks may or may not work.

Perhaps the best part of having a pet is the affection that goes both ways. 

But if you’re new to handling cockatiels – you could end up unknowingly doing things to make them resent your presence. 

FREE video course:
Stop Your Bird's Biting

    How To Get A Cockatiel To Like You

    Hence, it’s best to be prepared with the knowledge of how to handle and interact with cockatiels. 

    While they may not be as expressive as a larger parrot, cockatiels are still cuddly birds whom you can feel affection from

    Growing a bond with your bird is a product of time and training, and we’re here to look at how you can achieve this. 

    How To Get A Cockatiel To Like You?

    Understanding cockatiels is just like understanding any other pet – it takes patience, love, care, giving them lots of treats and toys, playing with them, and of course, also getting them to respect you as a parent.

    Let’s see how to do all this with cockatiels.

    Understand the background of the bird.

    Just like people, you need to know how your pet birds were raised to understand them better. 

    A hand-reared bird will bond quickly with humans. At the same time, a rescue bird may have past negative experiences and will take time to trust its keepers again. 

    Similarly, if your bird was housed in a large aviary with a cockatiel colony, it might get lonely if kept alone. 

    For a first-time bird owner, I highly suggest getting a baby cockatiel (around 8 to 10 weeks old) that has been raised by a reputed breeder and hand-trained to some degree. 

    How To Get A Cockatiel To Like You
    Hand reared birds get attached to humans easily

    Take it to a vet and consider trimming its wings

    Unless you can train your cockatiel for free flight, it is essential that you consider trimming or clipping its wings.

    Cockatiels are notorious for trying to escape captivity. Training cockatiels to where and when to fly is paramount to ensure that they don’t escape.

    When you get a new bird, get its flight wings trimmed from a clinic. This will allow your bird to slowly explore its surroundings. 

    A scared bird in a new place will fly around haphazardly. This will result in you chasing them, further causing them stress. 

    Once your bird is trained, stop trimming their feathers and allow them to explore more independently. 

    FREE video course:
    Stop Your Bird's Biting

      Let the bird get accustomed to its new home

      On getting a new bird, set up a quiet, safe space for it to settle into. This might be a separate room or a designated area in your home. Now, leave it alone. 

      New owners often pester their birds at intervals trying to get them to socialize. But your cockatiel needs time to adjust to a new space and gauge potential threats. 

      You might notice birds brought to a new area not moving much or even eating. It’s best not to interrupt them frequently. 

      Keep an eye out to see if they start eating or drinking after a few hours. If your bird is still not eating after 24 hours, you should take them to a vet. 

      If you have older cockatiels, keep your new ones in separate cages for some time to let them get used to each other’s scent. 

      Once they have socialized, you can keep them in a single cage – but keep an eye out for any territorial problems. 

      How To Get A Cockatiel To Like You
      Let your bird explore the home and surroundings a bit

      Talk with your cockatiel every day

      Birds are social animals and enjoy the sound of their owner’s voice. Try talking to your bird in a soft, soothing tone, and repeat words and phrases that your bird seems to respond to. 

      Over time, your bird may start mimicking or reacting to some words in a particular way – which can be a great gateway to the training process. 

      Quality time can also include grooming, feeding, or simply sitting and relaxing together.

      Keep their cage as close to you as possible

      It’s important to keep your cockatiel’s cage in a location where it can see and interact with you and other members of your household. 

      This will help your bird feel more connected to its environment and provide it with the social interaction it needs. 

      Keeping a cage nearby also gets them used to your presence. For busy folks with less time to devote one-on-one, simply working side by side with your bird is a great way to make them friendlier. 

      However, at the same time – do not keep them in a high-traffic zone or one with lots of sudden noises (for example – a garage). 

      Use positive reinforcement through treats

      Positive reinforcement is a powerful training tool that you can use to teach your cockatiel new behaviors and tricks. 

      Like all animals, cockatiels love high-fat, yummy treats like millet and sunflower seeds. 

      Treats are a great way to motivate your bird to repeat good patterns and make your presence a positive experience for your bird. 

      How To Get A Cockatiel To Like You
      Who doesn’t love treats?

      First, choose a tasty treat that your bird likes. Millet is a safe choice, though some birds may like corn or other fruits. 

      Next, pick the behavior that you want to reinforce. This could be a simple behavior like stepping onto your finger or even a complex one like teaching them not to hiss or attack strangers. 

      Give the treat within a few seconds of the behavior so that your bird associates the two. 

      If your bird is scared to take treats from your hand, try to feed them through the cage bars initially and then move to direct feeding. 

      Define a dedicated playtime for them and introduce toys regularly

      Cockatiels are a slave to routine, and anything otherwise can irk them. To establish a dedicated play time for your cockatiel, try setting aside a specific time each day for play. 

      Depending on your schedule, this could be in the morning or in the evening – though birds are usually more active in the morning. 

      Get them chewing, foraging, or noisy bird toys and play along. 

      The birds will learn from your interactions and explore these toys. Regularly rotate and introduce new toys to keep your cockatiel interested and engaged. 

      Give your bird some toys

      Set up a training schedule and interact with your bird

      A successful training session is one that is done every day at the same time. To set up your bird for out-of-cage training, you can follow these steps:

      1. Open the cage door and allow them to step out themselves. If they don’t, use a soft towel to gently scoop and place them outside. It’s best to train them in a separate room where they cannot see their cage.
      2. Now sing, talk or offer your hand to your bird. Without the cage, your cockatiel might turn to you as the next closest source of comfort. Do this for a few days until they know to come to you. 
      3. Once your bid starts approaching you regularly for treats, begin training and ration the treats. 

      Birds get stressed easily, and no session should be longer than 10 minutes

      Train your bird to fly to you

      Flight training is a process through which birds know how to fly to their owners or a designated area. 

      Being small creatures, it’s easy for them to get into small nooks and crevices and refuse to call or come out. 

      Hence, training is essential before you allow your cockatiel to fly free outside its cage. It should be the second thing you teach them after stepping up.

      Watch your bird closely to understand its behavior and other clues

      By watching your bird’s body language, you can learn to understand its needs and emotions. 

      If your cockatiel has puffed up body and tail feathers, it can be a sign that your bird is feeling cold or content.

      Head bobbing can indicate excitement or interest in something. Cockatiels are known for their vocalizations; they may whistle to communicate or express their mood. 

      Your bird may flap its wing if it’s happy or if it’s trying to scare someone. 

      These are some common things – your bird may also exhibit more personalized emotions that you can decipher over time.

      FREE video course:
      Stop Your Bird's Biting

        Watch your bird closely to understand its behaviors

        Make sure they know everyone in the house as well

        To avoid any jumpscares, it’s best to slowly introduce everyone in the house to your birds. Not everyone has to spend time with them daily. 

        But they should at least be familiar with all the faces. 

        This is especially helpful if you are planning to step out for some time and need someone else to take over training and feeding duties. 

        Give them some TV/Radio/Music Time.

        Cockatiels are intelligent birds with great musical skills. Though they cannot mimic the human voice, they can whistle and pick up a variety of tunes. 

        If you cannot constantly be beside your bird, give them entertainment in the form of a running TV or radio.

        You can also play videos of other, more accomplished cockatiels whistling tunes. Soon, your bird will start picking up on the nuances and develop vocally. 

        How To Hold A Cockatiel

        Teaching cockatiels and other mid-size birds to sit on your finger or hand is one of the earliest tricks you should teach them. 

        It will allow you to manage your bird better when outside its cage. To begin:

        1. Start by approaching your cockatiel slowly and calmly, extending your hand or finger.
        2. Place your finger at the base of your bird’s chest, near its feet. 
        3. Use a cue word like “Come,” “Step up,” or your cockatiel’s name. Let your cockatiel climb onto your hand or finger. 
        4. If your bird is hesitant, try offering a treat or some millet to encourage it to come closer. Gently tap on their lower chest to encourage them to step up. 
        5. Once they get on, give them their favorite treat (but limit treats per day). 
        6. Keep repeating this every day, slowly increasing the distance and height. Eventually, create a distance that your bird will have to fly over. Eventually, you can reduce the treats to one treat every 2-3 tries. 

        It’s important to remember to treat your cockatiel gently and with minimal force. 

        Not all cockatiels are comfortable being handled, and some may prefer to stay in their cages or on a perch. 

        In this case, you can use a natural branch and ask them to “step up” on that. 

        Respect your bird’s boundaries and never force it to do something it’s not comfortable with.

        Don’t hold or pet a bird who doesn’t want it

        How To Bond With A Cockatiel

        All birds, including cockatiels, are individual animals with their own personalities and preferences. 

        Some may be more willing to bond with their owners than others. However, a few common steps you can take to initiate friendship are:

        Be consistent with them.

        Like most animals, Cockatiels thrive on routine. They prefer safe and relaxed environments where everything from their food to sleep time remains the same. 

        So try to spend time with your bird at the same time every day. This can help your cockatiel feel more secure and build trust between you.

        Training and Playtime are great bonding experiences. 

        Cockatiels are intelligent birds, and most pet owners train them to perform simple tasks and tricks. 

        Training sessions can be a great way to bond with your bird out of the cage and get some one-on-one time with them. 

        Feeding them treats, offering toys, and including them in your routine can help with mental stimulation and strengthen your bond.

        Petting, cuddling, and holding.

        As your cockatiel gets more used to your presence, you can gently pet them on its head. Or allow them to nestle within your hand cavity. 

        Cockatiels are generally cuddly birds and enjoy being close to their keepers. 

        However, some birds may not like being handled, so it’s best to give them time. Do not rough-handle birds that don’t want to be held.

        Feed them yourself.

        I discourage hand-feeding birds when they are being weaned. However, once you have an adult, weaned bird on your hands, hand-feeding can be a great way to establish trust. 

        You can feed them small treats at different times of the day. This will allow the bird to recognize your presence as someone that brings them joy! 

        How To Get A Cockatiel To Like You
        Petting is a great sign that your bird is beginning to like you

        How Long Do Cockatiels Take To Trust Their Owners?

        It can take some time for a cockatiel to trust its owner, as trust is something that is built over time through positive experiences and consistent care. 

        For a young bird that is now with a new keeper (and one that is not suffering from any past negative experiences), the bird will need around three weeks to adjust to its new surroundings, routine, and owner. Ahead of this, consistency is key.

        Some cockatiels may take months or even years to fully trust their owners, while others may bond more quickly. 

        The former is generally seen in the case of older cockatiels (for whom change is jarring) or in the case of rescued birds that faced abuse or neglect.

        Signs That Your Cockatiel Likes You 

        Once a cockatiel starts warming up to you, you’ll notice several changes in its body language. 

        FREE video course:
        Stop Your Bird's Biting

          They will not be as afraid to approach you and display signs of affection like nestling. They will perch on your hand or shoulder and even demand treats. 

          A happy bird will also get more vocal and chirp a lot to express its contentment. 

          Cockatiels can bond with specific humans and like one more than the other. For example, we know that cockatiels can recognize the face and voices of their owners

          They get sad if their owners are missing and will sometimes form deep attachments with human keepers. 

          Soon your bird might get a bit “too” comfortable!

          Frequently Asked Questions

          How do you get a cockatiel to let you pet it?

          Always approach your bird from the front, do not ambush them from behind. Keep yourself at eye level, and do not tower over the bird. 
          Slowly move your hand towards them, without sudden movements, and gently tap its beak. If your bird tries to bite you, try again later.

          How do you bond with a scared cockatiel?

          Bonding with a scared cockatiel will take lots of time and patience. The best thing to do is to give your cockatiel space while still including them in your routine. 
          Talk to them, spend time around their cage and keep encouraging them to take treats from your hand.

          Why doesn’t my cockatiel like me?

          It is normal for your bird to retain the instincts of wild cockatiels. So it’s more likely that your bird is scared of you rather than not like you. 
          Start slow and build trust by following the steps above. Try to get hand-raised cockatiels, as they are more trusting around humans.

          How do you tame a cockatiel that hates you?

          If your cockatiel hates you, you need to associate your presence with some sort of positive reinforcement. 
          For example, figure out their favorite treat and hand-feed it to them only when they do not hiss, crouch, or snap in your presence.

          How do you tame a stubborn cockatiel?

          If your bird stubbornly refuses to bond – you have to try a different approach. Opt for branch perching instead of hand perching. 
          In the beginning, talk to them or sing during their out-of-cage time instead of trying to approach them. Before any free flying time, clip your cockatiel’s wings to prevent mishaps. 

          Why does my cockatiel fly away from me?

          If your bird flies away from you, it means they are not well-trained and reared. 
          Alternatively, your presence is causing them stress or anxiety, and you need to work on gaining trust. 
          While weaning, it’s common to see birds fly away from keepers as they are learning independence.

          What stresses a cockatiel?

          A cockatiel can be stressed due to any change in its routine or environment. 
          This includes – the addition of new toys to its enclosure, a change of cage location or owners, a change in time of feeding, training sessions, or cage cleaning, a change of cages, sudden activity around it and more.

          How do you stop a cockatiel from being aggressive?

          Some common steps you can take to prevent aggression in your pet birds are:
          Stimulate them with toys and perches
          Give them a large, comfortable rectangular cage to move freely in
          Train and handle them so that they are not scared of humans
          Socialize them with other cockatiels

          What are cockatiels most scared of?

          Two common things your cockatiel may be scared of are loud noises and the dark. 
          Night frights are common for these birds, and it’s best to get a night light to prevent injury due to urgent flapping. ‘Tiels prefer being in a silent environment with no sudden noises.

          How do you tell if a cockatiel hates you?

          If a cockatiel hates you, you will see them displaying signs to make its emotion clear. 
          These include: hissing, crouching down to attack, aggressive wing posture (open and high), and screaming. 
          They will also try to attack you by snapping or nipping at your toes and fingers.

          Wrap Up

          Taming a cockatiel is a battle of patience and wit. There are many common methods. However, each bird has its own intellect and will pick up things differently. 

          All birds, even older or larger birds, can be tamed. The more you bond with your bird, the more you will be able to understand its needs. 

          Thank you for reading!

          Photo of author

          Team Beauty of Birds

          Beautyofbirds.com's team of experts includes veterinarians, biologists, environmentalists and active bird watchers. All put together, we have over half a century of experience in the birding space.

          You can meet our team here.
          Team Beauty of Birds is separate from the “Parrot Parent University” parrot training course and its instructors.

          Leave a Comment

          This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.