What Do Cockatiels Need in their Cage to Stay Healthy and Stimulated?

In order to have a happy and healthy cockatiel, there are a few must have items that should be found in all cockatiel cages.

From your basic water dish to a few toys, their environment should be clean and mind-engaging space that is large enough for your pet so as not to feel confined.

In this article, we will list some of the items that should be in every cockatiel cage, whether you have one bird or a pair, and a few items you should never include.

The Cage

First lets discuss the actual cage. You should try to get the largest cage possible as they will spend most of their time confined in this cage and you want them to have some freedom to move around.

A good starter cage, and the bare minimum would be 24 inches wide x 18 inches deep x 24 inches high. If you can afford a larger cage, it is highly recommended you go for the largest cage possible.

You can never have too large a cage, you can however have too small a cage.

There is also the option of building your own cage. This will save you money and you can add the customizations in the cage that you feel will best serve your bird.

As far as cage safety, the bars on the cage should be no larger than a half an inch and spacing should be close together enough so your birds can’t poke their heads through the bars and get stuck.

It’s also helpful if the bars run horizontal and vertically as cockatiel love to climb, even the side of their cages.

Look for durable metal bars as plastic is not only toxic, over time your birds may begin to chew right through the plastic! After all, we all want to be free, no?

When it comes to the bottom of the cage, there are two types and pros and cons to each.

You can either have a bottom that is bars like the cage itself, this allows the bird dropping to fall to the bottom of the cage without your birds needing to walk through them. This is a plus if you will be leaving your cage uncleaned for long periods of time.

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    But a cockatiel’s natural habit is to “forage” though the floor of forests in search of food. So allowing them to mimic the same natural behaviors in a cage is also a serious plus.

    It all comes down to how much time you will devote to keeping your pet cockatiel’s cage clean.


    Cockatiels love to be up high, that’s why they’ll go to your shoulder when you let them. It makes them feel safe as they can see any potential threats coming their way.

    So have a few different perches at different levels throughout the cage. This gives them places to hop to and hang out that feel natural.

    The best perches are simply branches from a tree from your front yard or some soft wooden dowels. Tree branches are what they’d naturally perch on in the wild, so why not give them the same in the cage.

    This is the one area that you can replicate their natural habitat within their cage and if you happen to have trees around, it’s also free.

    Switch them out from time to time as they will chew on the bark of branches. And the rotation keeps them stimulated.

    Just be sure the branches you bring indoors is free of mites, ant or any other critter you don’t want in your home. And brush off any loose bark. Other than that, any branch long enough to go from one side of the cage to the other and give your pet cockatiel as safe and stable perch is good.

    One other style of perch you might want to consider is called a “nail filing perch”. Basically is is a pumice stone that the bird perches on that naturally files down their claws a bit. Just one is sufficient and I usually add this as a middle perch of three tiers.

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      Food and Water Dishes

      There are a variety of food and water dishes available that can go on the floor of the cage or snap on to the sides of the cage. There is no one right dish.

      For food you want something that is not made of plastic, stainless steel is the best option for both a water and food dish. It’s easy to clean and will last a lifetime.

      Not only that, plastic breaks down and adds toxins to their food and water, and scratches easily allowing bacteria to grow. Especially in their water dishes.

      Get stainless steel dishes that have a little weight on the bottom so your birds can’t easily tip over their bowls if they end up standing on them or pushing them around like a toy.

      These weighted stainless steel bowls may cost a bit more, but they can be thrown into the dishwasher or cleaned by hand in a moment, and you should only need to buy them once.

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        For water you have a choice of wither a dish or a bottle. We prefer a water dish over a water bottle for cockatiels to drink from and lay out the reasons why below.

        It is super important that your bird always has access to clean water. When there is a dish there is always the possibility of contamination usually from your bird pooping in it’s dish.

        One tip here if you do decide on a dish, place it somewhere that is not under a perch or it’ll be full of poop in a matter of minutes.

        Water Bottles

        When it comes to water bottles, a lot of people believe this is the easier and cleaner option, but this isn’t really the case.

        Water bottles are a pain to clean and must be disassembled to clean correctly. You also need a good pipe cleaning brush to get into the small tube and get it entirely clean.

        They also need to be cleaned almost daily as bacteria can easy accumulate in the stem where the bulb is.

        Also, the parts in a water bottle can easily wear out, and replacement parts are not easy to find.

        And if your pet bird hasn’t been taught to drink out of one, it could take some time for them to get used to it. After all, why would they knew they need to push a metal ball in order to get some water?

        And the last reason we don’t recommend water bottles is the small ball can easily get stuck inside the tube and allow all the water to run out. Unless you are aware, your pet can go without water all day.

        Bird Baths

        Having a bird bath in their cage is like a cockatiel spa. Although not necessary as long as you give your bird the daily option of bathing, if your cage is large enough to hold a water dish, food dish and a bird bath, then definitely include it inside the cage.

        If this isn’t the case, then give your bird the opportunity to bathe in the early morning hours in a short wide pan or dish each day. This allows them to dry off completely before nightfall when they sleep and temperatures may drop.

        Some birds will bathe daily while others may never “bathe” and hate even being misted down. But being very dusty birds, your cockatiels need regular cleaning to stay healthy.

        If you can add a bathing dish, make sure it is short, heavy and not plastic. The heavy nine inch glass pie dishes make for a great bird bath. They have excellent weight, are easy to clean and the perfect size.

        Foraging Toys

        Cockatiels are very intelligent and love any type of stimulation. They also love to chew. If you can remember those two things when choosing toys for their cages, you’ll be on the right track.

        But don’t get overwhelmed by the amount of choices there are when looking at websites or in a pet store. Your pet cockatiel doesn’t need most of these fancy items.

        What they do need is something that draws their attention, is safe and causes them to display the same behaviors as they would in the wild.

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          There are a number of “foraging” toys usually in the shape of balls or pouches that can be shredded apart and hold different hidden treats inside.

          These types of toys are great and can keep your bird occupied for hours.

          You can even make your own foraging toys using simple pieces of paper. Just make sure the paper is clean and dye free.

          Cut up a bunch of squares, add some different yummy things like a dollop of peanut butter, some seeds, or millet in the centers of the paper and crumble them up.

          Drop them in their cage and watch your pets have fun shredding the paper open to find the hidden prizes you’ve hidden.

          Super easy, inexpensive and you never run out as long as you have paper around.


          Many pet owners with one bird will place a mirror in their cockatiels cage in order to give their pet a sense of having a friend.

          And while we do recommend to add a mirror for short periods of time when you’re really busy or will be away all day, we have found it better to add something shiny instead of a true mirror.

          Using a metal, never use a glass mirror, shiny object rather than something that reflects an actual image gives your pet something to take notice of without getting too emotional over it.

          We’ve already written all about cockatiels and mirrors here, so if you’re thinking of including one in their cage, please read what we discuss there first.

          In Closing

          Cockatiels need a few different items in their cages to stay healthy and not get bored.

          The items don’t need to be expensive, and sometimes the cheapest things can be just as good as something store bought and expensive like our homemade foraging toys.

          Our biggest suggestion is to try different things over a period of time and see what works for your particular feathered friend the best.

          After all, each cockatiel is a unique bird with its own individual personality.

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          1 thought on “What Do Cockatiels Need in their Cage to Stay Healthy and Stimulated?”

          1. Well, your thought is great. But don’t you think you have missed a partner friend for a cockatiel?

            My cockatiel had felt stressed for 2 weeks even though he was getting all the above-mentioned things in the cage.

            The problem was loneliness. My vet told me that we should care about the emotional lives of cockatiels too.


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