Cockatiels can eat a wide variety of treats so long as the base of their diet consists of a premium and high quality pelleted feed. Insects, plants, grains fruits and vegetables are all great to offer on occasion. But what about dairy; and more specifically cheese? Can you look to introduce this to your bird and is it safe and healthy to do so? I spent some time researching and would like to share my findings with you here today.
So, can cockatiels eat cheese? Cockatiels can eat small amounts of cheese, so long as it is low in lactose and salt and fed infrequently. Swiss, Cheddar and Parmesan are the best cheeses to provide and can be offered either grated or cut up into small chunks. These cheeses can also be used as flavor enhancers and as a means of getting your tiel to eat other wholesome foods, like vegetables. For the most part, cheese is not an ideal food for these birds and there are better options for treats available.
Thankfully, you can get a lot of different cheeses. Low-sodium cheese can also be found, which is usually the better option for your cockatiel. Salt needs to be carefully managed and controlled in the diet as too much can negatively impact your bird’s health.
Generally, there are a number of foods that benefit a cockatiel over cheese, but you can look to offer it from time to time. Hard cheeses are the best to seek out.
While some foods are completely off-limits for cockatiels like avocado, rhubarb, and fast food; cheese falls into a slightly different category. That being said, there are some considerations that an owner does need to keep into account when offering any type of dairy.
Let us now take a closer look offering cheese to a cockatiel. We will look at the most commonly asked questions, including whether or not it is even safe let alone healthy.
So, be sure to keep on reading to ensure you obtain all the information you need!
Is Cheese Safe For Cockatiels?
Whether or not a cheese is safe for a cockatiel depends entirely on the cheese in question. Not all cheeses are the same; the way they are produced, what they contain and how they are broken down and digested by birds.
So, you need to be aware of a few considerations before offering any type of cheese to your bird.
Cockatiels, like many birds, do not produce lactase. Lactase is a necessary enzyme for digesting the proteins found in cheese, along with most other dairy products.
Because of this, cockatiels struggle to break down the milk sugars and proteins in most of these products. Soft cheeses, along with milk, are high in lactose and are therefore generally not advised to feed.
So, you can offer low-lactose cheeses including Swiss, Cheddar, and Parmesan; these varieties do not typically cause any issues when fed in small amounts.
You will need to make sure that you only ever offer these cheeses occasionally as they still contain a lot of salt. While you can get low-sodium cheeses, these are sometimes hard to find and may even contain other additives and preservatives to make up for the flavor. These of course, are not ideal for your bird.
You should strictly avoid cheeses like mozzarella. Even though it is low in lactose, it’s too soft in texture, and can cause dangerous digestive issues. For example, there is the possibility that it can get stuck in your bird’s intestines, which could be fatal for your cockatiel. Its generally not worth the risk.
Equally, you will want to avoid string cheese because, like mozzarella, it is also too soft in texture.
Soft cheeses like cottage cheese are relatively high in lactose. Moreover, it is also very smooth and rich in salt too, so it isn’t optimal for feeding.
A small amount of cottage cheese shouldn’t do much harm to your bird, but you need to be careful not to offer too much. A fingernail serving size is as much as you should offer of this variety.
Some people think it’s okay to offer cheese puffs to their cockatiel, but cheese puffs are considered junk food. There is no nutrition, there are a lot of additives and are they are also high in salt. These crisps may be easy for your bird to handle, but there is no benefit to feeding them and will do more harm than good.
Cheese crackers are best avoided; again due to the high salt.
As you can probably imagine, it is always best to steer clear of these kinds of high-sodium, processed foods altogether.
You are better off feeding fruits and vegetables to your cockatiel.
Is Cheese Healthy For Cockatiel?
As far as treats go, cheese is not the healthiest option for a cockatiel. While there are some vitamins, minerals and protein, these can all be obtained from other food sources that inherently come with less risk.
For example, while there is a good amount of calcium in cheese, your tiel will be able to meet their requirements through the formulated pellets or seeds. Additionally, leafy greens are also rich in calcium, low in salt and are far more easily digested.
Ultimately, you must consider that even though there are safer and better cheeses to offer, even the best ones still do contain trace amounts of lactose and some salt.
So, always remember that if you do offer cheese to your tiel, make sure that you don’t do it often and that it’s low-sodium and low-lactose.
What Cheeses Are Best For Cockatiels?
The following cheeses are the best types and options for your bird. Again, this is assuming that they are not offered very often:
This cheese is commonly recommended for lactose intolerant individuals; with birds also fitting this category.
Make sure that to offer only tiny quantities of this cheese as it still contains high amounts of sodium. Be sure sure you give your tiel plenty of water to access and drink.
Mild cheddar is better for your tiel than a one with a sharp flavor.
Only offer small bite-sized pieces.
Again, cheddar cheese is low in lactose but high in sodium, so don’t feed it to your bird too often and make sure that your bird has plenty to drink.
Cockatiels tend to enjoy eating Parmesan grated, which is often the best way to feed it.
Parmesan can also be put in between bunches of vegetables or fruit to encourage your tiel to consume those, as this cheese is a flavor enhancer.
How Often Should Cockatiels Eat Cheese?
The straightforward answer to this question is not very often. Once every 1-2 weeks at most is advised. But again, it does depend on the type of cheese you are looking to offer, the rest of the diet, and your birds preferences for it.
Nevertheless, cockatiels require a nutritionally balanced diet and they should get this primarily from their mainstay of either pellets or seeds. Aside from their staple diet, cockatiels need to eat a range of different fruits and vegetables, but again these should not make up more than 20% of total energy intake.
To ensure your bird gets variety and maximum nutrition in their diet, you must make sure that they try different foods every day. This will also prevent them from becoming picky, fussy or even stopping eating altogether.
Cheese is not the best treat, but it can be used to encourage the consumption of other foods.
Moreover, not all cockatiels will be fond or eat cheese if offered. This is fine too and something owners should acknowledge and accept.
How To Feed Cheese To Your Cockatiel
When feeding hard cheese like Parmesan to your cockatiel, it’s best to grate it – it will be far easier for your bird’s consumption.
You can use Parmesan cheese as a flavor enhancer and sprinkle the grated cheese over fruits and vegetables to encourage your bird to eat them.
You can grate cheddar and swiss cheese too, but these do not grate as well and are less ‘crumbly’.
So instead, you can cut them up into small pieces or tear off a bit from a slice.
Cheese is one of those foods you can share with your bird at mealtime, and where it is most beneficial is that you can use it to bond with your bird. You can feed it from your hands, and this is nice to do every once in a while.
Some people like to challenge their birds to get their snacks as this promotes mental stimulation. A funny way to do this is to put a small piece of cheese on your bird’s head. The results are often hilarious, so it’s worth a try!
Can Cockatiels Eat Other Types Of Dairy?
It is not recommended for cockatiels to eat dairy; as most types are high in lactose, salt and fat. They can eat some cheeses in moderation that are low in lactose (and as discussed above), but produce like butter, yogurt and milk are all best avoided.
When we think about it more closely; we can soon see why. Unlike mammals, birds do not acquire nutrition through milk at any stage of their life.
Birds do not nurse their young; from the moment these birds hatch from their eggs they begin eating solids. Milk does not come natural to them, and they do not have a requirement for such a food to develop and grow strong.
One exception to potentially consider are cultured yogurts. These are actually quite safe for a cockatiel because they include living organisms and bacteria that consume the lactose; making them lactose free.
Perhaps the stand out reason why dairy is recommended in a humans diet is to acquire calcium. Although cockatiels have a high requirement for it, they can get sufficient amounts through other nutritious sources like dark greens and leafy veggies (beet greens, kale, bok choy, collard greens, broccoli leaves, mustard greens), and many more.
Many owners like to offer a mineral block or cuttlebone (like this excellent brand on Amazon) to their cockatiel. These ensure their birds meet their calcium intake.
But generally, if your cockatiel has a well-balanced diet, they should meet their vitamin and mineral needs automatically.
Dairy products are not the best of foods to offer your cockatiel as a treat. If you are concerned about your bird’s calcium intake, you can always offer a mineral block, a cuttlebone or add green leafy vegetables to the diet. Otherwise, crushed eggshells are an excellent option.
It’s good to be aware that some types of cheese and yogurt are safe to feed your bird, and even can be enjoyed. But, this should only happen from time to time. Additionally, certain types of cheeses must be excluded altogether.
Nonetheless, calcium deficiency (hypocalcemia) can occur in cockatiels and can impact cognitive and cardiac function.
This is perhaps why cheese is even considered to begin with. So, before we finish up let us quickly look at what calcium deficiency looks like in cockatiels.
Birds that suffer from calcium deficiency will show signs like nervous behavior and feather plucking. In extreme cases, symptoms like rickets, hearing disorders, increased cholesterol levels, and muscular pain can occur.
Id you notice any of the following signs, it is best to take your cockatiel to the vet:
- Lack of Coordination
- Loss of balance
- Feather plucking
- Difficulty climbing the cage walls and moving about,
- Muscle weakness and lethargy.
At the same time, you’ll also want to ensure that your bird does not overdose on calcium either; it is easy to do and can do as much harm as a low calcium intake.
Take precautions, feed the correct diet, and if you see anything out of balance, speak to your vet.
So, back to our original question of whether cockatiels can eat cheese. Yes, but only certain types, not too often, and not too much.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.