One of the most common subjects for questions by new cockatiel owners is their sleep. What are their patterns and behaviors like? In fact, how do they even sleep; being a bird and being confined to a new cage? I spent some time researching the topic. I would like to share with you my finding so that you know exactly what to expect and what is normal in your bird.
So, how do cockatiels sleep? Cockatiels sleep on perches; which are either branches for those that live in the wild, or man-made accessories that should be added to the cage. Some owners report that their cockatiels sleep in other interesting-side positions over their food bowls, whereas others have stated their bird sleeps on the bottom of the cage.
It has also been known for cockatiels to fall asleep on their owners.
Either way, perches are in many ways essential to these birds and should be provided as they come naturally to these birds and give them a place to sleep restfully and deeply.
Like any bird or animal for that matter, all are unique and do have their own preferences.
This is why some birds may sleep differently from others and you may be shocked at first to see how your bird is attempting their shut-eye.
Equally, it may change over time, and how they sleep will depend on a number of factors such as their age, their cage, along their health.
That being said, cockatiels have evolved to sleep on perches and this is the go-to way for the most part.
Let us now take a closer look at the sleeping arrangements for these birds. We will first take a look at how they do so in the wild, before turning closer to those kept as pets.
We will also be covering those similarly related questions that you might want to know like how are they able to sleep the way they do if they keep their eyes open and how long can you expect them to be in the land of nod each day.
So, be sure to keep on reading to get all the information on the subject you need!
How Do Cockatiels Sleep In The Wild?
Cockatiels are social birds by nature; keen to live and sleep in pairs or in groups known as flocks.
They originate from Australia, and many wild flocks can still be seen and found there today. They predominately favor wetlands, scrublands, and bushlands – primarily for the access to water and food that such locations bring.
When it comes to sleeping, and navigating the landscape while not flying, cockatiels will reside in trees.
They often seek out open trees with many branches, and sometimes look for enclosed areas of trees when the weather takes a turn for the worst.
In doing so, they are able to keep themselves safe from the many predators that lie below, and even others that can be found in the sky like birds of prey.
How Do Cockatiels Sleep In Captivity?
The cockatiel you keep as your pet does obviously not have the luxury of trees, branches, and their natural environment.
As such, as a responsible owner, you must do all that you can to ensure you try to replicate their native way of living as best as you can.
Obviously, this will only be possible to some extent. A cage by nature is designed to keep them enclosed.
To replicate the wooden branches of the wild, some owners opt for wooden perch replicas, like this best seller on Amazon.
The benefit of doing so is that the bird feels more safe and secure, with the sensation being the same or very similar on their feet to a wild tree.
These perches are easy to attach to the cage, and can be placed high and low accordingly. Several options tend to do the trick.
Other owners have been known to get sleeping huts/houses for their birds.
The idea here is to give them a more cozy covering. However, there are several reports of these huts not being as successful, with cockatiels not taking to them as fondly.
It is important to note that sleeping huts are primarily aimed, and designed for other birds in the parrot family.
For some cockatiels, they take it upon themselves to sleep how they see fit.
You may even notice your cockatiel enjoys or prefers to sleep on the bottom of its cage.
Similarly, they may even sleep hovering over their food bowls.
For the latter, you will likely find that their food becomes covered in their own poop as your bird defecates throughout the night. In this instance, getting a covered bowl is one such option.
One extra thing to note here is that a bird not sleeping on provided perches, could, suggest that they are sick.
If you have noticed a change in your birds sleeping behaviors or notice any other peculiar changes such as a change in appetite or energy, it comes strongly advised to discuss this with your vet.
How Do Cockatiels Sleep Standing Up?
Cockatiels have strong legs and feet in which have evolved to support their weight as they sleep.
Interestingly, a cockatiel who is comfortable, happy, and content in its environment will actually sleep on one foot.
While sleeping on two feet does happen from time to time (usually when napping) and is not always an immediate cause for concern, if it does happen too often it is definitely something you will want to take a closer look at and investigate.
The natural sleeping position for a cockatiel to sleep is an upright position, on a perch, resting on one leg.
From there, they usually put their heads in their feathers and use their bodies as a form of a soft pillow.
Do Cockatiels Sleep With Their Eyes Open?
Cockatiels, like most other animals and birds, will sleep with their eyes open.
However, during lighter periods of sleep, or if they are napping, for example, you may see them open their eyes from time to time.
This is to check their surroundings and to ensure they are safe.
For this reason, you may find that a baby cockatiel, one that has recently been brought into the home, moved, placed into a different cage, or their environment has changed in some distinct way, are more likely to open their eyes as they sleep.
However, in time, cockatiels who are comfortable and in deep rest will shut both of their eyes throughout the night.
How Long Do Cockatiels Sleep?
Cockatiels are birds who need quite a lot of sleep to thrive. Generally, they need in the region of 10-12 uninterrupted hours to be at their best.
They are also birds who will not only sleep through the night and darker hours, but they also are known to nap throughout the day.
This is increasingly common in older birds and during specific seasons. For example, cockatiels are known to nap more during the seasons where days are longer, as they need additional rest to meet their added energy expenditure.
While napping is to be expected, if they begin to nap for too long or too often, it could indicate that they are suffering with an illness.
Again, any other abnormal behavior or symptoms may be observed. They may stop eating/drinking, their feathers may be puffed and they may be less vocal. If you notice any of these in combination, contacting your vet is advised.
One other factor that can lead to an increase in sleeping in these birds outside their usual hours, is during a molt. This is where their feathers fall out and are being replaced by new ones.
Diet and nutrition are key at all times for a cockatiel for health and helping them sleep, but it is perhaps even more important during a molt.
Ensure they are eating high-quality foods, a nutrient-dense pelleted feed along with a variety of fruits and vegetables.
Be sure never to feed your bird a diet exclusively of seeds, even if they are advertised as being complete.
How To Help Your Cockatiel Sleep
When it comes to owning a cockatiel, there are a number of practical things that you can do to ensure your bird gets all of the sleep that they need.
Below, we will take a look at some of the things that you must optimize to help them feel safe and comfortable at all times.
Right Size Cage
Cockatiels require a cage with the right dimensions in order to feel secure and safe enough to sleep.
While they are active and playful birds, the cage needs to be sufficiently large enough for them to be able to spread their wings, be active and fly.
Experts often go back and forth on the minimum size for a cage, but a good starting minimum to go by is a cage that is at least 24 inches long, 18 inches wide and 24 inches deep for one, single bird.
A big part of a bird feeling safe is the environment inside and surrounding the cage.
Regarding the cage itself; it needs to be set up correctly and optimized for your bird. You need to provide sufficient perches, multiple are advised, and these should be placed at different heights and levels of the cage.
Outside of the cage; you should make sure that the cage is not kept in a loud or busy place inside your home. Keep the cage away from windows or rooms where you will be partaking in an activity that could frighten, awake or keep your bird up.
Cockatiels do best in temperatures between 65° Fahrenheit and 80° Fahrenheit. Any lower than this is too cold, and any higher is, you guessed it, too hot.
The right temperature will ensure that they are comfortable enough to sleep and will not be in an overly stressed state.
Ensuring the room you keep the cage is well heated throughout the year and change in seasons, and that there are no drafts are essential here.
There is plenty of debate as to whether covering a cockatiels cage at night, with a blanket, is the best thing to do. In fact, I wrote an entire post about it here.
Some owners find great success in doing it, as it can make the cage darker, reduce distractions, and can make the bird feel safer.
However, it is not considered mandatory by avian experts and not all owners do this.
Either way, it is something to potentially explore. But just make sure the material you use is breathable or otherwise you risk suffocating your bird!
Cockatiels love their sleep, getting between 10-12 hours a night on average and in healthy birds.
They do so in truly interesting ways, typically standing on one foot, upright, with their heads in their feathers, and on a perch.
That being said, not all birds, environments, and conditions are the same. Some cockatiels will sleep differently and have their own way of acquiring rest.
So long as your bird is not displaying other behaviors or symptoms, then there should not be anything to worry about regarding how they sleep.
If they do, then it is definitely time to call the vet.
Just make sure you provide your bird with all that they need for a good night’s sleep. That means a sufficiently large cage, a quiet environment, an optimal temperature, and access to plenty of natural perches.
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.