If you’ve decided to bring home a Cockatiel, you are likely wondering how you are going to tame them. Besides – we all want a pet that we can interact with and bond closely with. But how do you actually do so? Here is everything you are going to need to do.
So, how do you tame a Cockatiel? You must first give your Cockatiel time to get used to the noises, smells, and sights of their home environment. Once your bird has settled in, you spend time speaking to them so that they begin to learn your specific voice. Finally, you take steps to gain your Cockatiel’s trust when being physically touched and held.
Taming a Cockatiel is not difficult, but it does require a bit of patience and time.
Just remember that.
It will do you well.
But there is a lot more to it than the brief overview up above.
So if you want to have a bird that loves being held and spending time with you outside of its cage, keep reading down below.
You’ll be getting access to all the advice you need to succeed.
And from a fellow cockatiel owner – this information is invaluable!
How Do You Tame A Cockatiel?
You tame your Cockatiel by providing a safe and predictable living environment, spending time each day speaking with your bird (whistling with them helps too!), and eventually building up time holding your bird on your finger in the cage and then outside of it.
Soon enough, a silly adventurous Cockatiel will be perching on your hand, shoulder, and let’s be honest – even your head.
Safe, Calm Environment
Taming step one is giving your Cockatiel a safe and reliable environment.
When you first bring your bird home, give them a few days to relax and take in the sights without a lot of demand for holding and physical interaction.
Placing your new Cockatiel’s cage in the busiest room in the house can feel overwhelming and scary. Your best option is to find a room with regular, relaxed traffic.
A space where your bird will see you and its family members but not have to deal with loud music or loud excited chatter.
When you are near your Cockatiel’s cage talk to them with a calm and gentle tone. Your bird isn’t picky about what you discuss!
It could be as simple as describing the room around them or as complex as reading them your most recent favorite story.
When you speak to your Cockatiel, it helps build your bird’s trust because they will come to recognize your voice.
You know your Cockatiel is starting to recognize your voice when it lets out an alert chirp when it hears your voice across a room for the first time in a while.
If you are loud or harsh when speaking to your Cockatiel, your bird may learn to feel fear when you are near.
Try to use a calm, normal-toned voice that your Cockatiel can enjoy.
Watch your Cockatiel for signs that it is beginning to relax in its environment and know your voice.
An intimidated bird may huddle silently in its cage, trying not to draw any attention to itself.
A bird that feels it is being threatened may screech and flap its wings dramatically.
Observe Behavioral Changes
As your bird starts to feel safe and welcome, curiosity will win out and your bird will spend more and more time exploring its cage and playing with toys.
You know you have made major progress when your bird takes time to travel across its cage to be close to you when you enter the room.
These are great signs your bird is ready to move forward with taming.
Progressing To Handling
Once your Cockatiel is relaxed and familiar with your home and voice, you are ready to start the handling portion of taming.
The first thing to teach your Cockatiel is that your hand only brings good things.
What good thing? Well treats of course!
For my cockatiel a great treat was often a strand of millet that I just got through Amazon. This is the brand I used.
This treat was easy to hold and stuck out from my hand enough to avoid any accidental pecks to my fingers.
By letting my bird associate my hand with treats and other happy things, my bird learned to welcome my fingers in their cage instead of running away or trying to force my hand away by biting or wing flapping.
It can be tempting to reach into your bird’s cage and place your hand directly in front of them.
Instead, find a neutral area of the cage away from your bird.
Then slowly place your hand into the neutral space and wait.
Letting your bird come to you at their own pace gains their trust and respect.
Keep in mind this is about patience and consistency.
Don’t be upset if at first your Cockatiel squawks, hides, or doesn’t come to your hand.
Relax with your hand in the cage for a few minutes at a time.
If your bird isn’t ready to come over and explore just yet, that’s okay, remove your hand and try again the next day.
Just like people, some birds are more cautious than others.
Before you know it, you will reach into your Cockatiel’s cage and it will quickly come over for the anticipated treat.
You may even put your hand in without a treat and get a bird that is still very excited to see the owner who has been talking to it and building trust during this time.
Great! You’re ready for the next (super fun and quite exciting) step.
Progressing To Holding
This next step is the one most new bird owners greatly anticipate.
You get to actually hold your bird!
You do not hold a bird the same way you hold other household pets such as guinea pigs.
We don’t want to wrap our hands around the body of our Cockatiels.
Wrapping our hands around our birds may make them feel trapped and can cause newly tamed birds to panic.
Instead, place your index finger straight out (two fingers works as well – index and middle – if preferred) and in a slow and steady pace move your finger towards your bird.
You want the side of your finger to be approaching your bird’s chest.
Don’t poke your bird with your finger tip.
If you have taken time to give your bird treats and keep your hand in its cage in recent days, your bird should be somewhat used to seeing your hand.
You know your Cockatiel is feeling comfortable if it doesn’t run away in fear or attempt to peck aggressively at your finger.
If your bird darts away, take a deep breath, wait for them to settle, and try again.
When the side of your finger presses against your bird it will shift their weight and encourage them to step forward.
When your Cockatiel steps forward it will naturally climb onto your finger.
This is an exciting moment but do not suddenly try to move your bird from the cage.
Instead, remain still and let your bird rest on your finger while you speak words of praise.
To teach your bird to step off your finger, you can turn it towards a perch much the same way your finger moved against its chest to help your bird step on.
Some birds will naturally step down into a favorite cage area.
Take a few days to get your bird into the habit of calmly stepping on your finger when it enters the cage.
Don’t rush your bird.
While Cockatiels are friendly, we are going against their natural survival instincts when we ask them to be held.
Time Outside The Cage
Once your bird easily steps on and off your finger, you are ready to work on holding them outside of their cage!
Have your bird step on your finger and slowly move your hand towards the cage door. Watch for obstacles between you and the cage door.
You do not want to bump your bird into perches, toys, and bars as you exit the cage.
Keep your movement slow and reliable, if your bird becomes scared and hops off your finger before leaving the cage, do not scold your bird.
Remember patience is key and try again.
The big reward comes the first time your bird is resting on your finger outside of the cage!
You will need to repeat this routine daily to maintain your Cockatiel’s training and comfort.
Always use your voice to soothe your bird and be sure to enjoy each bit of progress.
Take Taming In Your Own Direction
From here, the rest of your Cockatiel’s training and taming takes is up to you! There are a lot of owners who enjoy simply sitting with their bird on their finger.
Others encourage their bird to walk from hand to hand by placing alternating fingers in front of their Cockatiel’s chest.
You may even sit with your bird and find that as it becomes comfortable with you it will crawl up your arm to rest on your shoulder or rub its head against your cheek.
There really is no limit to the fun you can have with a bird that is held consistently over time.
Is A Cockatiel Easy To Tame?
In the realm of pet birds, Cockatiels are considered easy to tame. This is due in large part to their naturally curious personalities. Still, it is important to remember that taming any animal takes a level of time and patience.
Choosing a young pet Cockatiel that has been hand-raised by a loving breeder will be the easiest pet to tame.
A young bird has not become accustomed to life on its own and the addition of a human companion will not feel disruptive to its life and safety.
Hand-raised Cockatiels are typically used to the presence and touch of people.
A hand-raised bird has some natural understanding that humans are not here to cause harm.
For you, this means that your taming will be more about gaining your Cockatiel’s trust in you as an individual, instead of starting from the point of view that all humans are scary predators.
Taming a hand-raised Cockatiel will likely feel much easier than starting out with an unhandled adult bird.
Taming an unhandled adult Cockatiel is possible.
You need to realize it will require a lot more time and patience.
Adult Cockatiels that have never been handled can be more set in their ways and may feel at first unsure about the disruption of human interaction in their life.
Just as adults get used to their own ways, an adult Cockatiel will be less inclined to give trust to new people or places.
You should expect most (but not all!) unhandled adult Cockatiels to take more time and patience to train (but perhaps be more rewarding) than a young hand-raised bird.
How Long Does It Take To Tame A Cockatiel?
Loosely, you should plan on taming to take two weeks on the short end and a couple of months of steady effort on the long side. But for the sake of honesty, there isn’t one specific time frame that a bird will become tame.
Please understand that even if you have a very friendly hand-raised Cockatiel, the taming process doesn’t happen overnight.
Every Cockatiel has its own personality and degree of curiosity about new people and environments.
For instance, a younger, hand-raised Cockatiel will generally take less time to tame than an unhandled adult.
A hand-raised Cockatiel will need time to become used to your environment and voice, but often be more eager to rest on your hand than a bird that has never been close with people.
An unhandled adult Cockatiel typically takes longer to train as they simply have less human experience over their lifespan.
Not only do unhandled adults have to become comfortable in a new environment and used to a new owner, but they also may have never been asked to physically interact with a human before.
Taming an adult bird is possible and can be very rewarding.
You may even get lucky with an adult bird that is eager to be tamed, but in general, you should be prepared for this process to take longer with an untamed adult than a hand-raised bird.
Tips For Taming Your Cockatiel
Before we go, I have a few tips for taming your Cockatiel.
Feel free to wear fitted leather gloves when first handling your bird.
Especially if their way of exploring or testing out new spaces is to peck or bite.
Sleeping with your gloves one night or rubbing them on your body helps the gloves to smell like you.
Smelling like you will make the transition to ungloved handling easier.
Using leather gloves protects your fingers but still allows your bird to gain handling experience.
Don’t be discouraged if you make progress for several days and then have a tough training session.
Birds have happy days and grumpy days just like people. Let your bird take a break and try again in the next session.
One By One
Don’t try and introduce your bird to every family member all at once.
Gaining a Cockatiel’s trust is all about consistency.
If you work with your bird one day, then your spouse the next day and an excited child the next, your bird can become confused or stressed.
Allow your Cockatiel to build trust in one person at a time and soon it will be a bird that the whole family enjoys.
Frequent And Short
Keep training sessions frequent, but short.
Spending 15 minutes training your bird every single day will produce a happy, tame bird much sooner than trying to extend training over long stretches of time that leave both you and your bird exhausted.
Enjoy The Process
The most important part? Have fun! There are few things as rewarding as gaining the trust of a bird companion.
This is a friendship and bond that will last for years.
When working to tame your bird don’t forget to also enjoy its songs, chirps, and silly cage antics.
Soon enough you will have a Cockatiel that is a joy to look at and to hold.
Cockatiels are one of the most popular pet birds for good reason.
They are active, hardy, and great at interacting with people.
They really do make for good pets.
But that does not happen automatically.
You need to take the time to proactively tame your cockatiel and ensure their environment is set up for success.
And while it may require time, consistency, and patience, being willing and able to do so will help ensure that ownership is as rewarding and enjoyable for both you and your new bird.
You will know how a cockatiel trusts you by how they behave around you. They will likely crouch their head forward, be generally relaxed, want to be near you, and even show signs of excitement when you are around. Sleeping on you, or being willing to step onto your finger or into your hands are also clear signs.
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.