How To Setup An Easy-To-Clean Cockatiel Cage (2023)

Published by Joseph Calabrese on

cockatiel cage setup

A cockatiel’s cage is their home inside our much larger homes, so it must be setup to the highest standards.

It must also be setup in a way that’s easy to clean and maintain.

Otherwise, cage cleaning day is going to be sooo much more dreadful than it needs to be.

Setting up an easy-to-clean cockatiel cage doesn’t need to be difficult, it just requires strategic placement of the various cage accessories.

And you’ll learn exactly how to do that in this article!

You’re also going to learn: How big your cockatiel’s cage must be, what accessories they need inside of it, and a few image ideas on how to setup the cage.

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Choosing The Perfect Cockatiel Cage

I know that a majority of people reading this have already bought their cages and are ready to add things to them, but I want to briefly discuss what makes a good cockatiel cage.

Firstly, Cage Size Is Super Important

Your cockatiels cage should be wide enough for them to spread their wings all the way out inside of it without hitting the cage bars.

If your cockatiel struggles with basic mobility, the cage is not wide enough.

Not only is cage width important, but the height of the cage must be able to accommodate your cockatiel’s long tail feathers. Compared to similar-sized birds (budgies, conures), cockatiels have very long tails that make up roughly half their overall body length.

cockatiel cage setup
(Look at that looooong tail)

Considering these points, here’s what the minimum size of your cockatiel’s cage should be:

29″ L x 19″ D x 26″ H

73.5cm L x 48cm D x 66cm H <– Same dimensions but in centimetres

This is just the bare minimum cage size requirement, you should always aim to go as big as possible to give your cockatiels the maximum amount of space within their cage.

Also, the more birds you want in one cage, the larger the cage will need to be.

Next, You Should Think About Cage Sturdiness

The sturdiness of the bird cage is often neglected as people focus a lot more on size and price. Of course, it’s good to focus on these factors, but not at the cost of cage strength and durability.

Some of the largest bird cages on the market can also be rather flimsy.

The relatively cheap cages ($150 or less) will almost always be made from low-quality materials.

cockatiel bird cage setup
(This is my cockatiels cage, it’s a good size but the bars bend pretty easily)

As you would imagine, sturdier cages last a lot longer than flimsy cages.

If a key component (door lock, bars, mini doors, etc) of the cage broke, it’ll compromise your cockatiel’s safety within the cage.

When this happens, replacing the cage becomes a necessity.

This is why I’ll always suggest investing a little bit more in a sturdier cage, instead of a large flimsy cage.

It’ll simply save you money in the long term as you won’t need to buy a new cage every 3 – 4 years.

Click here to view 14 of the best cockatiel cages on the market if you’re looking for an upgrade

Cockatiel Cage Setup: All Essential Bird Cage Accessories

There are 5 main accessories your cockatiel will need in and around the cage:

  1. A variety of high-quality perches
  1. Food & water bowls
  1. Fun & enriching toys
  1. Liner (What’s on the bottom of the cage)
  1. Cuttlebone

Let’s describe each cage item in further detail…

Related: 7 Amazing Cockatiel Cage Accessories That Will Further Enrich Their Home

Cage Accessory: High-Quality Perches

A variety of perches is what transforms a boring steel box into an enriching home for your cockatiel.

But it’s important to select the right perches…

Dowel perches are included in almost all cages when you buy them, despite not being good for your parrot’s feet.

In case you don’t know, dowel perches are just straight perches with no variety in texture:

cockatiel bird cage setup parrots
(Arthur, my cockatiel about to take a nap on the dowel perch)

Personally, I would have no more than one of these perches inside the cage, if any at all.

The best perches to have inside your cockatiel’s cage are ones with varying thicknesses, shapes, sizes, and textures.

Natural wood perches accomplish this best, but other good perch options include:

  • Rope perches (some call them “boing” perches)
  • Cement perches
  • Ceramic
  • Ladders

Click here to view the top 10 best natural wood perches for parrot cages

It’s recommended by to only have a single cement or ceramic perch inside the cage.

The majority of perches should be natural wood as that’s what cockatiels primarily perch on in the wild.

Warning: Rope perches can be destroyed by your bird’s beak, which could potentially be a hazard as they can get themselves entangled in the ropes. Your bird may also ingest some of the rope/fibre materials and get sick. Always supervise your bird’s interactions with rope perches to ensure they’re not chewing them up. If the rope perches are getting thrashed, remove or replace them.

Mini-Guide: Perch Placement Around The Cage

Think of your cockatiel’s cage as a multi-story house…

How are multi-story houses separated?


By installing perches at different heights throughout the cage, you’re adding floors, which is good for giving your cockatiel the chance to be as high or as low as they want within the cage.

Another thing to keep in mind during perch placement is how the perch will be used.

If your cockatiel is going to sit on a specific perch for long periods, it’s best not to place that perch directly above food or water bowls.

In fact, I wouldn’t place ANY perches above food or water bowls.

The reason for this is simple:

Cockatiels will poop on whatever is below their perch without hesitation, even if it contaminates their bowls.

(Notice how the food bowl is near one of the highest perches?)

It can also be beneficial to use specific perches for certain activities.

For example, cement perches are best used near food bowls as cockatiels wipe their beaks after eating and the cement texture can be used as a beak filer.

Flat perches are good for sleeping as they allow your bird to rest its feet.

Sleeping perches are best placed up high within the cage where birds feel most secure.

Try to keep these kinds of things in mind when deciding where to install different perches.

Cage Accessories: Stainless Steel Food & Water Bowls

The reason why I’ll always suggest using stainless steel instead of plastic bowls is that steel bowls are much easier to clean.

Stainless steel bowls have rounded corners that are pretty easy to clean with soapy water.

Plastic bowls on the other hand have much sharper corners that are difficult to reach.

Since it’s hard to reach the corners, bacteria and germs have a higher likelihood of growing within them, which can make your cockatiel sick.

Click here to view some high-quality stainless steel bowls on Amazon if you’re still using plastic bowls

stainless steel bowl for parrots
(I use the exact same bowls, they’re pretty durable and don’t rust)

As mentioned, you shouldn’t place food and water dishes below frequently used perches as they’ll likely get pooped on.

Instead, place the bowls near the highest perches within the cage.

Most parrots prefer eating and sleeping at the highest point in the cage as that’s where they feel safest. You should also avoid having the food and water bowls too close to each other as cockatiels enjoy flinging their food everywhere.

I used to change my tiel’s water 3 – 4 times a day because my cockatiel kept dunking food in it.

But now that I have the two bowls on opposite sides of the cage, the water stays cleaner for a lot longer.

Cage Accessory: Enriching Bird Toys!

No matter how many perches you have, your cockatiel won’t want to stay inside the cage for more than a few minutes without any enriching toys to keep them entertained.

Playing with toys is a bird’s main way to pass the time.

Unless you want a bored, screaming cockatiel, you should have a huge variety of toys in and around the cage.

Place toys strategically around the cage so they can be accessed from perches.

You can also add foraging toys to the floor and roof of the cage to promote ground foraging, which is a wild cockatiel behaviour.

Bird toys provide enrichment and mental stimulation, which is almost as important to parrots as their diet.

Shredding toys encourage wild destructive behaviours, which is good for their beaks.

Foraging toys encourage… well, foraging, which is how wild parrots primarily find food.

There should be a few of both of these types of toys in and around your cockatiel’s cage.

Check out these articles if you need to stock up on some fun bird toys:

14 Best shredding toys for cockatiels in 2023

Top 10 best foraging toys for small parrots (Budgies, cockatiels)

20 Creative DIY foraging TOYS for small birds (Homemade Toys)

Cage Accessory: Cage Liner (The Bottom Of The Cage)

Many new bird owners wonder what to put at the bottom of the bird cage, but it’s a super simple answer:

Paper, just plain white paper.

Other good liner options include:

  • Butcher paper
  • Newspaper

Having a liner at the bottom of the cage will make daily clean-ups super easy.

Instead of scrubbing dried poop from the floor grate, you’ll only need to replace the papers, which only takes about 3 minutes.

It might not seem like much, but this is an essential part of your cockatiel’s cage setup.

cockatiel cage what to put at the bottom
(Nice clean cage liner)

Final Cage Accessory: Cuttlebone

Most bird species can have a cuttlebone inside the cage.

Cuttlebones are primarily used as a calcium supplement for birds who aren’t eating as well as they should be.

In some cases, they’re very important for preventing calcium deficiencies.

I would avoid using coloured cuttlebones and instead just use the plain white ones as they’re the most natural.

Plain white cuttlebones can be bought from most pet stores for about $2.

In case you needed to know, this is where cuttlebones come from:

Doesn’t that just look delicious? 😂

Learn more about cuttlebones and how they benefit cockatiels here

Cockatiel Cage Setup Image Ideas (For Design Inspiration)

Now that you’re aware of everything you need inside your cockatiel’s cage, I just want to help give you a few ideas on how to design the cage.

There are HEAPS of ways to set up your cockatiel’s cage.

Check out my personal Pinterest board for some cage design image ideas:

The Best Placement For Cockatiel Cages

Where you decide to place your cockatiel’s cage is just as important as how you set it up.

In most cases, you shouldn’t have the cage out in the middle of the room as it’ll be uncomfortable for your bird.

Cockatiels prefer to have at least one side of the cage up against a wall.

The back of the cage and either the left or right side should ideally be up against a wall.

Birds simply feel more secure knowing that their cage can only be approached from within their field of view.

how to setup a cockatiels cage properly
(I have the back of his cage up against the wall in my room)

How To Setup Travel Cages

Your bird’s travel cage doesn’t need to be customised as well as their main cage, it just needs to include everything they need for the short trip.

Here are the essentials you need inside a cockatiel travel cage:

  • One perch (could be a dowel or natural wood perch)
  • Food & water dishes
  • A toy (if there is enough room inside the cage)
  • Paper liner

Here’s what the travel cage looked like when I took my cockatiel to the vet a few weeks back:

(Included in the cage are two perches, two bowls, and a wooden peg to play with)

Seriously, it doesn’t need to be a palace.

Once you have the essentials inside the cage (including the bird), you’re ready for the road!

AVOID Adding These Items To Your Bird’s Cage!!

  • Happy huts (Not only do these “toys” cause hormonal aggression, but there have been plenty of tragic bird deaths as a result of consuming the fibres from the happy huts.)
  • Nesting boxes (Just like happy huts, nesting boxes can cause hormonal behaviour and aren’t recommended to be used inside the cage)
  • Metal bells (The metal bells included on some bird toys are usually made from heavy metals, which are toxic to parrots)
  • Grit (Your cockatiel does NOT need grit in the cage, despite popular belief.)
  • Unsanitised wild branches (wild branches can be used inside the cage, but only after they’ve been properly cleaned from harmful germs and bugs)

Wild tree branches actually make some of the best natural wood perches, but the branch must come from a non-toxic tree and get properly cleaned before adding to the cage.

Click here to learn how to safely turn a wild tree branch into an epic bird perch!


Let’s do a quick recap of how to set up an easy-to-clean cockatiel cage…

Once you have your large and durable cage, you’ll need to add these 5 accessories:

  1. Perches
  1. At least 2 stainless steel bowls
  1. Fun & interesting toys
  1. Cage liner
  1. Cuttlebone

We’ve already gone through how to place these items around the cage strategically, so it’s easier to clean and maintain.

Cage cleaning is a super important task that cannot be neglected.

Your cage cleaning schedule will depend on the cage size, how many birds reside in it, and how often they’re actually inside the cage. Since I only have one cockatiel who’s outside of the cage most of the day, I only need to do a monthly deep clean.

Others may need to do it fortnightly or even weekly.

If you’re new to cockatiel ownership or want to learn a super effective way to clean the cage, you should read this:

Ultimate Guide To Safely Cleaning Your Bird’s Cage (With Vinegar)

That’s the step-by-step process I personally use to keep my cage healthy and hygienic.

Please send me an email with an image if you set up your cockatiel’s cage using this guide, I’d really love to see your design (and your cute bird).

Hopefully, this guide was able to help you 🙂

Read The Ultimate Beginners Guide To Cockatiel Care (Cockatiel Care 101)


Categories: Housing/Cage


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