My Vet-Approved Cockatiel Diet Plan (+ Diet Chart)

Published by Joseph Calabrese on

cockatiel diet

In this article, you’re going to get a healthy cockatiel diet plan that has been recommended and approved by my avian veterinarians.

And I have the papers to support my claims, so you know this diet plan is 100% reliable.

There are way too many websites promoting terrible cockatiel diets.

My goal with this article is to cut through all the crap and just give you what you really need:

A trustworthy diet plan that you can feel comfortable feeding to your cockatiel so they can live a long and healthy life with you.

You’re going to learn a lot about cockatiel diets in this article, so let’s get started!

Disclosure: I’m not an avian veterinarian or a medical expert. All info in this article has been well researched from reliable sources, but the author himself is not a vet. The info in this article should not be taken as medical advice nor should it surpass any professional advice.

Affiliate links are present throughout this article, read the disclosure to learn what this means

Quick Navigation:

Nutritionally Balanced Cockatiel Diet Overview (Diet Chart)

In order to feed a nutritionally balanced diet to your cockatiel, you need to feed the appropriate amount of each of these 5 food types:

  • Pellets (40%)
  • Budgie seed mix (30%)
  • Vegetables (20%)
  • Fruit (5%)
  • Treats (5%)

Those percentages indicate how much of the overall diet that particular food should make up.

For example, vegetables should make up roughly 20% of your cockatiel’s overall diet.

I know other online sources claim that 80% of the diet should be pellets and 20% should be seeds or something else along those lines, but the diet plan I just gave you came straight from my avian vet.

Here’s the proof:

cockatiel care guide diet

I received this free cockatiel care sheet upon my first vet visit back in 2020.

And honestly, I would trust my avian vet over those other sources any day of the week.

Here’s that same cockatiel diet plan that I turned into a diet chart so it’s easier for you to digest:

cockatiel diet chart
(cockatiel diet chart)

Please feel free to print off the diet chart for yourself or share it with anyone who needs it.

Although you can look at this diet chart and walk away with a good diet plan in mind, you’ll get so much more value if you continue reading the detailed description of each food type.

Pellets (40% Of The Overall Diet)

The reason why pellets must make up a majority of your cockatiel’s diet is because they’re nutritionally balanced.

In other words, pellets offer your cockatiel almost all essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.

Here are some of the best brands that make high-quality pellets for cockatiels:

  • Harrison’s
  • Vetafarm
  • Roudybush
  • Zupreem (Links to amazon purchase of Zupreem pellets)
  • Kaytee

Click here to view the top 7 healthiest pellet brands for cockatiels

You can rest easy knowing that any of these pellet brands will serve as a healthy diet base for your cockatiel.

I recommend experimenting with different brands as all cockatiels have taste preferences when it comes to their pellets.

pellets for cockatiels
(Arthur the cockatiel enjoying his pellets)

If you don’t yet have your cockatiel on a pellet-based diet, you should work on that ASAP, especially if they’re on a seed-only diet!

Making the switch to a pelleted diet is arguably the best thing you can do for your cockatiel’s long-term health.

Click here to learn how to switch your cockatiel from seeds to pellets within 1 month.

Budgie Seed Mix (30% Of The Overall Diet)

Since most cockatiel seed mixes have a high amount of fatty sunflower seeds, it’s recommended to instead feed the budgie seed mix to cockatiels.

This is what was advised by my avian vet.

When cockatiels are eating, they tend to pick out their favourite foods and avoid the rest.

If fed the cockatiel mix, they’ll likely pick out all the high-calorie sunflower seeds, which aren’t good in high amounts. However, the budgie seed mix excludes sunflower seeds, which will promote your cockatiels to eat the other seed variety, which is much better for their nutrition.

cockatiel diet plan

I reserve sunflower seeds for training treats only.

Cockatiels and budgies both require more seeds than most other parrots due to their natural diet.

In the wild, both cockatiels and budgies naturally forage for different seeds on the ground, making seeds a major part of their diet.

We can’t feed this wild diet to our pet cockatiels because their wild counterparts burn many more calories during flight.

Our pet cockatiels don’t fly nearly as often or as far as wild birds, so they don’t need as many calories.

Vegetables (20% Of The Overall Diet)

Most cockatiels are very fussy about what they eat, which often makes it difficult to get them to eat vegetables.

I definitely struggle to feed them to my cockatiel at times.

vegetables for cockatiels
(Trying to get him to eat beans)

Although they can be hard to feed, veggies are highly nutritious and play a vital role in your cockatiel’s diet.

Without the added nutritional value from a variety of vegetables, cockatiels are prone to nutrient deficiencies.

Here are some safe and healthy vegetables you can feed to cockatiels:

  • Carrot
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Green beans
  • Peas

Click here to view the full list of safe and nutritious vegetables for cockatiels

You can serve one vegetable at a time or you could make a bird chop mix that includes a whole variety of different vegetables.

Bird chop is just a mix of finely diced vegetables, often served with millet sprinkled on top.

I feed a chop mix to my cockatiel daily as I believe it’s the most effective way to provide a whole heap of nutrients in one bowl.

Here’s what my latest chop mix looked like:

cockatiel diet chart

I added: cauliflower, jalapenos, spinach, green beans, snap peas, and a few basil leaves.

Doesn’t it just look delicious?

Whenever you make a chop mix, you should aim for different ingredients in every batch to ensure your cockatiel absorbs a lot of different nutrients.

However, new foods can be a little tricky to feed to your cockatiel.

To help with this, I created this post: 17 Ways To Encourage Your Parrot To Try New Foods

You should definitely give this a read if you plan to add ANYTHING new to your cockatiel’s diet.

Fruit (5% Of The Overall Diet)

When people discuss cockatiel diets, they often use “fruits and vegetables” interchangeably, wrongfully implying that cockatiels should eat fruits as often as they eat vegetables.

However, fruits have lots of natural sugars which are bad for cockatiels in large quantities.

This is why fruits make up a very small percentage of the overall diet chart.

Here are some safe fruits you can feed to your cockatiel:

  • Apple
  • Watermelon
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Blueberries

Click here to view the full list of safe fruits for cockatiels.

fruit for cockatiel
(Image Credit: Pixabays)

That list of safe fruits will also point out which fruit seeds to avoid as most of them are toxic.

But there are some safe fruit seeds, such as those from kiwi fruits and watermelons.

Treats (5% Of The Overall Diet)

If you only reserve treats such as sunflower seeds and millet spray for daily training sessions, your cockatiel will be receiving a safe amount of these high-calorie foods.

Although these treats are bad in high amounts, they’re still an essential part of your cockatiel’s diet plan.

They contain necessary fats and nutrients not found in other foods.

Your cockatiel will receive a healthy amount of these treats as long as you’re training them a few times a day.

Other training treats include:

  • Honey sticks (essentially just seeds on a stick)
  • Dried fruit
  • Fruit seeds
  • Regular budgie seed mix
  • Spinach (my cockatiel loves working for spinach)

Find out what treats are favoured by YOUR cockatiel.

More Foods For Cockatiels

As well as their main diet plan, there are lots of other nutritious foods you can and should feed to your cockatiel every now and then.

One of the best foods you can feed your cockatiel is eggs!

I feed one serving of hard-boiled egg to my cockatiel per week, but I wouldn’t give any more than that due to their high protein level.

egg for cockatiel
(Image Credit: Pixabay)

Other foods you can feed your cockatiel in moderation include:

  • Very small amounts of cooked meat (beef, chicken)
  • Cooked pasta
  • Toast
  • Cooked fish

As long as you’re not feeding any of the above foods every day in large amounts, you won’t need to worry about overfeeding.

Just make sure you feed them in moderation only.

Read: The Full Cockatiel Food List – The Ultimate Feeding Guide

What Foods Can Cockatiels Not Eat (AVOID THESE!)

Before feeding anything to your cockatiel, you need to know if it’s safe or toxic, and there are many foods that are toxic to cockatiels.

Here are just a few foods to avoid:

  • Avocado
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Rhubarb
  • Chocolate

Read the full list of toxic foods for parrots here.

There’s also a bit of a misconception within the aviculture community suggesting that tomatoes are toxic and they should never be fed.

But tomatoes, along with all acidic fruits, are safe for birds when fed in moderation.

Other acidic fruits include limes, grapes, blueberries, oranges and lemons, which are all safe for cockatiels.

Also, cockatiels and most other parrots don’t require grit in their diet.

In fact, feeding grit to a cockatiel can cause impaction, so it’s best to avoid it.

The Natural Diet Of A Wild Cockatiel

Before bringing this article to a close, I want to discuss the diet of a wild cockatiel and how that compares to their diet plan in captivity.

Firstly, wild cockatiels can eat pretty much everything in their Australian outback habitat.

They can eat a large variety of insects, vegetation, fruits, plants, and they’re commonly found foraging for seeds on the ground.

Wild cockatiels are also cheeky enough to steal farmer crops if they can find them.

Other parrots living in the same environment, such as budgies and galah cockatoos, also follow similar eating habits.

Cockatiels and galah cockatoos have even been recorded foraging together on the ground.

(Video Credit: Parrot Wizard)

So how does the diet of a wild cockatiel compare to their diet in captivity?

There are two key differences between the two diets:

  1. Wild cockatiels typically get a lot more variety than pet cockatiels
  1. Wild cockatiels burn a lot more calories than pet cockatiels

The reason we need to add nutritionally balanced pellets to our cockatiel’s diet is due to those two factors.

Allow me to explain:

If pet cockatiels ate the exact same foods and burned as many calories as wild cockatiels, they wouldn’t need pellets in their diet.

This is evident by the fact that wild cockatiels don’t eat pellets.

wild cockatiel diet plan and chart
(Image Credit: Pixabay)

According to psittacology, wild cockatiels regularly feed on roughly 29 types of seeds, which is a lot of variety.

Commercial parrot seed mixes on the other hand only have about 5 – 8 types of seeds.

Since pet cockatiels only get a fraction of the variety received by their wild counterparts, our cockatiels require nutritious pellets to make up for a lack of food variety and nutritional value.

Also, wild seeds, just like commercial seed mixes, are high in calories.

Wild cockatiels need the energy from high-calorie foods to fly long distances and find more food.

But pet cockatiels will only get fat from high-calorie foods as they don’t burn off nearly as many calories as wild birds.

Hopefully, I’ve explained this well enough and you can see why the two diets must be different.

They simply live different lives and therefore require a distinct diet.


Here’s a quick recap of the avian vet-approved cockatiel diet plan:

  • Pellets (40% of the overall diet)
  • Budgie seeds (30% of the overall diet)
  • Vegetables (20% of the overall diet)
  • Fruit (5%)
  • Treats such as sunflower seeds and millet (5%)

I believe the cockatiel diet chart presents this info in a more digestible way:

cockatiel diet chart

If there’s one word that summarises a healthy cockatiel diet, it’s “variety”.

Without enough vegetable variety, cockatiels are prone to nutrient deficiencies.

Cockatiels can also suffer from calcium deficiencies if they don’t have regular access to a cuttlebone.

They’re relatively cheap so make sure you have one in the cage at all times.

You should have 1 cuttlebone for each bird inside the cage, so if you have 2 cockatiels, you’ll need 2 cuttlebones.

This is what a cuttlebone looks like:

cockatiel favourite food

Hopefully, this article has given you an easy understanding of exactly what you need to feed your cockatiel.

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



Gwyn Rita Gomez Becker · January 28, 2023 at 3:33 am

I just wanted to tell you thank you. This took so much time I am sure! I’m surprised others didn’t comment. I’ll definitely am saving this..z Thanks again!

Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *