Cockatiel Hormones: Behaviours, Signs, & Management
Has your cockatiel been displaying some weird behaviours recently?
Does it happen to be spring season in your area?
If you answered “yes” to both of those questions, your cockatiel is likely going through hormones!
Hormonal periods can be a confusing and difficult time for cockatiel owners…
My aim here is to help clear up some of that confusion so you know EXACTLY what’s going on with your beloved cockatiel.
In this post, you’re going to learn:
- Signs & behaviours of a hormonal cockatiel
- When cockatiels can become hormonal
- Common hormonal triggers for parrots
- And how to safely control hormonal surges as much as possible
But first, you need to know what hormones actually are and how they affect our pet cockatiels.
- What Are Hormones & How Do They Affect Cockatiels?
- Cockatiel Hormonal Signs & Behaviours
- 5 Ways To Safely Control & Reduce Your Cockatiels Hormones
- What Else Can Trigger Cockatiel Hormones?
What Are Hormones & How Do They Affect Cockatiels?
To put it simply:
When cockatiels get hormonal, it means they want to breed.
Hormonal surges create the natural desire for cockatiels to find a mate, a nesting site, and to produce offspring.
All parrots experience hormones pretty much the same way.
The primary trigger for cockatiel hormones is the weather, specifically warmer weather and longer days, which happens during spring. Although cockatiels can become hormonal all year round, their hormones are simply heightened during spring, which means they’re more likely to experience more intense hormones for longer periods.
And when hormones are intense, so are their hormonal behaviours.
Cockatiel Hormonal Signs & Behaviours
When my cockatiel first went through his hormones, I was extremely confused by all the odd behaviours he was displaying.
I had absolutely no idea what to do…
I’m sure you can relate.
But thanks to a bit of internet research and the fact that I’ve experienced his hormonal surges a few times at this point, I now have a confident understanding of some common hormonal cockatiel behaviours that you’re likely dealing with right now.
If you don’t yet know for certain that your cockatiel is hormonal, look out for these signs:
- Increased sudden or unprovoked aggression
- Excessive screaming
- Extra clingy (some hormonal birds decide to be aggressive and others can be clingy. Or some can even be both!)
- Regurgitation on objects, people, or other birds
- Sexual behaviour
- Increased shredding of paper, cardboard, and toys
These are all very telling signs that your cockatiel is hormonal.
Knowing that your bird actually is hormonal is your first step into properly and safely reducing those hormones so they’re easier to deal with.
You’ll learn how to do that in a sec!
Male and female cockatiels will display different hormonal and sexual behaviours. Hormonal males will act very differently from hormonal females…
Male Cockatiel Hormonal Behaviour
Here are a few hormonal behaviours typically shown more often by male tiels:
- Increased territorial aggression
- Mounting objects and other birds (ready to mate or masturbate)
- Obsessing over objects, people, or birds (perceiving them as potential mates)
- Hopping (Used to attract the attention of a mate, which is an early sign of hormonal surges)
- Showing off heart wings
- Challenging or fighting other birds over potential nesting sites
Female Cockatiel Hormonal Behaviour
Here are a few hormonal behaviours typically shown by female cockatiels:
- Increased territorial aggression (especially inside the cage or perceived nest)
- Leaning forward with tail feathers raised (allowing a male to mount her)**
- Making soft beeping noises when sexually stimulated**
- Egg laying (obvious sign. can also happen even without a male present)
**This is what a sexually stimulated female looks and sounds like when leaning forward, ready to mate:
The owner in this video is actually sexually stimulating their cockatiel by petting her along the back (you’ll learn more about this later). You can tell that she’s sexually stimulated because she’s leaning forward with her back arced while making the infamous female mating chirps.
Those are VERY clear signs of a hormonal female cockatiel.
At What Age Can Cockatiels First Experience Hormones?
Cockatiels can go through their first hormonal surges after they reach puberty, which can happen anywhere between 6 – 12 months of age.
In most cases, it’ll be around 9 months of age.
They’re physically capable of breeding at this age, but they’re not mature enough to be successful parents.
Fun fact: Cockatiels go through their first moult around the same time they go through their first hormonal surge.
How Long Do Hormones Last In Cockatiels
In the wild, cockatiel hormones last all the way through spring due to the natural spring conditions.
However, many household environments resemble spring conditions all year round, which can cause year-long hormonal surges for our pet birds.
We often create the illusion of spring inside our homes by:
- Having the lights on past sundown
- Having ideal (warm) and consistent temperatures
- Ensuring there’s plenty of available food
- And a whole range of other factors.
How long hormones will last with your cockatiel will depend on many of these factors, but hormones should naturally end after spring.
5 Ways To Safely Control & Reduce Your Cockatiels Hormones
Unless you make conscious efforts to help reduce hormone intensity, you’re going to have an out-of-control cockatiel who is going to be even harder to handle.
And don’t worry, there are safe ways you can do this.
Below are 5 ways you can safely and effectively calm your cockatiel’s hormonal surges:
1. Reduce Their Daylight Hours By Giving Them More Sleep
One of the reasons why spring season triggers cockatiel hormones is due to the increased daylight hours.
By reducing your cockatiel’s daylight hours, you can help reduce their hormone intensity.
You can do this by simply allowing your cockatiel to sleep in for an extra hour or two, so that’s about 12 – 14 hours of sleep in total. Outside of hormone season, cockatiels should get between 10 – 12 hours of good quality sleep, but it’s totally safe to increase that during the hormonal season.
As well as an increased amount of sleep, cockatiels also require undisturbed sleep.
2. Eliminate Dark Cavities From The Environment
Many owners are accidentally intensifying their bird’s hormones by having hormonal stimulants within their environment and cage.
Dark cavities are the most common hormonal stimulants, and they include:
- Happy huts (those fibrous triangular tents)
- Breeding boxes
- Other dark cavities that may be perceived as a nest (cupboards, drawers, under desks, etc)
Cockatiels naturally breed in dark cavities, so it’s no wonder having them around the cage and surrounding environment can trigger hormones.
A lot of birds get hormonally aggressive in those happy huts.
Even places such as under the couch or fridge can attract an already hormonal bird, and they’ll usually become even MORE hormonal once they get comfortable within the cavity.
To prevent hormonal aggression, make sure your cockatiel doesn’t have access to dark hollows.
3. Make Sure Your Cockatiel Has Plenty To Do!
Sometimes, a few distracting activities can help calm their hormones for a little while.
Foraging toys, shredding toys, training sessions, and music can all help keep your cockatiel’s mind off their desire to mate.
When you decide to train your hormonal parrot, you should stick with target training…
Hormonal cockatiels can be a little unpredictable and you might receive a nasty bite for no reason if you tried to do step-up or flight training.
At least with target training, you don’t need to get your fingers too close to that dangerous beak!
4. Keep Male & Female Cockatiels In Separate Cages
A lot of experts and vets say that cockatiels, compared to other small parrots, can have their hormones triggered very easily.
Simply being around the opposite sex is enough to trigger a cockatiel’s hormones during spring.
Hormones can be even more intense if caged together with the opposite sex as there is a huge opportunity for mating. Some experts suggest keeping males & females in separate cages during spring for these reasons.
But this is only necessary if you’re experiencing very intense hormonal problems with your parrots.
In extreme cases, you may need to keep them at opposite ends of the house as even seeing or hearing a member of the opposite sex can be a hormone trigger for some individuals.
5. Reduce Their Intake Of High Fat Foods
Foods high in fat and calories have been proven to increase hormone production in parrots.
High-fat foods include:
- Millet spray
- Sunflower seeds
During hormonal season, it’s best to limit these high-calorie treats to prevent unnecessarily high hormonal surges.
I know, cockatiels love these foods…
But you don’t need to cut them out entirely, they just need to be limited.
You could save these foods strictly for training, for example.
Besides that, your cockatiel should mainly be eating pellets, seeds, and a variety of healthy veggies!
How To Deal With Hormonal Cockatiel Aggression Without Getting Bit
Want to know how I deal with my cockatiel’s hormonal aggression?
I simply keep my nose and my fingers away from his beak when he’s acting aggressively.
Even when your bird is not hormonal, my main advice to avoid bites is to just keep your fingers clear whenever they’re acting aggressively.
And cockatiels show some pretty obvious signs when they’re mad:
- They hiss
- They open their beaks (ready to peck)
- They fold back their crests
- Sometimes, they’ll also sway, but that’s more to do with territorial aggression
When your cockatiels show these signs, especially when hormonal, keep all fingers far away!
What Else Can Trigger Cockatiel Hormones?
We’ve well established that the spring season conditions will naturally trigger your cockatiel’s hormones…
But what else can?
Here’s a list of common hormonal triggers for cockatiel birds:
- Touching or petting along the back, wings, and chest*
- Warm mushy foods that resemble regurgitation**
- Poor sleep quality, which often leads to hormonal aggression in the morning
- Dark cavities in the surrounding area (happy huts, breeding boxes, cupboards, under desks, and pretty much anywhere with a dark confined area)
- Having an abundance of different food varieties
- Being in a safe and secure environment
I just want to briefly discuss the top two points as I believe they require further explanation, and then we’ll wrap this article up.
Touching Or Petting Inappropriately*
In the wild, only a mate or sexual partner can touch, preen, and stroke along the back, wings, or below the chest. Stroking these areas will make your cockatiel think you’re trying to mate with it, which will result in some undesirable hormonal behaviours such as aggression.
By petting your cockatiel inappropriately, you’re essentially teasing it with sex.
Understandably, the cockatiel will become upset or angry because you didn’t “deliver” on your “promise”.
Cockatiels are known to take out their sexual frustration on those who tease it.
Make sure you keep scratches near the head and neck area because, in the wild, all flock members are allowed to preen those areas.
Warm Mushy Foods Can Trigger Hormones… But Why?**
Parrots who are trying to woo a potential mate will often show their interest by attempting to feed them regurgitated food.
Although cockatiels aren’t known to do this, it’s still a sign you should look out for.
Regurgitated food is warm and mushy because it’s been in the parrot’s crop.
When eating these types of foods, some hormonal parrots may perceive it as regurgitation, which could make them even more hormonal.
To help keep cockatiel hormones at a manageable level, you should limit warm and mushy foods.
By now, you should have a better understanding of the following:
- What are cockatiel hormones & what they mean
- When cockatiels become hormonal and why
- The behavioural signs that indicate when cockatiels are hormonal
- The different hormonal signs between male and female cockatiels
- How long hormones typically last in cockatiels and other parrots
- How to reduce and manage hormonal surges
- Common hormonal triggers for cockatiels
My aim with this post was to help you understand your cockatiel and its behaviour during this very confusing time, I’m hoping I’ve accomplished that. I know this topic can be a little confusing and troublesome, but this is the stuff we need to go through as dedicated cockatiel owners.
I’m here for you if you need me.
Thank you for reading 🙂