Pros & Cons Of Keeping Cockatiels As Pets
Do you think cockatiels are the right pets for you?
Although cockatiels have friendly and affectionate personalities, they definitely aren’t the pets for everyone.
Those cute internet clips DO NOT show the true reality of living with cockatiels.
You need to make some very serious considerations before bringing any parrots into your home.
This article dives deep into the pros and cons of keeping cockatiels as pets based on my own experiences as a dedicated tiel owner.
I’ve cared for Arthur, my 2-year-old pet shop cockatiel since 2020, and I want to share both the good and bad aspects of cockatiel ownership so you can have an accurate idea of what it’s really like to live with them and if they’re the right pets for you.
Now, let’s get into the pros and cons of keeping a cockatiel parrot!
Pros and Cons Of Keeping Cockatiels As Pets | Quick Overview
1. High Emotional Intelligence
1. Very Messy Pets
2. Cockatiels Can Recognise Different Faces
2. Cockatiels Are Extremely Dusty
3. They're Small & Don't Take Up Too Much Space
3. Time & Attention Demanding
4. Can Be Taught Tricks, Commands, & Different Behaviours
4. There's A Moral Dilema Behind Keeping Any Birds As Pets
5. Great At Whistling & Singing!
5. Cockatiels Are Super Sensitive To Common Household Items
6. Long Lifespans
6. Expensive To Look After
7. Their Body Language Is Easier To Read Than Most Other Parrots
7. Generally High-Maintenance Pets
8. Quieter Than Other Parrots
Although there’s one more pro, I believe the cons are much more important factors you must consider before deciding if cockatiels are the right pets for you.
For example, the fact that cockatiels can whistle shouldn’t guide your decision more than the fact that they will take up a lot of your time and money.
Only look at the pros if you believe you can truly handle all of the cons.
Let’s discuss each pro and each con in further detail…
Pros | Keeping Cockatiels As Pets
1. Cockatiels Have High Emotional Intelligence
Their high emotional intelligence allows them to bond closely with those who care for them and treat them with respect. Cockatiels know when they’re receiving love from humans, and they also know how to show their affection back to their owners.
Through their body language and vocalisation, they can express a whole range of emotions, such as anger, sadness, happiness, and also more complex emotions such as boredom, anxiety, and depression.
Only animals with high emotional intelligence could be so expressive with their feelings.
2. Cockatiels Can Recognise Their Owners & Differentiate Between Faces
Cockatiels, like most parrots, can indeed recognise the faces of their owners!
Not only that, but they can also differentiate between household members, which allows them to form stronger bonds with those who spend more time with them and avoid those who mistreat them.
Cockatiels can learn to recognise different faces, body postures, and voice tones.
This is yet another trait that supports their high social intelligence.
3. They’re Relatively Small And Can Fit Into Most Homes
Compared to other types of parrots, cockatiels are relatively small and don’t take up much space in the home.
They’re literally around the size of a 30cm ruler.
You should always go as big as possible with bird cages, but the minimum size requirements for cockatiel cages are definitely more manageable than some of the larger parrots. Cockatiels are also better suited for flying in bedrooms, apartment spaces, and living rooms due to their smaller size.
My main point here is that cockatiels DO NOT require a huge indoor/outdoor aviary to be happy.
Of course they would love it, but it’s not as essential as it is for those bigger birds.
4. Cockatiels Are Fairly Easy To Train & Teach New Behaviours
There are many fun tricks you can teach a cockatiel.
Not only are they fast learners, but they actually enjoy the learning process!
My cockatiel in particular gets super excited whenever we start a target training or flight training session as he knows that training time = treat time. You can just see the enthusiasm in their body language.
Here are some of the most useful behaviours that are relatively easy to teach cockatiels:
- Stepping onto your hand, finger, or handheld perch (step-up training)
- Flying to your hand or arm on command (flight training)
- Getting them to touch a target stick (Target training)
Since cockatiels are very food motivated, it’s not difficult to teach them specific behaviours if you know what you’re doing.
5. Experts At Whistling & Singing
Cockatiels are not big on talking, but they love to whistle!
Let me correct myself there, they can speak a few phrases if taught from a young age, but most cockatiels prefer to sing and whistle. This is definitely not a big advantage you should look into when considering cockatiels as pets, but it’ll certainly be entertaining if you do decide to adopt one of these guys.
Here’s my cockatiel singing his famous tune:
There are also ways you can train them to sing your favourite songs in whistle form.
6. Cockatiels Have Long Lifespans Compared To Other Pets
As pets, cockatiels usually live between 15 – 20 years, sometimes even longer.
Now, there are good and bad aspects to pets with long lifespans:
The good: You have more time to care for and bond with your pet.
The bad: You need to dedicate about a quarter of your own lifespan to make sure they’re healthy, happy, and properly enriched.
Some people can make this long commitment, but others cannot.
Before adopting any pets, you really need to consider their lifespans and how long you’ll be able to care for them.
7. Cockatiel Body Language Is Easier To Read Than Other Parrot Species
Cockatiels have something that most similar-sized birds do not:
Their crest helps indicate emotions such as fear, happiness, and anger, which makes cockatiels a little easier to read than “crestless” birds such as budgies or parrotlets.
Being able to read your bird is important for preventing bites, among other things.
The crest isn’t a huge indicator as you still need to know what to look for, it just makes it a bit easier, especially for those who don’t have a good understanding of parrot body language yet.
8. Cockatiels Are Quieter Than Other Parrots
Don’t get too excited thinking that you’ve found a quiet parrot species, cockatiels can still be pretty loud when they want to be…
They’re just a little quieter than other birds such as conures, amazon parrots, and caiques.
Tip: If you want a quiet bird, adopt a pigeon.
But for most bird owners, it’s not the actual noise volume, it’s how long they vocalise that can really cause a headache.
And cockatiels can carry on for quite some time, but at least they aren’t as loud as some other species.
Cons | Keeping Cockatiels As Pets
1. Cockatiels Are Very Messy Pets
When adopting a cockatiel, you’re also adopting a whole bunch of new household chores…
Cockatiels are super messy and super destructive, and this is apparent on the first day of adoption.
They chew and destroy things (especially wooden furniture).
They fling their food everywhere, they seriously DON’T care.
They poop anywhere they want (even on your head).
And finally, they like to throw broken toy parts around the house.
If you pride yourself on a nice clean home, a cockatiel, and most other birds, probably aren’t the pets for you.
2. Cockatiels Have A Ton Of Dust, Dander, & Powder
One of the worst disadvantages of having a cockatiel inside your home is the amount of dust they’ll throw into the atmosphere.
As a cockatiel owner myself, the dust can get pretty overwhelming, especially during heavy moults.
Before adopting one as a pet, you need to seriously consider the respiratory health of those living in the house as there are lots of people who simply cannot handle the dust.
Perhaps you have a grandparent or parent with asthma or some other lung issue…
Or maybe you have one yourself.
Either way, bird dander inhalation can cause further damage to those with serious respiratory issues.
In fact, the dust is so bad that I had to write a post explaining ways to reduce it, which you can read right here:
Please be mindful of this when considering a cockatiel as a pet.
3. They Require Lots Of Time & Attention From Their Owners
Cockatiels are not the sort of pet where you can just provide their basic needs and leave them alone for the rest of the day.
No, they’re not snails.
Cockatiels require almost constant attention from at least one person every day.
They’re less demanding of you when they have a second tiel to keep them company, but they’ll still want plenty of interaction from their favourite humans. Lots of people think they can handle attention-demanding cockatiels, but they quickly find themselves overwhelmed as they try to balance giving attention to their birds with work, school, and day-to-day tasks.
If you struggle with productivity already, it’ll get about 10x worse with cockatiels around.
4. There’s A Morality Problem With Keeping Any Birds As Pets
If you ever decide to adopt a cockatiel or any bird for this matter, you’re eventually going to experience “bird owners guilt”.
You’re going to question the morality of actually keeping your bird as a pet.
Bird owners know that their birds, by right, should be free in the wild doing their natural thing instead of living inside our homes.
The following thoughts will likely enter your head at some point:
“Is it cruel to keep my cockatiel in a cage?”
“is my bird really happy living like this? Would they rather be free?”
These are the honest thoughts of a bird owner.
I don’t want to go too deep into it in this article, but here are my thoughts on this…
It’s absolutely NOT cruel to keep parrots as pets as long as the owners do everything they can to encourage their natural activities, give them plenty of space to fly, and provide a healthy diet.
5. Cockatiels Are Super Sensitive To Common Household Items
Many common household items are hazardous to cockatiels.
Since they have such sensitive respiratory systems, even the slightest scents of anything other than fresh air can cause sickness or death.
These are some of the most hazardous scents for cockatiels:
- Most cooking fumes (especially from non-stick cookware)
- Disinfectant sprays, fumes, and other chemical odours
- Smoke (Weed, cigarettes, bushfires, etc)
- Aerosol sprays (deodorants, perfumes, hairsprays, any other smelly sprays)
If you decide to adopt a parrot, you can’t use any of these things inside the house, which can be pretty restrictive.
6. They’re Expen$ive To Keep As Pets
Now, it’s not much for the initial cost of the actual cockatiel bird.
The cheapest (aviary) cockatiels are sold for around 25$, and hand-raised tiels are usually sold for around $150 – $200.
This is affordable for most people, but it’s these long-term costs that you must really consider:
- Vet bills (if they get sick, the vet bills are hefty)
- Good toys to keep the bird stimulated (most toys cost around 10$ each and cockatiels go through toys like we go through bread)
- Food (pellets, seeds, vegetables, fruit, treats, etc)
Not to mention a large, high-quality cage for your cockatiels to live in, which will cost you anywhere between $200 – $400.
7. Cockatiels ARE High-Maintenance Pets
Anyone who tells you that cockatiels are low-maintenance pets should be discredited immediately.
Sure, they’re not as much work as the larger parrots, but they’re definitely higher maintenance pets than cats or dogs.
Even after two years of cockatiel ownership, I still often find myself overwhelmed with chores.
Here are just a few things you gotta do for pet cockatiels:
- You need to replace the cage liner daily.
- You need to remove droppings from the cage and house daily.
- You need to change the food and water in their bowls daily (at least).
- You need to provide or prepare a vegetable variety every day.
- Sweeping the floor at least twice daily becomes essential.
And on top of all those chores, you must also provide attention and do multiple training sessions with the bird daily. Even as I wrote the previous sentence, my cockatiel just pooped in his water bowl, which I now need to replace.
You must seriously consider the amount of free time you have daily before adopting cockatiels as pets.
Conclusion | Will Cockatiels Make Good Pets For You?
So, what’s it really like to live with cockatiels?
Well, it’s definitely rewarding knowing that you’re taking great care of a creature with such high intelligence. But on the other hand, you’ll be spending quite a few hours a day ensuring their environment is clean and they’re mentally stimulated.
Growing attached to a cockatiel is almost guaranteed and you’ll eventually see them as family.
They’re generally very affectionate companions that enjoy hanging out with their favourite humans, despite driving them crazy with their loud screaming at times.
Also, you’ll feel guilty whenever you need to go out and leave them in the cage.
I can’t even go shopping without feeling guilty because my cockatiel is in his cage by himself.
Hopefully, this article has given you an accurate idea of what it’s like to have a cockatiel as a pet.
There are many cons that most regular people couldn’t handle, but cockatiels do make affectionate, friendly, and amusing companions.
However, they’ll only be good companions if cared for properly.
If you’ve decided cockatiels are right for you or you want to further research their care requirements, I’ve got a few articles that can help…
To learn how to feed a proper cockatiel diet, read these:
For a super informative cockatiel cage setup guide, read this:
And to learn 20 more things you must know before adopting a cockatiel, read this:
If you need help with other aspects of cockatiel care, feel free to email me or search this site 🙂
Thank you for reading.