Advice and Tips on How to Train A Cockatiel

Cockatiels are highly intelligent birds that are capable of building strong relationships with their caretakers. Anyone looking into potentially owning a cockatiel has likely, at some point, wondered how to train a cockatiel and whether doing so is an easy feat.

Fortunately, yes, cockatiels do tend to be easier to train than other bird species, but it’s still important to go about training these pet birds the right way. If you’re tired of trying to get your cockatiel to do what you want, here’s some advice to help you succeed!

How to Train A Cockatiel?

Hand Feeding a Beautiful Cockatiel

There are several factors that go into training a cockatiel. Because they are wild animals, it takes time and numerous training sessions to build trust and allow your bird to adjust to having you as its owner. Before you can get into training of any type, you have to first bond with your cockatiel. 

This means giving your bird some time to become comfortable with you and its new environment, rather than diving right into training your bird on the same day you bring it home.

In addition to time, your secret weapon when training your cockatiel is spray millet. Spray millet is the perfect treat to use when training your cockatiel if you want a more enthusiastic, willing participant. 

Hand Taming A Cockatiel (Training A Cockatiel to Perch On Your Finger)

Hand-taming a cockatiel tends to be most successful when the bird is still young, preferably around eight to twelve weeks old. Keep the following tips in mind when hand-taming a cockatiel:

  • Consistency is key; try to spend as much time as possible with your cockatiel so that they can become more comfortable with you.
  • Try to keep your cockatiel at eye level and avoid leaning over or towering over your cockatiel, which can be perceived as a threat by your bird.
  • In the beginning, simply talk to your cockatiel from a safe distance, then slowly move closer to your bird as you continue talking to it. Once you are near the bird’s cage, try putting your hand on the outside of the cage, at eye level or below the cockatiel, never above it.
  • From there, try offering a treat from your hand. Slowly move your hand and the treat, such as spray millet, into your cockatiel’s cage while continuing to talk to it. If things are going smoothly, the bird will gradually move toward you to munch on the treat. If they peck at you, try to avoid making any sudden, jerky movements, but instead keep your hand still. Your bird is likely just investigating and will soon realize that you aren’t a threat. Continue talking in a quiet, gentle voice as your bird becomes more comfortable eating from your hand. 
  • Once you have accomplished that step, you can try to place your hand in the cockatiel’s cage without any treats in it. With one or two of your fingers extended, slowly place your hand further into the cage until your cockatiel is comfortable. Eventually, you should be able to place your finger at the bird’s feet. Once you are sure the bird is comfortable with you being this close, try to then move your finger to its stomach. At this point, if the bird is comfortable enough, it will hop onto your finger. The bird will, hopefully, from then on take your finger against its stomach as a sign to perch onto your finger.
  • From there, you can start to move your hand out of the cage while it’s perched on your finger. If you struggle with this step, consider using a separate perch to move your cockatiel outside of its cage. 

How to Train A Cockatiel to Talk?

Of the different bird species, particularly parrots, cockatiels aren’t known as the most talkative creatures. That said, they are certainly capable of learning speech, including short phrases, with the right kind of training. 

With consistent training and positive reinforcement, most young cockatiels will start talking in as little as a few weeks. Some birds, including older cockatiels, may take a few months, or longer, to learn how to talk but don’t become discouraged. The American Cockatiel Society recommends training your cockatiel to talk when it’s around three to four months old.

Additionally, female cockatiels are capable of learning to talk but male cockatiels are typically the best with speech. Focus on the following areas when training your cockatiel to talk.

Enunciation and Tone of Voice

When teaching your cockatiel to talk, stick with short phrases with only one or two syllables. Speak with an upbeat tone to keep your bird engaged. Make sure to enunciate each word as you teach it

Enunciation and Excitement

Clearly enunciate the word and speak loudly when training your cockatiel, otherwise you’ll end up with a mumbling bird, warns Julie Rach Mancini, author of x Interact with your feathered friend during training. 

Cockatiels are social birds who enjoy the company of their “flock.” Your bird will be much more engaged when he’s getting the chance to spend time with you while learning to speak. Keep the training sessions short, to around 10 to 15 minutes at a time, so your bird doesn’t get bored or frustrated.

Repetition and Positive Association

Two tame cockatiels setting

Repeat the phrases you want your cockatiel to learn during daily training sessions and even throughout the day while you’re interacting. Associate the phrases with fun activities such as getting a treat, playing a game or coming out of the cage. 

For example, say “Want a treat” when offering your cockatiel a favorite food such as some tasty millet or a yummy piece of apple. Start your day by greeting your bird with an emphatic “Hi” and say “Bye bye” when leaving. Soon, your cockatiel will learn to associate these phrases with certain activities and may begin to say them, recommends author Sally Blanchard of BirdChannel.com.

Rewards and Considerations

If your cockatiel begins to speak, reward him with his favorite food when he does and praise him with an emphatic “Good.” Continue to repeat the phrases he’s saying, especially if his pronunciation isn’t the best. 

Don’t expect your cockatiel to have perfect pronunciation. These small parrots tend to speak quickly and in high-pitched tones. While you can record the phrases you want your bird to learn and play them during the day, it’s best to interact personally with your bird to prevent him from becoming bored of your voice, recommends Mary Gorman, author of “The Cockatiel Handbook.” Avoid whistling around your cockatiel because he may learn to imitate you. 

Whistling is an easier form of vocalization than speaking for cockatiels and can discourage them from learning to talk.

Final Words

Training a cockatiel is just like training any other pet – it requires patience and consistency. Whether you’re a newbie cockatiel owner or an expert, there’s always something new to learn about these little guys. We hope this guide has been helpful in learning how to train a cockatiel. 

Harlan Derricks
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