About Cockatiels: Cages and Cage Accessories

   You may or may not have noticed that there is a wide variety of cockatiel cages available. What they don't tell you is that the spacing between the bars must be 5/8" to no more than 3/4". This is primarily for the bird's safety. A large spacing could allow the cockatiel to stick its head through, and become stuck. Birds don't like to be in a situation where they feel "stuck," and will thrash about, more than likely breaking its neck.
   The cage itself needs to be wider than it is long. Cockatiels do not fly straight up and down. Unfortunately, most "beginner kits" are with a tall cage. I personally recommend the Prevue Playpen Cage, which is available at PetsMart for $70, or you can buy it online at their website for about $20 less. This cage is only big enough for ONE cockatiel! Another cage I've used the Prevue Two Tone cage, which is a bit more pricey, and is the same size. The Playpen Cage expands to include 2 ladders above the cage, which can be closed when you don't want the bird to get out. The perches are a bit small, but they work. You can buy ones that are a bit bigger (I recommend 5/8") in diameter later for a few dollars.
   Whatever cage you choose, make sure it includes a grille and a pull out drawer. The grille is essential for the health of the cockatiel, keeping it safely away from its excrement. The pull out drawer is so convenient I don't know if they even make cages without it anymore. You can line the drawer with newspaper. Don't use any pine shavings, or cedar, or that silly grit they keep trying to market. Grit actually does more harm than good, impacting your cockatiel's crop and basically starving it to death. Using shavings is just silly. After you change the drawer a few times, you'll figure out why.
   Perches have somewhat of a debate going on. The cement perches, and those sand covers you can put on regular perches, are thought to cause sores on birds' feet. It makes sense, standing around on sandpaper all day doesn't sound too comfortable to me! Plastic perches are just fine, again, in the 5/8" diameter. 3/4" is fine too. There are adjustable cloth perches you can buy, which I think are great for anyone who wants to rearrange the cage a lot. They are also nice because the birds love to pick at them, and serve as a passtime. A few negative things are that you don't want your bird to swallow little strings, so you must keep an eye on it, they cost a bit more, they aren't so easy to clean, and they don't naturally trim your bird's claws. You will have to clip them yourself if the main perch is made of cloth.
   Toys are the fun part in planning your bird's cage. There is a nice selection on the market today. I try to buy toys with bells, because they fascinate the bird no end, and leather or wood. I'd rather have the cockatiel nibble on the leather than on my fingers. Toys don't have to be expensive to be played with. The one toy that all my birds like is a "Sun, Moon, and Stars" toy I get a Kroger for $0.99. I have seen other toys go into the $15 range. A nice $5 leather toy will last your bird a while. You should keep many toys on hand, to continually rotate into the cage every few weeks. We don't want the bird to get bored, so keep changing one of the toys every so often. If they have a definite favorite, you don't have to remove it. You're just trying to supply a little variety.
   Now we come to food cups and water bowls. If you use what comes with the Prevue Playpen Cage, you'll be okay. For other cages, try to find deep cups for food, to prevent the horrible mess birds can make. I have one food bowl, one water bowl, and one treat bowl for veggies and fruits for one cockatiel. The numbers change slightly as you increase the number of birds. For water bowls, you can use nearly any kind of crock. I don't recommend the ones that automatically refill themselves, because they aren't necessary, and supply a breeding ground for bacteria. Parrots don't drink a lot of water, and those types of waterers allow you to change the water less often, and the quality of the water decreases. For a treat bowl, you can use a regular food bowl, or you can get the kind that are partitioned off so that you may separate each treat into its own section.
   A cuttlebone and/or a mineral block should be available to your bird. The provide necessary nutrients that they may not be getting through their diet. Do not buy or use cockatiel vitamin drops. These drops are supposed to be used in the water, at a very high concentration, since cockatiels do not drink a lot of water. This is like a Thanksgiving dinner to bacteria! Vitamins should be provided in the bird's diet, with a lot of leafy greens and other fruits and vegetables.