How To Stop Your Cockatiel From Biting

You have just gotten your first cockatiel and you have done everything right.  You have gotten the right size cage, you have located the cage in an area that is free of drafts etc.  You now want to get to know your new little buddy.  You reach in to bring him out and boom he bites.

This is not what you were expecting.  This is a behaviour that must be dealt with right away or it will only get worse.  In order to know how to stop your cockatiel from biting you need to find out why he bit in the first place.

Cockatiels bite for several reasons. Let’s take a look at some of those reasons.


Reasons Your Cockatiel Is Biting


Bird is New – You just got your cockatiel and he is totally new to everything.  Cockatiels do not handle change well.  So when you first bring him home you need to give him time to adjust to his new surroundings, new cage and especially you. 

new cockatiel
new cockatiel

Seasonal Aggression – Spring is in the air and your cockatiel is full of raging hormones and he wants to breed.  Breeding time occurs in spring and summer when there is more daylight.  Normally your bird will return to normal when breeding season diminishes.  If your bird continues to display some aggression then an extra couple of hours of darkness will help so put him to bed early and cover that cage.  Two weeks of this should adjust his hormones back to normal.

Survival – If your cockatiel feels threatened in any way or he feels his space is in jeopardy he will bite.

 – If your cockatiel bites you and you react by shaking your hand, yelling at him, blowing in his face etc he takes this as a win.  He knows that next time he bites you will stop doing whatever was bugging him.  Although difficult you need to show nothing when he bites.

Attached To His Cage – You may get an older bird who has never been out of his cage on a regular basis.  This is his space and he will defend it no matter what.  This is all he has known so taking him out of his safe zone will take time and patience.

One Person Bird – This can happen with any pet.  You get a new pet and one person spends more time with the new pet then the rest of the family.  That one person cleans the cage, cleans the food and water dishes daily and takes the bird out on a regular basis.  When other members of the family try to interact with the bird he is hesitant and a bit put off and he could bite.

Cage Location – Where you put the cage will help your bird feel safe.  Having the cage out in the open say in the middle of the room will make your bird feel uncomfortable.  He feels exposed on all sides.  You are better off placing the cage in a corner where your bird doesn’t have to be looking over his shoulder so to speak on a continuous basis.

Cage Size – If the cage you have for your cockatiel is too small then he is not going to be happy.

small cockatiel cage
small cockatiel cage

 A bird that is unhappy even if it is due to a small environment will bite.

So now that we know some of the reasons why our cute cuddly cockatiel may sometimes bite us what can we do about it.

Well different reasons for biting calls for different tactics.

First let’s looking at the “New Bird”.  This bird needs to get used to his surrounding.  If this is a bird that was hand raised and tame it may want to come out of the cage right away.  Do not put your hand in the cage let the bird come to you.

Now if it is an older bird that has spent most of it’s life in a cage then you will need to spend a lot of time building up trust with the bird.  Just go near the cage and talk to the bird in a soft gentle voice.  Do this a few times every day.  Just let your bird get used to you.  Also it may be a good idea to keep others away from the bird for at least a week as he adjusts to his new surroundings.

Spending time near the cage and talking to your bird over time you should see him responding to your voice.  If he comes near the bars offer him a treat.  Just like dogs food can be a great motivator for your bird.

As mentioned before reading your bird’s body language is very important.  If you think your bird is ready to come out of his cage and if his wings are clipped place a bowl of pellets on top of the cage and open the cage door. Give him some time and maybe your bird will make his way out of the cage and climb out to the top of the cage.  Reward him with his favourite treat.  Now that he out of the cage you can start teaching him to step up onto your hand.  If you feel that he is afraid of your hand you can use a perch or a ladder from him to step on.  Whenever he does it right reward your bird with treats and praise.

stepping up
stepping up

Taming a bird like this can take a long time so you are going to need plenty of patience.

Now if your bird is biting because of seasonal aggression your best to just let him be.  You can increase his night time by putting him away earlier and covering him up.  This will make him think spring is over therefore breeding season is over also.

If your cockatiel is biting you because he is afraid you are going to have to get him to not see you as a threat.  You need to approach him slowly and calmly.  Cockatiels are afraid of many things like loud noises, sudden movements, overhead objects etc.  Look around at his environment and see what could be cause him to be frightened and the remove them or move his cage to somewhere less frightening.

If your cockatiel has bitten you in the past and you have reacted by yelling, shaking your hand etc it will take some time to undo this.  As hard as it may be you cannot react when he bites again.  If you can avoid the bite that would be even better.  If your bird is a biter do not let him on your shoulder.  This is a place of dominance and you do not want him there until he stops biting.

Your bird bites everyone but one person in the family.  In order to overcome this the other people in the family need to take an interest in the day to day care of your cockatiel.  He likely likes just one person because that one person does all the work associated with the bird.  You need to start sharing bird duties.  Everyone in the family needs to take their turn cleaning his cage, cleaning his food and water dishes daily and making sure he has clean water every day.  While doing these chores talk to him in a calm and friendly voice.  Eventually he will respond to your voice.

The last reason we will look at is cage size.  If your cockatiel’s cage is too small then he is not going to be a happy camper.  His cage needs to be big enough for him to stretch out his wings and also to have some good interactive toys for him to play with when he is locked up in his cage.  A cockatiel’s cage should at the very least be 24 inches long by 18 inches wide by 24 inches tall.

proper cage size
proper cage size

So if the cage you have is too small check out these cages.  You may find what you are looking for.


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    • Craig
    • April 21, 2017

    I have always wanted to get a cockatiel bird but I have always worried about biting. Whenever we visit the pet store they are usually quite defensive when you approach them in their cage.

    This is a great article with a lot of useful pointers which I will use when I get a bird eventually.

    Thanks for your help.

      • Maureen
      • April 22, 2017

      A pet store isn’t the greatest environment for a cockatiel so that may be the cause of his defensive nature. I actually got the cockatiel I have now at a pet store. After bringing him home I just left him for a few days to get used to his surroundings. Then I took him out of his cage. The woman at the pet store used to take him out after the store closed so he was used to being handled and being out of his cage.

    • jacob
    • April 22, 2017

    First off i would like to say great website! I used to have a cockatiel when i was younger and i was a little scared because he was not always so nice. But my girlfriend and i have recently been talking about getting one or two cockatiels and this has inspired me to get them even more. Very informative content that not everyone knows and that is great as well. Great site and keep up the good work it’s very interesting and fun!

      • Maureen
      • April 22, 2017

      Thanks for your comments Jacob. Sometimes if you approach your cockatiel too fast it does frighten him and they may be a bit cranky. Taking it slow and easy with your bird will help establish a good relationship with him. They are great pets and they do enjoy our company.

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