Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Your Cockatiel's Diet: How to get your bird to go beyond seeds.

Your cockatiel's health depends upon the diet you feed it. Obese birds suffer health problems and have earlier life expectancies.
My avian vet, Dr. Vanessa Rolfe of The Bird and Exotic Animal Hospital in Lake Worth, Fl has given me so much useful information on the best diet for cockatiels. The first time I went to visit her, she asked about the diet I was feeding Loki, which was seeds that I purchased from Petsmart.
"It is a common misconception that a bird's diet should only consist of seeds," she said. Dr. Rolfe explained that cockatiels are "carboholics." They love carbohydrates, and seeds are a form of carbohydrates.
Feeding Loki only seeds would prevent her from getting the essential vitamins and nutrients she needs. This is when she recommended feeding Loki pellets as her primary food source, and seeds only as a treat.

Dr. Rolfe told me that this transition from seeds to pellets would not be easy for Loki. "Its like trying to get a child to eat vegetables after you have been feeding them junk food all their lives," she said. She gave me some tips on how to get Loki to eat the pellets. I was determined to get Loki to eat these pellets, no matter what! I wanted to make sure she had the right diet to stay healthy and have the longest life expectancy (I could not imagine life without her).

Listed below are the tricks I employed to get Loki to eat pellets:
  • I put the pellets on the ground and let her "forage" for them (Cockatiels are foragers in the wild).
  • I pretended to eat the pellets in front of Loki and showed her how much I enjoyed them (Cockatiels are very flock orientated and since I am in Loki's flock she looks to me for what is safe and good to eat).
  • I hand fed her pellets and also would put a pellet in between my lips, which she would take with no hesitation (again using the flock mentality to my advantage).
Cockatiels really love seeds so this transition can be difficult. It will require plenty of patience on your part. Do not give up! It took a little while for Loki to accept the pellets, but she has and I know her health is better for it.

NEVER take out the seeds altogether when in the transitioning period to a pellet diet. If a cockatiel does not recognize the food she will not eat it; she does not think it is safe. Begin gradually, for the first three days that you introduce the pellets remove the seed and put the pellets in all day. On these three days give them 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes at night to eat seeds. The next three days, given them only 15 minutes in the morning and the evening to eat the seeds. On the seventh day, do not give the seeds at all. It is very important to be watchful that the bird is eating during this transitioning period; you do not want her to starve. Incorporate the three methods listed above along with the suggested routine.

I feed Loki Harrison's Bird Food, which is organic pellets. Try feeding your bird super fine pellets in the beginning as they are easier to transition to. I still feed Loki them.

I am still in the process of getting Loki to eat fruits and veggies. Even if your bird rejects vegetables and fruits at first don't give up. Give the bird different temperatures and textures of the food. Try serving your bird the food warm or cold, also try feeding them the food raw or cooked to a mushy texture.

Your cockatiel's diet should include:
  • Pellets (preferably organic)
  • Veggies and fruit (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, spinach, green beans, peas, corn, sweet potatoes).
  • Millet and seeds (as occasional treats only).

A pellet based diet makes for a more healthy and active cockatiel. It can make the difference between having your feathered friend for 10 years or having her for 25!


  1. Thx this helps me soooo much your website is really helpful!:)
    p.s. Loki is really cute

    1. You are most welcome! And thanks! I think she is pretty cute too.