Cockatiels are a very popular species of pet bird and are bred worldwide for the pet trade. If you have an interest in breeding cockatiels, it is important to get a better understanding of the cockatiel lifecycle from hatchling to adult.
In this article, we will answer the complicated question of when doing baby cockatiels eat on their own.
Read on to learn when a baby cockatiel becomes capable of feeding independently from assistance from a parent bird or human surrogate.
When Do Baby Cockatiels Eat On Their Own
As Cockatiel Cottage states, a baby cockatiel can take up to 12 weeks before they are fully eating on their own.
However, in many cases, the baby cockatiel will be fully weaned (eating on their own) by as early as eight weeks. It really depends on the individual bird and the family situation.
In this article, we will take a closer look at all the factors which can influence how long it takes before cockatiels can fully feed themselves.
Learn About the First 30 Days of a Cockatiel Life
This short YouTube video takes you quickly through a baby cockatiel’s growth from just after hatching all the way up to the age of nine weeks.
You will notice that raising a baby cockatiel is a very intensive job! They grow quickly and have different needs that may change from one day to the next.
Stages From Hatchling to Self Feeding in Cockatiels
When a baby cockatiel is newly hatched, the bird is pink, featherless, blind, and completely dependent on the parents for food, warmth, and care.
Every single day the chick will be growing and changing.
As Country Born Feathered Friends explains, right from day one you can easily tell which chick hatches first. Even one day makes a huge difference!
The American Cockatiel Society explains that no two cockatiel chicks will mature in the exact same way on the exact same timeline. So this section will simply provide an overview of the general milestones you should be watching for.
Read on for a general 30-day process of cockatiel babies growing up.
Day 1: Hatch day is a big day in a baby cockatiel’s life!
Day 2: The baby bird’s eyes are covered by a thin membrane and the egg tooth is visible.
Day 3: The baby is starting to sprout soft down.
Day 8: The baby cockatiel’s eyes are starting to open.
Day 10: The baby cockatiel is starting to grow feather quills.
Day 11: The ear slits are becoming more visible on either side of the baby bird’s head.
Day 16: The down on the baby cockatiel’s body starts to slowly disappear as more quills grow in.
Day 18: The baby cockatiel’s head and wings are full of feather quills and the down has all but disappeared.
Day 21: The baby cockatiel’s chest area has also erupted in feather quills. The tail is still non-existent at this stage, however.
Day 23: The baby cockatiel’s quills start to unfold into feathers on both wings.
Day 26: The baby bird’s quills have unfolded all over the body but are still quite spiky on the head. The tail feathers have yet to really grow in.
Day 28: The head feather quills are beginning to open and the adult crest is starting to develop.
What You Will Need to Hand Rear a Baby Cockatiel
Sometimes the parent birds are unable or unwilling to feed and wean a cockatiel baby. This can happen for a variety of reasons ranging from too many chicks to parental aggression.
When you notice that a parent cockatiel is not feeding one of the chicks or is acting aggressively towards a chick, you will need to remove that chick from the nest box and hand-feed the chick.
Chicago Exotics Animal Hospital recommends having the following supplies on hand before you start this project.
- A scale that takes weight in grams.
- A notebook for taking daily weight.
- An appropriate baby bird formula.
- A feeding syringe or narrow spoon.
- A bird-safe sterilization agent likes Nolvasan.
- A food thermometer to measure formula temperature prior to feeding.
- An alarm clock or app set to ring at every two hours from sunup to sundown (for newborns).
Correctly hand-feeding a baby cockatiel can make the difference between life and death. The formula cannot be too hot or too thick and it must go down the correct way to avoid burns, choking, sour crop, crop impaction, and fatality.
As the AFA Watchbird Journal highlights, you should get an experienced cockatiel breeder or your avian veterinarian to demonstrate the technique and observe you until you are sure you have it mastered.
When Can Cockatiels Eat For Themselves
As we mentioned in an earlier section in this article, the circumstances of a cockatiel’s birth, including birth order, parental expertise, and the number of siblings, can all impact how quickly cockatiels learn to eat on their own.
This process is called weaning. It can take a surprisingly long time, especially considering how quickly baby cockatiels grow up!
A baby cockatiel is not considered to be fully weaned – or fully eating on their own – until they have been feeding independently for a full consecutive two weeks.
This means that a 10-week-old cockatiel that still cries for feeding and receives a response from the parent birds (or the human surrogate) is not yet fully weaned.
If the bird seeks out food independently after the cries bring no response, this bird is on the road to being fully weaned.
But you need to keep a close watch at this stage because a bird that does not seek out food after crying with no response is in danger of weight loss and starvation.
Some young cockatiels can take up to 12 weeks to master noticing hunger and proactively seeking out the food on their own. When this has happened for 14 consecutive days, the bird is considered to be eating on its own.
What to Watch Out For When Weaning Cockatiels
Sometimes unscrupulous pet stores or breeders will sell young cockatiels before they are fully weaned.
When this occurs, the young bird may continue to cry for food in their new home, causing the new human owner a lot of concern.
If your bird is not eating the pellets, seed, or fresh foods you are providing, and continues to cry for food, this is an indication the baby cockatiel may not yet be fully capable of self-feeding.
Always take your young cockatiel to a qualified and experienced avian veterinarian for evaluation. Because young cockatiels are so tiny and fragile, even a gram or two of weight loss can quickly lead to a health crisis.
Cockatiels typically lose about 10 percent of their body weight during the weaning process, because it is a stressful learning process and the young bird may at first struggle to adapt to self-feeding.
As Lafeber points out, there is a technique called abundance weaning that provides warm, soft, fresh foods along with millet treats, seed mixes, and pellets.
The goal is to encourage the young bird to sample different foods that appeal. However, if after one hour your bird is still crying and hasn’t eaten, you will need to offer formula to keep your baby from starving.
A qualified avian veterinarian can guide you to help keep the growing baby cockatiel’s caloric intake constant through this difficult weaning process.