If you were on your feet 24/7, you’d want the most comfortable floor possible. In your cockatiel’s case, what sort of perches he has goes a long way to providing foot comfort daily. "Cockatiels need a variety of textures and sizes of perches in their cage in order to provide proper exercise for feet/legs,” said Ohio’s Chris Meatyard, who has raised cockatiels for many years. "Cockatiels spend all their lives on their feet, so feet/leg health is very important.”
Pet bird perches come in many forms, including wood, hard plastic, rope and concrete, even ladders. And there’s no rule that a bird perch has to go straight across. Try one diagonally to offer your cockatiel a different way to climb.
"Cockatiels should have access to natural branches, such as manzanita, as perches,” said Cindy Kiesewette, president and co-founder of the North American Cockatiel Society. "They provide cockatiels with varying widths to perch on, which exercises their feet. After all, God didn’t make trees with a bunch of straight little same-size perches sticking out!”
Using natural tree branches doesn’t simply mean getting a tree branch from your neighbor’s yard and putting it in your ‘tiel’s bird cage. Aside from trespassing, you never know what sorts of pesticides have been used on trees in your neighborhood. If you have access to pesticide-free, nontoxic tree branches, first thoroughly disinfect the tree branches before adding them to your cockatiel’s bird cage.
Cut each tree branch to fit the bird cage, scrub and clean well with a bleach/water solution (10 parts water to 1-part bleach), rinse thoroughly, and heat each branch for 45 minutes in a 200-degree Fahrenheit oven to kill any insects and/or wild bird droppings.
If you want to use a bird perch to help dull your pet cockatiel’s nails, try a pet bird grooming perch. A bird grooming perch is usually made of concrete or sand blasted finish, but offer no more than one so your cockatiel’s feet aren’t always on a more abrasive surface.
Just like trying on a pair of shoes, you can tell if a perch is a good fit for a pet bird. "A proper-sized perch is one which, when your cockatiel is perched on it, the toes wrap ½ to ¾ of the way around the perch, ¾ to 1.5 inches diameter,” Meatyard said. "If your cockatiel’s toes touch around aperch, the perch is too small in diameter. Conversely, if your cockatiel’s toes lay flat on a perch, the perch is too wide.”
Excerpt from the Popular Birds Series magabook Cockatiels with permission from its publisher, BowTie magazines, a division of BowTie Inc. Purchase Cockatiels here.