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5 Ways To Get Your Cockatiel To Play

Whether you have a perch-potato cockatiel or are just looking for a new way to entertain a playful tiel, these 5 tips will get your cockatiel playing.

Nikki Moustaki

Cockatiel playing with toys

If you live with a cockatiel, you already know that these birds can be pretty laid back and easygoing, occasionally naughty, sometimes cranky, but always a lot of fun. It’s the rare cockatiel that doesn’t like to play — although some individuals can become perch potatoes, preferring to roost at the food dish over a game of "tap forcefully at the intruding cockatiel in the mirror.”

If you share your home with such a bird, or if you want to find new and fun things for your ‘tiel to do, here are 5 ways to encourage your cockatiel to play.

Go To the Gym
Some cockatiels take well to hanging out on a playgym but, in my experience, many also take this out-of-cage opportunity to embark on a Lewis-and-Clark adventure around the mountainous region also known as furniture. A playstand gives your bird a break from the confinement of her bird cage. However, you have to test your individual bird to make sure you can turn your back for a minute without having to search for her under the couch.

Outfit the playgym with lots of fun, exciting toys and treats to help her stay put. Many ‘tiels will spend hours in front of a mirror toy. You can also try a shallow dish filled with air-popped popcorn, toothpicks, marbles, plastic buttons, popsicle sticks, seeds, pellets, dried papaya and knotted sisal twine.

Snuggle Up
Some cockatiels are snugglers and cuddle up to their toys with the type of affection usually reserved for romance novels and soap operas. Some ‘tiels can get downright ... well, over-affectionate with their toys. But it’s not a bad thing for a cockatiel to be a toy-snuggler. Toys are there partly for distraction, so using a toy as a security blanket or best friend gives the bird something to do when you’re not around.

There are snuggle toys on the market, or you can find an appropriately sized plush toy for your bird. But take note of this warning — only put the snuggle-buddy within the bird’s reach when you’re around to supervise. Your ‘tiel might play a little rough with it and ingest some of the fur or stuffing. If you’re the creative-type, make a plush toy out of burlap stuffed with coconut fiber and sewn with sisal twine. You can leave that kind of toy in with your ‘tiel until he wears it out.

Fight On!
Along the theme of soap operas, some cockatiels can be very melodramatic toy fighters, waging battle with their inanimate cage-mates. "Make love, not war” is certainly not the motto of these soldiers in their own personal one-bird avian army. These ‘tiels seem to get joy out of taking toys down. Pity the toy left alone with "Rocky.”

This bird is going to expend a lot of energy boxing with her bird toys. Cockatiels seem to do their best skirmishing with dangling, shiny toys, like bells and small reflective toys. Let your bird get his aggression out on his toys and save the lovin’ for you.

Forage Around The Home
You don’t have to go very far to find things to entertain your cockatiel. Many household items hold endless fascination for your bird, you just have to find out what birdie likes. Here are a few options:

Toilet paper: Loop and tie a piece of sisal twine through a roll of toilet paper and hang it on your bird’s cage and see if he goes to town tearing it up. Get ready to sweep your floor!

Legos: If you have kids and they don’t mind sharing, place a dish full of Legos into the cage. You can even stack them into weird shapes and change them every day.

Burlap and buttons: Sew plastic buttons and beads onto a piece of burlap with cotton thread and hang it in the cage. No cockatiel can resist this birdie quilt!

Bring On The Bling
Sure, diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but cockatiels like the bling, too. Birds are attracted to shiny objects, which is why metal bells are so fun. Not only do bells shine, they make noise, a nice little bonus.

Magpies love shiny objects too, and collect them to attract a mate. (Sounds like a few people I know, but that’s for another article.) In any case, this isn’t why your ‘tiel likes shiny things. It’s more likely your bird is responding to the reflection it sees, so the bird may either tap the heck out of the blingy-thingy or rub its face (or other parts) onto it.

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Posted: January 20, 2014, 5:00 p.m. PDT

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5 Ways To Get Your Cockatiel To Play

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Reader Comments
These are some great and useful ideas! I'll have to try the lego one out... Thanks for the ideas
Lauren, Magna, UT
Posted: 1/23/2014 10:02:37 PM
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