Ask Lafeber


November 2, 2022

Breeding cockatiels

I have a 3 year old male and a 2 year old female. I handreared both. I would like them to breed but it seems that my male is not interested in my female. She is very ready, but he moves away from her if she gets close to him. He used to groom her, but not any more. When I put the nesting box in their cage, he would not let anyone near the cage while he was preparing the nest. No he allows her to go into the nesting box. She has now started to lift her tail to my ear when she sits on my shoulder. I don’t know what to do. Please help.


Hi Elizabeth,

As long as these birds are not related to each other, they are old enough to breed now. The first thing to do is remove the nest box. This is the last step when getting birds ready to breed. They need to be bonded and show signs of wanting to breed before you give them a nest box. Right now you just have two birds who are playing in a nest box. Breeding birds can’t also be pet birds as a rule. It is confusing for them to be handled when they have a mate. In the wild, once a pair bonds as mates, they no longer have physical contact with other flock members. Any flock members that venture too close are treated as rivals and chased away. By continuing to handle them, you are preventing them from forming a good bond. And you risk either bird getting jealous and attacking the other. If you really want them to breed, you have to give them up as pets – permanently. So you need to think about this and make sure you are willing to lose them as pets. Handfed birds do not always make the best breeders. Some males get mixed up and end up turning on the female, and refusing to let her in the box or near the eggs or chicks. Keep this in mind, because it can result in the loss of your hen if you don’t get them separated quickly enough, or the eggs and chicks if the pair won’t work together. What you have to do is move the cage to a quiet, private place in the house and have no contact with them other than when you feed them. You can’t talk to them anymore or solicit any contact or attention. Anything you do to reach out to your former pets can cause fighting between them and prevent a mate bond. Once they are cut off from contact with you, they may or may not bond. If they bond, they will begin sitting next to each other, feed each other and eventually mate. Once you see this behavior, you can attach the nest box again. No matter how much you still want to handle either bird, by doing so it puts both birds at risk. And once they lay eggs, it puts the eggs at risk. So again, you must be committed to giving these birds up as pets. Personally, if these are both tame birds that you love, I would not be trying to breed them. You can’t change your mind in the middle of the process. Again, it causes confusion and can result in one bird killing the other, or destroying the eggs, or killing the chicks. So give this a lot of thought before you move forward.

Thank you for asking Lafeber,


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