Ask Lafeber


November 18, 2022

Cockatiel Mating/Taming

– I have a pair of cockatiels, male and female. I noticed them mating so I created a nesting box for them, but the female seems to prefer the food bowl… they are both extremely skittish and I wonder if they’re just afraid of it? I’ve put millet in there to get them to go near it (which they will), though I haven’t seen them go in, and they do like chewing the cardboard that they can reach at the entrance. Am I even doing the right thing to anticipate them laying eggs? (They also won’t eat fresh fruit or veggies which concerns me, to throw that out there)

– All of my small birds (budgies, cockatiels) have been terrified of my hands but happy on my shoulder. This makes it very difficult to handle them. Especially with my two current cockatiels. Their previous owner said they were handleable, but not in my experience. Advice please! Thanks in advance!


Hi Kelly,

For breeding, they need a wooden nest box, which can be found at pet shops or online. Cardboard isn’t going to work. It isn’t stable enough and will end up falling apart because of the moisture from the droppings and from the hen incubating the eggs. She will get her chest wet and go into the nest box to provide humidity if the eggs are too dry. Your pair will know the cardboard isn’t sturdy enough and this will prevent them from using it to nest. The box should be attached to the outside of the cage, as high as possible.

You can’t let breeding birds out of the cage or try to handle them. They need to be in a quiet, private area to be successful. Breeding birds aren’t pets, and trying to handle them would just cause confusion because they are bonded with each other and have no desire for a human bond.

They need to be eating a nutritionally balanced diet like pellets or our foraging diets. If they are only eating a loose seed mix, they will not be healthy enough for breeding, and the hen should not be laying eggs. Eggs take a lot of protein and calcium from the hen, so if she doesn’t have the nutrition she needs, forming eggs can make her sick or even cause her to die from loss of what nutrients she has. You also need to feed cooked eggs with the shell washed, crushed and cooked with the eggs, and she needs a cuttlebone. You need to offer leafy greens and chopped veggies daily. Even if they do not eat them at first, if they hatch chicks, they need a lot of food and tend to eat foods they never liked before.

So make sure they are on a good diet and have the right kind of nest box before encouraging breeding. Remove the food bowl she is trying to nest in, and replace it with smaller cups.

Bird Food and Nutrition Products

Thank you for asking Lafeber,


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