Ask Lafeber


March 2, 2023

my cockatiel doesn’t let me touch him

I have a male cockatiel that is about a year and a half old And I have been taking care of him for several months. We got used to him and he got used to us.
If someone is not at home for a few hours and then we come back, we find him sad and inactive.
He whistles and sings for us and expects us to speak and whistle to him.
But when we try to gently move our hand towards him or feed him with our hands, he becomes defensive and tries to bite us.
I was only able to hand feed him once when I held my hand motionless to him for an hour.
How can I gain his trust to eat from my hand and let us touch him?



One thing to consider is you do not know how he has been treated before you got him. Something may have caused him not to trust hands. He may have been picked on by a child or poked at by people. Maybe someone tried to force him to be tame. Cockatiels are prey animals so they are very sensitive to being grabbed. This is what a predator would do so they react in fear. Continue being kind to him, sit and talk to him with your hands rested in your lap. Offer him treats but if he doesn’t want to come over, place the treat in his dish and reassure him. It may take a long time for him to trust hands, and possibly he will never trust hands. Some birds seem to be naturally hand shy as part of their individual personality. Each bird is different and some are more outgoing and love being handled while others are content just having people around for company. I’ll give you the links to our behavior and training pages to help you understand him better.

Pet Bird and Parrot Behavior

Teaching Your Bird

Thank you for asking Lafeber,


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