Ask Lafeber


February 22, 2021

Weaning a cockatiel

We got our cockatiel a week ago and was told he was weaned on pellets, but was still giving 1 evening feed to help bonding to new owners. At first he wouldn’t eat by himself at all, he is now eating by himself but am having to give him thick formula, with soft foods morning and evening and only seems mildly interested in the pellets and seeds which are also on offer …. will he naturally start to prefer the pellets and seeds? Also, I don’t think he eats when we are out of the house, will this come with time?


Hi Johanna,

Congratulations on your new bird! Weaning is best done as a gradual process, which is how the parents wean their chicks. Captive raised birds are often forced to wean too soon to comply with regulations against selling unweaned chicks. So it’s good that your baby still takes formula. The best weaning process is known as abundance weaning, which is basically offering a variety of foods plus fresh water. You will end up with a lot of wasted food, but it helps the chick learn to eat and most importantly encourages him to try different foods. The first thing each morning, before you hand feed him, you will provide him with a lot of foods to pick at. A dish of warm, thick formula is fine to offer with the other foods. You can offer the pellets, a few seeds, chopped green, veggies and fruits plus a dish of water. Try making some cooked brown rice with frozen mixed veggies stirred in. Warm a small amount and offer some in a dish. Once you give him these foods, leave the room where he can’t see or hear you, otherwise he will just beg to be hand fed. Give him about an hour alone with the foods, and then prepare his formula and hand feed him. Repeat this before each hand feeding. Leave all of the foods available to him all day, replacing any fresh or cooked foods after a few hours to prevent spoiling. He will gradually learn to eat more on his own and depend less on the formula until he refuses the hand feeding.

As to feeding him seeds, a loose seed mix does not offer much in the way of nutrition because the seeds are not fresh enough and any added vitamins are lost when he removes the hull from the seeds. Our foraging diets are formulated the same as pellets, but they contain fresh, whole hulled seeds combined with other nutrients to provide a nutritionally balanced diet. You can feed any of these diets alone or along with his pellets. He may not initially try them in the berry or cake form we produce. But you can crumble them and mix them with his pellets so he understands they are food. Most birds are not truly picky, they just don’t recognize all offerings as foods. And like us, they aren’t always in the mood to eat a specific food. So keep trying different things. He may ignore something one time, and love it another. I’ll give you a link to our feeding guide to give you more ideas on what to offer.

Bird Food Guide

Thank you for asking Lafeber,


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