Ask Lafeber


April 19, 2019


My male and female pair of cockatiel birds has recently started going into the mating box. They spent some days throwing the strips of newspaper out the box. To the point that there was hardly any left in the box when we checked.
We bought the pair in December and started placing a sheet at night as recommended by some online journals. The birds in January mating as much as four times daily for about two to three weeks. The female bird laid no eggs. We then stopped putting the sheet at night for about two weeks and they suddenly stopped mating. At about mid March the birds started entering the box and still did not mate. We started covering the cage with the sheet two weeks ago and they immediately started mating again about three times a day. During this time we fed them soft foods on two days per week.
Now they are frequenting the mating box, our cockatiels are not spending much time in the cage. Just to eat and drink water which is visible less as there is less droppings of poop in the cage to clean. I noticed the female bird who is more friendly of the two, is not interacting much as she would eat from us and now she is not as friendly. She is puffing up very quickly and now rocking from side to side and retreating in a corner of the cage when we offer bread or even seeds through the cage. I also noticed that the birds take time in and out of the cage. They both spend time together in the cage at the same time but for the past two days has been taking turns. We are unsure of if there may or may not be eggs. The pair are approximately two years old and have mated and laid eggs previously with their previous owner. Can you help us to understand what may be happening?


Hi Kim,

Breeding birds need to feel secure in their environment in order to successfully raise chicks. You have not had the birds for very long, so it is actually more surprising that they are showing interest in nesting.

If these birds really are only two and have  already raised chicks, they were allowed to breed much too young. Two is a good age to start them breeding. Does the nest box have a lid you can lift to check inside? If so, check for eggs. It certainly sounds like they may have some eggs. Most cockatiels will reject nesting material. Newspaper is not a good material to give them, so it is good they threw it out. If you put anything in the box, use aspen shavings – NOT pine. Aspen shaving are low in dust and don’t have the strong odor or oils that other shavings can have.

You need to give these birds more privacy and stop trying to handle them or hand feed them. Breeding birds are not pets. Even if they start out tame, they will get aggressive once they begin to breed. You should only be around them when it is time to feed them, and then do it quickly without looking at them or disturbing them.

If it turns out they do not have eggs, I would remove the nest box and rest them for a few months. The nest box should not be left on the cage year round  or they will breed too often. Two clutches a year is enough – in captivity they do not have the environmental signals that make them stop breeding so you have to stop them by taking the box away.

Mainly what I think is going on here is too much interference from humans, and they are not yet secure in your home. They want to breed, and they are showing every indication of having eggs, but then they get disturbed or insecure about their new home and stop nesting. Leave them alone and if they do have eggs, they will hatch in 18-21 days. If nothing has happened y 30 days, remove the nest box and wait a few months before giving it back to them.

Thank you for asking Lafeber,



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