Some cockatiels actually like to be petted. It all depends on the individual bird if they like it. In this brief article I will explain why they like it so much and how to pet your cockatiel properly.

Why some cockatiels like to be pet

This might sound counterintuitive, but being ‘pet’ is a natural occurrence for cockatiels. In the wild, cockatiels live in flocks and spend time preening themselves and their flock members. If you pet your cockatiel, it thinks you are preening it and will likely enjoy the process.

However, not all cockatiels enjoy being petted. Some are very fearful of hands and don’t like to be touched in general. Others just don’t have the personality to like petting. If you want to adopt a cockatiel that has a high chance of liking to be petted, your best chance is to get a handfed bird from a reputable breeder. These cockatiels get used to human hands from the moment they hatch from their eggs. They are more likely to accept being touched since they don’t see hands as a thread but as a provider of food. Even if you get a hand-fed cockatiel, there is never a 100% guarantee that the bird is going to like being petted. As stated above, it might not be in their personality. 

Another way to get a cockatiel that likes to be petted is to look for cockatiels that need to be rehomed. The current owner should be able to tell you about their personality and if they like to be petted already.

How to pet your cockatiel the right way

To pet your cockatiel you should first understand the ‘rules’ of preening within a flock. In the wild, cockatiels will only preen each other on their heads. Preening their back and wings is considered sexual and will trigger unwanted hormones and nasty behaviour in your cockatiel. So to pet your bird properly, it’s best to only touch them on their head.

Preening is meant to tidy up cockatiels feathers, unfold new feathers when molting and relieve itchiness. In the wild, cockatiels go against their feathers to preen themselves and others. Therefore they prefer to be petted against their feathers instead of flattening them. 

If your cockatiel is molting (you can learn more about this in ‘why is my cockatiel losing feathers?’) you can help them unfold their new feathers. To do this, simply locate a pin feather on your birds’ head and gently rub it between the tips of your thumb and index finger. This way, the outer layer of the pin feather will (partly) come off, allowing the new feather to unfold.

Lastly, ALWAYS make sure that you have your birds’ consent when petting them. If your cockatiel looks annoyed or nips at you at any point, please stop and don’t force them to be petted. Signs that indicate your cockatiel doesn’t want to be pet include:

– Nipping at you more than once. (You might cause them to nip sometimes if you touch a sensitive area by accident. However, if they nip more than once, it’s a clear sign they want you to stop.)

– Stepping away from your hand.

– Turning their back towards you.

– Hissing at you or your hand.

Hopefully, this article taught you what you wanted to know about petting cockatiels. If you want to learn more about pet parrots, feel free to read any of the other articles on this website.

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Do cockatiels like to be pet?

Some cockatiels actually like to be petted. It all depends on the individual bird if they like it. In this brief article I will explain why they like it so