Can Cardboard Boxes Be Safe for My Cockatiels to Play With?

Can Cardboard Boxes Be Safe for My Cockatiels to Play With?

Last Updated on by Mitch Rezman

Diane P. wrote:

I have a problem.
My male cockatiel, King, who is known to stare directly at his special lighting, started biting at the edge of the bulb where it meets the part that screws in. The globe of the glass was approximately six inches above the cage top.  It just requires minor stretching to do so. 
To protect King from potential injuries, I just put the floor lamp on a footstool.
I would estimate the end of the glass of the bulb now to be roughly thirteen or fourteen inches above the cage top.  
At six inches in height, King will investigate the light bulb. He will not be constantly picking at where the end of the glass of the bulb meets the portion that eventually screws into the socket, but he will pick at it again if given a chance. 
I would greatly appreciate your suggestions as to what I should be doing.
dual full spectrum lighting over cockatiels playtop birdcage
Here’s one approach that can work Diane
I just sent a follow-up email, not having seen this response.
As another issue, King has just discovered he can reach a bookcase shelf with a lot of mental preparation and just one or two wing flaps.   After he took a nip from an envelope that was apparently stuck between two books, I side-tracked him to some folded sheets of paper between the books at his chosen spot (where someone stuck the envelope between my books). 
I’ve seen what birds can do to books once they discover what wonderful items they are.
He’s happy, the paper is chewed quickly, I put more there, and I can see that I am going to have to buy a goodly supply of paper.
Am I doing the right thing? I have no idea how to discourage him.
I will also explain that King and Snow are two old (ages unknown other than old) cockatiels that I’ve taken in who were part of a small flock that had to be surrendered due to neglect and abuse. 
As soon as they were well enough to leave and more or less eating “real”  basic food, I was allowed to bring them home. 
They seem to be totally unused to essentially everything, aren’t used to people, and are still on guard most of the time although they seem to trust me and consider me a third flock member who is excellent at guard duty and keeping them safe.  King has actually warmed up just recently to the point that he moved up to my blouse to check the small print to see if it might be edible crumbs. 
They do not try new things as a rule, so investigating the bookshelf, while not my preferred activity for them, does show a willingness to move beyond the cage and check out their territory, a bold step for them. 
Snow sat patiently by him, while he nibbled paper.
Any suggestions are appreciated.
Thank you Diane.
My sense says they have no other “bird-friendly places to land outside of the cage. Is there a playstsnd or other attractive “landing area” other than the bookcase? I await your response ~ MitchR.
Diane continues,

King and Snow, have gotten more adventuresome the last several weeks, moving a few inches to a foot further from the cage and adding to that every several days to investigate still more. I am on my toes staying ahead of them to make sure everything is safe for them.

They discovered three cardboard boxes on the top shelf of a bookcase and those captured their immediate interest. 

The boxes have become a fixation.

I’ve seen many birds on YouTube enjoying boxes so I emptied them, removed all tape, not just the plastic tape, did that folding under the opposing corners to create a closed top and bottom, and let them play, only it’s a fixation, not play.

They are an old mated pair. I believe they are thinking more of a nice tree hollow rather than just a fun place to hide in. They have shredded two boxes while shaping the interior and have started on the third. I believe I should not supply anymore but want your opinion.

Except for the first several weeks, while trying to determine how safe their new environment was, they’ve been extremely active sexually.

I expect to be awakened nightly as he sings and she repeatedly calls out her one word while he is on top of her. I expect more sex to occur sometime during the day.

However, I feel the cardboard boxes have planted thoughts in their minds or made them more hormonal if one prefers. 

Now, they are even more sexually active. 

This morning, I found an egg on the cage floor, one end with a missing broken shell piece, and Snow trying to find a way to turn it while it was wedged between wires on the floor grill. I was surprised to find an egg and equally surprised it was not in the seed bowl she likes to sleep in on the back upper cage wall but on the grill at the front.

Shall I remove the last cardboard box? 

They will definitely go through a missing box withdrawal. 

I really think they are not seeing the boxes as toys or a comfy escape but as a potential tree hollow for raising young, creating a driving force to seriously breed rather than just have frequent sex as before.

As an old pair, ages unknown, the vet said sex was a possibility but offsprings are unlikely.

I believe the egg shows a hormonal change and a change of intent triggered by the boxes. I’m not expecting actual babies, but I do not want Snow and King stressed.


I have been rereading the past emails (blogs), and I am not finding the reference to the 72 hour light treatment. I hate imposing still more, but could you direct me to the correct email?

The box is gone.  Much searching has occurred. King is demanding Snow feed him, and she appears to accommodate him although I am skeptical. 

Thank you,



Dear Diane

Your birds. Giving them the boxes has contributed to the slippery slope toward hormonal behavior.

We are not without making bad moves ourselves and have been dealing with several hormonal parakeets that came about due to our moving them into a dimmer space.

The results have been the loss of one female keet, one injured female keet, the rehoming of another female keet and the birth of 3 babies. We feel terrible about the upheaval in the aviary that may have been able to be prevented if we paid better attention to the lighting change at the time.

Back to your birds. They were fine, then you gave them a bed and now you have an egg. Um. What do you want to do now?

Are they clipped?

If not, be very careful if you let them out as you are now the odd man out and if during your regular cage maintenance, they decide you are a threat, one or both could attack you. I have seen this happen to a close friend and she totally freaked out and rehomed her birds until she recovered and brought them back home. They are now either caged or clipped I believe.

Do you feel the egg is fertile?

You have options, let them continue to complete their clutch, see if they can hatch them out, start to feed them and before they are weaned pull them for hand feeding and find them new homes.

Or pull the eggs and toss them, remove all the bedding material and give them both a 72-hour light treatment to help reset their circadian rhythm so they are reset to not being hormonal anymore.

Do you get our weekly blog email on Sundays, if so, you may be aware of this treatment already?

Here’s the skinny:

How Pet Bird Keepers Get The Lighting Thing Wrong

If not, let me know and I will get you more details on how to do this.

Is your bird cage set up large enough and placed in a good place to be even considering having baby birds, raising them, etc?

Yes, it is a fun thought, but a lot of work and invasive if it is in your living room.

Now I don’t have all the details on your arrangements and situation so feel free to fill me in and I will try to advise the best I can.


Thank you very much. I  will try that. 

Snow laid another egg last night, one end broke when I found it. 

I threw it out but several articles I read said to replace the real eggs with fake ones on a facecloth on the cage floor as a nest and it would help to end the egg laying while throwing them out as I will prolong it. 

While she seemed less concerned than King about the loss of the cardboard box, she has been constantly pacing where the box was placed.

King seemed to move smoothly back into his old patterns, but I believe he is still looking for a new nest location for part of his time. 

Several days ago, I saw King eating or trying to eat food from Snow’s mouth and he was just doing so again. Will this end as well? 

I suspect I will never forget that while single males may find a cardboard box to be a marvelous toy, never supply one to an old mated pair! 

I am wondering if they shredded the bottoms of the boxes to create nesting material. 



Catherine Replied

You can pass on the fake eggs, they don’t work well and yes, toss the new eggs as they show up. Yes, the male and females will act differently during this time. They both have an interest in the mating process but somewhat differently.

She wants to find a spot to lay, he just wants to be there, maybe mate again if given the opportunity.

They are acting on instinct of course.

Yes, they will shred boxes, paper, and anything for their nest.

You should remove all items that can be nest material. All toys should be hanging so they can’t sit on them or snuggle up under them. A toy laying on a hen’s back can be stimulating.

Ideally, you should change things up. Move the cage to a different spot, and rearrange their perches and toys.

This will help give them something else to think about. 

I’m available for further queries.


Followup post How My Cockatiels Are Surviving a Long Trip Away From Home

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