How Much Do I Really Need to Feed My Cockatiel Daily?
How Much Do I Really Need to Feed My Cockatiel Daily?

How Much Do I Really Need to Feed My Cockatiel Daily?

Last Updated on by Catherine Tobsing

Mary J. wrote,


I give my birdie plenty of bird food options in a few locations.  Do I need to dump out everything each day? It seems wasteful because it’s clear there’s plenty of “good” food left.  Do I just add more the next day on top?

Dear Mary

I find people fill their bird’s dishes way too full. I would start with a tablespoon of a seed or pellet mix and see how it goes. If it all gets eaten in less than a day, then double it and see how it goes.

I will stick my finger in the dish during the day and stir it around bringing fresh seeds to the top.

Many birds don’t look below the surface. Cockatiels, budgies, and canaries are very bad at leaving the seed hulls on top and then they think there is no more food. So they then think they have no food at all.

Larger birds with too much food in their dish may then start to rake their food out and everywhere looking for that last sunflower seed. Less food in the bowl to start with will give them a better chance to move things around to see what they have, thus less raking.

I also find that birds that do NOT get sunflower seeds in their mixes tend to rake even less. So we do not use mixes with sunflower seeds at all. Instead, we give them as treats only.

Mitch tends to “top off” the bird’s food with a new scoop on top of the half-eaten food. I don’t like to do that myself but we both feed the birds and have to live with each other, LOL.

Find Bird Food by Bird Type on Windy City Parrot Here

The 8 parakeets have 3 hanging feeders (Tweaky Clean feeders) and if they still have uneaten food in the troughs of these feeders at the end of the day, they get dumped into a large glass pie dish that I put at the bottom of the large cage. With 8 budgies, they go down and check it out and finish off even more. I only fill the hanging feeders up about 1/2″ to 3/4″ each so the food has a better chance of being eaten and not wasted.

Just an FYI, birds that feel/know that they have unlimited food 24 hours a day are more likely to get hormonal and perhaps lay eggs (females) and look into nesting because instinctually their bodies and brains are thinking hey, all is good, lots of food, let’s raise a family.

Birds in the wild only eat during daylight hours and not always a lot daily. They have higher caloric needs than captive/caged birds. So why do we stuff our birds at home?

They don’t need to have food in their cages 24 hours a day. Water yes. Otherwise, their food dishes can be removed in the early evening nightly and replaced in the morning daily. Not saying you should do this. Just that you don’t have to provide a week’s worth of food in the cage 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

For optimal nutrition, you could offer a dish of chopped veggies (I do kale and thawed mixed veggies in the chopper each morning) and a little fruit (apple is good, maybe a cut-up grape) in the morning for a few hours, then after that replace it with the daily dry dish of seeds and hopefully some pellets. Then later in the day, remove the seed dish, leaving only the pellets overnight.

Every day before the bird’s cage lights go out at 8:30, about 8 pm, they all get a nummy. The bigger birds get a small bit of avi-cake and the smaller birds get a 2″ piece of spray millet. Everyone is happy to go to their cages at night and it is quiet while they enjoy their evening snack.

Best of luck


Wow, thank you for this explanation. 

My Kukla has been laying eggs for some time now.  Yes, she has food all the time.  I’m embarrassed to say how much food I leave out and then throw away each day.  She had a beak injury that almost split her lower beak apart so I’m always concerned she gets all the nutrients.  

Well, thank you again. It’s my fault for not understanding this sooner.   Many times I keep the unused portions and feed the street birds so all is not lost.  

You are both so wonderful and thank you for the wealth of knowledge you bring to us each week and of course all the items I purchase from Windy City.



Dear Mary

Glad we can offer options that might be helpful.

You mention your girl is laying eggs on occasion. How often? What are you doing when she does? Removing them, leaving them, replacing them?

How about a calcium supplement?

When was the last time she laid eggs? Are you petting her below the neck? If so, you have to stop that. Let her enjoy head scritches.

If it happens again, you may want to give her a Light Treatment. 72 hours under a bright light works to reset the circadian rhythm.

This set up has everything you need.

Then installing the light on a timer to be on 12 hours on and 12 hours off forever should help keep her from laying again.

Please let me know how it goes.


Cockatiels can tend to gain weight and be lazy. Unless your bird is clipped and cannot get to her food dishes in her cage, she should not have other food dishes elsewhere. A water dish on her play stand if she hangs out there is enough.

Our ‘tiel, Barney when let out of his cage in the morning will just fly over to the window and sit there most of the day looking out and napping. If he returns to his cage during the day, it isn’t for long.

When it is time for him to be closed up for the evening he may decide to give Mitch a run for his money by doing a few laps around the entire length of the house, but then relents to being dropped into his cage to enjoy his 2″ piece of millet spray bedtime snack.

Daily, he gets his usual dish with a couple of tablespoons of seed mix and a fresh dish of a cut-up apple and some chopped kale, and mixed veggies.

He does not eat much of it, if any as he is sitting by the window all day but I feel better for offering it to him. He also gets a multivitamin in his drinking water. If he had a food dish where he sits by the window I could see him gaining weight, but this setup requires him to return home to eat. It also contains the mess better.

Have you set the light up over her cage yet? Even if you don’t do the Light Treatment, she should still be put on a 12 on 12 off routine. It will help with her hormones and also encourage her to return to her cage to eat there only.


Thank you for all this info.  Yes, the light is setup and is on for 12 hrs.  I leave for work early and my sister wakes her up later and she spends the afternoon with my elderly mom hanging out and moving from room to room in her cage.  Then I come home and she is taken out of the cage.  

I do scratch below her neck so that will stop.  I give her head scratches.  I will implement all your ideas.  Thank you so very kindly!

I do have cuttlebone–is that the calcium source plus little blocks of minerals.  

I did purchase the light for the 72 hr idea.  I will say I punked out because it was so hard to leave her in there.  But there was an improvement.  I also stopped her body massages as you recommended.  Now she only gets head scratches.  I did just recently start leaving a lot of food choices around and she laid 3 eggs last month but now it has stopped.  


This Post Has One Comment

  1. Hey, my tiny, tiny wax bill Estrilda astrild digs in her seed dish to find her favorite seeds too. Makes just the same mess ….. but the seeds are so very tiny …..

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