Are you trying to choose between a cockatiel or a parakeet (aka budgie) and wondering whether or not you can get one of each?
Or maybe you already have one or the other and you would like to add a bird from the other species and so you are wondering if cockatiels and parakeets can live together peacefully?
These are very common questions. Let me give you the answers.
First of all, let me just define what I mean by “parakeet”. I am talking about the budgerigar, also known as a budgie. In North America, they are usually known as “parakeets” and in Europe, they are known as budgerigars or budgies. For the rest of this article, I will refer to them as parakeets.
Cockatiels and parakeets get along in the wild
In the wild, both parakeets and cockatiels originate from the same parts of Australia. This means, that in their natural habitat, they are well used to seeing each other, interacting with each other and they do so peacefully. So the short answer is yes, instinctively, cockatiels and parakeets get along.
Cockatiels and parakeets should not share a cage
Although cockatiels and parakeets get along, that doesn’t mean that they can share a cage. It’s fine for them to interact in neutral areas of your home (which I discuss in more detail below) but they shouldn’t be kept in the same cage.
Here are the reasons why they shouldn’t share a cage:
Try to imagine their natural environment in the wild. Both cockatiels and parakeets nest and breed in the holes of tree trunk or thick branches. They are very protective of their nests and they will defend them from the hundreds of predators that live in the wild. They are so protective that they will purposefully make their nests far away from other birds’ nests and they will not allow any other bird, animal or human (predator or not) get close.
In a domestic environment, that instinct is still very strong. Now instead of having nests in trees, they have cages in living rooms but that instinct to protect them, especially from other birds is still very strong. If you suddenly put a parakeet in a cage of cockatiels or vice versa, then there is going to be conflict.
The bird that was there first will be particularly defensive. As an analogy. – Imagine you have your own apartment with your own bed, living room, kitchen etc and then suddenly someone else moves in without asking! It doesn’t matter how nice that person is, you’re not going to like it!
Parakeets are bullies
Despite being quite small, parakeets are very feisty birds. It’s not uncommon for parakeets to aim for each other’s toes with their strong hook beaks when they’re fighting.
The problem is that cockatiels, in contrast, are quite timid and passive and they don’t often defend themselves when attacked. Parakeets sense the weakness and bully them. The result is cockatiels get their feet and toes injured.
Cockatiels are about twice the size of parakeets. So despite parakeets being bullies, if/when cockatiels do get angry and decide to fight back, they can actually do a lot of damage themselves.
Also, this difference in size can actually cause the smaller parakeet to feel intimidated and threatened by the cockatiel just by its presence. It’s a kind of Napoleon complex and it usually results in the smaller parakeet launching unprovoked attacks.
It’s similar to how small breeds of dogs like Jack Russells are more aggressive than the bigger breeds like Great Danes. It’s usually the smaller dogs who are the most aggressive.
Different food requirements
Cockatiels and parakeets can eat similar foods with the exception of fatty foods. Cockatiels need foods with fat content, whereas too much fat is very bad for parakeets. The problem is if you put parakeets in a cage with cockatiels, they will eat each other’s food and that will lead to health issues.
Cockatiels and parakeets get along in neutral areas
So now that we have established why it’s not a good idea to put parakeets and cockatiels in the same cage, what about neutral areas?
Is it ok to let them out of their cages and for them to meet and interact outside of their cages? The answer is yes, but to do so in a very controlled way.
My advice is to follow these steps for introducing cockatiels and parakeets to each other:
- Quarantine all new birds that you purchase and bring into the home. Quarantine means that will put the new bird in a cage all by itself and in a room by itself for a minimum of two weeks. This is to prevent any possible diseases spreading to the other birds. After quarantine, you can put cockatiels in one cage and parakeets in another.
- Put the cages close to each other so they can see and hear each other. This will give them time to get used to each other without putting them in direct contact. Observe them as much as possible during this time. Do this for about a month.
- Bond with your new birds before allowing them out of the cage. This is important because you don’t want your birds to be scared of YOU. If there is a problem when you do let them out of the cage, you’ll be the one trying to catch the bird. That’s going to be very difficult if you haven’t already bonded!
- Let them out separately – In the beginning, let the parakeets and cockatiels out of their respective cages at different times first so they get used to the environment. Do this a few times so all the birds are familiar with the room. This will ensure they aren’t stressed when they do eventually get to meet the other species.
- Prepare the neutral environment. – Make sure the room has several perches dotted around the room. This will enable all the birds to have a safe space if they need it.
- Supervision – Let the parakeets and cockatiels out of their cages together. Supervise them carefully during this time. For their first few outings, limit their time together to about an hour. During this time, look out for any aggressive behaviour. You should also be looking for any signs of stress from your birds
- In case of problems – If you notice any signs of aggression, hissing, fighting, biting etc, immediately separate them and put them back in their cages. If problems persist, you will just have to accept that they don’t like each other and you’ll have to keep them separated.
Will budgies and cockatiels try to mate?
Yes, sometimes! Like I mentioned at the beginning of this article, in general, parakeets and cockatiels do instinctively like each other. Consequently, outside of their cages, they will most likely get along very well and some will actually bond and mate.
Don’t worry about them breeding. It’s biologically impossible for them to breed because both species are from different scientific “families” – Cockatiels are from the “Cacatuidae” family and parakeets (budgies) are from the “Psittacoidae” family. As an analogy, it would be like trying to cross a fox with a zebra!
So, there is no chance of them breeding. It’s up to you if you want to let them continue having fun. 🙂
All birds are different
To sum up, cockatiels and parakeets will usually get along fine. But just like humans, birds are all different with different personalities and needs. They can have good days and bad days. They can get sick, feel tired, and feel happy or grumpy just like us.
One day, they might love spending time playing with each other, only for the next day, to be hissing at each other. This is normal. The best advice I can give is to learn how to observe your birds so that you can intervene, if necessary.