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Can You Potty Train a Cockatiel? Effective Tips & Tricks

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

grey cockatiel parrot taking a bath

Cockatiels make fantastic pets, but one of the hardest things for new bird owners to come to terms with is that their new feathered friend will poop everywhere. Because they poop every 15 to 20 minutes, a single cockatiel can quickly make a mess of your home. Potty training is an effective way to combat the poop mess, but it’s no easy feat.

Read on to learn more about the toileting habits of cockatiels and how to potty train them.

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Cockatiel Poop 101

A cockatiel’s droppings aren’t just a pile of waste, as they can tell you a lot about the health of your bird. For example, the color, consistency, and distribution of your pet’s feces can tell you if your cockatiel is healthy, suffering from a disease, or dealing with a parasite infestation.

A bird’s dropping consists of three components: feces, urates, and clear liquid urine. The fecal component is the solid green or brown part of the dropping. The color can change depending on your bird’s diet. The urate is typically white or cream and made of uric acid. The clear liquid urine is watery and colorless.

Once you’ve had your cockatiel for some time, you’ll learn what its normal droppings look like. Any deviation from the norm is abnormal; if the waste remains abnormal for longer than a day, a visit to the vet is in order. Abnormal droppings can look like:

  • An increase or decrease or increase in droppings
  • Changes in color
  • Changes in texture
  • Bubbly looking droppings
  • Increase in watery component
  • Presence of blood
  • Pea soup consistency
Albino Cockatiel
Image Credit: Ladanifer, Shutterstock

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How to Potty Train a Cockatiel

Now that you know more about cockatiel poop, you can approach potty training in an informed manner. Potty training a bird involves many of the same steps as training a dog. You’ll need to:

  • Anticipate when your cockatiel needs to poop
  • Take it to the designated poop spot every time you see it has to go
  • Wait until it defecates, and then repeat a key phrase every time
  • Provide plenty of praise and treats afterward

Let’s take a closer look at how to successfully potty train your bird.

1. Determine Where & How It Poops

Cockatiels, like most birds, have preferred areas where they like to defecate. They also will sometimes exhibit certain behaviors right before they poop. For example, they may take a step back and lift their tail before defecating. Potty training will be much easier if you can determine when it is about to poop by seeing it move to its favorite spot and exhibit its pre-poo behaviors.

2. Decide Where You Want It to Poop

Before you can begin potty training, decide where you want your cockatiel’s designated poop spot when it’s outside its cage. You might want it to return to the cage to poop or have a special perch set up over the top of a garbage can. Some people put paper plates down on the cage floor for their birds to poop on top of.

Wherever you choose, make sure it’s a place your bird can easily access on its own.

lutino cockatiel bird perching in a cage
Image Credit: W. S. Badeer, Shutterstock

3. Keep a Close Watch

When your cockatiel is outside its cage, observe it closely for signs it has to poop. When you see it beginning to exhibit such signs, take it to its designated poop spot. If you don’t recognize any behavioral cues that defecation is about to occur, take it to the poop spot every 15 minutes.

4. Praise & Reward

Whenever you see your bird poop in its cage, shower it with praise and treats. Use a short key phrase like “Go potty,” so it will begin to associate the act of pooping with the words. Then, immediately after it defecates inside its cage, remove it from the cage, as this is typically the biggest reward you can offer your bird.

Image Credit: Ladanifer, Shutterstock

5. Never Punish

Punishment is never an appropriate response when training any pet to do anything. Patience is key when training your bird and punishing it for having accidents will not do you or your cockatiel any good. In fact, punishment can be detrimental to your relationship and may even make your bird fear you. In addition, scolding can cause stress, leading to behavioral problems.

6. Be Realistic

It is unrealistic to believe that your cockatiel will be potty trained in a few days or weeks. Therefore, before you begin training, be realistic about the timeline and try not to set any specific expectations for your bird. Time and consistency are key in toilet training, so try to avoid putting a clear timeline for the process.

cockatiel in a nest in cage
Image Credit: Chrisad, Pixabay

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Is Potty Training a Cockatiel Safe?

Some believe that potty training their cockatiel will teach their bird to hold in their poop. However, there doesn’t appear to be any data or research suggesting a bird will hold its waste to the extreme. Birds can learn to control their bowel movements to an extent, but not in the same way a human can. Because cockatiels need to go to the bathroom so frequently, it’s unlikely that they will hold in their waste to the point where it becomes dangerous.

Potty training behavior is natural, believe it or not. It’s something that many animals will unknowingly practice when living in their natural habitats. For example, cockatiels in the wild generally prefer defecating in certain areas under specific conditions as a matter of survival.

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Final Thoughts

Cockatiels can be potty trained, though it requires time and patience. Remember to provide plenty of verbal praise and tasty treats when teaching your bird, and never resort to punishment as a reaction toward accidents.

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Featured Image Credit: anya Hamster, Shutterstock

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