How to Care for Your Pet Cockatoo

If you take good care of your cockatoo, she'll be an affectionate pet.

If you take good care of your cockatoo, she'll be an affectionate pet.

If you're taking in a companion parrot of the cockatoo variety for the first time, you'll find there's a lot to learn about their care requirements. These are needy birds prone to screaming and feather-picking under stress. When cared for well, a pet cockatoo can live 35 years.

Items you will need

  • Bird cage
  • Toys
  • Perches
  • Water and food dishes
  • Bird feed
  • Bird litter
  • Ladders

Step 1

Acquire a pair of cockatoos, if possible. These highly sociable, intelligent birds do best with constant companionship; they'll groom each other, promoting health. A companion bird is particularly important if know you'll be away from home a lot or otherwise can't spend hours daily with a single bird.

Step 2

Provide the biggest bird cage you can afford and accommodate. Cockatoos need lots of room to move around and feel at home. For smaller species, like the rose breast and Goffin's, get a cage that's at least 2 feet by 2 feet by 3 feet; for larger species, like the umbrella and Moluccan, dimensions closer to 3 feet by 3 feet by 4 feet are more appropriate minimums. You don't necessarily need double the space for a pair of birds, but definitely go bigger than these dimensions if you do get two. "The bigger the better" always applies, for one or two.

Step 3

Choose a strong bird cage with horizontal bars for your feathered friend to climb. Cockatoos have mighty beaks that can bend bars and damage hinges and joints. Attach an extra snap lock to the cage door to prevent a breakout.

Step 4

Stock your avian amigo's habitat with a variety of bird toys to chew and shred for stimulation and beak maintenance. Rope and wooden items sold for birds are good to include. Replace them as they become mangled beyond recognition.

Step 5

Hang a wooden perch or two for your cockatoo, and two if you get a pair of birds; about 3/4 inch in diameter is appropriate.

Step 6

Clip water and food dishes to one side of the cage. Use stainless steel, not plastic, as it won't take your chomping pet long to discover her ability to destroy the latter. Affix these away from the perches so no droppings get into the feed or fluids. Provide fresh room-temperature water and a commercial pellet-based food daily.

Step 7

Supplement your cockatoo's base diet with small amounts of nuts, seeds, fruit or vegetables every day. Variety is important for nutritional balance. Plus, your cockatoo probably doesn't want to eat the same food every day any more than you do. The occasional protein from hard-boiled egg, cheese or even dog food is a good idea, too. Hand-feed for increased interaction, but also hide morsels around the cage for your bird to find via foraging, a favorite activity.

Step 8

Line the bottom of the cage with an absorbent bird litter. Remove droppings and soiled areas every day and replace the litter you take out.

Step 9

Situate the bird cage in a room where someone usually is around; your cockatoo craves company, interaction and sounds. This is still the best strategy even if you have two birds so they become and remain familiar with the rest of the family. Keep the room between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Protect your cockatoo from drafts when it's cold, but allow for some air circulation through a cracked window or with a small fan nearby when it's hot.

Step 10

Let your cockatoo out of her cage for at least an hour every day, but preferably more like three to four hours. Two birds can play together if you give them some balls or other toys. If your pets don't get more than an hour every day, set up some ladders or other equipment to facilitate climbing-based exercise in the cage.

Step 11

Talk to and play with your cockatoo every day. Socialization is key to a well-mannered companion bird. It also provides stimulation and attention these highly intelligent and social winged creatures need. Out-of-cage time is a great opportunity for interaction, but don't ignore your cockatoo while she's in her cage. If you have a pair, spend time daily with each bird individually out of the cage to promote bonding; otherwise your birds may bond with each other to the exclusion of the human folk.

Step 12

Clean the water and food dishes every day. Your cockatoo produces a dust that helps keep her feathers clean, and this should be dusted off her perch and cage bars every day, too. Clean the cage bottom and do a full litter change twice per week. Wash toys and perches periodically, and scrub down the entire cage monthly. Clean with warm water and a mild soap, and make sure you rinse everything thoroughly.


  • Cockatoo husbandry should be reserved for dedicated, enthusiastic bird lovers willing to dedicate lots of time, energy, and expense into proper care and daily interaction over the course of several decades.
  • Your avian vet can safely clip your cockatoo's wings to prevent flight. He can also keep an eye on her claws and beak, which may sometimes need to be filed if climbing and chewing aren't keeping them trimmed down enough. Including a concrete block or perch in the cage helps keep nails filed down.
  • Many cockatoos can be trained to "talk" and to perform tricks. Repetition, daily practice and positive reinforcement with yummy treats are the way to go.


  • If you notice any changes in your cockatoo's eating, drinking, droppings, feathers or behavior, take her to see your avian vet. These may indicate a health problem.
  • Don't give your feathered friend avocado! It's toxic to birds.
  • Small children shouldn't handle cockatoos without close supervision.

About the Author

Jon Mohrman has been a writer and editor for more than seven years. He specializes in food, travel and health topics. He attended the University of Pittsburgh for English literature and San Francisco State University for creative writing.

Photo Credits

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