How to Teach a Cockatiel to Step Up

Cockatiels can do all kinds of tricks, but one of the most common is stepping up on their owner’s finger. This trick isn’t too difficult to teach, and we have all the tips and hacks you need to know below. First, let’s get right to the question, how do I teach my cockatiel to step up?

Any training with a cockatiel requires patience, treats, time, and positive reinforcement. Below we listed the steps to get your cockatiel to step up onto your finger. Training sessions should be no longer than fifteen minutes.

Before we get into getting your cockatiel to step up, there are few things to consider. Is your cockatiel tame? If your cockatiel is aggressive, they will likely bite you when you put your finger out, so it’s a good idea to teach them not to bite first. Then you can tackle big jobs like stepping up. 

Does your cockatiel trust you? Trust is imperative to be successful with any training. Your bird has to trust that you will take care of him when he perches on your finger, so if he backs up or shows signs of fear when you open his cage, wait until he is comfortable and work on taming and trust. 

How to teach your bird to step up. 

Step 1: When you know your cockatiel is comfortable to open the cage door. You will know they are ready when they don’t move away from you as your hand enters the cage. Put some treats on the palm of your hand and let your cockatiel eat them from your writing. Do this for a day or so. 

Step 2: After a couple of days of eating from the palm of your hand, open the cage and put your hand in the cage-free of food, but instead of having your palm out, extend two fingers horizontally. If your cockatiel remains calm and doesn’t bite you give her a treat. Do this or several times a day for ten or fifteen minutes tops. Keep it up for a couple of days.  

Step 3: Once your cockatiel is comfortable with all the actions in step two, you can put your fingers directly under their belly, which should prompt them to put on foot on your finger. If anything, they may do it to balance themselves. Your bird may test how stable your finger is, so be sure to keep your hand steady and firm. 

When they put their foot on your finger, say, “Step up.” and keep that trend going with every training session. Every time your bird steps up successfully, give your cockatiel a treat. After a week or two, your bird should be stepping up on your finger with no problem whatsoever. 

Training your cockatiel to come when called.

Once your cockatiel has mastered the step-up trick, you can begin training your bird to fly to you when called. There are a few easy steps which we’ve listed below. 

Step One: Have your cockatiel step onto your finger and take them out of their cage. When your bird step on your finger, hold a treat in your other hand. Put it near your cockatiel and command, “Step up.” Your birds should step off one hand onto the other to retrieve the treat. 

Step Two: Let your bird sit on a perch outside of its cage. Keep your hand, with fingers extended horizontally, six inches away from them. Be sure to have a treat in that hand still. 

Step Three: Give your cockatiel the “step-up” command. Your cockatiel should recognize to get the treat, they will have to fly to the hand holding the reward. When your cockatiel flies to your hand successfully

Step Four: Repeat this process while you move your hand farther away each time until you can stand across the room and your cockatiel comes when called. It’s essential to use the same “step up” command not to confuse your bird. 

Persistence is essential because even cockatiels who take longer to learn tricks still master them after hours of practice. Don’t give up and use plenty of positive reinforcement. 

How to train a cockatiel not to bite. 

When teaching a cockatiel not to bite, it’s important not to lose your temper. Scaring your bird will prompt her to bite again. When your bird bites, say “No” in a stern voice without losing your temper. If they are on your finger or shoulder, tip their perch, so they lose balance. Losing their footing will likely teach them. 

Never reward your cockatiel for biting you. Otherwise, you risk reinforcing the behavior making it all the more challenging to stop. Reward your bird when it is in a position to bite you and doesn’t. Let the bird make the connection between treats and behaving, and they will stop. 

Birds that bite do so because they are afraid and likely feel threatened. You should examine your behavior to see if there is anything you are doing in the way you approach your cockatiel that might be frightening to them. 

The bottom line is if your cockatiel is biting you, there is a reason. Maybe your bird doesn’t trust you yet. Perhaps you are doing something that your bird just does not like. If your cockatiel continues to be aggressive, it may be time to pay a visit to the veterinarian. Sick animals act out, so there may be an underlying issue. 

Older cockatiels might be feeling sad if they had bonded with another owner with who they are no longer living due to death or abandonment. This type of bird will be more challenging to train and break off bad habits like biting. 

Are cockatiels easy to train?

Young cockatiels, preferably eight to twelve weeks old, are easy to train. Hand-fed cockatiels are also easy to prepare, but they must also be young. New owners can train older cockatiels, but it will take more time and patience. 

It’s difficult to pinpoint an entire species of birds as easy to train or challenge because cockatiels have individual personalities. There is no guarantee that your bird will respond to your training. While cockatiels can be somewhat predictable when it comes to positive reinforcement, your bird will learn what you’re teaching when it does. 

In the meantime, get the treats ready, put on your patience, and get willing to spend some time teaching your bird. You will find that the time put in is well worth it when they start flying to you when called and listening to your commands if you get them to stop biting you. That is a significant first step.

Other things you can train your cockatiel to do.

Cockatiels can also learn to whistle, sing, talk, and play games. You can teach your cockatiel how to say their name or yours too. They love to mimic human language.

Some people think it’s cute or funny to teach a cockatiel to swear or say inappropriate things. We strongly advise against this because you never know if you will have to rehome your bird at some point. 

Young birds are easier to train because they are so new to the world. By the time you have possession, your young cockatiel is fresh from weaning and looking for some new Experiences. Older birds who are trying a new home may be suffering from heartbreak because their person is gone. You should take all of this into consideration. 

When you are training your cockatiel, it’s crucial not to get frustrated or angry with them if they aren’t catching on right away. You could scare your bird into not learning anything, and all your work will have been for nothing. 

Rick Matthews

Hello, I am Rick Matthews, I have helped raise 100's of pets in my life living with my Father who while we did not live on a farm, raised all sorts of animals to sell them to families. We had so many different pets we all quickly became experts intending to them and helping them stay healthy. Back then we did not have the internet to look up thing on how to take care of their kids. As my kids got older, they wanted pets and of course, I did not want to have as many as we did when I was a child, but wanted to share my experiences. Many of these articles are written to help educate families on what to expect when looking to get a new pet for their children.

Recent Posts