What Can Cockatiels Chew On?

Cockatiels, with their vibrant personalities and playful nature, have a unique need that many bird enthusiasts might overlook: their innate desire to chew. But what exactly can these feathered friends safely chew on without risking their health?

As a general rule, cockatiels can safely chew on a variety of materials such as untreated wood, cuttlebones, and certain paper products. However, it’s essential to be aware of potentially harmful materials and ensure that their chewing needs are met in a safe and stimulating manner.

Dive deeper into this comprehensive guide to discover the best materials for your cockatiel to chew on, the benefits of chewing, and potential hazards to be wary of. Your feathered friend’s well-being is worth every bit of knowledge!

Why Do Cockatiels Need To Chew?

Cockatiels engage in various activities that involve their beaks. One such activity is chewing. This behavior can be traced back to their wild ways, which are deeply programmed in their genes. When cockatiels reach sexual maturity, they naturally break, shred, and chew various materials. This is not just a random act; it’s a way for them to mark nesting territory and build nests. 

Even if your cockatiel is in the comfort of your home, these wild instincts don’t just disappear. So, when you see your bird chewing on her cage bars or other objects, it could be an indication that she has reached sexual maturity and feels the instinctual pull to nest.

Moreover, the environment they come from plays a significant role in this behavior. In their natural habitat, cockatiels would spend a considerable amount of time foraging for food. This involves pecking at branches, leaves, and other objects, which is part of their food-finding process. By allowing them to replicate this behavior in captivity, we help them stay connected to their natural instincts.

Benefits of Chewing for Cockatiels

Delving deeper, we find that the act of chewing offers a plethora of benefits for these charming birds. Let’s explore the multifaceted advantages that chewing brings to our feathered companions.

1. Dental health and the importance of beak maintenance

Just as we humans need to maintain our nails and teeth, cockatiels need to maintain their beaks. Chewing helps them keep their beaks in top shape. Over time, a cockatiel’s beak can continue to grow and flake. By chewing on strong objects, like cage bars, they can shave off these flakes, ensuring their beak remains neat and trim. 

However, excessive chewing on cage bars can damage their beak. Hence, it’s essential to provide them with other items inside their cage, like natural perches and cuttlebones, to help with this grooming upkeep.

2. Mental stimulation and combating bird boredom

Chewing is not just a physical activity for cockatiels; it’s a mental one too. It provides them with the necessary mental stimulation and keeps them engaged. If a cockatiel is left unoccupied, it might resort to chewing on cage bars out of boredom or to get your attention. 

Engaging with them, teaching them tricks, and providing a variety of toys can keep them occupied and reduce the chances of them resorting to undesirable chewing behaviors.

Safe Materials For Cockatiels To Chew On

Now that we understand the reasons behind their chewing habits, it’s time to ensure we provide them with safe materials to satisfy this natural instinct.

1. Wooden Toys

Wooden toys are a great option for cockatiels to chew on. However, it’s crucial to ensure the wood is safe for them. Not all woods are created equal, and some can be harmful to our feathered friends.

  • Different Types Of Safe Wood For Cockatiels

There are several woods that are safe for cockatiels, such as apple, elm, and fir. It’s essential to do thorough research or consult with experts before introducing any wood to your bird’s environment.

  • The Dangers Of Treated Or Painted Wood And How To Identify Them

Treated or painted woods can contain chemicals that are harmful to cockatiels. Always ensure that the wood you provide is untreated and unpainted. If you’re unsure, it’s best to avoid it altogether.

2. Cuttlebones and Mineral Blocks

Cuttlebones and mineral blocks serve a dual purpose for cockatiels. They not only help in beak maintenance but also provide essential minerals. They are also rich in calcium, which is especially vital for female cockatiels during the spring when they lay eggs. It ensures they get the minerals they need without resorting to chewing on potentially harmful objects.

Steps To Properly Install A Cuttlebone In A Cockatiel’s Cage

  • Choose a cuttlebone that is appropriately sized for your bird’s cage.
  • Ensure the cuttlebone is clean and free from any contaminants.
  • Use the provided holder or a suitable attachment to secure the cuttlebone to the cage bars.
  • Position the cuttlebone at a height that is easily accessible to your bird.
  • Monitor the cuttlebone for wear and replace it when it becomes too small or worn out.

3. Paper and Cardboard Items

Paper and cardboard items can be an inexpensive and safe option for cockatiels to chew on. They are soft, easy to shred, and can provide hours of entertainment for your bird.

Household Paper And Cardboard Items Suitable For Cockatiels

  • Plain printer paper
  • Cardboard rolls (from paper towels or toilet paper)
  • Untreated paper plates
  • Brown paper bags (without any print or ink)
  • Cardboard boxes (ensure they are clean and free from any contaminants)

Things to Avoid in Cockatiel Chewing Toys

While it’s essential to provide our feathered friends with safe materials to chew on, it’s equally crucial to be aware of the potential dangers lurking in some toys. Let’s dive into what you should be cautious of.

1. Toxic Woods and Materials

It’s surprising how many woods and materials can be harmful to cockatiels. I remember a time when I almost gave my cockatiel a toy made from a wood type that I later found out could have been harmful. It was a close call, and I’ve been extra cautious ever since.

Toxic Woods vs. Safe Alternatives Table:

Toxic WoodsSafe Alternatives
Pine (treated)Pine (untreated)
Red CherryApple

2. Small, Easily Swallowed Parts

Choking hazards are a real concern. Small parts that can easily be swallowed or inhaled pose a significant risk to our birds. It’s essential to inspect toys for safety, ensuring there are no small, detachable parts.

Common Choking Hazards

  • Small beads
  • Tiny bells
  • Rubber parts
  • Plastic eyes on toy figures
  • Loose threads or strings

3. Chemicals and Paints

Ensuring that toys are free from harmful substances is paramount. I’ve come across many toys in the market painted with colors that could be harmful if ingested. Here’s a quick DIY test you can do to check if a toy’s paint is safe:

DIY Paint Safety Test

  • Take a white cloth or tissue.
  • Rub it against the painted surface of the toy.
  • If any color transfers to the cloth, it’s a sign that the paint might not be safe.
  • Always opt for toys with non-toxic, bird-safe paints.
  • When in doubt, consult with a trusted pet store or veterinarian.


Now, it becomes evident that the right chewing materials play a pivotal role in their overall health and happiness. From beak maintenance to mental engagement, the advantages of proper chewing materials are numerous. Offering a diverse range of safe items, such as wooden toys, cuttlebones, and paper products, not only ensures their physical well-being but also contributes to their emotional contentment.

Did you find this guide helpful in understanding what your feathered friend can safely chew on? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments and pass this article along to fellow bird enthusiasts. Your cockatiel’s vibrant life is worth the extra effort, and together, we can create a safe and stimulating environment for them to thrive.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do cockatiels chew on their cage bars?

Chewing on cage bars can be a sign of boredom, a need for beak maintenance, or a lack of proper toys and stimulation.

How can I prevent my cockatiel from chewing on furniture?

Provide them with appropriate toys and materials to chew on, and ensure they have enough mental and physical stimulation.

How often should I replace my cockatiel’s chewing toys?

Regularly inspect toys for wear and tear. Replace them when they become damaged or pose a potential hazard.

Can I give my cockatiel fresh branches from the garden to chew on?

Yes, but ensure they are from safe, untreated trees and are thoroughly cleaned.

Mohsin Iqbal

Dr. Mohsin Iqbal, a licensed veterinarian holding a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from The Islamia University of Bahawalpur, is a respected member of the Pakistan Veterinary Medical Association and a well-established figure in the world of animal advocacy. His professional experiences are diverse, including working in various settings like private practices such as My Pet’s Clinic, public institutions like Civil Veterinary Hospital, shelters, rescues, and the Bahawalpur Zoo. Treating a wide range of animals, from common pets to exotic species, has enriched his expertise in numerous facets of pet care, including nutrition, exercise, behavior, training, and preventative care—an area he is particularly passionate about. As an ardent proponent of preventative care, Dr. Iqbal's writing focuses on the importance of vaccinations, routine check-ups, and early health problem detection. His dedication to educating others steered him toward a successful career. Over the past two years, his insightful pieces have been published in national and international magazines and featured regularly on online pet care platforms. Beyond his professional life, Dr. Iqbal is the president of the Animal Rescue Organization Pakistan, demonstrating his commitment to animal welfare through the rescue and rehabilitation of animals in need. His belief in the power of knowledge shines through his engaging content, empowering pet owners to nurture a deep, enduring bond with their animal companions. We are delighted to welcome Dr. Mohsin Iqbal to our team of content writers, eagerly anticipating his contributions that will foster a well-informed pet-owning community.

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