In the wild, cockatiels spend most of their time foraging for ripening grass seeds which are high in carbohydrates and low in proteins and fats. A simple seed and water diet is therefore not suitable for pet birds, as they are not getting all the nutrients that they need in this way.
Poor diet can in the long run cause health problems like respiratory infections, flaky skin, poor condition of the feathers and reproductive problems. Poor diet is the main reason that some cockatiels live fairly short lives.
Cockatiels require about a dozen vitamins namely – A, D, E, K, B1, B2, niacin, B6, B12, pantothenic acid, biotin, folic acid and choline to stay healthy. Along with the vitamins listed above, cockatiels also need trace amounts of some minerals for optimal health. These minerals include calcium, phosphorus, sodium, chlorine, potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, sulphur, iodine and manganese. All the above can be supplied by a balanced diet and by putting a supplemental mineral block or cuttlefish in the cage.
Ideally, your cockatiel’s diet should contain equal parts of seed, grain and legumes, with dark green and dark orange fruit and vegetables. Small amounts of well cooked meat, eggs or dairy products can also be used.
Clean seed can be bought from your local pet supply store. Make sure to buy your birdseed from places where the stock turns over quickly. Old stock does loose some of its nutrition. Keep your seed in the fridge to prevent bugs from breeding in it. If you want to check if the seed is fresh, you can try sprouting it. Soak some seed overnight in warm water. Drain the water off and let the seeds sit in a closed cupboard for twenty four hours. If they sprout they are fresh. You can rinse the sprouted seed off and give them to your cockatiel for a nutritious treat.
Make sure that your cockatiel has a good supply of seed in his cage at all times. If your cockatiel is a neat eater, he will drop the empty seed hulls back into his dish. Thus the dish that is seemingly full of seed is actually full of empty hulls. I usually just blow off the top layer of hulls before refilling the seed dish.
Millet is also very popular with cockatiels. Millet sprays are a great treat for your bird, but offer it sparingly, as millet is high in fat. You can also offer your cockatiel uncooked cereal unsweetened, whole-wheat bread, cooked vegies, cooked rice and pasta.