Birds are very intelligent (contrary to the idiomatic expression, “bird brain”) and will get very bored if they are not given opportunities for mental stimulation. That’s why it’s important to leave enough toys and accessories for them to play with while you’re away. These will encourage their curiosity (which in turn may make them more open to being trained) and even keep their beak and nails properly trimmed.
First on your list of must-have toys is chew items. Birds can get feisty, especially when locked up in a cage, so they need a way to get rid of their excess energy. Chew items can help them work out their excitement so they don’t nip or bite by the time you’re ready to take them out of the cage.
There are many other toys that birds might enjoy, from rope toys to bells to rawhides. But before you go on a wild shopping spree, consider if the toy is the appropriate size for your cockatiel. Something that’s too large, or too complicated, can seem scary and even overwhelming for a small bird—especially if it already has a nervous temperament. But something that’s too small or made of a fragile material can break, or be difficult for the claws to maneuver.
For cockatiels, it’s best to get plastic toys. These won’t work for a large parrot like a macaw, which can break it in mere seconds and may accidentally choke on the pieces. Metal toys are also acceptable, provided that they are sturdy and won’t break off into a sharp edge that can scratch or puncture your pet.
Cockatiels will also enjoy rope toys, but make sure they are strung on a cotton or sisal rope. (Plastic chains are also ideal, as long as they are secure and won’t slip off.) A broken rope toy can entangle a bird so don’t get the cheap ones just to get a bigger discount—better to be safe rather than to just save.
You should also get enough perches for the Cockatiel to be able to hop from one to another—a favorite play time activity. There should also be enough room in the cage for the bird to be able to experiment with a toy without hitting a perch or getting entangled in the rope. Some experienced owners recommend bringing the toys and accessories with you when shopping for a cage—you’ll have a more realistic gauge of whether or not you’ve gotten the right size.
Since Cockatiels like mimicking sound, you should get a couple of bells, or toys that will make a clacking or clicking noise when manipulated. Just make sure that these are securely attached, and the rope isn’t long enough to trap the bird’s legs if he decides to dangle on it. The bells should also be a little large, so if he nips at it, he won’t accidentally swallow or choke on it.
Cockatiels may also enjoy listening to CD’s of bird sounds—they may even be able to mimic the calls!