Majority Rules

Retailers should maintain a well-stocked selection of products catering to parakeets and cockatiels, by far the most popular species of avian pet.




When it comes to the most in-demand pet bird species, parakeets and cockatiels are the clear winners. According to the 2017-2018 American Pet Products Association Pet Owner’s Survey, these two species make up approximately three-quarters of the birds sold in the United States. This is not surprising because both of these parrot species make fantastic pets for almost anyone. It is important to set up these birds properly to keep them healthy, so pet stores should have a checklist of what needs to go home with every parakeet and cockatiel.


The cage should be large enough to allow the bird to spread its wings and flap freely. The bars do not have to be super strong with these species, but the spacing is important—a bird should never be able to put its head through them. The larger the cage, the better it will be for the pet’s health, so it is best to encourage new bird owners to buy a sizeable enclosure.


Retailers should offer cages with deeper bottom trays, so it is easy to clean them out. With smaller parrots, cage paper specifically made for use with birds is one of the best options. It can be layered so soiled top pieces can be removed easily, and then the whole tray should be cleaned once a week. Litter can be used as well, but it’s best to avoid corncob bedding, as it can cause a fungal infection if tainted. Shavings are too light to use with birds, and color-printed newspaper must never be used, as the inks may be poisonous to the birds.


Almost all cages come with two cups, one for food and one for water. This is usually enough, but if the dishes are on the smaller side, suggest another one for food. To make it easier for bird owners—since birds can be rather messy—recommend that they buy at least one more set of dishes, so one set can be cleaned and disinfected while the other is in use. Dishes must be cleaned out and washed at least twice a week, and more often in warmer areas.


The cups are usually placed low in the front of the cage to help keep the mess inside. Some dishes have removable covers, but these should not be used unless a bird has eaten from a dish with a cover before. The owners can also gradually introduce the covers over a period of a few days or weeks—the bird may not eat if it’s done too suddenly.


Most cages made for smaller parrots do not have a cage guard built in, so the store should always sell one to new owners. Using these in-house will also demonstrate the importance of this item and keep the store cleaner. A cage skirt made of fine netting with elastic around the top and bottom usually works great for small birds, and these skirts can be put in the laundry or simply replaced as needed.


Building a Healthy Lifestyle

Cages often come with one or two perches—however, birds should have at least three types of perches with different diameters to keep their feet healthy. Wood is fine for parakeets and cockatiels, as they are not as likely to chew them up. It’s good to offer one perch made for keeping the nails trimmed, but never use sandpaper perch covers. These covers can cause foot injuries if they slide around.


Perches that are made of wood, rope or other porous material should be replaced every six to eight months but can be cleaned more often. Perches made of plastic can be washed as needed. Advise new owners that birds prefer to stand on higher perches, and that perches should never be placed below one another or above dishes. Any bird poop should fall into the tray below and not on any objects in the cage.


A cuttlebone or beak conditioner should be available to the birds at all times. Both of these items help keep the bill—which grows constantly—trimmed and in good shape, while supplying calcium and other minerals. Some companies make holders for these items that make it easier for the birds to chew on them.


Toys are a necessity for all pet parrots. They love to play and need to for their mental health. Because these two avian species are the most commonly kept pet birds, many toys of the right size are available. At least three types should be offered at all times. Rope, shredded paper and soft wood all make wonderful destructible chew toys, while plastic and metal are the most common indestructible materials used. Toys should be changed out every month or so to keep the bird’s interest and get them used to changes in their environment. Any toys that get soiled or chewed up should be thrown out immediately. Plastic and metal toys do not need to be changed out, just kept clean. A toy with a mirror should be offered at all times. Although mirrors can be an issue for larger parrot, this is not the case for parakeets and cockatiels. Having at least one mirror toy in their cage will help keep them company when their owner is not home.


Pet stores should keep a variety of each of these items made for cockatiels and parakeets in stock considering the popularity of these two species. It is also important to bring in new stock often, especially in the case of toys, so that both the bird owners and their smaller pet parrots remain interested and happy.  PB


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