Why Is My Cockatiel Scared Of Everything?

Whether you’ve just brought your cockatiel home or have cared for it for years, cockatiels can become scared of everything. If your cockatiel is hiding or fleeing, it feels scared or unsettled. However, it takes time for a cockatiel to adapt to handling and accept life as a beloved family pet.

Cockatiels will feel scared of everything if they haven’t been tamed or socialized on time. However, cockatiels who are afraid of everything usually suffer from chronic stress. This can be caused by significant changes in their environment or linked to past trauma or illnesses.

Bringing a cockatiel into a new home requires a period of adaptation. Cockatiels are small and skittish, especially when new to a home, and must be looked after with due care and consideration.

As cockatiels are prey animals, they are instinctively cautious. Therefore, until you gain the trust of a cockatiel, it will be afraid of every sight, sudden movement, sound, and scent in your home.

Over time, cockatiels grow more comfortable in their surroundings and become less skittish. This ensures that cockatiels are less likely to react poorly to stimuli. In addition, slow and steady exposure therapy to potential triggers helps convince a cockatiel that the home isn’t frightening.

Some cockatiels have memories Opens in a new tab.of trauma, while others are nervous by nature. However, if your cockatiel remains jumpy after several months, you will need to manage exposure to fear triggers.

Why Do Cockatiels Get Scared?

The primary fear cockatiels experience surrounds threats to their life and safety. Captive cockatiel faces few threats and dangers, but an intuitive sense of fear remains.

It’s natural for a cockatiel to be nervous and skittish when entering your home. Even if the cockatiel was raised in captivity, it finds itself in an unfamiliar environment, surrounded by new sights, sounds, and scents.

Many cockatiels adapt before long, growing more confident in their surroundings and less frightened. But unfortunately, this doesn’t apply to all birds. Some cockatiels are naturally nervous, while others have been subjected to trauma and remain shy.

In short, cockatiels hate changes. Adjusting a cockatiel’s surroundings, such as changing the colorOpens in a new tab. of the walls in a room or spending less time with your cockatiel, will trigger stress and fear.

Why Is My New Cockatiel Scared?

The time when your cockatiel will be afraid of everything is when you first time brought it into your home. The new environment may be confusing and frighten your cockatiel.

Your cockatiel will always need some time to get used to, so you need to be prepared to spend a lot of time with it to keep it happy.

Also, regardless of where you get your cockatiel, you still have a strict duty to train and prepare the cockatiel yourself once it gets home.

Ensure that your cockatiel has everything it needs and that you take the time to help it get comfortable by being with it.

Otherwise, moving to a new home might be very stressful for your cockatiel, with a potentially lasting impact.

Signs Of Scared Cockatiel

The most common signs of a scared cockatiel include:

  • Fluffing and puffing their feathers in an attempt to look more prominent.
  • Staring with wide eyes
  • Refusing to eatOpens in a new tab. or drink
  • Hiding
  • Excessive plucking, typically becoming feather plucking and self-mutilation.
  • PantingOpens in a new tab.
  • Uncharacteristic aggression
  • Screaming, squawking, or falling silent
  • Pacing around a cage
  • Stress bars ( small horizontal lines) on the feathers
  • Toe-tapping or nodding the head to excess
  • Watery droppings
  • Physically shaking

If you recognize some of these behaviors, take the time to soothe and calm them down. If your cockatiel seems to be constantly afraid, seek the advice of an avian vet.

However, if necessary, your cockatiel may be prescribed an anti-anxiety medication. This commonly involves the blood pressure-lowering medication clonidine.

What Are Cockatiels Afraid Of?

As survival instincts govern them, cockatiels can be afraid of almost anything.

Any unique experience, from new toys or decorations placed within a cage to a different human approaching a cage, can frighten these tiny birds.

Other things that have a universally frightening impact on cockatiels are:

1. Dark

Like mammals, a cockatiel’s sleep cycles are managed by circadian rhythms. This means that your cockatiel must spend half its day in daylight and the other half in darkness.

Some cockatiels are afraid of the darkOpens in a new tab. or have night terrors and will react poorly to having a cage covered.

The cockatiel is not actually afraid of the dark. However, the things that it can only smell and hear but not see are scary. So if you have other pets, the cockatiel will know they are around, but it can not see them.

If you live in a noisy city, your cockatiel will hear ambient noise that it can’t identify.

When putting a cockatiel to bed for the night, use a room that is closed off to other pets. Hang the cage from a window so wild animals won’t spook your cockatiel.

2. Hands

Your cockatiel might have no problem flying to perch, standing on your head, or scaling your shoulderOpens in a new tab.. However, it feels afraid once you extend your hand to pet, feed, or hold your cockatiel.

This can be for the following reasons:

  • Wild-caught – this may be the source of trauma as it was roughly grabbed and mishandled.
  • Poorly raised – the person who reared the cockatiel may have been too rough or avoided handling the cockatiel.
  • Past abuse – even if it is reared correctly, the cockatiel might’ve had a bad experience with a previous owner. If the abuse was by the owner, the cockatiel would fear your hands.

If you don’t have a strong bond with your cockatiel, it will naturally jerk away from the hands that are thrust into their space. Your cockatiel isn’t afraid; it just doesn’t know that it can trust you jet.

To avoid this, teach your cockatiel that your hand means a good thing. Start off by placing your hand in the cage each day for a short period of time. Please don’t touch your cockatiel or attempt to hold it.

Also, you can place a treat in your hand. Hold it near to your cockatiel for a few minutes at a time. Even if the cockatiel doesn’t take the treat, the smell will make your hand more appealing.

3. New toys

Cockatiels will be worried about any changes to their living environment. Stress could be brought on if you recently added a bell, mirrorOpens in a new tab., or new perch to the cage’s interior. Your cockatiel doesn’t understand why this object is here or even what it is.

On the other hand, your cockatiel might also be scared of its toys due to their:

  • Color – bright colors will entice one cockatiel but might intimidate another.
  • Shape – they may be too long and angular, resembling a predator like a snake.
  • Size – if the toy is more significant than the cockatiel, it might feel that the object can physically attack it.
  • Material – very furry toys might seem too much like real animals.

Some cockatiel will love stuffed animals, while others see them as scary predators. Because of this, you should introduce new toys to your cockatiel slowly. Then, allow your cockatiel to meet the toy outside of its cage.

If you have bonded with your cockatiel, handle and play with the toy in front of it. That way, if you can trust the toy, so can your cockatiel.

If the cockatiel hesitates, don’t place the toy inside the cage. Instead, let it play with the toy outside its cage while you supervise. That enables it to learn that the toy is safe without gradually feeling pressured.

4. New cage

Losing its old cage will make your cockatiel feel lost and unsafe. Cockatiel may be afraid of its new cage. It will take time and patience for your cockatiel to feel safe and adapt to its new cage.

So, here is some advice on how to make your cockatiel feel safe in its new cage:

  • Place the old and new cages close to each other
  • Leave both cages open while you supervise
  • Place some of the cockatiel’s toys inside the cage
  • Encourage the cockatiel to investigate
  • Set the cockatiel on top of the cage and let it walk around
  • Repeat this over a few sessions
  • If the cockatiel goes inside the cage, reward it with a treat.
  • Please don’t close the cage door to your cockatiel until it’s done this several times.
  • If your cockatiel becomes distressed, let it out.

Eventually, the cockatiel should feel comfortable in its new home. Then you can remove the old cage and let it adjust.

5. Being left alone

As social birds, cockatiels don’t enjoy solitude. Therefore, if you can’t house your cockatiel with a conspecific, you will need to spend time with it.

This can involve time interacting with the cockatiel within its cage and letting it free for exercise and socialization around the home.

If you enjoy a consistent, reliable schedule, your cockatiel will wait patiently for opportunities to interact with you. However, if you are haphazard with this or prone to leaving the cockatiel aloneOpens in a new tab. for days at a time, it will grow frightened and stressed by solitude.

This can result in a cockatiel growing increasingly clingy. In addition, the cockatiel will likely experience significant episodes of fear when left alone due to insecure attachment.

Manage this by ensuring that your cockatiel enjoys a reliable company schedule. Ask friends or neighbors to visit the cockatiel at set times each day so it does not feel so lonely.

6. Noisy environments

Cockatiels have good hearing. Therefore loud noises, especially short and sharp sounds, are stressful to cockatiels. These unsettling background noises include:

  • Car horns
  • Garbage trucks
  • Fireworks
  • Household appliances, such as vacuum cleaners
  • Hair dryer
  • Emergency vehicle sirens
  • Thunder and lighting
  • Doorbells

7. Predators

Any animal is afraid of its natural predators. So although your dogs or cats may seem harmless and likely mean no harm to your cockatiel, your cockatiel still may become fearful when they see your fluffy friend come around.

Even if your dog or cat is staring at your cockatiel without harming it, your cockatiel may still get stressed out because it feels like it is being sized up as a meal. Still, cockatiels can get along with other pets pretty well.

Therefore you should constantly evaluate your pet’s personalities before you bring them together.

Why Is My Cockatiel Always Scared?

Even a well-tamed and well-socialized cockatiel may become cage-bound. This usually happens if the cockatiel has undergone some sudden change, such as:

  • Moving from one home to another
  • Furniture being moved around
  • Sudden death in the family

No matter the case, the best way to help the cockatiel is to take baby steps toward exiting the cage.

As long as the cockatiel doesn’t feel pressured, it should warm up to leaving its cage. Here is what to do:

  • Set a perch right outside of the cage
  • Place some millet on or around it, enticing the cockatiel to venture out.
  • In a few days, set the perch farther away (by just a few inches).
  • Slowly move the perch farther away until your cockatiel lets you pick it up and move.
  • If the cockatiel appears stressedOpens in a new tab., allow it to go back inside its cage.

How Do You Calm A Scared Cockatiel?

If your cockatiel is afraid, you will need to manage its immediate stress. Cockatiels are naturally empathetic, so the calmer you are, the likelier the cockatiel is to calm down.

Here is some advice on how to calm down a scared cockatiel:

  1. First, remove any stressors from the cockatiel’s presence, such as moving a predatory pet to another room or silencing loud noise.
  2. Talk to your cockatiel in a light, low, and reassuring voice. Never raise your voice or yell because this can harm your cockatiel.
  3. If your cockatiel responds well to tactile soothing, such as stroking, approach its cage very slowly. Never place your hand near the cockatiel without permission.
  4. Distract the cockatiel with a snack, a new toy, or some other form of stimulation. If applicable, offer to play with the cockatiel.
  5. Once the cockatiel has been soothed, allow it out of the cage. Then, permit the cockatiel to fly off any excess adrenaline.

The good news is that cockatiels can be calmed almost as quickly and frequently as they frighten themselves. It will cool off if you have forged a strong bond with your cockatiel.

How Do You Tame A Scared Cockatiel?

There are two ways to tame a scared cockatiel:

1. Desensitization

Desensitization therapy is one of the most effective strategies to boost the cockatiel’s self-assurance, according to Good BirdOpens in a new tab.. It will become accustomed to the presence of a frightening object or person with gradual training.

This works by:

  • Slowly exposing your cockatiel to the source of stress
  • Letting it experience the stress for a short amount of time
  • Comforting the cockatiel after the terrifying experience

This enables your cockatiel to feel more comfortable around the source. It would be best if you did this only in a safe environment and only when necessary.

For example, if your cockatiel is afraid of car alarms, exposing it to this is unnecessary. However, your cockatiel should learn to accept the things it regularly encounters in its life.

2. Positive and negative reinforcement

Positive reinforcement involves rewarding desired behavior. For example, this can be done by:

  1. Offering treats or playing with your cockatiel shows behavior that you want to encourage.
  2. You are ignoring all negative or undesirable behavior that you want to eliminate.

Negative reinforcement seeks to improve undesirable behavior by withdrawing the treat or reward. For example, maybe you are giving your cockatiel a few nuts to calm it down when it becomes scared. This was likely counterproductive.

However, taming a scared cockatiel will not happen overnight. It requires time, lots of patience, and consistency.

Taming a scared cockatiel takes anywhere between ten days to four weeks. Every cockatiel is different, and how quickly it can be tamed depends on many factors, such as its temperaments and experience with its previous owner.

Some cockatiels might be too scared due to some unpleasant experience with a previous owner, while some others might quickly adapt to a new environment and new people.


Hopefully, this article has given you some answers. Your cockatiel is likely dealing with chronic stress caused by past or present events.

But there are solutions! Try implementing the tips discussed here to help curb your cockatiel’s worries and help them relax.

Cockatiel Enthusiast

My name is Bojan. I have been around Cockatiels for the past 7 years. I love writing about Cockatiels and helping people understand how these beautiful birds live, what they like, and how to provide them the best possible care.

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