My cockatiel got into the habit of going into tight spaces and getting angry there. She goes into the cupboard, clothes dryer, climbs into any pots or dishes that are around, or just squeezes inbetween my thigh and the arm of the sofa. When she's in closed spaces like this, she gets angry when I put my hand near her, or sometimes even if I just go close to her. She hisses, fans out the tail and sometimes screams at me. As soon as I remove her from the closed space, she's a friendly bird again.

The bird started doing this maybe 5 month ago or so. She's 18 months old now.

We used to put her into the cupboard often before, because she would stay put and play happily with bread tags in there while we were doing something else in the kitchen (usually washing dishes in front of the same cupboard). It's difficult to get some work done with a bird that keeps following you around and always poking her beak into whatever you're doing, so it was convenient.

After she started getting angry in such places, we didn't let her go there any more, and we're trying to not let her into tight spaces in general. Though the cupboard is still her favourite place and she'd try to fly inside whenever it's open. (Second favourite are all kinds of pots or bowls.)

Questions: Why does the bird do this, and in particular, is this usual / common behaviour for cockatiels? Is this some kind of nesting instinct and is it related to sexual behaviour? What can I do to avoid it?

Fortunately the bird can't help obeying the step up command if my voice is insistent enough, so usually I manage to remove her from the cupboard without getting bitten. Once she's out everything's back to normal.

  • Is she laying eggs? – James Jenkins Feb 3 '14 at 16:13
  • @JamesJenkins No, she isn't, fortunately. She had a brief period of a few weeks when she occasionally wanted to mate with me, but I managed to dissuade her from that. That's gone now. I read up a bit on what causes that (long hours of daylight, touching on the back, etc.) and we avoid those things. – Szabolcs Feb 3 '14 at 16:22
  • We do have another female bird which doesn't go into tight spaces and behaves completely differently, but that's all the experience I have with cockatiels. Actually what I was hoping to find out by posting here was if this going into tight spaces thing is typical cockatiel behaviour or just something our bird does. – Szabolcs Feb 3 '14 at 16:24
  • In my answer below I suggest a nesting box, as you have two females, they may or may not use the same box. You will need to watch and see if second box is needed. – James Jenkins Feb 3 '14 at 16:34
  • Sounds like nesting behavior. As a side note this is a good sign since most cockatiels will not go into this cycle unless they feel safe and happy. – user9 Feb 3 '14 at 16:58

Given the comment, I would expect she is looking for a nesting site and is trying to protect that area. Most birds will attempt to locate a nesting site prior to laying eggs, but will occasionally lay with out a predefined nest.

Providing a nesting box can help provide her with a safe comfortable place to meet these basic instincts. There are multiple resources for meeting the nest box requirements so I won't go into them here. But it should have the ability so you can check for eggs and preform cleaning as needed.

If she does lay eggs and you don't want them to hatch or if there is no male, you will want to remove the eggs and replace them with a similar sized object. If you take the egg (without leaving a replacement) she will decide the nest is not safe and start looking for a new nest site. Many craft supply stores sell wood eggs and balls in different sizes. Most birds can not count, so if you leave one wood egg she will continue to lay the second egg (day after day, as long as her biology will allow). Sitting (in my experience) is started when she feels like she has the most eggs she can fit under her and keep warm. If you want her to stop laying and encourage her to sit, you can remove the real egg and add wood egg every day. At some point she will stop laying and start sitting.

Letting your bird sit a batch of wood eggs, should not be undertaken lightly and would be best addressed in a separate question.

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  • There are no male birds in the house, only two females. Considering that this has been going on for 5 months (!!), do you still think she could be looking for a nesting site continuously for such a long time? If yes, wouldn't it be better to somehow try to dissuade her from nesting ... ? I'm not sure which solution is better. I'm worried because of possible problems such as becoming egg-bound. (I have no direct experience as we only had birds for 13-14 months.) – Szabolcs Feb 3 '14 at 17:31
  • One strange thing I didn't mention: she usually only get angry at my hand. If I stick my head into the cupboard, she's fine with that. (Otherwise this bird is not afraid of hands at all, quite the contrary, I wish I could keep her away sometimes.) – Szabolcs Feb 3 '14 at 17:32
  • @Szabolcs I am not sure how a nest might impact egg binding, but I posted this question which may help. – James Jenkins Feb 4 '14 at 16:02
  • What I meant is that I don't want to encourage laying eggs. If the bird doesn't lay eggs, there's no risk of egg binding. I assume providing a nest will encourage laying eggs. She's not doing that now. – Szabolcs Feb 4 '14 at 16:04
  • Other then Spay/hysterectomy I doubt anything you can do that will not harm the bird will prevent the eggs from forming. Not having a place to lay them, that could be a problem. – James Jenkins Feb 4 '14 at 16:08

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