I was having some yogurt with my breakfast the other day, and my cockatiel kept coming over and seemed very intrigued.
He clearly wanted to try it, and I was unsure—not least because it was my yogurt!
I also wasn’t entirely sure how safe yogurt is for cockatiels, which was of course my main concern.
I thought it would be fun to give him some yogurt if it would be safe for him.
So, I decided to find out if it was safe.
Can cockatiels eat yogurt?
Dairy products in general are not good for cockatiels, and yogurt is no different. A very small amount would probably be fine, but all birds are naturally lactose intolerant. So, dairy based yogurt, however small the amount, can potentially cause problems for a cockatiel.
So, even though a very small amount might be fine, there’s really no reason to give yogurt to your cockatiel.
It isn’t the kind of thing it would naturally enjoy, and though it may seem enthusiastic about having some, that’s just birds—they want what you have!
So, don’t feed yogurt to your cockatiel.
Is yogurt safe for cockatiels?
In short, no.
Fundamentally, the problem is that almost all yogurt, and certainly all dairy yogurt, is going to contain lactose.
Lactose is a special sugar found only in dairy milk from animals, and birds lack the necessary enzyme needed to properly digest it.
Indeed, even mammals typically lose the ability to break down lactose once they reach maturity.
So, when a cockatiel eats yogurt, most of it will sit, undigested, in its gut.
This can cause diarrhea and pain.
Yogurt is simply very difficult for cockatiels to process in their bodies, and will cause both long- and short-term problems if fed regularly.
So, yogurt is not safe for cockatiels.
Indeed, almost no dairy products will be.
A very small amount may not be problematic, but you don’t want your cockatiel to become used to the idea of eating yogurt.
Better treat options are fresh vegetables and seeds.
In any case, treats should only make up a small part of their diet.
Cockatiels like the occasional treat, but their overall diet should remain quite simple.
Can cockatiels eat dairy yogurt?
So, as I said, dairy yogurt is the big problem, and you should not feed dairy to your cockatiel.
In very small amounts it may not be a problem and indeed some parrot and cockatiel owners do report feeding some yogurt every now and then as a treat.
But, as I said, there are much better, healthier treats available.
Different cockatiels will have different levels of tolerance for dairy, and some may not be able to handle any at all.
We think it’s better to be safe than sorry in this case, so avoid ever giving your cockatiel yogurt.
As I said, cockatiels are lactose intolerant, so they cannot break down dairy products in the same way we may be able to.
Can cockatiels eat plant based yogurt?
If you are set on feeding yogurt to your cockatiel, then plant based yogurt is a much better option.
Lacking any dairy means it lacks lactose, so it won’t cause the same digestive issues as dairy yogurt would.
That said, it’s not automatically safe, either.
Plant-based yogurt is still a highly processed food, containing many compounds that, in large quantities, could be harmful to a cockatiel.
This will vary from product to product, but the fact is that it’s very difficult to know all the ingredients in a highly processed food like plant-based yogurt.
For this reason, I would suggest that it remains better to steer clear of any kind of yogurt—whether plant-based or dairy-based.
Again, in very small amounts, it won’t likely cause an issue and may be a nice treat.
But you don’t want your cockatiel to get used to the idea of eating yogurt.
So, why can’t cockatiels eat dairy?
Why are cockatiels lactose intolerant?
The simple fact is that lactose intolerance is more or less universal in the animal kingdom.
Birds are completely different from mammals, and do not suckle their young on teats and feed them milk.
They hunt for food for their young, which they digest and regurgitate into their offsprings’ mouths.
They have no need for a digestive compound that breaks down dairy, since they would never have access to dairy in the wild and do not suckle.
Even in mammals, lactose tolerance almost always ends at the point that the infant stops suckling.
A special compound is present in babies and baby animals which helps them digest their mother’s milk, but it is lost at quite an early age.
Birds never have any reason to have this enzyme in the first place, so they are, from birth, lactose intolerant.
However much you might want to share your yogurt with your cockatiel, then, we would advise against it.
There is too many potential problems associated with cockatiels eating any dairy product, so there’s no reason to give them yogurt.
As a very occasional treat, it may not be a problem.
But there are many better alternative treats that will provide active health benefits and be just as tasty for your cockatiel.
Give them some fresh fruit or veg—no dairy!