The Budgie & Parakeet Place - The Basics: Intro to Budgies / Parakeets
What's a Budgie? And is there a difference between budgies and parakeets??
Most people, at least in the United States, know them as "parakeets." But their real name is "budgerigar." The word comes from the aborigines of Australia, the parakeet homeland. The term "budgerigar" is often shortened to "budgie." "Budgerigar" (or "budgie") is a more specific name than "parakeet," because parakeets are a large group of small parrots, including ringneck parakeets, Quaker parakeets, monk parakeets, etc.
Do budgies make good pets?
photo posted by conure6 on the Budgie Place Yahoo! Group
If you ask me, budgies make awesome pets! But you want details, right? Well, budgies are very active, playful pets. They are also incredibly intelligent. Some learn to talk, and some budgies have a 100+ word vocabulary! If they were not hand fed or handled as babies, budgies can still usually become finger tame with some diligent training. Many owners of fully tamed budgies will swear that their budgie thinks it's a human! Even if a budgie is not tamed, they still make enjoyable pets. Their antics and singing will brighten up any room in your home. And budgies who are not finger tame still can become friendly towards you, and even still learn to talk.
There are some downsides, however. You should know that budgies can be messy. Seeds and feathers tend to scatter around the cage, but a cage skirt (available at pet stores) will cut down on this problem tremendously. You also have to be diligent enough to make sure your budgie always has fresh food and water, and to make sure the cage bottom gets cleaned on a regular basis.
I want to get a budgie that will talk and be hand tame...
Nathan and Buffy
Well then, make sure you read this section! The best way to get a budgie that will become hand tame is to buy a baby (about 3 months old) that has either been hand fed or handled as a chick. He or she will already be at least somewhat hand tame! You are most likely to find this from a breeder, and most likely not to find this at a pet store. If you cannot find a breeder in your area and you have to buy a budgie from a pet store, you are going to want to make sure that he or she is still young. See my "Your Budgie's Age" section to learn how to tell if a budgie is still young. The younger your new budgie, the greater the chances for he or she to become very hand tame and friendly. Another consideration is the budgie's sex. In general, male budgies are a bit more friendlier than female budgies. Also, usually only male budgies end up learning to talk. Unfortunately it is very difficult to tell the sex of a young budgie. Luckily a young budgie will most likely end up becoming tamed no matter which sex it is. When choosing your budgie from a bunch that is already somewhat tame, besides any color preference you might have, choose one that seems to have a good personality. One that is more willing to sit on your finger and not bite will be a better choice than one who seems skittish.
You will have better chances of your budgie becoming tame and staying that way if he is kept alone and not with another budgie. This is because a budgie kept alone will be more likely to bond to you instead of bonding to the other budgie (which is what will happen if you keep more than one budgie together). It is possible to tame a budgie who is kept with others, but it will most likely be much more difficult, and the chances of him learning to talk will also be greatly diminished. You also will not want to put any toys with mirrors in the cage, for the same reasons. Your budgie will actually think that the bird in the mirror is his friend! Once you have your budgie, see my "Taming and Talking" section.
What do I need to get started?
- Cage - Well you need a cage, of course. The cage is one of the most important considerations because it is your budgie's home and will be where your budgie spends most of its time.
- Size - I recommend at least a 1.5 foot wide x 1.3 foot deep x 1.3 foot tall cage (about 45x40x40 cm). Remember, budgies are very active and playful, and they need plenty of room to stretch their wings, flap about, and climb around. Make sure the bars of the cage are no more than half an inch apart. This will prevent any mishaps with curious budgies getting their head or body stuck between the bars.
- Perches - Make sure the cage is equipped with good quality perches. If you purchase a cage that only comes with plastic perches, the best thing to do is to buy some wooden perches. If you can, buy a couple perches that are differently sized/shaped. This will be good for your budgie's feet. Also provide your budgie(s) with at least one natural branch perch. You can create one on your own with a tree determined as non-toxic to birds. You can also buy one at a pet or bird store. When arranging the perches, place some slightly higher and lower than each other if possible. If the cage is big enough, you can also place a small perch in the corner of the cage. Such a varied arrangement will stimulate exercise. You will also be able to enjoy watching your budgie hop cheerfully from perch to perch!
- Equipment - Also make sure the cage comes equipped with a cup for seed and a cup for water. If not, you will need to buy these at a pet store. You can also replace a water cup with a water tube and buy different types of feeders.
- Seed - The next thing you will need is a high quality seed. I do not recommend grocery store seed, which is usually poor quality and not as fresh. Use fresh seed with at least 40% straight canary seed. You can buy this at most pet stores, and it is best if they come in sealed plastic bags. You should also know that all those added colors in a lot of pet bird seeds are completely unnecessary. I would recommend avoiding seed containing artificially colored ingredients.
- Cuttle Bone and Mineral Block - You need to provide your budgie with a cuttle bone and a mineral block. These items are readily available at pet stores. These white powdery blocks provide your budgie with essential nutrients and calcium. You may notice your budgie uses one sometimes as a perch, or grinds away at it with their beak with a lot ending up on the floor. Don't think that it is going to waste and take it out. A budgie left without these items for a long period of time will become deficient and may develop medical complications.
- Toys - Your budgie needs toys and items in the cage to keep them active and stimulated. A bored budgie can suffer both emotionally/behaviorally and even develop health problems. Remember, budgies are extremely active and playful. They like to jump, climb, flap, and perform acrobatic feats. Favorite budgie toys tend to be swings, bells, and lattice balls with bells in them. Rings and other toys are also great. Just remember to keep the size in mind. Make sure they are the correct size for budgies. Also check them out before you buy them to make sure they will be safe. It is not an uncommon occurrence for a budgie to become injured from a poorly designed toy, usually by getting their head stuck. Use the same discretion you would use in buying toys for a small child.
What is involved in caring for a pet budgie?
- Daily Care - Your pet budgie needs daily attention if he or she is an only bird. If he is tame, take time each day to take him out and talk to him. If you're having a busy day, try to take him out on your shoulder while you're doing housework or doing your homework. If he is not hand tame, take some time and give him some attention. Talk to him or watch him sing and hop about. Every night it is a good idea to use a light sheet or blanket to cover the cage. This will not only provide security for your budgie, but will also help to keep him quiet if he has a sing-in-the-morning personality and you want to sleep past sunrise. Just be sure to uncover him every morning.
- Food and Water - You need to check your pet budgie's cage every day to make sure he or she has plenty of food and water. Especially when the days are hot, change the water every day to keep it fresh. It is important to supplement your budgie's diet, as a seed-only diet will not provide adequate nutrition. At least every other day try to provide your budgie with a fruit or veggie to munch on. Don't leave fresh foods in the cage too long, perhaps a couple hours at the most. Budgie favorites include carrot tops, dark leafy greens, and strawberries. You will learn what your particular budgie has a preference for. Just make sure to keep his diet varied to ensure your budgie's health and longevity.
- Cleaning and Maintenance - About once a week you will need to change out the liner in the bottom of the cage. I recommend using black and white newspaper as liner. (Some caution against using newspaper pages with colored inks.) You may also use paper towels, or lining or bedding you can buy at a pet shop. Maybe about once a month you will need to take out some of the perches to scrape any accumulated poops off. If the cage has a grate on the bottom, also scrape the accumulated poops off it, letting them fall onto the liner below, and then change out the liner. About once a year it may be a good idea to do a "spring cleaning" and thoroughly clean the cage. Take your budgie out of the cage and either put him in a room with someone for safekeeping or put him in a temporary or travel cage while you clean. Wash the perches with unscented soap and let them dry in the sun. Do the same for the cage and the tray. Hand wash the food and water dishes or run them through the dishwasher. Also give the toys a good cleaning. When you're done and everything is dry, replace all the equipment, put the cuttlebone and mineral block back in, and refill with fresh food and water.
- Hazards - You want to do everything possible to keep your budgie away from hazards. Place his or her cage away from places where household cleaners and spray products such as hair spray are commonly used. And be sure you don't spray these things near the cage. It is also a good idea to keep the cage away from the kitchen, where fumes from cooking mishaps (such as an overheated Teflon pot or smoke from burnt food) could harm your budgie. Also be sure to place the cage away from drafts, such as near an A/C vent. When you take your budgie out of his cage, be sure that any fans have been turned off and that there aren't any other potential hazards looming around. Even a budgie with clipped wings can manage to flap his way into a fan or out a window, especially if he becomes startled for any reason. Just be sure to exercise caution while your budgie is out of the cage.
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