Types: Australian parakeets (sometimes called “American”) or English budgies (exhibition/show type)
Budgerigars, often called “parakeets,” still reign as the most popular pet parrot. Many people wonder if a parakeet and a budgerigar, also called budgie, are the same thing. A budgie is always a parakeet but a parakeet isn’t always a budgie. To clarify, parakeet means small parrot. There are a number of birds in the parrot family that have parakeet in their names such as Bourke’s parakeets, green cheeked parakeets, orange chinned parakeets, etc. A budgie is a type of parakeet.
Budgies are readily available at inexpensive prices. But don’t let their inexpensive price fool you. A Budgie can make an excellent pet. They are cheerful, acrobatic, amusing little birds that can be very active and playful. They are independent, and have a mind of their own. Most Budgies love to spend time on your shoulder, although they are not usually a cuddly bird. There are some however, that enjoy having their head scratched. Budgies should have daily handling if you want your bird to stay tame. If not handled enough, they will turn shy, wild, and sometimes nippy. They can easily be tamed and they have an excellent speaking ability. They learn quickly and can often mimic hundreds of words and phrases. Their small bodies are packed with a huge personality. Budgies are very playful and mischievous and in most cases, easily tamed. Plenty of toys and playtime should be provided. Balls and bells seem to be big favorites, as well as objects to climb. Be aware that you will need to carefully follow rules of safety when your budgie is enjoying out of cage time. They are very curious and can get into trouble very fast. Accidents are the leading cause of death in budgies.
Most young budgies have stripes, or a wavy pattern, across their forehead which they lose after the first molt (molting is the shedding and regrowth of feathers). You may not be able to determine the sex of your budgie until after the first molt; the cere is beige or light pink color in young budgies. After the first molt (4-6 months of age) a male’s cere will turn blue, and a female’s will stay beige/tan. Of course there are exceptions to the rule depending on the color mutation of your budgie. One way to tell a young male from a female is their way of communicating. A young male will sit and sing away in a very sweet voice. A female sounds more like she is lecturing the world on everything it is doing wrong. Males tend to be much more vocal than females too. Males generally do not develop problematic behavior as pets. Hens can become nippy and when hormonal can surprise you by suddenly grabbing your lip or another sensitive place.
A Budgie should be kept in the largest cage you can afford. A minimum size for 1 or 2 Budgies would be 14″wide x 16″long x 18″high. Most cages you will see in pet stores are way too small, so take your tape measure with you when you go shopping. It is important to chose a cage with narrow bar spacing (max. 5/8″ apart) to prevent the bird getting its head stuck between the bars. Make sure there are plenty of horizontal bars to facilitate climbing. Add swings and toys to keep your bird amused and content. Cages should be large enough to give adequate room for play and exercise. Budgies have a tendency toward obesity so they do need to be active to prevent fatty tumors and other weight-related ailments. A bottom grate is a very good idea, as this keeps the bird from shredding the cage paper. You can line the tray with black & white newspaper (never colored!), brown paper bags, or paper towels, all of which need to be changed daily. Do not use kitty litter, ground corn cob, or crushed walnut shell to line the tray. These not only grow mold easily, but can be fatal if ingested. Pine or aspen shavings (never cedar!) can be used, but are very messy. Shavings tend to blow everywhere! It is important to have several perches with different diameters, which can range from 3/8″ to 5/8″ in diameter. Natural branches are best, and cotton rope perches are also great. You can even buy special cement perches that help keep the nails short. However, do not use sandpaper perch covers; they sand the skin right off the poor bird’s feet, and are also harmful if ingested. Make sure your bird has several toys, as Budgies like to play. They especially like bells, beads, rope and vegetable tanned leather. Also, a swing of some type is a must! It is a good idea to rotate the toys in the cage, having only 1 or 2 in at a time. That way your bird does not get bored with its toys. You want to place the cage in an area where the bird will have an opportunity for social inter-action with the family.
Diet is very important. In the wild budgies eat ripened green seeds and greens, not the dried seeds everyone thinks they eat. While we keep them in cages, we are responsible for providing a balanced diet. Pellets, vegetables, sprouts and some seed gives a varied, well balanced diet. Parakeet mix, parakeet sized pellets (mini), fresh vegetables, some fruit, and grains. Some vegetables and other favorite foods are fresh greens (romaine, kale, spinach, chard, carrot tops, herbs, chickweed & dandelion), vegetables (corn, peas, carrots, beets, broccoli, etc), fruit (apple preferred), cooked rice, beans or pasta, brown bread, corn bread, unsalted nuts, tofu, cheese, and scrambled or hard-boiled egg, pasta, and some cereals such as Total, Shredded Wheat, Cheerios and others which are low in sodium and sugar.
Calcium is a must for your birds. Provide them with cuttlebones and mineral blocks at all times. If they won’t eat these, you’ll need to scrape them onto your birds’ food. Another means of getting calcium into your birds is to give them crushed, sterile (cooked in oven until light tan color) egg shells. If you can get your bird to eat Turns, they also provide calcium . DO NOT give grit to this or any other parrot species. Grit is only for birds that cannot break the shell of the seed with their beaks!
You have the option of having your bird’s wings clipped. The bird will stay much more tame, and it also reduces the risk of the bird escaping through an open door or window. Clipping wings is not painful, as you are not actually cutting off part of the wing, rather you are just trimming the long flight feathers. This hurts no more than when we get a hair cut! These trimmed feathers will be replaced by new, long ones at the next molt, and the bird will be able to fly again unless you have it re-clipped. Have an experienced person or veterinarian clip the wings for you, as doing it wrong can cause the bird severe pain and bleeding Also, make sure you have both wings clipped, never just one. Having only one wing clipped is dangerous, as the bird is off-balance, can’t control its movement well, and it may injure itself.
Most Budgies like to take a bath in a dish of water, but some prefer to be sprayed with water by a plant mister. If your bird doesn’t like one kind of bath, then try the other. If your bird does not like any type of bath, then you will have to spray it anyway. Like it or not, birds require regular baths. Provide at least 2-3 baths per week. It is best to give your bird its bath in the morning, so it has time to dry off before bedtime.