Budgies as pets – Buying, Taming, Feeding, Cleaning, Talking

Many of us would love a talking budgerigar. If you wan to train them to talk you must do so from a very young age and have lots of patience during the training as it can take many months for them to utter their first word. Teach them in short bursts of ten minute lessons and repeat them every few hours throughout the day.

Budgies

Budgies

You can start by teaching them their name, say it clearly to them over and over again whenever you see them and speak softly and clearly while doing so. Once they have mastered their name you can move onto other words, it is always best to refrain from introducing new words before they have learnt the previous word. When they get the hang of simple words you can move onto short phrases, you would be surprised that some budgerigars can become quite proficient speakers and are able to utter simple sentences well.

When you teach your budgie to talk, let them perch on your finger and hold them close to your face repeating the word over and over, do not shout, just speak gentle towards the bird and always say the word in the same way. Just like when taming a budgie, only one person should attempt to teach it to talk at first, nobody else should be in the room and the television or radio should be switched off.

Do not give up, budgerigars can become good talkers and provide you with great entertainment, but don’t get too disappointed, some budgerigars will not respond and never talk.

Budgerigar cages – how to choose the right one?

Budgie girls

You can find a variety of different budgerigar cages in your local pet shop or you can have a look in the local paper or even eBay for a good deal on a nice second hand cage. Here we will go over some important points about choosing the right cage for your budgie.

Always chose the biggest cage that you can afford and have space for. An ideal size cage for 2 budgerigars is around 92x45x45 and roughly three quarters that for a single budgie. There are many different cages to chose from so it is important to shop about to find the best, this cage will be your budgies home for it’s entire life, so its well worth making the effort to find a good one that will be comfortable for your bird.

Some important factors to consider when selecting a cage are:

  • Is it big enough?
  • Is it the correct shape? Although a cage might look really pretty, you must consider the practicality, some tall circular cages do not allow your pet bird to stretch its wings effectively.
  • Has it a door that fastens securely?
  • Look for a cage with a plastic tray at the bottom that slides out easily, this will make cleaning the cage much easier.
  • Chose a cage that has some horizontal bars along one or two sides so that your budgerigar can climb up the side of the cage.

Budgerigars enjoy your company immensely, so the cage is best to be kept in a room that the family spends lots of time in, they don’t want to be shut away in the spare room where they never see or hear another soul. Usually it is not suitable to keep your budgerigar in the kitchen because of cooking fumes and the fact that it can become stuffy at cooking times, budgies need plenty of air. Try to chose a room or accommodate a current room to let your budgie out of its cage to fly safely.

Budgerigars need their sleep just like the rest of us, they can become stressful if they are not getting a good nights sleep, sound familiar? A good idea is to cover the cage at night time with a cloth or large towel, ensure you leave gaps so there is enough air and try to cover and remove the sheet at the same times everyday.

Preparing A Budgie Cage

doctor and budgie

If you can, you should prepare the cage in anticipation for the arrival of your new budgerigar or budgerigars if you have decided to get more than one. The cage need to be washed first before it is used, wash the cage in hot water using a disinfectant that is designed for bird cages, normal household disinfectants, detergents and soaps could be harmful to your bird. All second hand cages MUST be disinfected before use and dry the cage thoroughly before use.

The basics of how to set up a budgie cage is as follows. The floor of the cage needs to be laid with newspaper and then sand paper and covered with sprinklings of gravel. Then put in the perches, water, dishes for seeds and grit, millet, mineral block and cuttlefish need to be clipped to the cage bars.

The perches should be arranged so that they are in easy reach of the food and water bowls, the budgie needs to be able to drink and eat without performing an acrobatic feat. Keep the perches far enough away from the bars of the cage as to ensure the budgies tail does not constantly rub on the bars.

You will usually come way from the pet shop with your budgie in a small cardboard box with air holes. To get them out of the box and into the cage in the simplest way is to place the box inside the cage, open one of the flaps and wait. If they do not come out of the box within say an hour then you should carefully tilt the box to edge them out making sure not to scare them. Leave the bird to get used to its new environment in its own time, do not keep approaching the cage every 5 minutes saying ‘who’s a pretty boy then?’ they will want to see what happens in the room that is now they’re home and will enjoy observing you from a distance at first. After a couple of days you can start approaching the cage and talking in a calm voice to your budgie, this will reassure them that you are friendly.

Buying A Budgie

2 Budgie

Most main stream pet shops will sell a wide range of budgerigars, or you may be able to source them from a local breeder, you can look for adverts in the newspaper, bird magazines or even online. Take all the time you need when choosing a budgerigar, look out for budgies that are active and lively and show an interest in you when you approach the cage or aviary. The breeder or shop assistant should be able to tell you whether the budgie is a cock or a hen.

The younger the budgie the better, a bird that is 6 months old will be hard to tame, if they tame at all. The best age is around 6 weeks old so they build up trust and interact with you from a very young age. Sometime the person selling the bird will try to sell you an older bird with the excuse of it being tamed already, this is for you to judge. You can roughly predict the age of budgerigars by looking at its beak, if the bird is under 3 months old its cere (directly above the beak) is light pink in colour, when they grow into adult this patterns a blue or brown colour. Some young budgerigars have the stripy markings on their head extend all the way dawn to the cere, this usually disappears after they first moult at 3 months old.

Both sexes of budgerigars make very good pets. You can keep 2 cocks and 2 hens in the same cage together, you can keep 1 hen and 1 or 2 cocks in the cage together, but you must never keep 2 hens and just 1 cock together as the hens will fight each other.

You can tell the health of the bird by looking at their feathers, they should be smooth and sleek, and their feathers should only be fluffed up if they are sleeping. Look for kinks and bends in the tail feathers, they should be straight not at an angle. Its cere should be without crustiness and clean and its chest should be well rounded, not hollow. Check the eyes of the budgie, they should be bright and alert and they should breath with their beak closed.

Taming A Budgie

Budgie on the wild

Budgie on the wild

Taming a budgie involves them learning to trust you and overcome any fear that they may have present about you. It can take weeks for them to develop this trust so be prepared to be patient, you must always be gentle and talk softly towards your budgie.

When taming a budgie always keep the television and radio switched off, they will only distract the birds attention. It is best to leave the taming to just one person, if the entire family gets involved then the budgie can quickly become confused and taming will be difficult. If you have more than one bird, they will be harder to tame than just one bird as they will always have more trust in their own species, a single bird sometimes looks upon you as if you are another bird or they even act as if they believe they are human. If you already own one tame budgie and want to get them a companion, it is a good idea to keep them separate and tame the new bird before it comes into contact with your current bird as they can quickly forget about you and all the attention goes to the new bird.

To tame a new arrival you should keep it in a separate room until it is tame and then gradually bring them closer to each other by putting the cages together, then letting them out to fly together but returning them to separate cages. Once you are happy that they will become friends then you can keep them in the same cage, and by then you should have 2 tame birds that can enjoy each others company as well as yours.

Flying

4 Budgie

Only when your budgie is tame and happy to perch on your finger inside the cage should you then allow them out of the cage to fly. Once they are at that stage you should let them out for as much as possible so they can get regular exercise so try to give them at least an hour a day of flying time.

You need to adapt your room so that it is escape proof, make sure you close all windows and doors in the room so there is no way out. Draw the curtains, as budgies will usually fly towards the light and do not notice the glass in the window. Budgies will also try to fly through narrow gaps and can easily injure themselves in the process so doors need to be closed not just pulled to.

Your budgies first experience flying outside of the cage will be a memorable moment for you, while the bird may be kept in captivity you are allowing them the freedom to be part of you family and fly around in your home. When you first want to let them out to fly you should let them perch on your finger inside the cage, them slowly lift them out and place them on top of the cage so they get a good view of everything and can decide for themselves if they want to fly or not.

After a while of them being on top of the cage and sussing everything out, they will usually fly off and settle somewhere high up in the room. They could stay there for a long time and be panting quickly as it is a very big adventure for the bird to be coming out of it’s cage for the first time. You should keep talking to your budgie in a soft calm voice as to reassure them that everything is ok and they are safe.

Sometimes the budgerigar will not return to its cage and stay up high where it originally flew when it came out of the cage. To get them back into the cage you can try to lift the cage up to their level so it can clearly see that it is their home. Be prepared though that you may have to wait until hunger kicks in and they return back to the cage in their own time. Never attempt to persuade it to come down to its cage by shooing and waving things at it, this will only confuse and frighten them.

You should do your best to avoid giving any food to your budgie outside of the cage, as they may no think they need to return to the cage to eat. If the budgie does not return to the cage and you need to get them back in then the best way to catch them is to throw a soft cloth, towel or net over them. They will usually keep very still and you can hold them from their back when their wings are down and place them back in the cage.

Important Feeding

Talking Budgie

It is very important that your budgerigar is getting enough vitamins, you can buy vitamin drops that you add to their water to help to them up. Other important minerals come from cuttlefish bone, which provides vital calcium. You can buy cuttlefish and clip it to the side of the cage, always make sure there is cuttlefish bone inside the cage, as they will also use this for cleaning their beak. If you buy a cuttlefish from the shop you should be able to put it straight into the cage, if you pick one up from the beach, you will need to clean, boil it for an hour and then leave to soak for a whole week, changing the water it is soaking in every day.

Budgerigars like other birds do not have any teeth, so they need to swallow grit to help grind up the food inside their gizzard (a part of the birds stomach). You should always have grit available to your budgie either in a separate tray or amply sprinkled onto the floor of the cage.

The amount of a food a budgerigar will eat will vary from bird to bird. It depends on how active they are, their age and their own personal appetite. You must always make sure there is food in the cage at all times, budgies don’t eat at a set time, they eat little amounts often and rarely overeat unless they are lonely or bored and not stimulated. If you follow this plan you will know that you are giving the correct amount of food to your budgie.

In the morning you should clean out their dishes and fill them with fresh seeds, empty and rinse out their water container and fill it with fresh clean water.

A few times a day you can remove the empty husks from the seed container, blow them off or scoop them out with a small spoon then top it up with fresh seeds. If you know you are not going to be home all day long then you should put 2 food containers inside the cage, sometime budgies cannot find new seeds underneath a pile of empty husks.

Every other day offer your budgerigar a small selection of green foods and or fruits.

You should never give your budgerigar scraps of food from the kitchen, or chocolate or sweets. Never let the seeds go mouldy, if they do, do not feed them to the bird. Do not give them frozen or canned fruits all fruits and green food should be served at room temperature, so don’t hand them anything straight from the fridge. Finally never gather any plants you find on the side of the road because the pollution could cause harm.

Feeding

Budgie taking bath

Budgie taking bath

The budgerigars and cockatiels diet consists of grass seeds, fresh green foods and some fruit now and again. You can find good grass seeds for your budgie in most pet shops, they will sell packs of mixed seeds that contain all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals your budgie needs for its diet. Buy the packs that are specifically named ‘budgerigar seeds’ not just ‘bird seeds’. Always buy fresh seeds, so don’t buy enough food to store for a year, as it will only dilute in nutritional value. Buy enough food for around 2 months and store it in a dry place that gets plenty of air as to ensure it does not go mouldy. Try to buy a container to store the food with air holes or put it in a cloth bag and store in a cool dry place.

When you first have your budgie they may not want to eat any green foods or fruits, as they may have never been given any of this food before as it has lived in captivity. You can continue to put the green foods out even if they do not eat it at first, as they will more than likely build up the courage to eat it sooner or later. Try a variety of fruits, as they will soon learn to have favourites and remember to remove the food after a couple of hours before it goes off and mouldy. Do not over feed the fruit, one piece every other day is sufficient.

Budgerigars need more nourishment during the winter months when they start to moult and breed. At these times they will enjoy sunflower seeds, wheat germs, oats and other nutritional treats. You can even try giving them a slice of boiled egg or cottage cheese once a week.

Millet spray is a very nutritious food but is also fairly fattening, so try to limit them to a couple of inches of millet a day. Make sure your budgie is never left without seeds, keep an eye on the food container as what looks like a full tray could be disguised as a tray of empty husks, which look very much like the whole seeds.

Green plants and vegetables your budgie could enjoy are:

  • Chickweed
  • Young dandelion leaves
  • Groundsel
  • Spinach
  • Watercress
  • Endive
  • Parsley

Fruits they may enjoy are:

  • Tangerine or oranges
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Tomatoes
  • Cherries
  • Grapes
  • Strawberries

Remember these foods can be very rich so always limit the amount you give to your bird, overfeeding them can cause stomach upsets and diarrhoea.

Cleaning

Budgie baby

Budgie baby

It is important you keep your budgies cage very clean for it to be free from parasites and stay healthy. Once a day you should wash out seed dishes with hot water and dry them thoroughly before refilling them. Remove empty husks, uneaten food and droppings from the floor of the cage and wipe across the perches and cage bars with a damp cloth.

Once a week you should completely empty the floor tray and wash it hot water remembering to completely dry it afterwards. Put down fresh sand or sandpaper and gravel. Scrub the perches clean, if they have become smooth you should rub them with sandpaper to roughen them so your budgie can get a good grip on them. Finally wash all the toys, ladders and any extras you have in the cage.

Once a month you must scrub the entire cage with hot water and rinse and dry off well. Do not use soaps or detergents, as they are harmful to birds, even just the fumes of these products are hazardous to your bird’s health. You can also spray a mite spray to keep the cage pesticide free that you can purchase from your local pet shop.

The best time to clean the cage is to take advantage of the times when you let your budgie out to fly. Always remember to dry everything you clean off thoroughly before you let your budgie back into the cage.

Your budgerigar will keep its feathers clean by preening themselves, they can achieve this better f their feathers are slightly damp. Every other day you can give your budgie a saucer of lukewarm water to bath in, fill it no deeper than 2.5cm so they can happily splash in it.

Another useful method is to spray you budgie with water using a plant sprayer, set it to spray, not jet fire, and pump the water onto the bird, sometimes they will spread their wings wide to get them covered in water. You should only offer water this way before the middle of the day so they have plenty of time to dry before evening, avoid giving these water baths at cold winter times and ensure there are no draughts around when your budgie is wet.

The Taming Process

Budgie feeding

Here we have a tried and tested method for training your budgerigar. Begin by putting your hand in the cage and offering some of their favourite food, millet, hold it in your hand so they can reach it and keep your hand below its head level. Do not put your hand in too quickly as you will cause alarm, if they do flutter about then it is important to keep your hand still and not make any fast movements or get alarmed yourself. If they are startled and flutter into a corner, keep your hand still for a couple of minutes then slowly retreat your hand out of the cage.

You should frequently offer millet to your budgie this way, you can do this every 2 or 3 hours if you have the time. Usually after a couple of days, sometimes sooner sometimes later, your budgie will feel brave enough to take a peck at the millet you are holding in your hand. Move your hand closer so that the budgerigar has to jump onto your finger to eat the millet, do not jerk your hand when they do so its important for you to stay very calm at this exciting time.

Once they have been standing on your finger eating millet, you can start to offer them your finger through the cage door without any millet and get them to use your finger as a perch. Slowly move your finger towards the bird, approaching them from below and stroke their lower breast with your finger, say its name or something like ‘hop on’ or ‘step up’ in a soft voice and if they are comfortable enough they will step onto your finger.

When you are confident that your budgerigar is happy on your finger inside the cage you can then move your hand out of the cage with them perched on your finger, do so very slowly ensuring they do not catch their feathers on the cage on the way out. You should always finger tame your budgie inside the cage before they are let outside of the cage, trying to catch a budgie that is not finger tame is very hard as they do not trust you yet and they will only get frightened easily.

Talking

budgies on tree

Many of us would love a talking budgerigar. If you wan to train them to talk you must do so from a very young age and have lots of patience during the training as it can take many months for them to utter their first word. Teach them in short bursts of ten minute lessons and repeat them every few hours throughout the day.

Best talking parrot is Congo African Grey.

You can start by teaching them their name, say it clearly to them over and over again whenever you see them and speak softly and clearly while doing so. Once they have mastered their name you can move onto other words, it is always best to refrain from introducing new words before they have learnt the previous word. When they get the hang of simple words you can move onto short phrases, you would be surprised that some budgerigars can become quite proficient speakers and are able to utter simple sentences well.

When you teach your budgie to talk, let them perch on your finger and hold them close to your face repeating the word over and over, do not shout, just speak gentle towards the bird and always say the word in the same way. Just like when taming a budgie, only one person should attempt to teach it to talk at first, nobody else should be in the room and the television or radio should be switched off.

Do not give up, budgerigars can become good talkers and provide you with great entertainment, but don’t get too disappointed, some budgerigars will not respond and never talk.

Bird cuddles up and talks himself to sleep video.

How To Teach Your Budgie To Talk.

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