So, you've decided you'd like to have a budgie in your life?
Author: AnimalKaperz (Lynda)
The Budgerigar is a beautifully coloured bird that adapts extremely well to being domesticated. They also make excellent companion pets and children can readily be involved in the budgies care and training. When the budgie starts to mimic words spoken to it, the children especially will find this very rewarding and will provide encouragement for all to keep training their pet. Many people don’t consider parakeets to be true parrots. However, they definitely are! Their size and price also make them a great choice for someone considering a first-time avian purchase.
An important thing to realise before buying a pet budgie is their maximum life span. One can expect the bird to reach 10 to 12 years of age if they are optimally treated. But normally, they just don't live that long. Most budgies only live for 5 to 10 years, which is a more realistic outlook on their life span. Of course, there are always exceptions. This is generalized only.
Statistics have indicated that over half of kept budgies die before they reach five years of age due to poor nutrition and unhygienic cage conditions. Being overweight and lack of movement through being unable to fly can cause their internal organs to have fatty deposits, especially on their liver, which can lead to failure of the bird's other organs. The worst case scenario is that their organs stop working without any warning whatsoever.
Most budgies that are overweight will more often than not suffer from lipoma, a special kind of fatty benign tumour that usually grows just the skin and is commonly seen on the abdominal region or the chest of the bird. Budgies have a genetic predisposition towards the formation of these fatty growths. The lipoma can be in multiple sites on the body. Lipomas can grow on the breast, abdomen, wings, back, neck, legs or near the tail’s preen gland. They can also grow inside the body. Lipomas on the breast can irritate the bird causing it to bite and chew at the area leading to ulceration and bleeding (haemmorhage). The tissue inside large lipomas can also die off and cause necrosis, leading to bacterial infection which may eventually spread throughout the body, causing damage to the internal organs, such as the liver and kidneys. In addition, lipomas, depending upon their size and location, can cause physical obstruction eg Lipomas that grow near the vent (cloaca) stop the bird passing urine and faeces. Thus, feeding your budgie LOTS of veggies and less of the fattening seed and millet along with plenty of exercise is a very simple way how to help prevent lipomas from occuring in the first place!
Advantages to owning a budgie include less of a mess to deal with, (usually) less noise than a larger more raucous parrot, and they also have a smaller beak that will do less damage to your finger or household items that they might chew. :giggle:
They can talk if you work with them daily, although they may not learn quite as many words and phrases as larger parrots. Every bird is different, so there are no hard and fast rules. Observe what YOUR budgie likes and does not like and adapt your routine and methods to suit.
Like all parrots, the budgie is a social animal and will love the time it can spend with you outside of its cage. A tamed bird will sit on your shoulder for as long as you’ll let it. They can be taught to do many tricks too. Treat your budgie with love and be ready to be surprised at what it can learn as they will respond and love to please you. They are natural mimics.
Budgies in the wild are a native bird of Australia. They are found in the Central Australia desert area, but are more commonly found in huge flocks in Northern Australian grass covered plains where they feed on ripening grass seed. Spinifex, Mitchell's and Tussock grasses are also part of the natural diet of the wild budgerigars. Sometimes they also eat wheat from farmer's fields and some wild millet.
Often in the early morning, the birds can be seen gathering in huge flocks which may number from a few hundred to thousands of budgies and they drink dew from native grass or can be found taking a bath in the dewdrops which form on the leaves of the grasses from the overnight air moisture.
They will nest in very tall trees, and prefer to nest in cavities and hollow tree trunks. One single tree can host a multitude of breeding pairs of budgies. Nesting in huge colonies is a very effective way of protection against predators. In large flocks, many birds and a lot of eyes are watching the surrounding area at the same time, thus the saying “safety in numbers” definitely applies to the budgie! They prefer eucalyptus trees that grow near dried up rivers or billabongs. In these eucalyptus trees there are cavities in different sizes. Smaller ones are chosen by budgies; larger cavities are occupied by another famous pet bird species: the Cockatiel (Nymphicus hollandicus).
In the wild, the budgie is green, with a yellow face. They have black throat spots of varying sizes and numbers. Wavy black bands are found on their skulls, wings and back.
The domesticated budgie comes in so many varied colours and shades. The basic colour of the budgie is green, which is composed of blue and yellow. Mutations occurred in the colour genes so they were changed, or even possibly damaged. This first resulted in a few yellow birds. Breeders used these yellow birds to establish that colour. Later on, the yellow gene quit producing yellow and the result was a blue budgie. More and more mutations began to appear.
There are now 3 basic shades of blue and 3 basic shades of green. They come in violet, white albino’s and lutino’s which are a “yellow albino’. You can get yellow faced blues, greys which are also referred to as anthracites, white wings, cinnamons which have brown striations instead of black and opalines which have a change in the body marking patterns. There are also dominant and recessive pieds which have splashes of white on a basic body colour. There are also lacewings, crested , fallow and dark eyed clear budgies. Through selective breeding since the first budgie was captured and caged in the late 1700’s, we now have a veritable rainbow of coloured budgies available to us!
Writers and even Ornithologists have several ‘different’ common names for this bird – Parakeets, Shell Parrots, Undulating Grass Parakeets, Canary Parrots, Warbling Grass Parakeets and even Zebra Parakeets. These names all refer to exactly the same bird that we know as a budgie. The scientific name for them is Melopsittacus undulates and is a warm blooded vertebrate animal of the ‘Aves’ class.
The name ‘budgerigar’ comes from the Australian Aboriginal word ‘Betcherrygah’ which translated means “pretty bird”.
Feeding your budgie a diet comprised entirely of seeds is not good for them. Commercially prepared pellets can comprise 60% of their diet. Fortified seeds should only be given in moderation as they are simply too fattening for them. You can give your budgie a lot of fresh vegetables. Fresh fruit should only be offered very sparingly as it is high in sugar content (fructose is still sugar and has exactly the same caloric value as white sugar).
Grated carrots, raw broccoli, green leafy vegetables such as spinach, carrot tops and even parsley, peas and peppers are all great foods for budgies. Peppers do not burn budgies like they do a human. Budgies palates are different. Apple slices, in moderation are also good. Remove any vegetables that have not been eaten after 24 hours, or sooner, depending on the heat of the day. Budgies will also enjoy a boiled egg, so about once a week, hard boil an egg, cut it in half and give it to your budgie. I tend to remove whatever of the egg is uneaten and leftover after 4-6 hours, depending on the heat of the day. Avocados, chocolate fruit seeds, and caffeine are very poisonous and you should never, ever feed them to your budgie.
New foods that are not seed should be introduced to budgies as soon as they are weaned. They will not recognise vegetables as a food source at first, so they have to be coaxed into eating it. If you eat the food you’re offering to your budgie in front of them, they are more likely to try it. Similarly, if you have a bird that already eats them, the new bird will imitate and eat it too.
Older budgies are harder, but with patience and persistence, they too will eat veggies. You could try a small amount of a vegetable – say pureed carrot and coat some of their seed in a small amount of it, and offer them that. They WILL get the taste and realise it is okay to eat. If you don't have a food processor, you can buy baby food in jars which are quite good too.
You can push their seed – especially millet which is a favourite, into the boiled egg, until they are eating the egg – then stop using the millet etc and just give the egg – they will still eat it and it is very nutritious for them.
Commercial calcium blocks, or regular cuttlefish bone should also be available for your budgie, to provide them with phosphorus and calcium and also to help exercise their beak. They also need cellulose, which they can get in vegetable greens and fresh tree bark or wood. Always remember to wash and rinse the vegetables and ensure that the bark and/or wood you provide has never been sprayed.
Choose a cage, at least 18” wide x 18” deep x 24” high, or larger, depending on the space you have available and keep it up off the floor and ensure it is out away from drafts. The cage bar width should not exceed ½ an inch.
Providing several perches for your budgie at different levels in the cage, and different sizes and materials is good for their feet, but never use plastic. Plastic has no natural “give” in it and can help cause inflammation and infection of your budgies feet, which is called bumblefoot. Bumblefoot is very painful for your budgie and difficult to treat. Prevention is the best cure.
Imagine yourself standing on a bare concrete floor all day, every day with no shoes on. That will give you some idea of how dreadful the hard plastic perches are for your bird.
Natural branches are best, followed by round wooden dowels available at any hardware stores and cotton rope perches from any good pet store. If you have sandpaper or grit paper, please don't use it in your budgies cage. It is not necessary as the wooden perches will wear their nails down naturally and the sandpaper can wear a hole in their feet which can also cause bumblefoot. If they chew at and eat the sandpaper, the silica is also not digestable and can cause crop impaction and other digestive issues as well. The glue that is used to adhere the sand and grit is questionable too.
Putting bird ladders in with them is also be a good idea along with plenty of toys for them to play with and toys made from wood for them to chew on.
Clean the cage and perches regularly, using hot water, anti bacterial soap and vinegar. Ensure your budgie has non-chlorinated water, not just to drink, but to play and bathe in. Replace worn toys, dishes, or perches as soon as you notice them. If you have frayed rope on toys or perches that is longer than about ½ an inch, either trim it off or replace it, to eliminate the chance of them getting tangled in it. Rotate your budgies toys to keep your budgie mentally stimulated and prevent boredom.
When you bring your budgie home, allow them a few days to settle in to their new surroundings. To begin hand taming your bird, just sit near their cage and do nothing at all to them – read a book. You could even read passages out loud, just so that your budgie becomes used to you talking and won’t be startled by that. After a few days, you can put your hand in the cage, and just hold it there – not attempting to touch or grab the bird at all. Once they are comfortable with that, you could begin to offer a small amount of millet, again to show that your hand is NOT a scary thing. When they are used to eating millet from your hand, you can start putting your fingers near their legs and with a tiny nudge on their leg to start, ask them to “step ” – or “ up” … whatever word you choose is fine as long as you continue to use it so your budgie doesn’t get confused. As long as your bird is comfortable being on your finger, you can take them out of the cage and have them with you, which budgies love. If at any stage they are startled and show fear, go back to basics and start again. It IS rewarding and your budgie will be a better companion for it.
Teaching them to talk is simply repetition of words. Make sure there are no distractions. It’s probably best to start with something simple, such as their name. So, you would repeat this “ Hello Birdy” over and over, at the same speed and in the same tone. Women are apparently more successful at teaching a budgie to talk, because budgies pick up words more readily if spoken in a higher register, which most women do.
Once your budgie has mastered a few words, they will soon become a real chatterbox if you want to persist. Mine says a LOT of words and will even string his own sentences together. He also has a reasonably impressive repertoire of whistles (courtesy of my brother).
There are quite a few very good and informative 'stickys' in the "Training and Bonding" Section of the forum.
It is a great idea to utilise the collective experience of the members of this forum.
Please read the Budgie Articles and Stickies at the top of each Section of the forum. Most basic questions are answered there.
We all love our budgies and along with the friendships formed and camaraderie, we are here for the good of our feathered friends.
I also believe the most important thing to remember is to be very patient with your budgie. Be persistent, but not insistent and they will reward you with their delightful companionship!
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