Mainly posting here because I've sifted through piles of links about budgies and bird behavior over the course of weeks now and nothing I've found has really helped with what's been going on.
All right, so my first budgie is named Sprout, who turned out to be a male. He was rather young when I brought him home from PetCo. (Yes yes, I know by now that it isn't an ideal shopping spot by any means.) I had him housed in a cage sold at said store that's around 20 inches tall and 17 inches wide. (This cage is no longer used for bird housing and is purely a mobile / transport cage.) I brought home a second budgie around a month later, along with a newer and much larger cage to house both of them in. The newer bird, named Weather, turned out to be female, as she was also rather young (this time from PetSmart and was from much better enclosure conditions to begin with.)
Now, one of my close friends kinda started low-key hounding me about getting Sprout a friend before this point. Which, I was already aware I needed to do so all his prodding only really succeeded in flustering me further. Instead of following the full month long quarantine procedure, I ended up introducing Weather with Sprout within...... I think a week? Because of my friend's self righteous hounding that had left me convinced that Sprout was going nuts from loneliness. (He wasn't, but I was anxious enough to believe him at the time, keeping them apart had seemed cruel at first. My mistake there.) Thankfully, Sprout and Weather got along famously, I was pretty amazed.
Sprout and Weather were being housed in the All Living Things: Cityscape (20.5 in L x 16.1 in W x 33.5 in H). They liked their new toys, no one seemed to be squabbling over food or space, I was pretty pleased with it all. I'd been hoping to keep a small flock of maybe four birds total so I ordered one of those standing flight cages, that one being 53 inches tall and 35 inches wide. I brought a third budgie home, who I named Ghost, also from PetSmart and who turned out to be male. I'd meant to bring home two but all of the others were quite a bit older or appeared already bonded with another, I think? Cut to now, Sprout's been showing more signs of aggression and I'm totally stumped about what to do.
They have plenty of space to get away from one another, around ten perches inside along with a bunch of varied natural toys, while still being mindful to not make anything in there clogged. The food and water dishes are all spaced far apart from each other to make it difficult for any bird to bully another away from food. Mind you, Weather and Ghost both get along just fine together in the same cage with no bickering. It's just Sprout that appears to have the problem? I've even tried rotating them around a couple times over the course of a month between the two main cages to get everyone more used to each other. At first I thought removing Weather (the female) from the situation into a separate room of the house would allow the boys to bond better on their own terms. Didn't really work in either cage.
Then I tried housing Sprout alone for a few days, while still being able to watch the main flight cage, hoping that would make him more eager to go back into it with everyone. No such luck. Sprout continues to make that eeeh-hehh-ch-ch-chichirrrpp! aggression sound that I've never heard him make before until Ghost arrived. But when I introduced them to begin with, they all ate together and played together fine around the bedroom outside of the cage? Sprout will sit there holding his beak open at the other and on one occasion, he's jumped Ghost but I zoomed over to separate them before anything serious could happen. This doesn't make any sense, I always make sure there's a whole variety of pellets and seed mixes and vegetables to go around so it isn't because of a lack of food. It appears to happen around the hanging treats the most too? On the crunch sticks inside the cage when they all flock to it. At first it was only at Ghost but now it seems like Sprout is acting temperamental towards Weather?
That's never been an issue before and it's really worrying me. He's even anger grump chirping around just Weather when Ghost isn't even in the same cage with them. But he doesn't seem to be staring at Ghost from the other side of the room? I swear, it's like he's grouchy at the female now and I can't figure out what's going on. And the most confusing part about all of this is even though he's agitated around both of them now with far less preening with anyone, he jumps onto my hand and rides around on my shoulder better than ever before? He seems more trusting of me lately and my company, not less? And that seems pretty contradictory. I can't figure out if this is jealousy or a territorial attitude? But they're all under a year old, the blue on their chin facial markings and the whites in their eyes hasn't even come in yet. How do I solve this? What if Sprout just does this to Weather from now on or any other new birds I want to introduce and why is this only starting now after my slower / safer introduction with Ghost?
I want to be able to bring home a fourth, a girl, for Ghost to befriend but I'm still too concerned that Ghost is incompatible for my flock. But I don't even know if I can make that call when Sprout's the one who's causing the tension for everyone. What if he's just terribly socialized because of how he was reared / housed at PetCo? I have no way of knowing and I don't want to make the wrong call about this but I can't bring in another bird before I have this tension issue solved first. There's no guarantee that Ghost would even like the new bird or if Sprout (or even Weather) would get along with her. Or, if I go to pick up a female and find out she isn't but I can't just bring an older bird in so I'm.....???? Stuck.
Is there a way to teach Sprout better behavior? Who would I house separately and in which cage to encourage them to get along more? Right now I have Spout removed in the Cityscape on his own because I worry about his attitude but would having him alone like that only increase his jealousy (if that's what this is)? I don't want to move Ghost around much when he's still no new and Weather is a skittish girl who I'm trying to also not move around too much, if possible. Should I rotate who's housed where? I've already completely re-organized /both/ cages on like....... three occasions now to try to make it all look completely different but even that hasn't worked. Nothing seems to be working and it's starting to stress me out.
Keeping an uneven number of birds can often cause problems. If Weather and Ghost get along well, then I would keep them together and put Sprout in his own cage. Sprout seems to really enjoy your company so he will probably be fine living as a single bird, and you can keep the cages in the same room so they can still chirp back and forth. You can try giving them supervised out of cage time together, but if he still seems agitated then give them seperate out of cage time. Many birds can be kept as solo birds as long as you spend enough time with them.