I had an issue with my 2 budgies - Kobu and Tiki - last night. I've had them for a little over a week. Normally, I cover their cage around 9 pm so they can go to bed. I don't cover it completely, about 3/4 of the way down in the front, 2/3 down on the sides, and all the way down in the back.
Even though I put them to bed at 9 pm, I can hear them moving around, eating, and occasionally chirping. I just ignore it all.
But last night, I heard them flapping like crazy, and creating a huge racket. It sounded like they were smashing around at the bottom of the cage. This made me worried, but I tried to ignore it (all the while paying very close attention). After about 5 minutes, I noticed them peering out from under the cover. I felt like they wanted attention, so I lifted the front cover and opened the door. Kobu immediately flew out, and Tiki sat at the door. I picked Kobu up and took him back to the cage, but he wasn't interested in going back in. This is the first time Kobu didn't want to back in the cage.
So I just sat there and spoke to him for 5 minutes. He was really interested in what I had to say. I tried putting him back in the cage, and he went back. I closed the cover about 15 minutes later. No issues after that.
So I'm wondering what exactly happened last night. Did I react properly? What should I do if something like this happens again?
This is pretty normal. It's called a night terror, something happens like someone makes a noise or sometimes for seemingly no reason and your birds freak out and fly around and can injure themselves on the cage bars. It's happened once to me, and it's terrifying. I think the best thing to do is immediately uncover them and make sure they aren't injured, and calm them down. Talk to them, blink slowly at them, just make sure their hearts aren't beating too fast for too long or there could be problems. After they seem calm you can cover them back up!
Indeed your budgies have experienced a night fright, unfortunately this is something that can happen not just to budgies but to other species of pet birds where they can suddenly get scared by a shadow or light coming from a window outside or from an unexpected noise.
Besides partially covering the cage at night, you can have a night light on as this will minimize the night frights.
When your budgies are going through one, it's best to turn the lights on immediately and give them the time to get over the panic and once they no longer have a dazed look on their eyes and go back to their perches, you can dim the light and when they are settled to go back to sleep you can turn the light off.