Wild Parakeets in Australia (via)
If you are thinking of buying or adopting a loving pet that does not require extensive care, space, or time you might want to look into the parakeet, otherwise known as a budgie from budgerigar. Budgies are smart, make super pets, and great companions if you have the time for moderate attention and care.
Parakeets, which are common in Australia and parts of Asia, Africa, and Central and South America (as well as some California cities!), are members of the parrot family, which makes them among the smartest family of birds known. They are relatively inexpensive pets to maintain but, as a life-long parakeet mom, I can tell you they pay back in love and friendship, much more than you can ever spend on them, if you provide your love and care.
Before you purchase a budgie, consider these things:
1. Will the budgie be your own pet, a child's pet, or a family pet?
2. How much time will the budgie's human(s) realistically spend with the pet?
3. What is expected of the parakeet? For example, will you want to teach the bird to talk? Do you intend to interact physically with the bird, such as train him to sit on your finger, come out of the cage, play with toys outside of the cage, follow you around the house on your shoulder? Do bird tricks?
4. Are there other pets in the family that may be a danger to your parakeet, especially if he is out of the cage? If so, like my own cage below, you will want to place your bird cage in a safe area away from potential danger.
What to realistically expect from owning a parakeet
First thing is, not every parakeet will learn to talk - at least not the language you want her to speak. Yes, it's cute when they can 'parrot' your speech, but budgies are just as lovable and fun when they don't mimic you.
The more you expect from your little friend, the more time you will need to spend with him. A parakeet can be tied to you almost as closely as a dog, but that is up to you. Like larger parrots, parakeets are social. They need companionship, and that can be with you or other parakeets in their cage. You can still hand-train a parakeet if he is with other birds, but it will take more time.
I have had individual birds and multiple birds at different times, and after those experiences, I recommend getting two young birds at the same time - at about 8 to 10 weeks is ideal. It's harder to train two birds, but in the long run I believe it's better for the mental health of your parakeets. The closer you get to any parrot, the harder it is on their emotions when you need to be away.
The best age to buy budgies is at 8 to 10 weeks old. This is the age that they will most likely bond with you. The only problem with getting two birds is that if you want to mate them, you will likely have to wait until they are about one year old to identity their gender. Though there may be some anatomical indications at the age of 4 months, they are not absolute. Actually, a DNA test is the only reliable way to determine a parakeet's gender.
Have these things ready for your parakeets before you bring them home
Before purchasing your keets, you should have a cage at home all set up. Having had several different cages, I recommend a rectangular one, like the one below. One or two birds will be comfortable in this size cage and you will have enough room to place different nibbles and toys for your birds.
While the You & Me cage is ostensibly for finches, it is great for all small birds, and especially good for one to two parakeets. I've had this design for my keets for many years and find it very convenient to feed, clean, and protect the birds from getting out while I do my stuff. It can sit on furniture above the reach of my cat and dog and, although they are accustomed to my birds, I never leave the birds vulnerable to them. (If I didn't have other pets in the house, I would definitely purchase this cage!) Make sure the bars are not larger than 1/2 inch apart.
For your convenience the cage has two feed doors for water and food that allow you to sneak the bowls in and out without disturbing your pets. And then there are two larger doors - one in front that has a small opening and a larger one and one on the side for placing a nesting box. As you can see there is plenty of room for bird playthings and treats.
My cuties are in there somewhere! As you can see, they have a lot to play with. Amazon has all of these toys and treats, as well as a variety of perches for small birds. Even and uneven surfaces, as well as different materials, like fabric perches, are great for bird claws and for cleaning, chewing, and sharpening their beaks.
While my bird cage is too full for most birds, especially new birds, you want to provide a few amusements for them when they come to their new home. Then you can add more gradually, and switch them out with others. Don't let your birds get bored!
You should have a seed catcher (the cloth underneath the cage, and a cloth that covers the top of the cage in the evening. Parakeets should be covered in the evening for about 10 to 12 hours. I handmade the bottom cover above with a matching cover. The bottom cover catches the seeds that would otherwise fly all over the place when your birds flap their wings or move around. Unfortunately, unless you make your own bottom cover, you will be stuck with a 'seed catcher' that is commercially available, which does not cover the entire bottom of the cage. When you remove them from the cage, seeds fly all over the place!
I'll be writing more about budgies as pets in the future. In the meantime, I leave you with these references: Budgie Place, The Spruce, Pets4Homes, BirdEden. Finally, if you have a few minutes, watch this delightful video on budgies.