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Budgie Care Tips: Everything You Need To Know

Budgies (parakeets) are a popular pet thanks to their beauty, affordability, and friendly manner. They can even learn to mimic human speech! Many people wrongly assume that they are good “beginner birds,” likely due to their small size, but they need just as much attention as larger parrots.

The Natural History of Budgies

Budgerigars, or budgies, are most commonly known in the United States as parakeets. They are native to Australia, where they can still be found today. Wild budgies are green in color, and smaller than the budgies we see in pet shops today. We are most familiar with the budgies that come in a variety of colors. These budgies have been bred in captivity for decades.

Budgies as House Pets

In the 1830s, naturalist John Gould and his brother-in-law, Charles Coxen, first brought budgies to Europe. At first they became very popular in wealthy homes. In the 1850s, budgies were displayed in the Antwerp Zoo, leading to their popularity amongst the general public. In 1894, Australia banned the exportation of budgies, which led to Europeans breeding the birds themselves in Europe. 

Budgies made it to America in the late 1920s, but didn’t gain popularity until the 1950s. Today it is the third most popular pet, after cats and dogs.

 

Budgies live between 7 - 15 years. Oftentimes they fall victim to mistreatment and accidents. Sadly, they have gained a reputation as “throw away” pets because of their affordability.

Common Breeds of Budgies

There are two common types of budgies available: The American budgie/parakeet and the English budgie. There are physical differences between the two, with the English budgie tending to be larger in size, but all budgies belong to the same species.

 

The English budgie is around 8.5 - 9.5 inches long, not much larger than the American budgie, though they give the appearance of being double in size. English budgies tend to be more docile but often have half the lifespan of the American budgie due to inbreeding.

Where to Buy Your Budgie

Budgies are available at many pet stores. If you would like to tame and interact with your budgie, it is recommended to buy your budgie from a trusted breeder, and to choose a young one that has been handled regularly. They will most likely be more expensive than the standard pet shop budgie. Pet store budgies tend to be older, and therefore more difficult to tame. 

 

When choosing a budgie, be sure that the bird is bright in color, alert, and active, with smooth and shiny feathers, and clean nostrils. You should also check for smoothness in the feet, nails and beak. If the bird is kept in unsanitary living conditions they may have a greater chance of illness.

Colors and Markings

The standard budgie colors and patterns are green, blue, yellow, and white. There are over 70 color mutations to date. The colorful mutations are mostly available through hobby breeders, who have done years of selective breeding. They offer budgies in colors such as purple, blue, yellow, albino, and neon green.

 

It is difficult to tell the gender of young budgies. One can start to tell the difference between the genders when budgies start to mature at about 6 - 8 months old. The cere (the flesh above the beak/nostrils) is pink, brown, or beige on mature females, and blue on mature males.

 

As budgies age, the bar markings on their foreheads recede, and their irises turn a gray color.

 

How to Care for Your Pet Budgie

Budgie Cages and Housing

The minimum dimensions for a budgie cage are 20 inches long x 12 inches deep x 18 inches high. However, it is recommended to have as large of a cage as you can manage. Within their cage should be enough room for a nest to sleep in, food, water, toys, and things to chew on.

 

Cage bars should be horizontal since they are beneficial for climbing and exercise. In order to prevent your budgie from escape or injury, the bar spacing should be half an inch or less.

 

It is recommended to place perches at different levels of the cage, arranging them in a way that allows your budgie to comfortably jump between them. To keep your budgie in good shape, each perch should each be of different size, shape, and texture.

 

Toys and chewing objects supply entertainment and mental stimulation for your budgie. There should always be toys available for your budgie, and they should be rotated on a monthly basis, so that your budgie won’t get bored.

Budgie Out of Cage Time

Budgies require time out of their cage - even if they live in a large enclosure. Flight is an important part of their natural makeup. Out of cage time supplies budgies with playtime, and an opportunity to socialize. Out of cage time should last a few hours each day. Before you let your budgie fly freely, make sure to secure the area from anything that might be harmful to them. 

Some owners have their budgie’s wings trimmed in order to disable their full flying capacities.
 

Budgie Companions

Due to their social nature, budgies are happiest when spending significant amounts of quality time with their people. However, not everyone is able to manage the vast amount of socializing that budgies thrive on, which is why it is very popular to keep budgies in pairs.

Budgie Climate

Budgies originate from a warm climate. They require a temperature of around 70 - 75 degrees Fahrenheit. This may require you to have the AC or a fan on during hot summer months.

Keep their enclosures out of direct sunlight - they don’t have sweat glands and are therefore unable to easily cool down their body temperatures. Do not put them near AC vents, open windows, or drafty areas of your house. If you are using a ceiling fan, be sure to turn it off before you let your budgie out for free flying.

 

Budgie Diet and Nutrition

What Do Budgies Eat and Drink?

In the wild, budgies are foragers and eat mainly seeds and plant materials. In captivity, they need to be supplied with a healthy diet that incorporates a variety of pellets, vegetables, and fruits. 

 

Due to their high fat content, young budgies love seeds. However, seeds are the french fry of the bird world and should not be offered as a main source of food. Specially designed pellets are the best option for balanced and nutritious meals. 

 

Pellet diets should be complimented by a variety of fresh vegetables such as leafy greens, broccoli, corn, and some fresh fruits in moderation.

Foods to avoid: Avocados, chocolate, sugar, and salt.

Feeding Tips for Your Budgie

Introducing new food is beneficial to your budgie, but be aware that they tend to initially be frightened or wary of new foods. Be patient. 

 

Cuttlebones can be a great source of calcium, but they are not a necessity. They can also be dangerous if your budgie ingests too much, so it is best to avoid them unless monitoring use. 

 

Budgie Behavior

Budgies are gentle birds. They tend to entertain themselves and are therefore quieter than other parrots.

 

If budgies are kept in pairs or colonies, they can be great “watching only” pets. If kept with other budgies, they tend to not bond with their human owners. They are likely to maintain friendly contact with their human companions only if supplied with sufficient social time on the human’s behalf. 

 

Lone budgies do not do well in isolation. However, a lone budgie that is patiently handled and socialized early on can be easily tamed and loving to their owners.

 

Due to their small size, budgies can be a good pet choice for children that are respectful of them. Their beak is not as powerful as other parrots, but they can cause damage to sensitive skin and fingers. Adult supervision is always advised.

Speech and Sound 

Budgies can learn to mimic their human owners. They are capable of learning words, phrases, and whistles. Male budgies tend to be better talkers than the females.

 

Medical Care for Your Pet Budgie

Common Budgie Health Concerns

Budgies are prone to tumors, obesity, liver and foot disorders, scaly mites (they attack the skin on their face, legs, and eyes), intestinal parasites, goiters (from iodine deficiency), and psittacosis (parrot fever). All of these conditions require veterinary care.

 

Oftentimes these conditions materialize due to an all-seed diet. To avoid these issues, a balanced diet that includes enough pellets, fresh vegetables and fruits is recommended.

Budgie Emergencies

If your budgie shows any of these signs, take your bird to the vet immediately. Do not wait overnight, they can be fatal:

  • Labored breathing - Such as huffing and puffing, open mouth breathing, wheezing, clicking sounds, tail bobbing, frequent sneezing, constant outstretched neck

  • Tumors or bumps - May also be a sign of a ruptured air sac

  • Loss of appetite or refusal to eat

  • Bleeding - If there is any blood in the cage this can be detrimental, they do not have a lot of blood

  • Bloody feathers - They need to be removed immediately

  • Bites, wounds, cuts, abrasions - Can result from trauma or self-mutilation

  • Blood in the stool

  • Burns - By flame, electricity, hot grease, hot water, or chemicals

  • Egg binding

  • Foreign object in eye

  • Fractures

  • Heatstroke

  • Leg stuck in cage or any suspected breakage 

  • Poisoning - Bring them in if they consumed something they shouldn’t have

  • Shock - Signs of shock are fluffed feathers, rapid breathing, weakness, unconsciousness, cold legs and feet
     

 

Boarding for Budgies

We offer budgie boarding services at LIBEVC. We have proper cages and indulge them in human socials while you’re gone. We promise to provide your pet budgie with lots of TLC, so you can travel stress-free.  {Currently on hold due to Covid-19}

Want to schedule an appointment for your budgie?

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