Caring for Your Budgie
CARING FOR YOUR PET BUDGIE
The most popular pet bird, by far, is a type of parakeet called the Budgerigar (budgie). Budgies are native to Australia and have been domestically bred since the 1800s. In the wild, the only colour to occur naturally is green, but through selective breeding, a variety of beautiful colours are available.
No matter what colour or sex you choose, your budgie will be an excellent student. Both males and females have the ability to be tamed and taught how to speak. With adult budgies, you can usually recognize the male because his cere, a soft wax-like covering where the nostrils are located, is most often blue. Most females have beige or brownish ceres. Baby budgies are sometimes difficult to sex, the cere is often a light purple and not the blue or beige colour of the adult.
One Budgie or Two?
If you are away for the better part of the day, or have limited time to spend with your parakeet, consider getting a pair. Budgies are gregarious birds, dependant on their flock and the company of their mate. If you are unable to fill that role of his companion, your budgie will be much happier if you get him a friend.
Our pet counsellors are bird lovers and because they are, they hold and play with the baby budgies in our store. Our guests also play a big part in our budgie’s social skills through handling and interacting. This is why a Petland budgie is quick to bond with his new caregiver.
To provide a happy, healthy atmosphere for your budgie, Petland recommends the following necessary, and fun accessories. We have listed them as your new pet’s four basic needs: Environmental, Nutritional, Maintenance and Behavioural. When these needs are met, along with a loving environment provided by you, your budgie can live a long and happy life. Typically, a healthy budgie may live between 5-10 years, sometimes up to 20!
Your Budgie’s New Home – When purchasing a cage for your budgie, keep the following in mind. Get the largest cage that you can. Even if your budgie will be out of his cage a lot, give him a roomy, secure home that he will not feel claustrophobic in. A budgie cage has bars that are horizontal and spaced close together, so that the budgie can climb comfortably.
You may want to hang his cage or place it on a cage stand, but either way, make sure the room in which he is placed is draft free, away from heat or air-conditioning vents, and is not in direct sunlight. A cage cover helps your budgie to get the rest he needs (approximately 12 hours). Remember that birds wake at sunrise and sleep at sunset. Your pet counsellor can show you the homes available made specifically for your budgie.
Lighting – Your budgie requires exposure to ultraviolet light on a daily basis. Since it is not possible in our climate to have him outside on a daily basis, and placing him in front of a window only allows ineffective filtered light inside, the use of a full-spectrum light is vital. UVA and UVB is necessary to prevent calcium and vitamin D3 deficiencies, which can cause a tremendous amount of health problems. As well, depriving your budgie of UV light will make him colour blind. It has also been suggested that UVA light is beneficial in reducing or eliminating abnormal behaviour, such as feather damaging disorders, phobias and aggression among just a few. An avian floor lamp and UVA/UVB bulb will be a necessary part of your budgie's basic environmental need. For more information ask a pet counsellor for a copy of the Ultraviolet Lighting for Birds and Reptiles tip sheet.
Perches – Birds were not meant to stand on the same diameter of a tree branch or perch. Your budgies must have a variety of perch sizes to allow their feet proper exercise. Make sure that the perches aren’t too smooth, too hard or too rough. Sandpaper perch covers should be used on only one out of three perches. These covers will help to keep nails trim and are fun to pick at. Perches constructed of rope or natural wood with bark provide the best surfaces for your budgie’s feet. Inside the cage, situate two of the perches at the same height as the seed and water dishes, and not directly over them where fecal matter could spoil the food.
Playpen/Portable Perch – Your budgie will be much happier and develop a closer relationship with you, if he spends some of his day out of his cage. When he is out, wood playpens and portable perches are an ideal safe place for him.
It is unreasonable to expect any living thing to remain healthy when fed only one or two types of food. You must give your budgie a balanced diet if he is to live a long and happy life
Staple Diet – Fresh budgie seed mix or budgie pellets should always be available. Check the food regularly and replace if soiled. Don't be fooled by the empty seed husks they will leave in the dish. Refill it daily.
Daily Salad - Offer a healthy mix of vegetables, such as carrots and carrot tops, broccoli, beets, green beans, snow peas, navy and lima beans, sweet potatoes and eggplant (to name a few), as well as pasta, rice and even whole wheat toast daily as part of their morning meal. Fruits should be considered a treat and offered minimally. Once or twice a week, you can offer a cooked egg finely chopped. This is a rich source of protein. Every bird is different in their tastes. While your budgie may love certain fruits and vegetables, he may reject others. Keep trying and offer him a variety. Feed these perishable foods in a separate dish, and remove it after one hour.
Vitamin/Mineral/Amino Acid Supplement – If a budgie’s diet is made up primarily (90%) of pellets and he enjoys a variety of vegetables, fruits, seeds and other nutritious table foods, then a vitamin supplement is not necessary and could, in some instances, be harmful. If however, a budgie’s diet is not ideal (strictly on seed), then we recommend the addition of a high-quality powdered vitamin. This is best administered on top of his daily salad or sprinkled on his millet.
Cuttlebone – Cuttlebone will supply your budgie with calcium, phosphorus and other minerals. Hang it in his cage, out of the way from droppings, which could soil it. Change it every two months, as they are very porous and absorb smells and tastes in the environment, such as smoke and cooking fumes. If your budgie does not show any interest in his cuttlebone, grind it up into powder and mix with his salad or favourite treat.
Iodine Block – Provides iodine, copper and many other minerals in small quantities. The iodine block is fun to chew, tasty too. A pellet staple diet meets the required iodine levels in birds, making the iodine block unessential unless feeding a seed staple diet.
Spray Millet – Millet is the only food available for birds that they would typically find in the wild. When you bring home your budgies, you should provide spray millet for them on a daily basis. This may be the only thing that your budgies will feel comfortable eating in the beginning. Once your birds have adjusted to their new home offering them spray millet once or twice a week is fine.
Treats – Packaged seed treats, honey sticks, and spray millet are great options. They provide your budgie with the variety he craves and the behavioural requirements he needs. Treats will keep him busy picking and gnawing, while giving him a tasty alternative to staple food and salads.
Bird Bath/Showering – Treat your birds on a daily basis to a misting shower, or if they prefer, a large shallow bird bath of warm water. Fill a clean water spray bottle (intended only for that use) with hot tap water for a warm morning shower. Spray from over your bird’s head if they do not enjoy direct misting. If your budgies are leery to step inside their bath, try replacing the bath outside of the cage with the hood off, this may encourage their natural curiosity. A damp lettuce leaf placed in the bath helps too.
Additional Food Cups – Food and water should always be available for your budgie. Hooded cups may seem threatening to a bird accustomed to open cups. If your bird does not readily eat and drink, remove the hood from the cup and replace it for a few hours a day until he is used to it. Your bird will need one additional cup for salad and another for seed treats.
Substrate – Cage paper is easy to remove and will not become a soppy mess like paper towels or newspaper when water is inevitably splashed onto it. Bedding such as Eco bedding or carefresh® may be used if there is a grate overtop to prevent the budgie from foraging amongst its feces.
Nail Clipper, File and Coagulant – Your budgie’s nails will grow continuously. Nail clippers made especially for birds must be used. Take care not to over trim or cut into blood vessels running through each nail. Have a blood coagulant waiting and ready to use. Flight feathers should be trimmed regularly to prevent accidents, injury or worse. If you prefer, ask your pet counsellor to make an appointment to have this done for you.
Toys – Behavioural needs vary from people to animals. Everyone has behavioural needs; a dog’s may be to fetch and chew a bone, a person’s may be to lounge in front of the television. Your budgie has specific behavioural needs as well. Along with the regular day-to-day relationship he will enjoy with you and your family, you must provide other activities. This will help give him the extra mental stimulation and entertainment he needs. Toys play a significant role in your budgie’s life. As with a child, he will be less interested in a certain toy if it is left in the cage all the time. Petland recommends that you purchase several toys and rotate them every two weeks. Purchase new ones frequently. A pacifier toy is fashioned to encourage preening and is a favourite for many budgies. Note: Mirrors can cause stress or anxiety. Many birds that have access to mirrors will not interact with their caregivers.
Please ask your pet counsellor what other items pertain to your particular pet’s needs.
Attention: Certain cookware, aerosols, incense, aromatic candles and household cleaners may be harmful or worse to your bird’s health. Ask a pet counsellor for a copy of the Safety Tips & Household Hazards tip sheet.
Cleanliness and Safety
All pets can potentially carry diseases that may be contagious to people. Young children, infants, pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems and the elderly are at greater risk of infections and should use caution when in contact with pets or their environments. Regular cleaning of your pet’s environment with a pet safe cleaner may help avoid the spread of contaminants.
Hygiene procedures such as washing your hands before and after handling your pet and/or after having any contact with their habitat, is a necessary routine. Children should be assisted with hand washing and always have adult supervision when interacting with pets.
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