Visual Growth Guide: Budgie

The purpose of this guide is to give beginning breeders and general idea of where their chicks should be at a certain age. It is important to notice stunting early so that it can be rectified before the chick falls too far behind.

All images are © 2004 by Karen Trinkaus unless otherwise noted and may not be reprinted or used in any way without the author’s permission.

Egg Laying in Pets

Ah, spring…sunshine, showers, flowers, and egg laying in pet birds.

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Not all female pets will lay eggs. My Goffin is 14 and has yet to lay a single egg. Others, often cockatiels, will habitually lay every year. So what do you do?

Step One: Remove anything that could be interpreted as a nest site- Happy Huts, boxes, enclosed toys/dishes, tents, etc. Also, do NOT pet your bird on the back or under the tail. head scratches are fine, but touching her back is going to simulate a male mounting her.

Step Two: Provide lots of calcium and protein. Excess laying will deplete a hen’s calcium reserves, which can lead to soft shelled eggs (more likely to fracture internally) and brittle bones. Offer cuttlebone and/or mineral block, and cooked scrambled eggs with the shell. If this has been going on a long time, you may need to see a veterinarian for a quicker form of supplementation.

Step Three: STOP REMOVING EGGS. Birds can count and usually have a specific clutch size that they are trying to reach. Removing eggs means that they never finish their clutch so they just keep laying more. Removing broken eggs is fine. Once her clutch is complete she may try to incubate the eggs. Incubation lasts three to four weeks for most species. Eventually she should realize that her eggs are duds and abandon them. At this point they can be safely removed. Some hens will lay again, others will not. If she does lay again you can try leaving the eggs in longer. At the very least, leaving eggs in will space out the time in between clutches.

Step Four: Decrease daylight hours. Most species are springtime breeders. Even birds that can lay year-round usually become more hormonal during the spring. You can try to shorten their breeding season by fudging their daylight hours. Covering the cage early at night may help, though cockatiels are prone to night frights when covered. For cockatiels I would move them to a room with limited sunlight and get blackout curtains. Close the curtains well before sunset every day.

Do I need to swap out the eggs with fakes? No. You certainly can, but I don’t really see a reason to do so.

For more information: Discouraging Breeding Behavior in Pet Birds

©2016 by Karen Trinkaus May not be reprinted or used in any way without the author’s permission. Image submitted by reader.

Budgie Growth Guide

Please note that this guide is for standard budgies, not English.

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Banding is done on day 7.

Here is a nice video on budgie growth:

© 1997-2016 by Karen Trinkaus. May not be reprinted or used in any way without the author’s permission.

What to Feed Your Bird

diet

Malnutrition is the #1 Cause of Illness in Birds
Birds need a good diet just like every other animal. A poor diet creates a bird with a myriad of problems. It can lead to obesity, tumors and diabetes. It also compromises the immune system, making the bird more susceptible to infections. Even so, most people aren’t feeding their birds right. Many give them only seed and water, the equivalent of a bread and water diet in humans. Usually this is due to ignorance.

My Bird Won’t Eat That…
Feeding your birds a nutritional and varied diet is THE most important thing you can do to keep them healthy. If you are having trouble converting your bird please see Getting Your Bird to Try New Foods. Below are the three reasons birds typically won’t convert:

  1. They do not recognize the item as food.
  2. The food is being presented wrong.
  3. The owner isn’t being persistent enough.

Birds do have their preferences, but they should also be willing to accept a variety of foods. My birds get a veggie mix of green beans, Lima beans, carrots, corn and peas. Most of my birds go for the corn first and then consume all but the carrots. Fry, my mitred conure, will eat everything but the Lima beans. Ringnecks will eat the carrots. Peas are my kakarikis’ first choice. Both corn and peas are high in starch. Fry loves all bread products. He often shares breakfast with me. He will ignore everything else and go for the bread, eating all but the “crust,” even on muffins. This doesn’t mean he won’t eat non-bread items. If I place an item in his dish he will eat it. If I’m eating something he will want some too (we’re sharing a chicken tamale as I write this). When a bird does not have access to a favorite food, it has to eat what is available.

kakchicks_june15b

My Seed is Better Than Your Seed…
You probably buy a seed mix with “fortified” or “gourmet” on the package, right? I’ll let you in on a little secret about seed mixes: one is just as good as another. While you’re paying $6.49 for 2 lbs. of that “Fiesta Fortified Gourmet Bird Food” I’m paying $8.25 for 25 lbs. of plain seed. Many stores sell seed mixes that contain just seed. Sometimes these mixes aren’t even a name brand or are packaged in-store. They are much cheaper.

“But wait! The seed I buy contains dried fruits, veggies and nutrient supplements!”

Does your bird actually eat any of those dried items, or does it just pick out the seeds? I’ve found that birds a much more likely to try new foods if they are offered in a separate dish. If pellets are mixed in with seed (like manufacturers suggest) they are often ignored. The bird will just eat its seeds and dismiss the foreign item. Offer new items in a different bowl.

Vitamin supplements do not work with seed mixes. If a seed mix claims to contain supplements what it means is that vitamins are sprayed onto some of the seeds. However, because all psittacines husk their seed before eating it, the vitamin-coated exterior is cast aside and only the uncoated seed itself is consumed. It is best to leave seed plain and supplement by offering other foods.

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Wet greens double as a bath for budgies.

Pellets vs. Seed
Seed is like bread- it’s good, but in no way a complete diet. If bread is all you eat eventually you will have many problems due to malnutrition. Seed is perfectly healthy if it is supplemented with other foods. Some seeds are higher in fat than others, like sunflower, peanuts and safflower. These should be avoided, especially in species that are prone to obesity (Galahs, amazons, budgies). A few species can tolerate high fat but not many. You can increase the nutritional content of seeds by sprouting them. In the wild birds eat seed still growing on the plant. The dry seed we offer our birds is nowhere near as nutritious as sprouted.

Pellets are designed to be a complete diet. They provide all the vitamins and minerals a bird needs. This means you should NOT offer other foods, especially not cuttlebone, mineral block or vitamins. You risk either overdosing or diluting your bird’s intake by feeding other foods with pellets. The downside of pellets is that they can be expensive and there’s no psychological benefit to feeding them. Birds like to forage and play with their food and pellets are kinda boring.

The bulk of my current diet is seed. Pellets are offered in a separate dish, and yes, the birds do eat them even though they have seed. Every day I also offer a fresh or cooked food. This could be frozen veggies, fresh greens, fruit, pasta, eggs or Crazy Corn. These items are rotated so that every day the birds get a different fresh/cooked food.

Vitamin & Mineral Supplements
Birds have dry mouths. Vitamins are utterly useless when sprinkled on seed or dry foods. Putting them in water does no good either as they will only lose their potency and provide a breeding ground for bacteria. If you do want to use vitamin supplements, sprinkle them on your wet foods.

All birds on a seed diet should be offered cuttlebone and/or mineral block.

Grit should NOT be offered to psittacines. All hookbills husk their seed before consuming it, hence they have no need for grit. Some birds will also consume massive quantities of grit which will impact their crop. Grit is fine for softbills (birds that do not husk their seed like doves and finches).

Feeding a Varied Diet

So what do birds need? Tony Silva probably explains it best. Basically anything that a health food nut would eat is what birds should be eating: lots of vegetables, some fruits, low-fat, low-salt, grains, etc. Use your imagination! Try some of my recipes. Here’s a better idea of what you can feed: corn, peas, carrots, carrot tops, beans (must be COOKED!), legumes, rice (must be COOKED!), pasta, chicken, bread, egg, Crazy Corn, grapes, mangos, apples, peaches, pears, apricots, plums, kiwi, berries (whatever kind is in season), parsley, chickweed and bananas. This is just to give you an idea. You can feed much more than this. Keep it varied.

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Fresh sunflower is a big hit.

 

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Sprouting seed will make it far more nutritious.

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Skewers can make foods more entertaining.

Making “chop.” Dicing up ingredients and freezing them in baggies allows you to quickly serve quality food later with minimal prep.

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Whole foods offer enrichment as well as nutrition.

Special notes on Iceburg Lettuce and Spinach:
Iceburg lettuce has no nutritional value. It’s basically all water. Spinach contains a chemical which binds to calcium, making it unable to be absorbed by the body (so much for Popeye). It is healthy but should only be fed sparingly.

Don’t forget to give your bird fresh water too. Change it everyday. Some birds like to dunk food in their water or use it as a toilet. Sometimes moving the dish to another location may help. If not, you’ll just have to change the water more often or switch to a water bottle. The rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t drink it, change it.

Toxic Foods and Things to Avoid

  • avocado
  • chocolate
  • fruit pits
  • apple seeds
  • alcohol/caffeine/smoke/drugs
  • dairy ( birds can’t digest lactose)
  • onion & garlic (only ok in very small amounts)
  • uncooked beans/rice
  • peanuts (they can harbor aspergillus)
  • tomato leaves

Here is a more extensive list of toxic things.

Mammal bacteria is also dangerous. Do not allow your birds to share food with the dog/cat or drink from their water bowls. Likewise, do not allow your birds to take food from your own mouth. If you are going to share food give them their own plate or at least don’t offer them anything your mouth has touched.

© 1997-2016 by Karen Trinkaus. May not be reprinted or used in any way without the author’s permission.

Introducing New Foods

flock

You’ve read up on what you should feed your bird to keep it healthy. Unfortunately, you and your bird seem to differ on what is healthy. New foods are either ignored or flung aside for the good old seed. Here are a few methods for getting your bird to try new foods.

The “Good Stuff” Dish
This is the best method for getting a seed junkie to try wet foods. First you have to find a non-seed food that your bird already likes. There is always something. Usually even picky birds can’t resist wheat bread or a frozen veggie mix. With small species you can try greens like parsley or carrot tops. Once you find a food other than seed that it will eat offer it the same time every day, in the same area of the cage, in the same dish. The goal is to make the bird associate that dish with something tasty.

After a week or two start offering something else into the dish every other day. You can mix it together with the old food or just offer the new food by itself. Keep this up and pretty soon the bird should eat any item placed in that dish.

Pellets
Several pellet manufacturers recommend mixing pellets in with seed and slowly increasing the proportion. I’ve found this method counterproductive, as many birds think the pellets are inedible and will throw them aside. Instead, offer the pellets in a completely different dish. Birds are more likely to try this new “toy” than something invading their seed bowl. Roudybush also has several other methods of introduction.

Tutoring
Ever notice how pets always want what you’re eating? Birds follow the examples of their peers. If you have one bird that eats pellets you can usually get your others to do the same by letting them watch. Borrow a friend’s bird to help teach yours if you have to. You can also try pretending to eat the pellets.

Looks Like Seed
Some brands of pellets, like Kaytee Exact cockatiel size, look a lot like seed. Other foods that have a seed-like consistency may be tried more readily, like wheat bread, cereal and sprouted seed. When trying to get your bird onto a different diet any food variety is important no matter how small. If you can get them to try one new thing you can gradually get them to try other things as well.

© 1997-2016 by Karen Trinkaus. May not be reprinted or used in any way without the author’s permission.

The Problem with Giving your Bird a Mirror

mirror

You’re worried your bird is not getting enough attention from you. Or maybe it starts out more simple. Perhaps your cockatiel has developed a crush on the toaster or the bathroom sink faucet. What’s wrong with giving your bird a mirror? Everything. Mirrors are very psychologically damaging to your bird.

Birds a very social creatures. It is because of their strong flocking instincts that they can make such great pets. Many owners give their pets mirrors because they are afraid their bird will get lonely. If you are giving your bird its due attention and providing it with toys to play with while you are gone, you have no need to think your bird will become lonely.

So what exactly do mirrors do? The first thing most people notice is increased territoriality. Bird behaviorists are often contacted about cockatiels who are so attached to the toaster that they will viciously bite anyone who comes near it. They will isolate themselves from their owners and throw a fit if not near their “buddy.” Sadly, this is a lesser problem that mirrors cause.

The real problem is this: mirrors give your bird an incorrect perception of reality. They are NOT talking to another bird, they are talking to a reflection. Reflections can only mimic- they do not react in the same manner as a real bird would. Think of it this way: you have a young child. This is your only child so instead of letting him play with kids down the street you get him a mirror. The kid spends all his time talking and playing with his reflection. When he turns fifteen years old you send him to high school. How well do you think he’s going to socialize with real people who may not agree with him, may not like his looks, may look different than him, etc?

It is true that not all birds will eventually come into contact with other birds but let’s be realistic here. How do you know that down the line you won’t want another bird? How do you know that something might not occur that will force you to have to sell or give away your bird? Does the possibility that it may never meet another bird justify improper socialization?

Allow me to give you a case in point. In fall of 1999 I adopted a mitred conure, Fry. A woman had caught him outdoors in Southern California. He had been dive-bombing some local gardeners. He stayed with her a year before she ended up giving him to a friend of hers. This lady had him for six years. During that period he was fed nothing more than safflower seed, apples and white bread, at his request (never let birds or kids choose their diet). He had a mirror on top of his cage and had no access to real birds. His owner had just had a baby when I acquired him. This, and the fact that her husband hated the bird, were her motivations for giving him away.

Fry has the worst flocking skills I’ve ever seen in a bird. I’ve actually had him fly across my room to attack a bird in a hospital cage. He has maimed toes and feet and has no clue how to react to real birds. In the beginning he also had no skills at playing by himself. All pet birds need to know how to keep themselves entertained. I offered him plenty of toys but he ignored them. His cage was located on my dresser, which has a large mirror attached to the back. I covered the mirror with a towel but he chewed it to shreds to get to the mirror. I re-covered the mirror and moved the cage out of reach so he couldn’t chew it while inside. About a week later he started playing with the toys. He also became more interested in people. Instead of hanging out on top of his cage all the time or trying to steal my sun conure’s food, he’d jump over to my desk to watch me and Jay-Jay (the sun).

So what do you do if you have a single bird? Though it is not necessary, you can buy a second bird after the first one is tamed. If you do not want two birds, just make sure to give your bird lots of attention and keep those mirrors away! Birds can be kept singly just fine, but access to a mirror will teach them bad habits, as well as make them territorial and withdrawn.

© 1997-2016 by Karen Trinkaus. May not be reprinted or used in any way without the author’s permission.

Choosing a Cage

I get a lot of questions regarding what cage sizes are “adequate” for specific birds. The simple answer to this question has always been “Get the largest one you can afford.” However, picking out the right cage to meet your birds’ needs can be more complicated than that, especially if you are introducing more than one bird or mixing species. There are several things you should take into consideration when choosing a cage.

Height vs. Width
Birds fly side to side, not up and down. When I first started out breeding budgies I had a cage that was about 18″ wide and long and about 4′ high. It might as well have been 24″ high because that’s the extent of it that my budgies used. Birds need space, but not height. Width is much more important. Had the cage been 18″ wide and tall and 4′ long my budgies would have used the entire thing. Stick to rectangular cages that are longer/wider than they are tall.

Bird Size
How big are your birds? A macaw will need a much larger cage than a budgie. Many of the resources I’ve read tell you that the cage should be large enough for the bird to extend its wings without touching the bars, and large enough to turn around in without smacking the side. This is too small. For a hospital cage this would be fine because you are trying to restrict movement; however a day-to-day cage that the bird lives in should be double or triple this size. It should be able to hold two perches spaced greatly apart as well as toys.

Another funny thing about most parrots is that the smaller they are, the more space they need proportionally. Budgies require a huge amount of space when compared to a macaw (not quite to scale, but see below). This is due to their activity level. I cringe every time I see budgies kept in those tiny, blue, house-shaped cages that aren’t even one foot in ANY dimension. This is like a human being forced to live in their shower stall or closet!

Finches, budgies and smaller species typically require a ton of space when compared to a larger species. However, this doesn’t mean you should short-change your larger pets!

Activity Level
One budgie requires 2-3 times as much space as a cockatiel. Why? Because budgies are more active! This is why smaller birds need more space- generally they are much more active than the larger birds. You can see the difference just by picking them up: budgies and most parakeets “jump” onto your finger (or your shoulder, or your head…); parrots usually “step up,” rather than hop to you. Know your species: kakarikis, lovebirds and budgies are all extremely active. Nonpsittacine species like finches, toucans, mousebirds and other “softbills” are all very active. These birds require a huge amount of space no matter what their size- toucans require an aviary, macaws don’t.

This is not to say that all larger parrots are inactive and don’t require much space. It is important to keep in mind the activity level of the individual bird as well. When my mitred conure Fry died, I bought a Goffin cockatoo, Loki. Fry’s cage was brand new, and huge step up from the original cage he came in. Fry was a fairly inactive bird, so it suited him just fine. Loki, who is relatively the same size as Fry was, found this cage abysmally small. Loki is an extremely active bird, and also easily bored, which means that many toys are required to keep her interest. Fry’s cage was barely large enough for three of Loki’s toys, let alone Loki herself. I began searching for a new cage, and ended up getting macaw/large cockatoo cage. The new cage currently contains 12 toys (two more on the playstand above), and there is still room for her to hop about.

lokinewcage

Loki’s new cage (left) vs her old cage (right).

How much time will the bird spend in the cage?
If you work away from home and your bird is locked up all day, then the cage needs to be very large. Like Loki’s cage, it should have plenty of room for toys, and also plenty of room for the bird to hop about. Fry’s cage [barely] had room for either one or the other. It’s easy to overestimate the size of an unfurnished cage. If you’re at a store, try placing a few toys inside to get a better feel for how much room you actually have to work with. If the bird won’t be able to move around much with three toys hanging inside, then the cage is too small. For a bird that is home all day, the cage should be able to fit at least 2-3 perches (one can be a swing), 4-6 toys, food dishes and the bird itself (with room to jump from perch to perch).

Playstands
If the bird is out of its cage for a good portion of the day, then the cage can be smaller. A birdie-safe “play area” will give your bird a change of scenery and allow it to interact more with you. If a bird is out all day (for those lucky people who work at home) the cage can be much smaller because your bird will only be using it at night. Playstands should make up for the lack of cage size and contain plenty of toys, perches and other goodies to keep your bird occupied.

Mutiple Birds and Mixing Species
More birds means more space. Bickering is normal but if certain birds are picked on more than others or if they are fighting over food/water/perches then the cage is probably too small. When mixing species you must take into account what each is like. Nonaggressive species like budgies and tiels can mix but only if the tiels have room to get away from the budgies, whose constant activity will drive them nuts. See my article on Colony Breeding for more tips.

Shapes
No round cages! No cute house-shaped cages! Cages should be designed for birds, not humans. Odd angles trap toes, create unused space and make cleaning and accessing the cage a nightmare. Stick to squares and rectangles.

Bar Spacing and Alignment
Most small species are fine with 1/2 spacing. Larger birds can have wider spacing, just not so wide that they can get their heads caught. Larger birds will also require thicker wire to keep them from chewing through. There should be plenty of horizontal bars. Clipped birds especially require these to help them get around the cage.

barspacing

If your bird can do this, your bar spacing is too wide.

Finish
Many cages are galvanized. This is fine, but the process of galvanizing can leave traces of zinc and other metals on the wire which can kill your bird. Rinse all galvanized cages with a mixture of vinegar-water to remove these trace metals.

Bottom Grate
This feature keeps your birds from picking at dropped food and feces, as well as the substrate (you can use colored newspaper again!). I highly recommend getting a cage with this.

Acrylic Cages
These cages have their own distinct pros and cons. They are designed for optimal visibility and reduced mess. However, they contain no horizontal bars (although some now add a wire “climbing wall”), have reduced ventilation and climate control, and are extremely expensive.

Below are examples of actual cages offered for sale. I’ll start with some bad examples and then give you a few good designs.

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Coast Cages Sunburst for Parakeets, Canaries & Finches

What’s Wrong

  • Very poor shape design. How is a bird going to utilize that space?
  • This cage is too small to fit any species. It would only be passable as a carrier.
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Petco Delux Kit for Canary & Finch

“This deluxe starter kit begins with a stylish, quality cage…”

What’s Wrong:

  • Overall poor design and shape. What does “stylish” have to do with birds?
  • Too small for any bird, let alone an active finch.
  • Beware of “starter kits”- they are overpriced and may contain junk you don’t need (and not enough of what you do need).
cagecrappy4

Avian Select Parakeet Cages

What’s Wrong:

  • Round design- perfect for pinching toes.
  • Generally anything on a stand like this is going to be designed for humans and not for birds.
  • Too small, yet again.

Okay, enough of the crappy cages. Here are some good ones.

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Giantex Bird Cage Large

What’s Right:

  • Rectangular design.
  • Adequate size for small/medium parrots
  • Generic playstand included
  • Bottom grate included
  • Metal seed catcher to reduce mess
  • On wheels to ease movement
  • Large, easy-access door and heavy-duty feeding crocks

 

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Mcage Large Wrought Iron Flight Cage

What’s Right:

  • Large
  • Good bar spacing for small species
  • Plenty of horizontal bars
  • On wheels for easy transport and comes apart

© 1997-2016 by Karen Trinkaus. May not be reprinted or used in any way without the author’s permission.

Budgie (aka Parakeet)

Melopsittacus undultatus

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First a word on definitions: Budgie is the correct term to use when referring to (M. undultatus). Though they are parakeets, a parakeet is any small parrot with a long tail. This includes cockatiels, kakarikis, all the birds in the genus Psittcula, most of the parrots in Australia, and many more. But there is only one budgie.

Two more terms you’ll often hear in reference to budgies are “American” and “English.” These are not separate species, just different breeds (Like dogs are all one species but there are many different breeds. The same goes for cats, chickens, and canaries.). Budgies are have the distinction of being the only psittacine with different breeds. English budgies are bred for show. They are large- about three times the size of an American. Americans are your typical pet shop budgie. All mine are American. I breed for color.

In the Wild
Budgies are native to the deserts of Australia. This means two things:

  1. They are hardy.
  2. They breed like rabbits.

In the desert rain is scarce. Birds who live there have to be able to nest and raise young very quickly whenever food becomes available. This ability to breed constantly has made budgies the most common pet bird in America and led to the establishment of hundreds of designer colors.

 

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A male (left) trying to attract a female (right).

Noise
Male budgies chatter almost constantly and this is a good indication of a happy bird. Females don’t make much noise. Budgies are one of the top ten talking birds but none of mine have ever said a word.

Lifespan
They can live 10-15 years, sometimes more. Unfortunately, many don’t make it past age five due to tumors.

Sexing
Budgies are very easy to sex, both visually and by behavior. As I stated above, males chatter more than hens. Males will often show off and chatter endlessly when presented with a mirror, but so will some females kept singly. To sex visually you have to look at the cere- the fleshy area surrounding the nostrils. Adult males have a bright blue cere (unless they are a color that contains no black pigment, such as albino or lutino) and females have a crusty brown cere when in breeding condition (all colors). Hens may also have tan or white ceres.

 

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A male budgie has a blue cere.

 

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A female (bottom) has a brown cere.

 

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Female (left) watching a male feed chicks.

Weaknesses
Budgies are tumor factories. If you take good care of your budgie and suddenly something is wrong with it (paralysis, blindness, etc.) a tumor is a good assumption (of course that doesn’t mean you don’t have to go to the vet). Tumors are usually seen in birds over 3 years of age. I’ve had three cases myself: Moonbeam, age 4, tumor pinched optic nerve and caused blindness; Arnold, age 5, tumor the size of my thumb on his abdomen caused him to stop breeding; Sweatpea, age 4-5, tumor on kidney pressed against spinal cord causing sudden paralysis, looked similar to egg-binding. Psittacosis is also seen frequently in budgies, but this maybe just because they are the most common pet birds.

Husbandry
Budgies are very active and deserve as big a cage as possible. Also, if you plan on owning a single budgie make sure you pay a lot of attention to it. If you can’t please get a second bird to keep it company. Budgies are very social and need other budgies to talk to.

Breeding
Just add a nestbox. Actually you should be more worried about getting them to stop breeding. Usually removing the box after 2-3 clutches will get them to stop, though some hens will continue to lay in their feed dish. Budgies are also prone to all kinds of nitpicky problems when bred communally. Baby budgies usually have stripes all the way down to their cere and a bit of black on their beak.

Diet
Regular psittacine diet. Budgies particularly love leafy green foods like parsely, carrot tops and lettuce.

Personality/Behavior
Budgies aren’t very cuddly, but they make great pets. I started out with one budgie and she’s what got me hooked on birds in the first place. They’re very active and sociable which makes them fun to watch, especially if you have an aviary full of them.

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Pepper and Maggie hang out on my brother.

© 1997-2016 by Karen Trinkaus. May not be reprinted or used in any way without the author’s permission.

Which Bird is Right for You?

Not sure what bird is right for you? Check these genus profiles. If a ? is noted it means I don’t have enough experience with the species to say.

tiel03_wfcinpearl_cin

Genus/Common Name Nymphicus
Includes Cockatiels
Size Small.
Talking Ability Limited. Good whistler.
Lifespan 20-25
Noise Quiet, but their contact call may be annoying.
Dimorphic Yes. See my Guide to Sexing Tiels Visually.
Comments See species profile for more information. The cockatiel is a good beginner bird that enjoys being pet more than a budgie.

parrots-in-love-1351846-640x480

Genus/Common Name Lories
Includes Lories and lorikeets.
Size Tiny to medium.
Talking Ability ?
Lifespan ?
Noise Varies.
Dimorphic No.
Comments Very colorful and playful. Specialized diet (expensive and causes squirts).

loki17 Goffin cockatoo

Genus/Common Name Cockatoos
Includes Cockatoos
Size Medium to large.
Talking Ability Varies.
Lifespan 50-80
Noise Quiet to loud. Large species are typically very loud. My Goffin is very quiet.
Dimorphic No.
Comments Very demanding pets, but playful and highly intelligent. They are the cuddliest birds you can find. Difficult to breed. Males known for killing, maiming, and trapping hens during breeding.

male-eclectus-parrot-1350890-639x852

Genus/Common Name Eclectus
Includes Eclectus
Size Medium.
Talking Ability Varies.
Lifespan ?
Noise ?
Dimorphic Very. Males are green and females are red.
Comments Matriarcal. Stunning colors and odd feather texture.

 

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A female scarletchested parakeet.

Genus/Common Name Aussie Keets
Includes Polytelis (suberb, regent, princess), king, Platycerus (rosellas), Psephotus (red-rump, mulga), Neophema (bourke, scarlet-chest, turquoise).
Size Small to medium.
Talking Ability Varies.
Lifespan 10-30
Noise Pleasant.
Dimorphic Some species are.
Comments Good aviary birds but not commonly kept as pets. Rosellas are curious as pets and love to whistle.

 budgies06Budgies come in a variety of colors.

Genus/Common Name Melopsittacus
Includes Budgie.
Size Small.
Talking Ability Very good.
Lifespan 5-15
Noise Constant chattering. Usually not offensive.
Dimorphic Yes.
Comments See species profile for more information. Great beginner pets, but they usually do not come tame.

 

tovi1

 

Genus/Common Name Cyanoramphus
Includes Kakarikis
Size Small.
Talking Ability Good.
Lifespan 10-?
Noise Pleasant.
Dimorphic Yes, but it takes experience.
Comments See species profile for more information. Kakarikis are high energy pets that require a lot of space and supervision. They rarely sit still for long and make very entertaining pets.

lovebird-1-1379868-640x480

Genus/Common Name Agapornis
Includes Lovebirds.
Size Small.
Talking Ability Limited.
Lifespan 10-20
Noise Like budgie only higher pitched.
Dimorphic Some.
Comments Make feisty and curious handfed pets.

colorful-parrot-1381014-639x957

Genus/Common Name Psittacula
Includes Indian ringneck, African ringneck, Alexandrine, plum-head, blossom-head, Derbyan, Moustached.
Size Medium.
Talking Ability Excellent.
Lifespan 20-30
Noise Loud.
Dimorphic Yes.
Comments See species profile for more information. This genus is unfairly labeled “standoffish.” Ringnecks make excellent pets if well socialized. They are highly intelligent, curious and playful. They do tend to be strong willed and require a more experienced or assertive owner.

 

tovi7

Genus/Common Name Poicephalus
Includes Senegal, meyers, cape, jardine’s, brown-head.
Size Medium.
Talking Ability Moderate.
Lifespan 30-40
Noise Quiet.
Dimorphic No.
Comments Good apartment birds. Senegals are the most popular.

 

parrots-1380029-640x480

 

Genus/Common Name Ara
Includes Macaws (extinct/endangered ones in other genus).
Size Medium to large.
Talking Ability Moderate.
Lifespan 80-100
Noise Loud.
Dimorphic No.
Comments Not as popular as once were, perhaps due to size, expense and noise level. They are the larger relatives of conures. Intelligent and playful.

 

jayjay3Sun conures are very popular due to their color.

Genus/Common Name Aratinga.
Includes Most conures. Nanday in another genus but the profile still applies.
Size Medium.
Talking Ability Limited.
Lifespan 30
Noise Loud.
Dimorphic No.
Comments Very loud for size. Playful, curious pets. Very outgoing and fun-loving. Tend to become one-person birds if you let them.

 

gc conureGreencheek conure

Genus/Common Name Pyrrhura
Includes Green-cheek, maroon-belly, pearl, paint and most other small conures.
Size Small.
Talking Ability Limited.
Lifespan 30
Noise Usually quiet.
Dimorphic No.
Comments Good for someone who likes conures but hates noise. These guys are smaller and generally much quieter.

 

 parrot-5-1250337-639x852

 

Genus/Common Name Brotogeris
Includes White-wing, canary-wing, grey-cheek, and other “pocket parakeets.”
Size Small.
Talking Ability Moderate.
Lifespan 30
Noise Loud.
Dimorphic No.
Comments Used to be available in large numbers. Very limited supply since importation stopped and these birds are difficult to breed. Known to be outstanding pets. Most of these birds should probably be in breeding programs though.

 

exotic-parrot-singing-1354249-639x425

Genus/Common Name Poinites
Includes Caique
Size Medium.
Talking Ability ?
Lifespan ?
Noise ?
Dimorphic No.
Comments South American species. Curious and feisty.

 

parrotlet-1366819-639x553

Genus/Common Name Parrotlet
Includes Parrotlet
Size Tiny to small.
Talking Ability ?
Lifespan ?
Noise ?
Dimorphic I think some species are.
Comments These guys are known as “mini amazons.” They have a large attitude for such small birds. They cannot be bred in colonies.

 

south-american-parrots-1362496-640x480

Genus/Common Name Amazona
Includes Amazons
Size Medium.
Talking Ability Excellent.
Lifespan 50-80
Noise Loud.
Dimorphic No.
Comments Outgoing and boisterous. Some species more mellow (mealy, lilac-crown, orange-wing). Can be very aggressive during breeding displays. Get hyper easily. Some, like double yellow heads and yellow napes, love opera and will make up their own songs.

 

pionus4

Genus/Common Name Pionus
Includes Pionus
Size Medium.
Talking Ability Moderate.
Lifespan 50-80
Noise Quiet.
Dimorphic No.
Comments Good apartment birds. Appealing to people who like South Americans but dislike noise.

 

african grey1

Genus/Common Name Psittacus
Includes African grey
Size Medium.
Talking Ability Excellent.
Lifespan 50-80
Noise Quiet but like to pick up household noises to repeat constantly (much to the annoyance of some owners).
Dimorphic No.
Comments Highly intelligent and excellent mimics, but shy and sensitive. Can be badly affected by change if normally kept on a strict schedule. Plucking very common if stressed.

© 1997-2016 by Karen Trinkaus. May not be reprinted or used in any way without the author’s permission.

Colony Breeding

aviary2

Set Up
Colony breeding is something that is best done in an aviary. Nestboxes should obviously be provided for each pair but you should also throw in 2-3 extra so the birds can have their pick. Unused boxes can always be removed once everyone has settled in. Several feed stations and water dishes should be placed in various locations to avoid fights. Never place one nestbox or perch higher than the others because everyone will want to use it. Nestboxes should all be at the same height. Perches can vary in height as long as there are more than one “highest perch.”

budgie07

Feed
Keep in mind that you’ll be feeding a single diet. Birds that require special foods should not be kept in a colony. Likewise, if you have some picky birds or seed junkies you’ll have to feed seed. You can try offering pellets in hopes that your junkies will learn to eat them from your other birds. However, even pellet eaters will usually eat seed instead of pellets if they are provided. The good news is that everyone learns to eat soft foods very quickly.

Non-Breeding Colony
Follow the instructions for picking mixed flight species. Some birds are only aggressive during breeding and many different species of some size variation can be kept safely when there are no nestboxes provided. Retailers often keep birds for sale in such a set up. These work well because no one is interested in breeding and since birds are coming and going all the time no one has time to establish territory.

bird-cage-1393407-1279x852

 

Same Species Colonies
Some species, like budgies, actually thrive in colony situations. Keep in mind that with this type of colony you’ll get a lot of cheating between pairs. If you want strict control of your bloodlines this set up is not for you.

Mixed Colonies
This is how I breed. Most of the Australian keets like budgies, cockatiels and Neophema can coexist fine with similar species. Very closely-related species shouldn’t be kept together to prevent hybridization. The trick to a mixed colony is keeping birds of similar size and temperament. You want calm, small birds that aren’t likely to pick fights with their neighbors.

yf_kaks 008

Semi-Colony Species
Some birds can be bred in same species colonies only if the cage is very large. These birds should always be watched very closely and pulled out at the first sign of real aggression. Birds that fall into this category are Brotogeris, some lovebirds (Fischers usually do okay in colonies), and some conures (Patagonian).

Aggressive Species
Most parrots can’t be bred in colonies. These birds may be fine in a non-breeding colony but will become very aggressive towards any other birds when nesting. They may nip off toes (make sure there they can’t get to the birds in the cage next door), maim or kill. Aussie keets that should be avoided are red-rumps and rosellas. Always look at how species breed in the wild to best determine how to breed them in captivity.

© 1997-2016 by Karen Trinkaus. May not be reprinted or used in any way without the author’s permission.