Have you been thinking about getting a parakeet or budgie? Are you a new budgie owner or perhaps looking to learn about caring for your pet parakeet? Maybe you’re up for a refresher course. Well this is where you’ll find all the information you need!
What’s a Budgie? And is there a difference between budgies and parakeets??
Many people know them as “parakeets,” but their real name is “budgerigar”. The word “budgerigar” comes from the aboriginal people of Australia, the budgie homeland. We like to use “budgie” as a shortened version of “budgerigar”. In English, “budgerigar” or “budgie” is a more accurate name, because “parakeet” actually refers to a large group of small to medium sized parrot species. That’s right, budgies are actually small parrots! Since John Gould brought the first budgerigar back to England in 1840, budgies have become extremely popular pets throughout the globe. You can now find budgie lovers in just about any country you travel to!
Budgie names from around the world:
English: budgerigar, budgie, parakeet, keet
Spanish (Español): periquito
Filipino (Tagalog): maikling loro
French (français): perruche ondulée
Hindi (India): बजरीगर (bajarigar)
Chinese: 虎皮鹦鹉 (hǔ pí yīngwǔ)
Japanese: セキセイインコ (sekiseīnko)
Polish: papużka falista
Italian: pappagallino ondulato
Russian: волнистый попугайчик (volnistyĭ popugaĭchik)
Arabic: الطائر الطيب
Korean: 잉꼬 (ingkko)
Hungarian: Hullámos papagáj
Do budgies make good pets?
If you ask me, budgies make awesome pets! They are very active, playful birds, and they are incredibly intelligent. Some (but not all) budgies learn to talk, there are even budgies have a 100+ word vocabulary! Budgies can easily become finger tame while they are young with some diligent training, even if they were not hand fed as babies. Many owners of fully tamed budgies will swear that their budgie thinks it’s a human! Even if a budgie is not tamed, they still make enjoyable pets. Their antics and singing will brighten up any room in your home. And budgies who are not finger tame still can become friendly towards you, and even still learn to talk.
It’s important to keep in mind that if you have (or plan to get) only one budgie, it’s imperative that you socialize with him or her every day. Budgies, as with all parrots, are flock birds, and it is important to their mental health to have interaction with others. If you tame your budgie, you can provide him (or her) with the social interaction he needs by spending time with him every day (even if he or she just hangs out with you while you do your homework or clean up around the house). If you don’t have the time or inclination to tame your budgie, then you must plan on getting at least two budgies so that they can provide each other the social interaction they need to be happy and healthy.
There are some downsides to keeping budgies as pets that you should be aware of. You should know that budgies can be messy. Seeds and feathers tend to scatter around the cage, so you’ll have to sweep or vacuum often. A cage skirt (available at pet stores) can help cut down on the mess. You also have to be diligent enough to make sure your budgie always has fresh food and water, and to make sure the cage bottom gets cleaned about once a week. Budgies can also be a bit noisy, although they are not quite as noisy as most parrots. Budgies spend several hours a day, especially mornings and evenings, chirping and singing and sometimes squawking. This is normal behavior, and most people enjoy the singing and chatter of budgies. However, if the noise does not appeal to you or may bother other people that you live with, you may need to consider closely where you put the cage or if a budgie is the right pet for you. Covering the cage at night will keep your budgies quiet from bed time until you wake them up in the morning, but the rest of the day is fair game for budgie banter.
I want a budgie that will be hand tame or talk…
Well then, make sure you read this section! The best way to get a budgie that will become hand tame is to buy a baby (about 3 months old) that has either been hand fed or handled as a chick. He or she will already be at least somewhat hand tame! You are most likely to find this from a breeder, and most likely not to find this at a pet store. If you cannot find a breeder in your area and you have to buy a budgie from a pet store, you are going to want to make sure that he or she is still young. See the Your Budgie’s Age page to learn how to tell if a budgie is still young. The younger your new budgie, the greater the chances for him or her to become very hand tame and friendly. If you would like to try and teach your budgie to talk or whistle, then you will want to choose a male budgie. Generally only male budgies will learn to mimic humans, although there is no guarantee that your budgie will learn to talk, even if it’s a male. It can be difficult to sex young budgies, so study the Your Budgie’s Sex page carefully. When choosing your budgie from a bunch that is already somewhat tame, choose one that seems to have a good personality. Color preference should not be your first priority. A budgie that seems curious, playful, and does not seem to be scared of you will be a better choice than one who seems skittish or flighty when you approach the budgie cage at the store. You’ll be able to make the best choice if you go to a store or breeder who lets you handle the budgies before you buy. You’ll want to choose a budgie that is willing to stay on your hand or finger for even a short period of time. For guidelines on choosing a budgie, see my FAQ article on buying a new budgie.
If you do plan on taming your budgie, it is best to keep him or her alone and not get another budgie. This is because a budgie kept alone will be more inclined to bond to you instead of bonding to the other budgie (which is what will happen if you keep more than one budgie together). It is possible to tame a budgies who are kept together, but it is much more difficult and recommended only for experienced bird owners. Also, the chances of your budgie learning to talk will also be greatly diminished if kept with other budgies. You also will not want to put any toys with mirrors in the cage for the same reasons. Your budgie will actually think that the bird in the mirror is his friend! Once you have your budgie, see my “Taming and Talking” section for guidance on taming your pet budgie.
What do I need to get started?
Cage – You need to get a cage and set it up before bringing your budgie home. The cage is one of the most important considerations because it is your budgie’s home, where your budgie spends most of its time. The cage is also typically the biggest expense in getting a new pet budgie, so be sure to do your research and shop around to make sure you get the right cage for a good price.
Size – I recommend a cage that is at least 1.5 feet wide x 1.3 feet deep x 1.3 feet tall (about 45x40x40 cm). Remember, budgies are very active and playful, and they need plenty of room to stretch their wings, flap about, and climb around. Make sure the bars of the cage are no more than half an inch (1.3 cm) apart. This will prevent any mishaps with curious budgies getting their head or body stuck between the bars. For more info on appropriate cage sizes.
Perches – Make sure the cage is equipped with good quality perches. Cages typically come with standard plastic or wood perches. These standard perches are not sufficient for your budgie, and you will need to add perches to the cage. You should purchase a couple perches of different sizes, shapes, and textures, including at least one that is made from a natural tree branch (such as manzanita). You can replace or supplement the standard perches with dowels of different sizes and shapes, rope perches, or additional natural branch perches. You can create your own natural perches using branches from a local a tree that you determine to be non-toxic and safe for birds. Wipe gathered branches with a diluted bleach solution (3/4 cup bleach per 1 gallon of water) and then bake them in the oven at 200° F (90° C) until dry (this disinfection routine should be done by an adult). When arranging the perches, place some at slightly higher and lower levels and at distances that will encourage your budgie to fly between them to promote exercise.
Equipment – You’ll need to make sure the cage comes equipped with at least two cups, one for seed and one for water. If not, you will need to buy these. You can also replace a water cup with a water tube, buy different types of feeders, and buy clips and extra cups for treats.
Seed – The next thing you will need is a high quality seed. I do not recommend grocery store seed, which is usually poor quality and not as fresh. Use fresh seed with at least 40% straight canary seed. I also recommend a seed that has pellets in it, or purchasing pellets separately and adding them to the seed. You should avoid seed containing artificially colored ingredients, if possible. Keep in mind that seed will not be the only thing your budgie needs to eat. He or she needs to be fed fresh foods every day (mostly veggies( in order to be healthy.
Cuttle Bone and Mineral Block – You need to provide your budgie with a cuttlebone and a mineral block. These white powdery items provide your budgie with calcium and essential nutrients. You may notice your budgie hardly touches them, uses them as a perch, or grinds away at them with a lot ending up on the floor. Don’t think that it is going to waste and take it out. Your budgie will use the cuttlebone and mineral block when his or her body needs the nutrients. Budgies are very tuned in to their bodies! A budgie left without these items for a long period of time may become deficient and develop medical complications.
Toys – Your budgie needs toys and items in the cage to keep them active and stimulated. A bored budgie can suffer both emotionally and behaviorally, and even develop health problems. Remember, budgies are extremely active and playful. They like to jump, climb, flap, and perform acrobatic feats. Favorite budgie toys tend to be swings, bells, wiffle balls with bells in them, and especially chew toys. Rings and other toys are also great. Just remember to keep the size in mind. Make sure they are the correct size for budgies. Also check them out before you buy them to make sure they will be safe. A budgie may be injured from a poorly designed toy, by getting their head stuck or foot stuck, or getting their toenail caught in loose string, for example. Use the same discretion you would use in buying toys for a small child. You don’t want to overcrowd the cage with toys, but I recommend you buy a few extra toys than will fit in the cage and rotate the toys in and out to keep your budgie interested and engaged.
What is involved in caring for a pet budgie?
Daily Care and Interaction – Your pet budgie needs social interaction daily. If he (or she) is tame, take him out every day to talk and interact with him. If you’re having a busy day, you can put him on your shoulder while you’re doing housework or doing your homework. If you are still in the taming process, take some time every day to give him some attention by talking to him, following the taming procedure, or just watching him sing and hop about. (If you don’t have the time or inclination to tame your budgie, you must have a second budgie to provide social interaction. Budgies must not be kept alone if you can’t provide him or her with social interaction.) If you have multiple budgies they will be able to provide each other with all the social interaction they need, but you can still interact with them. Use the taming process to get them accustomed to you so that you can take them out of the cage every day. At night it’s a good idea to use a light sheet or blanket to cover the cage. This will provide security for your budgie and help to keep him quiet if you want to sleep past sunrise. You should make uncovering the cage and greeting your budgie “Good Morning!” the first thing you do when you get up every morning.
Food and Water – You need to check your pet budgie’s cage every day to make sure he or she has plenty of food and water. Especially when the days are hot, change the water every day to keep it fresh. It is important to supplement your budgie’s diet, as a seed-only diet will not provide adequate nutrition. Every day provide your budgie with a fruit or veggie to munch on. Don’t leave fresh foods in the cage too long, perhaps a couple hours at the most. Budgie favorites include carrot tops, dark leafy greens, and strawberries. You will learn what your particular budgie has a preference for. Just make sure to keep his diet varied to ensure your budgie’s health and longevity. If you’re having a hard time getting your budgie to try new foods, see the FAQ article How Do I Get My Budgie to Eat Veggies?
Cleaning and Maintenance – About once a week you will need to change out the liner in the bottom of the cage. I recommend using black and white newspaper as liner. You may also use paper towels, or lining or bedding you can buy at a pet shop. About once a month you will need to take out some of the perches to scrape off any accumulated droppings or food. If the cage has a grate on the bottom, also scrape the accumulated droppings off it, letting them fall onto the liner below, and then change out the liner. About once a year it may be a good idea to do a “spring cleaning” and thoroughly clean the cage. Take your budgie out of the cage and either put him in a room with someone for safekeeping or put him in a temporary or travel cage while you clean. Wash the perches with unscented soap and let them dry in the sun. Do the same for the cage and the tray. Hand wash the food and water dishes or run them through the dishwasher. Also give the toys a good cleaning. When you’re done and everything is dry, replace all the equipment, put the cuttlebone and mineral block back in, and refill with fresh food and water.
Hazards – When you consider what hazards may be in your household, you have to start thinking like a budgie! Place the cage away from areas where household cleaners, aerosols (such as hair spray), or fragrances are commonly used. This means in or near the kitchen or bathroom are bad spots to put the budgie’s cage. Be sure you don’t spray aerosols or any cleaning products near your budgie or its cage, and it is recommended you don’t use fragrances in the house at all (including sprays, candles, or plug-ins). Birds are very sensitive to airborne chemicals and can die very quickly if exposed to harmful chemicals in the air. It is also a good idea to keep the cage away from the kitchen while cooking, as fumes (such as from an overheated non-stick pot or smoke from burnt food) could harm your budgie and hot cookware poses a potential hazard. Also be sure to place the cage away from drafts from A/C vents, doors or windows, or other sources. When you take your budgie out of its cage, be sure that any fans have been turned off, all doors and windows are closed or screened, and that there aren’t any other potential hazards. Even a budgie with clipped wings can manage to flap his way into a fan or out a window, especially if he becomes startled. Be sure to always exercise caution while your budgie is out of the cage.