Pet Care - Parakeets

Parakeets

Budgerigars, or Budgies, are native to the grasslands of Australia and are commonly called parakeets in the United States. The normal color found in nature is green with some yellow wing feathers, a yellow head, and black barring throughout. Through selective breeding in captivity, a wide range of color variations are now available. Budgies can be taught to talk, but their engaging personalities, active lifestyle, and constant chattering are the qualities that make them attractive as pets.

Diet

Parakeet seed mixes are generally white millet based with canary grass seed and oat groats blended in. Often, more exotic blends also contain small bits of dehydrated fruits, vegetables, and greens. Seed-based diets can be deficient in vitamins K and D, so the addition of green and yellow vegetables greatly improves the overall health of the birds.

Parakeets prefer a varied diet, and almost anything you eat may be offered in small quantities. There are a few foods that must be avoided including chocolate, avocado, alcohol, and highly acidic foods like citrus fruits and tomatoes.
Use of an avian daily multivitamin is recommended. These are usually water soluble and can be added to the drinking water or sprinkled over the food. If the vitamins are added to the water, the water container must be thoroughly washed each day.

Fresh water must always be available.

Housing

Parakeets are housed in cages. There are hundreds of shapes and sizes of cages available. Some considerations to keep in mind when purchasing a cage are the size of the cage, the size and quantity of door openings, and the spacing of the wires.

The cage should be at least large enough for the bird to be able to turn around completely and flap its wings without touching the wires. The door opening must be large enough for you to reach in with your hand and possibly a small net so that you can remove a bird from the cage easily if need be.

Parakeets are generally very active, and best kept in a cage that is rectangular and has perches at opposing ends. Since tjhey enjoy climbing, cages with vertical wires are desirable along with various branches and perches for them to climb.

The wires of the cage should be spaced closely enough to keep the bird from putting its head through the openings. Wire spacing of 3/8" to 1/2" is recommended.

A pull-out tray built into the bottom of the cage makes for easy cleaning. A wire grate mounted on the bottom of the cage above this tray keeps the bird from digging through the litter.

Handling & Care

Parakeets have been domestically raised for generations. Finding a young bird is easy. Look for a bird with large, bright eyes. The black barring on the forehead recedes as parakeets mature and this is a good indicator of age. A young bird will have barring almost down to the top of the beak. Learn how to handle your bird daily to keep it tame and affectionate.

Both males and females make great pets. The sex cannot be accurately determined when the birds are very young, and it is even difficult with some adults of certain color variations. As a general rule, the cere (the fleshy ridge above the beak where the bird's nostrils are) is a bluish color on males and pink or beige on females. Budgies are social birds and enjoy companionship. More than one parakeet can be housed in the same cage if the cage is large enough. One drawback to keeping them in large groups is that the birds will bond to each other rather than to their owner.

Parakeets are very active. Providing them with toys gives them exercise and entertainment (for both you and the bird). There are countless options of toys on the market including balls, swings, mirrors, bells, rope toys, chew toys and more. A variety of toys should be available to your pet, and you should rotate them fairly often to help reduce cage boredom.

Clipping the wings of parakeets is recommended to keep the bird manageable. Wing clipping, when done correctly, does not hurt the bird, and it is not permanent. The clipped feathers will be replaced the next time the bird molts. Clipping the wings helps prevent the bird from escaping your home or hurting itself if it gets loose inside.

Birds keep their plumage in peak condition by preening. You can encourage this by occasionally misting your bird with warm water. Use a clean spray bottle that has never been used for anything else, and be sure the water is not too hot, and not too cold.

Special Considerations

Parakeets can live for 10-15 years or more. Purchasing a parakeet is a long term commitment and the decision to buy one should not be taken lightly. They will provide years of companionship and entertainment if given the proper time and care.