Level of Care
Budgies are a great choice for beginning bird parents. They are adaptable to a wide range of care conditions, not too demanding in their day-to-day care, and can be trained to be handled with minimal stress.
When it comes to companionship, budgies are flock birds that enjoy the company of other birds. The ideal number of birds to house together is related to how much attention, time, and resources you have as a pet parents. Individual budgies will likely require more personal attention from you to meet their socialization needs, while groups housed together have less need for interaction. For most pet parents, housing four budgies together is reasonable. The noise level is acceptable, cleanliness is achievable, and the cost is affordable.
Handling Considerations for Budgies
Budgies that are hand-raised by human parents are accustomed to being handled without stress. They may approach pet parents on their own and will eat when food is hand offered. Birds that have been raised by their bird parents and not trained for human handling must be approached cautiously to reduce stress and injury.
During handling, wrapping a small hand towel around the bird can help protect both the bird and the handler from injury and reduce the bird’s fear of an approaching hand. While wrapping the bird in a towel, take care to fold the wings in toward the body to prevent injury. It is also imperative to avoid restricting the chest and abdomen so the bird can breathe while being held. Overall, try to limit the amount you hold your bird at one sitting to reduce stress.
Recommended Home for Budgies
Budgies prefer a habitat with limited noise and traffic but where they can see people doing their activities, such as a living room. Their cage should be positioned away from direct sunlight and drafty doors and windows.
Budgies are suitable pets for parents ranging in age from responsible children to adults. Because they can live in pairs, they will adapt to a variety of lifestyles. Individual budgies require more attention from their pet parents for socialization and enrichment. Budgies travel well and have minimal space requirements. They are relatively inexpensive in terms of cost of care–making them a great pet for a beginner bird parent.
Newly acquired birds should be quarantined from your budgies to avoid introducing disease. Keep the budgie cage off the floor and away from countertops or furniture to limit access to the cage from your other pets. If you have cats, be aware of ways they could jump and reach the budgie cage. Budgies should not be allowed to fly or play in the vicinity of other pets to avoid accidental injury.
Budgies are small and relatively docile pets. They can be trained using food rewards and consistent attention to establish trust. Like most pet birds, budgies defend themselves by biting at perceived threats. The budgie bite is little more than a painful annoyance. They are most likely to bite people who approach too closely, but generally cause limited injury.
Some budgies can imitate repeated words, phrases, or chattering sounds, and all budgies will chirp and whistle. Male budgies are more likely to mimic words and phrases.
Adult supervision is advisable around children. Most families will find that budgies are a pleasant addition to their home.
An ideal enclosure for an individual budgie is 18x18x18 inches. When housing two budgies together, the enclosure should measure 30x18x18 inches. For more than two budgies, the enclosure should measure 32x18x20 inches. The bars should be spaced ½-inch apart or smaller.
The bottom of the cage should be lined with paper for daily cleaning, and droppings should be monitored for signs of illness. Several different types of bedding can be used that are inexpensive and easily accessible including:
Plain paper packaging
Brown paper bags
Avoid using glossy printed ads as the ink may be toxic if ingested. The use of pelleted paper or crushed corn cob bedding should also be avoided. These products will hold moisture that may promote fungal growth in warm environments. They will also hide signs of illness that would otherwise be observed when the droppings have an increased moisture content. Since the cage will appear to be cleaner than it really is, pet parents may delay replacing the bedding or neglect receiving appropriate veterinary care.
Feeding dishes may include:
- Plastic trough with hanging hooks
- Stainless-steel bowl with a clamp attachment to hang from the cage
- Ceramic crock style that sits on the cage floor
Care must be taken to wash and dry these dishes daily. Dry food, fresh food, and water should be offered in separate dishes. The water dishes should be large enough to allow the budgie to bathe. If more than one budgie is kept in the habitat, each budgie should have their own feeding station to discourage competition over food. Any worn or damaged dishes should be replaced with new ones to prevent injury.
Perches should be offered in an assortment of sizes, heights, textures, and materials (i.e., rope). This will ensure that the budgie can exercise their feet, which may help prevent sores. Perches should be a minimum of 4 inches long and 3/8 inch in diameter. Wider perches will limit proper gripping, which can lead to falls and other serious injuries. To prevent bird droppings from soiling their water or food bowls, avoid placing perches directly above the bowls. Be sure to replace any worn or damaged perches for safety reasons.
A variety of toys should be offered to provide entertainment, exercise, and enrichment. This will help prevent boredom and may avoid unwanted behaviors such as feather picking. Toys can be made from soft wood, paper, cardboard, or hard plastic without small pieces that can be removed and swallowed. Toys should be rotated weekly and replaced monthly to prevent boredom. To avoid stress from sudden changes, only add one new toy at a time. It is also important to replace toys when worn or damaged. Recommended toys for budgies include:
To supplement UV exposure when natural sunlight is limited, a full-spectrum UV light designed for birds should be used 10-12 hours per day.
Food and Water
A high-quality pelleted diet offers balanced nutrition and should make up 60-70% of a budgie’s diet. Recommended pelleted feed includes:
Budgies should have constant access to fresh, clean water that is changed daily. Filtered tap water or bottled spring water is preferred.
Treats, vegetables, and fruits should represent about 30-40% of your budgie’s diet in total, with no more than 10% of the diet given as treats. Treats include fortified seed and millet sprays. Fruits may include berries, melons, and papaya, while budgies like vegetables such as broccoli, sweet potatoes, pea pods, and bell peppers.
Mineral blocks or cuttle bones should be provided as a source of calcium and trace minerals, which are necessary for strong and healthy bones, beaks, nails, and feathers. Grit (a granular, dense, insoluble mineral material) is not required for digestion of seeds since budgies remove seed hulls before ingesting them.
Foods to Avoid
Budgies should not be offered:
Fruit pits and seeds should be removed before feeding to budgies
Foods that are high in salt, fat, and sugar
Sugar-free food and candy (may contain xylitol)
Garlic and onion seasonings and ingredients—non-stick cookware should not be used around birds since an odorless, colorless toxic gas is emitted when these products are heated
Daily Care for Budgies
Offer budgies one day’s portion of new food every day, discarding any leftovers. Fresh produce may be offered but should be discarded within 2-4 hours to prevent spoilage. Treats may be offered daily or as a reward for desired behavior when training, but should only represent 10% of your budgie’s diet.
Budgies may enjoy an occasional bath by dipping in a bowl of water. For those that do not bathe on their own, a mist water bottle sprayer can be used gently to bathe them a few times each week. Healthy budgies should not need their beak trimmed as daily use will maintain them. Routine nail trimming allows for more comfortable handling and prevents snagging on fabrics. Routine wing trimming is encouraged to prevent escape and injury when flying. Wing trimming will need to be repeated every few months as their flight feathers are replaced.
Allowing unrestricted room for flapping their wings is an ideal exercise for budgies. This may occur with supervised time out of the cage or in an enclosed flight cage or aviary. Toys that encourage climbing, foraging, and safe chewing behavior should also be provided. An hour of supervised time outside of the cage daily helps provide enrichment and social interaction.
Daily spot cleaning should be performed to remove soilage and discarded food. Food and water bowls should be washed daily. The materials lining the cage should be changed weekly for a solo budgie or more frequently for multiple budgies. A 3% bleach solution or a pet-safe non-aerosolized habitat cleaner should be used according to manufacturer’s recommendations. All surfaces should be completely rinsed and dried before the enclosure is reassembled.
Toys for Budgies
Budgies should have an assortment of toys for enrichment, entertainment, and exercise. These can be made from either firm plastic, wood, metal, fabric, or paper such as cardboard. Options include:
A bird-safe mirror
Rotating the toys weekly and replacing them monthly will help prevent boredom. Homemade toys and cages should not be used since common building supplies may be toxic to birds when ingested.
Veterinary Care for Budgies
An annual physical examination by a board-certified avian or exotic animal practitioner is recommended. During the exam, the veterinarian may perform a fecal test to look for intestinal parasites and bacteria. Due to the small patient size, annual blood testing is not routinely done.
Signs of a Healthy Budgie
Signs of a healthy budgie include:
Ideal body condition
Smooth, brightly colored feathers
Eyes are clear and bright
Do not have any nasal discharge or discoloration above the nares
Skin is smooth and does not have any cracked, swollen, or thickened areas
Vent does not have any sticky material or discoloration
Do not have any swellings visible under their feathers
Droppings are formed, green-brown color with a small amount of white and minimal wetness
When to Call a Veterinarian
Symptoms of illness may include:
Watery, loose, or discolored droppings
Fecal material sticking to the feathers around the vent
Discolored feathers over the nares
Open mouth breathing
Overgrown beak or nails
Changes to the skin of the feet, legs, and face
Swellings on the body
Broken, missing, or bleeding feathers
Growths on the skin
Lack of balance
Common Illnesses in Budgies
Low vitamin A (pressure sores on feet, overgrown beak, fragile feathers)
Scaly leg and face mites
Do you have to cover a budgie at night?
Covering a budgie’s cage at night is not a necessity but may help to prevent night frights, establish a sleeping schedule, and encourage feelings of safety and security in the dark. Some budgies prefer partial cage covering at night.
How many hours can I leave my budgie alone?
A budgie should not be left alone for more than 6-8 hours. They are social animals and seek companionship with other birds or people. Be sure to play recorded sounds from a television or sound machine when leaving or housing your budgie alone. Providing an assortment of toys and plenty of food and water is essential.
Can I keep a single budgie?
Budgies can be kept in a flock, as a pair, or as an individual. Since they crave companionship, a solo bird will need to have dedicated one-on-one attention from their caregiver. Enriching their cage with toys is important to prevent boredom when left alone. Leaving a radio or television on to play recorded voices will also help in the absence of a companion.
Can I have a budgie if I already have another pet (cat, dog, rabbit, etc.)?
Budgies may be kept along with other pets in the home. Other small birds are compatible and may be housed with budgies. Larger birds may be kept in a separate nearby cage. Other birds should not be allowed to perch close to or on top of the budgie’s cage to prevent an injury. Other non-carnivore pets such as rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, and chickens do not pose a threat but should be supervised when roaming free in the same room as a budgie. Dogs should also be supervised when around birds. They may learn to ignore a caged budgie as they become accustomed to their presence. Out of the cage, budgies should be carefully supervised because many dogs will instinctively chase and bite a flighted bird. Cats should always be separated from birds since they are natural predators. Even a docile house cat has the instinct to play with birds. Their access should always be limited for the safety of the budgie.
Featured Image: iStock.com/Khmel
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