Parakeet Care Sheet

Maria Zayas, DVM
By Maria Zayas, DVM. Reviewed by Maria Zayas, DVM on Dec. 28, 2023

In This Article

Species Overview

Parakeet Overview

The common parakeet, also known as the budgerigar or budgie, is native to Australia, where they live in large flocks. The parakeet’s Latin name, Melopsittacus undulatus, means “songbird with wavy lines,” which refers to the pattern of black wavy lines that cover their bodies and faces. 

Parakeets are friendly, intelligent birds that can be hand-tamed easily. When properly socialized, they can enjoy daily handling and learn basic commands. 

Although parakeets are social animals, pet parents need to take precautions before deciding to house more than one parakeet together. Multiple parakeets should never be placed in the same habitat before they’ve been properly introduced. Introductions should be done slowly, held in neutral territory, and closely supervised. 

Parakeets make a variety of sounds and can even “talk” by mimicking humans’ words and sounds! Pet parents can encourage parakeets to talk by repeating simple words in the same tone every day. 

When parakeets reach about 10 months of age, their gender may be determined by looking at the skin around the bird’s nostrils, known as the cere. Male birds usually have a blue cere, while female birds have a brownish-pink cere. The female’s cere may turn brown as they age, from the effects of reproductive hormones. 

Parakeet Characteristics

Difficulty of Care 


Average Lifespan 

10–12 years with proper care 

Average Adult Size 

7” long, from head to end of tail 


Grainivorous (grain-eaters) 

Minimum Habitat Size 

18” W x 18” D x 18” H 


Parakeet Supply Checklist

To keep a parakeet happy and healthy, pet parents should have these basic supplies on hand: 

  • Appropriately sized habitat (at least 18” W x 18” D x 18” H) 

  • High-quality pelleted parakeet food 

  • Millet spray (as a treat)  

  • Cuttlebone  

  • Cuttlebone/millet holder  

  • Treats  

  • Habitat paper or litter  

  • Food and water dishes  

  • Perches  

  • Toys  

  • Bird bath  

  • Grooming supplies  

  • Play gym 

  • UV light 

Parakeet Habitat

Choosing the Right Enclosure 

The ideal parakeet habitat should be at least 18” W x 18” D x 18” H for a single bird. The space between the cage’s bars should be a half-inch apart or smaller to prevent birds from escaping or getting their head or legs stuck. The habitat should be large enough for the parakeet to stretch and flap its wings comfortably. Always provide the largest habitat possible. 

Homemade habitats or any habitat made with wood or galvanized wire are not recommended. These materials can expose birds to potentially toxic chemicals that can cause serious medical problems if ingested. 

Setting Up Your Habitat 

Parakeets are comfortable in average household temperatures from 65 to 80 F. Pet parents should be cautious of extreme temperature changes. 

Keep habitats in a draft-free, well-lit area that is not accessible to other pets, including cats and dogs. Pet parents should make sure that no habitat parts or toys are made with lead, zinc, lead-based paints, galvanized metal, or other potentially toxic materials. All these materials can cause serious medical issues if ingested. 

Parakeets can be raised alone or alongside other parakeets as a pair or in a larger group. Different species of animals should never be kept in the same habitat. If deciding to keep more than one parakeet in the same habitat, pet parents must first introduce the birds to each other—slowly and under close supervision—to ensure that they are compatible.  

Bedding and Lighting 

The bottom of a parakeet's habitat should have a removable metal grate so droppings can fall below the bird’s feet. Pet parents should line the tray at the base of the habitat with habitat paper or other paper-based bedding. This will help keep the environment clean and minimize dust. 

Birds need exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light to produce vitamin D in their skin so they can absorb dietary calcium. Glass windows filter out UV light, so placing a parakeet’s habitat next to an indoor window is not enough. Instead, birds can get natural UV exposure by spending time outside in an escape-proof outdoor cage when weather permits. Birds should never be left unattended while outside and should not be placed in direct sunlight. 

To supplement UV exposure, pet parents can shine a full-spectrum UV light designed for birds on their parakeet's habitat for 10-12 hours each day. 

Decor & Accessories 

Perches: Parakeets should have access to perches of assorted sizes, heights, textures, and materials so that the bird can exercise their feet and prevent pressure sores from developing. Perches should be at least 4 inches long and 3/8-inch in diameter. 

If a perch’s diameter is too wide, the bird will not be able to grip it properly. This can lead to falls and other serious injuries. 

Sandpaper perches and sanded perch covers are not recommended because they can be abrasive to birds’ feet. 

Do not place perches above the bird’s water or food bowl— waste droppings will land there. 

Toys: Parakeets should have access to a variety of enrichment toys that provide exercise and entertainment. Without mental and physical stimulation, birds can grow bored and develop harmful habits, like feather-plucking.  

Toys may be made from cardboard, paper, soft wood, or plastic too hard for parakeets to chew off and ingest. Rotate toys regularly to prevent boredom. Toys should not have small parts that can be removed and swallowed. 

Water and food dishes: Dry food, fresh food, and water should all be offered in separate dishes. If more than one parakeet is kept in the same habitat, each bird should have its own feeding station to discourage competition. 

Water dishes should be large enough for the parakeet to bathe in. Dishes should be washed and rinsed thoroughly each day to prevent bacterial growth.  

Cuttlebones: Cuttlebones are an excellent way to supplement calcium and other trace minerals in a bird’s diet. Calcium is a vital nutrient that helps keep birds’ bones, beaks, nails, and feathers strong and healthy. 

A cuttlebone holder, like the JW Pet® InSight Cuttlebone Holder Bird Toy, can help keep a  cuttlebone in place and prevent its debris from falling outside the cage. 

Parakeet Cleaning and Maintenance

Pet parents should spot-clean their parakeet's habitat daily, removing any soiled material and discarded food. Water and food bowls must be washed daily. Substrate, bedding, and habitat liners should be replaced at least once a week, more often if two or more parakeets live in the same habitat). 

Pet parents should use only cleaning agents formulated for pets when cleaning their parakeet’s cage, as birds’ respiratory systems are sensitive to aerosolized fumes. 

To clean a parakeet's habitat:

  1. Move the parakeet to a secure environment (such as another habitat or travel cage) in a separate air space. Remove any old substrate, bedding, and accessories from the habitat. 

  1. Use a bird habitat cleaner or 3% bleach solution to wash the habitat and any accessories.  

  1. Rinse the habitat and accessories thoroughly with water, making sure to remove any trace amounts or residual smells left by the cleaning agent or bleach solution.  

  1. Allow the habitat and its contents to dry completely before placing new substrate, bedding, and clean accessories back into the habitat. 

  1. Return the bird to the clean habitat. 

Perches, dishes, and toys should be replaced when worn or damaged. Pet parents should swap old toys with new ones regularly to prevent boredom. As birds are creatures of habit and are sometimes stressed by change, toys should be introduced one at a time. 

Parakeet Diet and Nutrition

Parakeets enjoy a range of foods, including pelleted food, seed, vegetables, fruits, and the occasional treat. Parakeets should always have access to fresh, clean water. 

Pet parents should never share food from their mouths or plates with their parakeet. Human mouths have microorganisms that can cause illness in birds. 

A nutritious and well-balanced parakeet diet includes a high-quality pelleted food formulated for parakeets. A nutritionally complete and balanced pelleted food should make up at least 60–70% of a parakeet’s diet. 

Use the manufacturer's instructions to determine how much food should be given daily. Uneaten food should be discarded and replaced before each feeding. 

Treats, vegetables, and fruits may be fed in limited quantities. Treats should not make up more than 10% of a parakeet's diet.

Parakeets enjoy and can safely eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, including:

  • Berries

  • Melons

  • Papaya

  • Sweet potatoes

  • Bell peppers

  • Broccoli

  • Pea pods

Uneaten fruits and vegetables should be discarded after a few hours. 

Fortified seeds and millet can be fed as a treat. Like other parrots, parakeets remove the hulls of seeds before eating them, so pet parents do not need to give them a grit supplement to help them grind down whole seeds. 

Fresh, clean water should be changed daily. 

Do not allow parakeets to ingest avocados, fruit seeds, chocolate, caffeine, or alcohol, as they are all toxic and can cause death or serious illness. Pet parents should also avoid treats high in salt or fat. 

Parakeet Grooming and Care

Pet parents with birds should avoid nonstick cookware and other appliances with a nonstick coating (such as Teflon™). Nonstick coatings have a polymer called polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). When heated, PTFE releases colorless, odorless fumes than can kill pet birds if inhaled.  

For pet parents interested in wing clipping:  

  • Wing clipping temporarily prevents a bird from gaining lift and flying away.  

  • A properly performed wing trim allows a bird to sail safely to the ground without lift.  

  • Only a trained professional or someone who has been taught how to trim feathers should clip a parakeet's wing feathers. Improper trimming can cause severe injury.  

  • When done correctly, clipping the outermost “flight feathers” can help keep birds from flying away and becoming injured.  

  • Before trying to trim a bird’s feathers, pet parents should consult an avian veterinarian for help.  

  • Wing clipping must be repeated every few months, as feathers grow back in.  

Bathing: Water dishes should be large enough for the parakeet to bathe in. Pet parents can groom birds that do not regularly bathe themselves by gently misting them with warm water from a clean spray bottle a few times a week. 

Nail Care: Nails must be trimmed on an as-needed basis, which can range from every few weeks to months. Nails should be trimmed by a trained professional, avian veterinarian, or someone otherwise trained to trim birds’ nails to prevent injury. 

If bleeding occurs, a styptic powder can be used to stop the bleeding quickly. 

Most birds will not need to have their beaks trimmed; they should stay in good condition with daily use. 

Underlying conditions, such as liver disease or deformity from trauma, can cause abnormal beak growth and must be addressed by an avian veterinarian. 

Parakeet Veterinary Care

Annual Care

Every year, parakeets should see a veterinarian with experience working with birds for a physical exam. Annual diagnostic tests are not common for parakeets, although various samples may be collected if needed, just like a dog or cat. During an exam, it’s always best to bring along a fecal sample from their enclosure in case your veterinarian would like to inspect or test it.

Signs of a Healthy Parakeet

  • Ideal body condition

  • Smooth, brightly colored feathers

  • Clear and bright eyes

  • Nares (nostrils) with no discharge or discoloration

  • Smooth healthy skin

  • Clean vent

  • Formed droppings that are a green-brown color with a small amount of white

When to Call a Vet

If the behavior or appearance of your parakeet seems abnormal, it is always a good idea to seek medical care.

Symptoms of illness to watch for include:

  • Watery, loose, or discolored droppings

  • Vents that are moist or have fecal matter sticking to the feathers

  • Sneezing

  • Nasal discharge or discolored feathers over the nares

  • Tail bobbing

  • Open mouth breathing

  • Overgrown beak or nails

  • Growths, swellings, or discoloration throughout the body, such as the skin, legs, feet, wings, and/or face

  • Broken, missing, or bleeding feathers

  • Seizures

  • Weakness

  • Lack of balance

  • Lack of appetite

Common Illnesses in Parakeets

  • Tumors

  • Goiters

  • Hypovitaminosis A (low levels of vitamin A)

  • Parasites (especially mites)

  • Obesity

  • Liver disease

  • Bumblefoot or other foot disorders

  • Psittacosis

  • Osteoarthritis

Parakeet FAQs

Is a parakeet easy to take care of?

Yes! Parakeets are engaging, easy-to-care-for animals and aren’t too expensive to keep.

What shouldn’t I do with my parakeet?

  • Do not feed unsafe foods or provide unsafe materials in a parakeet’s enclosure

  • Do not leave them unsupervised with unsafe animals

  • Do not skip their annual exams

  • Do not overfeed treats

  • Do not leave unsupervised with young children

  • Do not leave them alone for more than 12 hours

  • Do not place the enclosure in direct sunlight, in front of doors or open windows, or in front of air conditioning or heating vents

  • Do not cook with non-stick cookware

Do parakeets need to be covered at night?

Parakeets do not have to be covered at night, but some parakeets might prefer it. It can help be a clear indication of bedtime or allow them to feel safer.

How do I keep my parakeet happy?

  • Provide regular, consistent interactions with them every day

  • Provide adequate enrichment

  • Feed a balanced diet

  • Keep them in pairs or provide adequate attention if keeping a single parakeet

  • Maintain annual wellness exams with your veterinarian

  • Provide a minimum of an hour of time outside their enclosure daily

  • Keep them in an active area of the house

Featured Image:

Maria Zayas, DVM


Maria Zayas, DVM


Dr. Zayas has practiced small animal and exotic medicine all over the United States and currently lives in Colorado with her 3 dogs, 1 cat,...

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