Parakeets make great pets. They're intelligent, loving, can out-talk any parrot, and don't take up much space in your home. These birds are small in size, only about 7-inches from head to tail, but they're big on personality. You can find parakeets, also known as budgies, in various beautiful colors, including blue, yellow, green, and white. Choosing a parakeet, setting up their home, training, and taking care of them is a rewarding experience for people of all ages.
Look for a parakeet that's always on the move — chattering with other birds, eating, and grooming. A bird that's resting on the bottom of the cage with its feathers fluffed while the other birds are active could be dealing with a health problem. If the other birds appear to be bullying one bird, it could be that they recognize signs of illness in that bird.
A healthy parakeet has clear, round eyes without any discharge. The nostrils and the fleshy area around them, above the beak, should be smooth, without any crustiness or peeling. Look for shiny, downy feathers that lie flat; they shouldn't be ruffled or missing in patches. However, some healthy birds might have missing feathers if their cage is too small or if other birds are picking on it. The bird's vent, aka its butt, should be clean.
When selecting an enclosure for the parakeet, get the biggest cage you can afford to fit in your space. Budgie experts recommend that a cage for one parakeet should be no smaller than about 24 inches long, 18 inches wide, and 20 inches tall. Bigger is better, but make sure your cage has bars spaced close enough that a parakeet can't poke its head through.
Parakeets forage for seeds on the ground in the wild, but they also eat berries, other fruit, and flower buds. Pet parakeets love seeds but need more than that for a balanced, nutritious diet. Parakeet pellet-style food is available in pet stores, but, like seeds, your bird should be supplemented with fresh fruit and veggies. Some foods to offer to your budgie are:
Parakeets do a great job of grooming and preening themselves. Budgie owners don't need to do much to help out besides providing a bird bath as an occasional treat. Most parakeets will happily splash and play in a shallow dish of tepid water or under a gently flowing tap. Let your birdie enjoy a bath early in the day, so they're dry before bedtime.
It takes a little time for a parakeet to build trust with a new person. When you first bring your bird home, place your hand in its cage and rest it there for a few minutes to get them used to your hand. When your birdie seems comfortable, you can stroke them with your finger on its belly. If you press gently on their lower belly while petting it, they'll lift a foot and place it on your finger to maintain balance. Eventually, your bird will learn to hop onto your finger as if it's a perch when you place your finger in front of it.
Teaching a parakeet to talk is one of the most rewarding things a budgie owner can do. Parakeets are known to speak 600 to 800 words, way more than their larger counterparts, parrots. Both males and females can learn to talk and whistle. Repetition is key. Simply repeat the word or phrase you want your budgie to learn. Some people leave recordings for their parakeet to listen to when they're not home. One clever idea is to teach your bird to recite your name and phone number. If they ever get lost, there's a good chance they could come back home.
In the wild, parakeets fly around all day in the quest for food and water. Flying is great exercise for a parakeet but should only be allowed in a parakeet-proofed home. Give your bird toys that it can chew on and destroy to burn off some energy. You can find play gyms for birds that have ladders and other structures they can play on.
Along with providing fresh food and water each day, you should change out the bottom of the bird's cage every other day, at the least. Wash the bottom grate of the cage once a week and soak it in a solution of water with 10% bleach. Scrub perches with a paste of baking soda and water. It's non-toxic but abrasive enough to remove the dried-on poop.
Parakeets can live eight years or more with good care. Meeting your feathered friends' needs for cleanliness and good nutrition should prevent most illnesses. However, if your bird is acting strange, such as sleeping a lot, eating less, losing weight, or fluffing up its feathers, take them to an avian veterinarian for an exam. Other things to look out for are changes in the appearance of their beak or a different consistency or color in their droppings.
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