Parakeets, or Budgies, are social, friendly, and enjoyable to watch.
I love birds, especially the smaller hookbills like cockatiels and love birds. Sometimes, however, the simple little parakeet gets overlooked for its potential as a companion bird. They are simply happy little birds with some interesting social skills and normal wild bird urges.
My birds are mostly American budgies, the sleeker, smaller bird of the two types. They love to chatter, love to play with sticks and on ladders, and will come to see what you have when you put food dishes into their cage or aviary. The birds I have are a grayish-blue, from a solid white hen and a bright blue male. They get along fairly well, as long as Papa bird is given first place at the food, water, and toys.
In fact, Papa is an English budgie, with a large, round forehead, and of a greater size than the Americans. His offspring do not inherit his puffy head or full size, but they are somewhat larger than their Mama bird.
Budgies are hearty birds, surviving in the desert-edges in Australia. They live in flocks, and quarrel over mates and nest space. Unlike other birds that require nesting materials, a budgie hen wants only a bare wooden box in which to lay her eggs. Wood chips and other debris will be systematically removed, as in the wild these could harbor disease or pests that would be fatal to the chicks when hatched. The problem is, without a cushion of some sort, the babies’ legs might not develop straight, leading to a condition called splayed legs. This condition prevents the birds, as they mature, from standing up properly on the perch. It’s only an aesthetic as far as the bird is concerned, as it won’t prevent the budgie from going about a happy life. But it can be prevented.
A very wise breeder of parakeets and other small hookbills told me this secret. Before allowing the hen in to the nest box, sprinkle a little insecticide like Sevin Powder, which won’t hurt the chicks at all, and then put in about an inch of soft, dry playground sand, available at any home improvement store. The hen won’t be able to get all of this out of the next box, and the chicks will have support while their legs grow strong.
Most people aren’t interested in breeding parakeets, for many reasons. But I love the interaction between the mating pair, as they tap their beaks together rapidly, waggle tails, and feed each other. I get so excited when the chicks hatch, and when they are ready to fledge and leave the nest box. Then I have to make up my mind, do I keep the youngsters, for further breeding, or do I find good homes for them? It’s never an easy decision.
As pets, budgies are wonderful. They chatter, might screech a little, but will so love to have their people around them. People take the place of their flock, and so you must be prepared to give even this tiny bird a good share of your attention if you don’t want him or her to become a screamer.
Parakeets live an average of 12 years, which can be heart-breaking. It doesn’t take half that long to become attached to them. They also have a tendency to develop tumors, which can cause all sorts of nerve problems and blindness. Be sure to buy your bird from an established breeder who can tell you the health history of your parakeet’s family. I purchased a beautiful white parakeet from a local bird store of good reputation. However, there was no history to accompany the bird. I named her Sen after a character in the animated movie Spirited Away. Over the years, Sen gave me many beautiful chicks of sweet temperament.
One day, Mike noticed that Sen was at the bottom of the aviary, and not flying away when he reached in to check her out. She had gone blind. We set her up inside in a small cage with a low perch, water and food where she could easily find it, and hoped for the best.
Sen was okay for a couple months, then she had a seizure. As I watched, she had a series of them, causing her to go rigid, then to shake as it passed. I took her out of the cage and held her, and the warmth of contact seemed to stop the seizures for a while. But Mike and I knew it was time to take her to the veterinarian.
Like all good vets, the doctor checked Sen out to insure we weren’t just disposing of a pet we no longer wanted. The diagnosis was that a tumor had first damaged her optic nerve, and had continued to grow. We had made the right choice in taking her in.
Even knowing we did the right thing, I cried as I said goodbye to my sweet girl. In her last hours, she came to like being held and comforted. But it was time to let her go so she would not suffer. We asked for her body, and took her home. When we lose birds, as everyone does, we put them in our freezer. Every solstice and equinox, we have a funeral pyre and send them on their last flight.
Overall, in a small house or apartment, or even outside in an aviary, budgies provide charm, entertainment, and affection for their owner or cage mates without a lot of fuss or noise. If you are thinking of getting a parrot but have little experience, starting with a parakeet could be just the answer. Enjoy looking for the right bird for you, and many happy years ahead with your new pet.