The budgerigar, the proper name for the popular parakeet (also known as "budgies") originated in Australia. Millions of human households are graced by this little bird, as they are sociable, bright, and easily maintained animal companions. They can learn to talk, whistle, and do simple tricks. Also, if raised well, parakeets can grow to be very affectionate to their human companions. For people that can only have caged pets in their homes, parakeets offer worthwhile companionship.
Prospective parakeet parents should seek one that is about six weeks old. To determine the age of the budgie, find one whose head and brow are striped, whose eyes are solid black, and whose cere (the area surrounding the nostrils) is a tannish pink. Age is important because the ideal training and bonding time is when parakeets are less than a few months old.
Seeking out a healthy bird is time well spent. Learn to recognize what healthy, young parakeets look like. They should be able to walk quickly and fly smoothly. The eyes should be clear and wide open. The parakeet should rest on straight legs with its body at an angle. Stained feathers around the bird's anus suggests diarrhea, and it's best to avoid birds with this affliction, which may suggest serious illness. Spending a bit of time in finding a healthy bird will help avoid early illness or even death.
Besides age and health, the other considerations in selecting a parakeet are color and sex. The wild budgerigar is typically green, but selective breeding has created a variety of colors. Neither color nor sex are significantly correlated with intelligence or trainability.
With the bird picked out, the new guardian must purchase a cage. Avoid cages that are painted, for the parakeet will be nibbling on the bars and chipping the paint, possibly ingesting it. Likewise, wooden cages will be subject to a barrage of gnawing attacks. There should be several perches in the cage, along with secure water and seed dishes. The most convenient cage has a removable bottom tray for easy cleaning, which can also be lined with paper. At home, the cage should be placed in a relatively quiet location away from direct sunlight and drafts.
In furnishing the cage, people debate over providing a mirror for the parakeet. Most parakeets enjoy looking in the mirror and seemingly become good friends with their image. However, some people contend that this distracts from the bond the bird develops with its human companion. Another possible addition to the cage is a plastic parakeet, which again allows the bird to find companionship.
Once the parakeet is settled into its new home and is becoming acquainted with its new human, it may be ready to explore outside the cage. All windows, doors, and cabinets should be shut. Window blinds or shades should be drawn to avoid dangerous collisions between bird and window. Unless you know that your plants are not poisonous for parakeets, they must be covered. Fans should be either turned off or shielded. Dogs and cats should be closed out of the room. After all precautions are taken, feel free to let the bird flit about the room.
As with any pet, having a parakeet as a companion requires time and money, but for those people who are interested in adding some unique companionship to their home, the expense may be worth it.
Please locate a responsible parakeet rescue or welfare organization from which you can adopt the bird, or else research the care with which birds are raised for individual pet stores. Many parakeets die in the pet store
industry due to mishandling.
AnimalNews suggests that any pet stores contributing to this mishandling should not be supported until they pledge and demonstrate greater concern for animal welfare.