Keeping Budgies: Six Years of Trial and Terror!

They brighten your life

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Budgies love Millet Seed, too much is bad for themShowing how to cut clawsBudgie loves a bath in the hot weatherThe Hagen double-high Vision CageHagen with birdsBudgies flock in the wild quite a sightIn honesty, these are not my two, but they are identical to Sky and Andy
Budgies love Millet Seed, too much is bad for them
Budgies love Millet Seed, too much is bad for them
Showing how to cut claws
Showing how to cut claws
Budgie loves a bath in the hot weather
Budgie loves a bath in the hot weather
The Hagen double-high Vision Cage
The Hagen double-high Vision Cage
Hagen with birds
Hagen with birds
Budgies flock in the wild quite a sight
Budgies flock in the wild quite a sight
In honesty, these are not my two, but they are identical to Sky and Andy
In honesty, these are not my two, but they are identical to Sky and Andy

Your love is eroded by the mess and noise

If I knew then what I know now!

Curiously, at least to me, the first article I published on HP was about my newly acquired pet budgies. Now, more than 6 years up the road of parrot prison warden, and seasoned Hubpage contributor, I feel better qualified to pontificate about the joys and woes of keeping these tiny parrots; certainly more so than 6 years ago when I think most of the information came from books and websites.

There are still two budgies twittering and squawking at me from the corner of my room. Not from the original cage and not the original birds, several times removed. Which is a good way to start I suppose. Budgies don't live a long time like the large parrots - of course, at about $50 apiece they are considerably cheaper. A large parrot in the UK costs around $1500, but they well might outlive you; they certainly would me! (6 to 10 years is an average lifespan for budgies).

Friends advised against keeping cage birds, specifically budgies. They said it was cruel, they were noisy, made a mess, moulted feathers everywhere, got saddening diseases, wanted to breed and would be unhappy. Diogenes, in all his wisdom, mulled this diatribe over and, always knowing best, went out that day and came home with two budgies, one green and one white. I put them in a tiny carry-cage; went online and ordered the largest cage I could find for $200 plus all the bells and whistles (literally... their toys!). (Those 'buds were oh so right!)

So far, I have buried three pathetic little bundles at various points in the garden over the intervening years. I couldn't bring myself to just throw them in the trash. This meant there were three sad mates left, not eating and missing the dearly departed. So off to the pet store and acquire three new toy-boys, or trophy wives! You would be surprised how budgies pine for a mate for several weeks, (about as long as I do these days!). Then the billing and cooing starts, along with the shrieking and tail-feather pulling as domestic harmony and its counterpoint with the new arrival becomes the norm.

Budgies ain't too smart, if I am qualified to judge. It would appear the size of the brain of parrots definitely depends on the size of the bird. I had a green Amazon parrot once and he was schmmmart! Learned to say "fuck off" in no time at all! (Google, I am quoting the parrot!).

Budgies do learn their names and a few words like "NO" and "Shut the Fuck UP" (I learned it from them, Google, I swear). But they only understand, don't repeat. They say if you keep one alone it will bond with you, talk a bit and so on, but I can't see keeping any creature alone except perhaps a cat and dog and even they are better off with a companion of the same species. I once had 16 cats and it was a wonderful, unforgettable experience, but another story.

I am a bit in love with the blue female budgie, Sky, I have now, but paying her too much attention has Andy, her new green toy-boy sullenly jealous. She herself was deeply in love with Sparky, who died 3 months ago; she still doesn't love Andy as she did Sparky. But she does love me after a fashion and has no fear where I am concerned and I can pick her up and tickle her all day...she reciprocates a bit, bless her, with one eye on furious Andy. He doesn't dare squawk anything; as is general in nature, the female rules the roost. One severe look from her and he beats feet, or wings as it were. And of course at about 10,000 budgie-weights, I am the fear inducing Alpha Bird. (My name to them is Daddybird incidently). "Be good, daddybird has to go shopping for seed...he won't be long! (This from a gnarly journalist once capable of stubbing out a stogie on a corpse!)

(Note: Sky was a hand-reared bird, handled from the egg, so to speak; they cost more are hard to find but like to be handled. Aviary born budgies will rarely accept handling and can bite quite hard!).

Goodness Sky can be mean to Andy! Aren't bloody females the limit? When they love you, they'll die for you, let that love end and they want you dead if possible; psychologically maimed and bankrupt at the very least! (spiders all of 'em!).

Her nastiest habit is one I only notice when a special silence steals over the cage. After a while, I notice this and see poor Andy hanging upside down over the seed container while Sky sits on or near it gazing innocently into space..."Cummon and eat, chico, I dare you!" She holds out until I approach the cage when she realizes the game is up and reluctantly makes space for poor Andy who is bigger, younger by about two years and eats more when he gets a chance. (so point here, you need two seed bowls with space between them). Of course, he wants to eat out of hers!

They drink copious amounts of water. A wrinkle here for anyone lost in the Ozzie desert where budgies come from, to find water, follow birds who will drink several times a day. So I keep two topped-up drink dispensers.

They ARE messy. They poop everywhere letting gravity do the work. So you have to be smart how you position the food, toys, other perches, cuttle fish and mineral blocks, etc., etc. Otherwise they will poo indiscrimately into and onto eveything. It so sticky and hard to remove once hardened! You will soon stop buying sandpaper, etc., to put on the bottom of the cage (cost) and resort to yesterday's newspaper, although these smart birds manage to crap underneath it! So cage cleaning is a chore and need doing AT LEAST every 5 days or so. It does do the heart good to see them in a nice, sweet smelling environment, how would you like to look down on a midden from your perch? (bed). (Always use pet-safe disinfectant, Budgies are very sensitive to all chemicals).

Budgies will let you know when they are happy or not. When contented, they chirp and talk to one another with a range of sounds you just know is language. And a displeased bird has a way of looking at you over its beak just like that high school English teacher you had! (You won't believe this, but I swear it's true, I had an English teacher with a large beak who was called Doctor Parrot). I say, "What the fuck do you want NOW" (I guess that's where they learned it, Google).

For many of the reasons found herein, budgie keeping has waned in popularity in the UK. People in a hurry spend their money on a tropical fish tank. Less work, no intimacy, gotta go, gotta earn, life's too short.

Two weeks ago, with a heavy heart, I cleaned their huge, four-foot long and 50 pound cage out for the last time. Wait! Hold the misty eyes, they ain't dead yet!

I replaced it with the latest in cage technology, a Hagen double tall budgie cage. It came in a flat pack and assembling it was not a piece of cake, I had to call a handyman in the end who charged me 5 quid MORE than the cage cost, to assemble it! These plans, must be written by the Chinese Altzheimer's Society members. In this case, I think it was Danish!

I sold the old cage on Ebay for £33...business is my forte, but buy dear and sell cheap is Robin Hood's - and my - motto!

They didn't like the high tech slammer at all! But I artfully arranged their toys with some new, and the comfort-claw green plastic perches they hated, OK, replaced with the wooden ones which they like. (Hagen, you are trying but enough with those weird green plastic perches already!) So peace reigns again in birdland and lullabyes are being composed.

You have to keep a weather eye on their feet; like Chinese mandarins, they find their claw nails growing so long they can catch on toys; their cage cover, (yes, cover them at night), or even their own eye sockets. Yes!! I have to tell you this grisly story. When I was more ignorant of their needs, Sparky caught an overgrown nail in his eye socket, no doubt while scratching his poll. He was doubled up on the cage floor, couldn't move or make a sound. I thought he was dying, so left him for half a day, hoping he would recover. I then, with a heavy heart and his anxious mate crying, reached in the cage and found the poor little thing trapped with his own talons! He was OK when freed and I now take them regularly to the vet to have their nails clipped. IMPORTANT. (you can fit sandpaper perches, etc., but it has limited results)

Female budgies will not lay eggs and breed without a nest box in the cage. And although they can and will lay eggs in a nest box without a male budgie present, they will not be fertilized, of course. So if you intend to let your budgies breed you need to add a nest box; they will soon be scratching about and adding bits and pieces preparatory to laying from about five to a dozen pale blue eggs. Congratulations Daddy or Mamabird, you will soon be a granpaw! Yes, and how you will regret it!! Don't let budgies, or any cage birds, breed if you are a complete amateur. I tried once; in the first year; in popped the female and 8 eggs was soon the result. Why are they fighting so, I pondered? It became clear, whan the other bird also popped into the nest box and SHE laid 6 more. Yes, in my ignorance, (and the pet-shop twits) I had bought 2 female budgies! They both laid unfertilized eggs and then fought and fought over the nest box until I had enough, stepped in and confiscated the lot, box and all! One died shortly and I successfully found a male. They never bonded...I think she was a lesbi-hen by then! Before you breed, take qualified advice; lots online. And note, the CERE (the fat part of the beak near the head) is blue in an adult male bird (over a year) and brown in a mature hen. Juvenile birds are hard to sex and it should be done by a professional (not my pet shop chap!).

Budgies, especially single birds, get very bored, like you would in a prison cell. So add lots of toys and snacks, as well as mineral blocks, etc. And spend time with your single budgie, male of female - not so vital if you have a pair or more. They like you talking to them and will often talk back to you, even if what they are saying is really unprintable..." let me out of here, you fat gorilla!" But, seriously, they flock in their thousands in the wild and are very sociable. Your cage birds have never known this, of course, but they are genetically, physically and mentally created to fly, chatter, breed and fight for their food and water. So we try to create the nearest things to encompass these experiences in our cages and aviaries. Yes, an aviary is the very best way to keep budgies as they can have a close-to-normal life like this. But most don't have the space, so get a big cage. A word on this. Don't get a gi-normous cage you can't move around and easily clean. I did this with a huge Monterrey 4 by 4 by 4 feet (about) and keeping the budgies became a miserable chore not the pleasure I had anticipated. The Hagen is half the size and the bottom tray (with the poo, feathers and seed husks) able to fit in my kitchen sink, making cleaning a doddle. I had to wheel the whole large cage and stand downstairs and use the communial laundry sinks which pissed off the other fossils living here. My Hagen has a nice stylish stand and fits much better in my small living room. Achieve balance for happy birds and master.

A word about the aformentioned feathers. Budgies moult (or molt) and moult and moult some more. The soft downy underfeathers like to take off on a journey around your house, at the whim of every breeze, mainly to avoid the Hoover I think (yes, get a "Pet enabled" vacuum cleaner). In a major moult, these feathers get everywhere, although the Hagen is a help as it has a high sided cage tray which traps many of the less adventurous feathers. a moult only lasts a few days; during this time, the bird may be a bit off color (about like you'd be if someone skinned you!) and it helps to add special moulting medicine to their water.

This article is developing into a book, so will close now and maybe write another piece later. Happy birding! Chirp chirp!!

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Comments 16 comments

Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 10 months ago from Rural Arizona

Bob, I think you just saved me a bunch of money and time. I had actually been considering purchasing a pair of these birds and all the accessories needed to provide them a good home.

After reading this well written hub I believe my two dogs are all I need for animal companionship. Glad to see you writing again and hope your feeling well these days.


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 10 months ago from Somewhere in the universe

I once had a cockatiel and I can say that he/she was the most interesting pet I have ever dealt with. He would fly into the shower with me for a daily bath. He loved popcorn and my dog too. He loved shiny things. But as you say, he was noisy and messy. He ran off with a cop friend because of all his shiny buttons. Then he eventually flew out the door never to be seen again. I'll always miss him. He was very sweet.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 10 months ago from UK and Mexico Author

Mike: Yes, if I had the years back, I would have spent the bucks and got a full blown parrot! Or maybe not. Birds need to fly. Even though they are born in captivity I see them watching the wild birds fly past my windows and they must have a feeling all is not right. Also, they are mucky pups. You have to be a real enthusiast to do all that is necessary with them.

Better the fish!!!

Bob.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 10 months ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hi Leila: Yes, they can also break your heart. Maybe all pets are bad news! They want to be with their own species underneath. Even my many dogs over the years never sniffed MY ass!

Good to hear from you.

Bob.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 9 months ago from Phoenix, Arizona

I've had a few through the years, but just about the time they learn to love you as much as you love them, they die unexpectedly.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 9 months ago from UK and Mexico Author

That's so true, Will, but it's not the wrench losing a dog is.

Bob

Happy Humbug and all that BS!


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 9 months ago from Phoenix, Arizona

Ah yes. Losing a beloved dog creates a void that is forever with us.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 9 months ago from UK and Mexico Author

Indeed, Will

Bob


Au fait profile image

Au fait 7 months ago from North Texas

I'm allergic to birds and can't be around them for even 5 minutes without a reaction, but the description of your personal experience along with all your great advice was delightful to read. Learned a lot about your budgies. They must be a lot of fun to have around.

I miss not being able to have a pet. For a while I was able to adopt the wild creatures that lived in my back yard, but that is no longer possible either. They thought I was a goddess of course, spoiling them with every imaginable treat daily.

My but you've been busy writing again. Will have to visit more often as I've gotten behind. Hope all is well with you Bobby. Take care . . . xxx


diogenes profile image

diogenes 7 months ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hi Misty: Not really much writing. I am tired of all the trappings of the modern world and it's over-blown technology. Nothing brings joy any more; all too complicated and geared towards getting more dollars from you.

Nevr mind, elect old Trump and we'll all go together when we go! (Diffused in an incandescent glow) was that Tom Leahrer??

Take care,,get a pet bloke! (Me??) oxox


Mickji profile image

Mickji 6 months ago from between Italy and Switzerland, travelling around the world thanks to a little special object

I read online that budgies live up to 20 years, why yours lived only 6 years?

I read it in the past but I couldn't believe it... Female budgies produces eggs like chickens? They seems to be smaller quails. This means that sooner or later we will know that we have a female budgie because it will makes eggs.... Instead lovebirds don't do that. I have a friend that have female budgie, but she never made eggs, neither alone nor with her first boyfriend who died at new years eve, apparently fireworks were too much for his young 1 years old heart....

By the way, trust me, they will not need a nest box because (at least lovebirds) they will also arrange in the food box.... waking up in the morning and finding your nice big squared food box full of eggs is not the nicest thing in the world... also because you can't take off the seeds from it for a week or more! If you touch the eggs they will leave them die ... or at least this happened to me.

Thank you for your hub, it's was really fun to read it.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 6 months ago from UK and Mexico Author

Cheers Mickji

Thanks for interesting comment

Bob


Mickji profile image

Mickji 6 months ago from between Italy and Switzerland, travelling around the world thanks to a little special object

You are welcome diogenes

I was curious, can budgies eggs be eaten like quails eggs?

Why some budgies make eggs and some don't?


diogenes profile image

diogenes 6 months ago from UK and Mexico Author

You could eat them, but you would need about a dozen for a meal! Budgies won't lay unless there is a nest box in the cage: that is my experience and that of most owners I have read about.

Quails are a much larger bird and ipso facto, so are their eggs.

Bob


Mickji profile image

Mickji 6 months ago from between Italy and Switzerland, travelling around the world thanks to a little special object

Very interesting, I thought birds were similar pretty much. Instead budgies are completely different from lovebirds for example. I thank you for your answer and your Hub!

I bought a budgie, but I hope it will be a good friend. It doesn't trust me yet and it is not interested in toys, a very weird budgie who is also scared of water...


diogenes profile image

diogenes 6 months ago from UK and Mexico Author

Good luck with your new friend, they tend to be suspicious little guys unless you get a hand-reared bird (as is my Sky) accustomed to human touch and handling from birth. Give him time...males are more reactionary than females. Is he male? The bird will be happier with a mate, especially if he was aviary kept.

Bob I am leaving until early April so won't be addressing further comments until then

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