Two Budgerigars: Living With Woody, Sparky and Ozzie's Ghost!
Buy the largest cage you can afford and have space for
Would I do it all again? read on.
The first article I wrote for Hubpages was about my two budgerigars which I had just acquired. The main thrust of my hub was less to do with keeping cage birds - of which I had no experience - but about getting a pet, or pets, such as these for company.
Now, more than two years on, I feel qualified to add some information and make a few comments about keeping budgies: the good and the bad.
First of all, unless you are a fancier, and/or someone not stressed easily, you may choose birds that make less noise! I have found that budgies, apart from a break every so often to take a nap, eat or groom themselves, keep up a continual cacophony of sounds, ranging from a pleasing "song," a long conversation with their mate, life, their inner thoughts, etc., which can indeed rival a nightingale. So beautifully can my new little male budgie sing when the mood takes him, that he has in me in tears sometimes as his music touches primitive longings of my own.
Unfortunately, the other side of the vocal coin is loud irritating chirping or screeching which goes right through your head. No amount of shouting at them will stop this. Yes, you can of course silence them and scare them half to death by throwing a shoe, etc., at the cage, but they are so pitiful for hours afterwards, you only do this once.
So my first piece of advice if you like is: budgies should have their own space like a garden aviary with winter protection, or a large cage like mine, but a place in a room where you don't spend a lot of time. Not cut off, they need to see and hear you, but somewhere where the screeching is filtered to a tolerable level. In my small flat, they have a place by the living room window and can actually drown out the sound from the TV when in good screech!
It is a truism that no cage is large enough. Even the largest and most elaborate cage is, after all, a prison cell. I wonder sadly if they feel frustrated and enraged when they see all the wild birds flying past the window. I let them out (only "Sparky," the young male comes out and then reluctantly).
This brings my next piece of advice. Don't confine any animal or bird alone without contact to one of its own species at least. I know from my own time in a prison cell that company makes the experience bearable, solitary confinement can drive any species crazy.
My budgies, "Woody" and "Sparky" are a mating pair and happy to that extent, although I haven't let them breed yet.
My next suggestion is you think long and hard before breeding your budgies unless they are in an aviary. (they will mate, but she will not lay unless you put a nest box in the cage).
Budgerigars are not popular at present, people think they take too much care and prefer a fish tank these days. (They may be making a small comeback). They are messy and you will need to clean a pair or more out at least once a week; twice is better. This means changing the cage floor paper, loaded with poo, seed husks and other detritus, sweeping the floor under the trays and the bars and disinfecting with a pet-safe disinfectant. Johnson's "Clean and Safe" is fine. Then get the vacuum out and do your carpet! Budgies moult more or less continuously; mine have shed a pillow-full over two years. The down will float all over the flat.
(Sorry, one of the birds in the original story "Ozzie" died. I had bought her thinking she was a male, but they were two girls...she had a succession of strokes before the grand mal that killed her).
Do be sure what sex your birds are. I originally relied on the advice of the pet shop cynic who erroneously sold me two females instead of a pair. The mature males have a blue, smooth “cere” at the base of the beak, female, rougher and brown, but these are often not pronounced when the birds are under one year, so get a guarantee from Mr. Pet Shop, who will then assure himself what sex they are.
My cage has about 12 toys in it! They get bored and will play with their toys as the fancy takes them. I also have cuttle-fish bones, mineral blocks, a variety of natural perches and a small fruit tree branch where they spend most of their time. Note: Fruit Tree! Other trees can be poisonous to them. Some toys have small mirrors, but they also like a large mirror placed close to one side of the cage on a wall and will sing together to their reflections. This may be because they are flocking birds in nature and do well in a large aviary with others of their own (or other) kind.
It is advised to cover the birds at night at a regular time and uncover them at the same time each morning.
Careful! Birds are very susceptible to being made ill and even dying from gasses from household cleaners, such as bleach and even the gasses given off by an overheated Teflon frying pan. Oven cleaner is especially dangerous. Please don't keep them in your kitchen unless it is very large and you are super careful. They are fragile and vulnerable and can even have a heart attack if they get over stressed.
My own experience is they love sunshine and warmth as long as shade is available - they are originally Australian natives after all.
Please keep them out of draughts in chilly UK and the North of the US.
Budgies should be fed as much special budgerigar seed as they need. I change mine weekly and put the residue out for the wild birds. You can carefully blow the husks off and top-up, but that means you gradually accumulate old seed in the pot. I hang a spray of millet - which they love - every couple of days. They also have treats hanging (change regularly) of fruit and seed. My two rarely eat fruit, although I have tried apple, banana etc. They do like fresh green stuff two or three times a week, hung from the top of the cage: dandelion is good, so is mixed salad greens I use the “demand/supply” water containers which hang outside the cage. If you put water inside their house, it gets poo in it. They do like a bath, but I have found the best way is a spray bottle and give them a good soaking a couple of times a month, when it’s warm (NO draughts!)
Budgies will not “speak” if kept in pairs. They say you can teach a single bird to say a few words, such as “Get me a mate, I want some action!” But they do like you to talk to them. I have a rather deep voice, so I have to summon a sort of baby chatter to them. Guys, the sweet talk you use for reluctant virgins will suffice! Sometimes they chirp back and they like your company, even if they can’t tell you.
I keep this pair in a large, “Monterrey” cage by San Diego Products. You can find them online. I find it satisfactory, except I never use the huge feeding bowls they supply in the access ports. I find smaller pots hung on the bars inside by a long, thick perch to be better. Try to locate feeding bowls where there are no perches above them to minimise the poo in food, etc.
That’s about it for the life of Woody and Sparky. Sparky is the traditional green color (all budgies are this color in the wild). Woody is white. You can get exquisite colors these days; they really are the most lovely of little creatures...if only they wouldn’t bloody squawk!
You can easily handle your birds and they rarely bite, but they don’t like it much any more than you would a 200-foot giant wrapping a two-ton hand around you.
I have purposely made this just general info about two years of budgie keeping and what I have learned. You can get breeding, veterinary and specialist information online from several sources.
If I knew two years ago what I know now would I have got them?
On balance, probably not, they are messy, noisy, need constant attention of one sort and another and they tie you down more than a dog or cat (and certainly a fish tank). But if I had a larger place and a garden I would be happy to have these bright, inquisitive and merry little chaps near at hand...now where’s that lottery ticket!?