Budgerigars are very popular pets for good reason; they have loads of playful character for their size, can be taught to talk, and they are inexpensive to buy and keep. As a member of the parrot family, budgies are very gregarious and make ideal companions, providing hours of entertainment.
Native to central Australia, wild budgies fly about in huge, noisy flocks. The cage-bred budgie is far removed from its wild cousin; it’s much bigger in size and cannot survive in the wild. Unlike undomesticated budgies, pet budgies also come in a vast array of colours.
When looking for a pet, try to get a young bird. Young budgies are distinguished by the horizontal bars on their forehead, which disappear after three or four months. Look for one in good health – the nostrils should be clean and clear without any evidence of mucus, which indicates a respiratory problem. Your new pet should be also be alert and playful and have a beak that meets together cleanly.
When it comes to cages, the bigger the better. Budgies are very active and need room to flap about and climb around their toys. They are also very good escape artists, so the spacing between the bars should be no wider than 12mm, and the bars should run horizontally for your pet to climb and exercise on. Typical of parrots, budgies love to chew, so don’t use a cage made from wood or cane, and make sure the door can be secured tightly shut.
Perches can be made of small branches or natural hardwood dowels, but don’t use smooth perches of all the same size, as these can cause feet and joint problems for any pet bird.. Among their favourites are ladders, bells and mirrors. For ease of cleaning, the cage should also feature a slide-out tray with its floor covered with sheets of newspaper (never use coloured newsprint, as it can be toxic).
Place the cage where your pet will enjoy human company, ensuring it’s away from drafts, or kitchen areas where there may be fumes. All birds have sensitive respiratory systems, so beware of spraying air fresheners or fly spray in the area around the cage, and don’t use scented candles near their cage.
Feeding Your Budgie
Clean water must be available in the cage, and you should take care to place the container where it won’t be contaminated by droppings.
Diet, along with exercise, is the key to keeping a budgie healthy. They are best fed a commercial seed mix, specially tailored for budgies. Seed mixes for canaries and other birds are not suitable. Seed husks that build up in the feeding container need to be removed every day before you top up the seed. Your pet will also enjoy the odd millet spray and other seed treats, such as honey bells or sticks (but don’t over do it).
As an all-seed diet can result in an unhealthy or overweight budgie, you'll also need to supplement their daily diet with fresh fruit and vegetables. The likes of apple, carrot, silverbeet, spinach and sweet corn can be provided in small pieces that have been washed, peeled, and made free of pips and stones. Never give your budgie alcohol, avocado or chocolate, and avoid asparagus, eggplant, cabbage, junk food, milk and cream, raw potato and rhubarb (including the leaves). Remove uneaten fruit or vegetables from the cage each day, as mouldy food could make your bird sick.
A cuttlebone or mineral block, bought from a pet store or supermarket, should always be available to maintain calcium levels and keep your budgie’s beak trim.
How to Teach Your Budgie to Talk
Budgies are among the best talkers in the parrot world and are capable of learning up to 20 words, or even more. And contrary to popular belief both male and female budgies can be easily taught to talk or mimic your speech. It is best to start off with a simple word phrase, or the bird’s name, and repeat it every time you pass by the cage. Progress to ‘lessons’ with your pet perched on your finger while you repeat your words or a phrase over and over.
It also helps if you place your budgies cage in a part of the house that is busy and social, as being constantly around people that are talking will help them to pick up on new words and phrases.
Budgies Need Some Time Out of the Cage
Your budgie needs to enjoy time out of its cage once in a while, but make sure it has socialised with you and its surrounds before letting it out. Start slowly by putting your hand in the cage and let your pet become accustomed to it. Move your hand closer to your pet until you can place an index finger against its breast. Press very gently and encourage the bird with words to step onto your finger. Your pet will be ready to take out of it cage at this stage, but be careful to keep windows and outside doors closed and the room has been cleared of dangers - cats or dogs, cleaning supplies, lit candles, hot stoves or moving ceiling fans. Your budgie will want to perch on high spots like the top of the door or walk about on the floor – so be very careful.
Let your budgie out of its cage as often as possible, say, a minimum of three times a week, and preferably daily. Keep it out for at least an hour, ideally longer.
How Much Does It Cost to Buy a Budgie?
The average cost of a budgie is between $10 and $35 (expect to pay a lot more for a show bird), depending on whether you buy it from a breeder or a pet store. They are inexpensive to feed.
How Long Do Budgies Live?
Budgies reach maturity within four months and have an average lifespan of between five and 14 years. The occasional bird makes it to 20 years of age.
How to Tell Budgie Sexes Apart
Budgies are sexed by the colour of their cere, or the area above the beak surrounding the nostrils. Adult males sport a bright-blue cere, while females have a brown cere. Both sexes of young birds have a purplish cere, so it is difficult to decipher their sex until they reach maturity.
Maintaining Your Pet Budgie
A healthy budgie needs a clean cage, companionship, daily exercise, and a healthy diet that includes fresh fruit and vegetables.
Budgie Breeding Season
Budgie pairs mate for life and are prolific breeders. In the wild, pairs nest in tree holes when there is sufficient food. In captivity, pairs only need a simple wooden nesting box available from pet stores. The average clutch is five eggs with the first eggs hatching after 17 days. Young birds leave the nest at four to five weeks and start feeding themselves at six weeks of age. A brood will take three months to rear, and breeders usually control the pair to a maximum of three clutches in a row simply by removing the wooden nesting box.