For as far back as I can remember, I have wanted a pet bird. As a child, I never looked into it much because my parents weren’t on board, but as I got older, I did more and more research on what kind of bird I would want to get one day, if ever. I was well aware of the enormous responsibility a pet bird would entail, and with the busy life I lived with school, work, volunteering, extra-curriculars, social events, traveling and more, I never felt quite ready for that added responsibility.
When I finally left my full-time job in June, my husband and I decided it was finally time to take the leap – and hey, maybe it would even serve as good practice to help prepare us for parenthood in the future. So we talked to various family members, friends and pet owners, and settled on an American parakeet budgerigar, or budgie. After weeks of extensive research, long conversations with our veterinarians, and over 6 months of experience as budgie parents, I decided it was time to make a handy little guide all about budgie basics to help you decide if this is the right pet for your lifestyle.
There are literally thousands of birds species to choose from, but this guide is all about American Parakeets, also known as Budgerigars, or budgies. Budgies originate from the warm Australian wild and are relatively inexpensive and easy to care for, making them an excellent pet option for beginners. From our personal experience, we have learned that budgies have their very own personalities just like any other human or pet, but the effort you put in is the result you will get back.
Budgies are social creatures just like humans. If you get one single budgie that is hand-fed, it will undoubtedly bond with you more than if you get multiple budgies. I love seeing the interaction between pet owners and their single bird, as they eat together, play together, and sometimes even bathe or sleep together. For our needs and lifestyle, we decided to go with a budgie pair (pictured below). Although they much rather preferred each other’s company than our own, I personally would rather have these social creatures partner with their own species than to have them rely on me solely and still be able to play with them on occasion. (plus, I absolutely obsess over watching them interact with each other and can watch them for hours)! The important thing to remember here is that if you choose to get a single budgie, make sure they are hand-fed and purchased from a breeder, as large pet stores often have older budgies that can be much more difficult to tame.
Once you have your beloved budgies, the next step is to purchase the essential supplies. Budgie owners are often advised to purchase the largest and most affordable cage possible, since budgies love to fly and need plenty of space. If you do decide to change the cage, be sure to never downsize, as this can be quite challenging and frustrating for them. Inside the cage, place plenty of perches, a ladder if they have their wings clipped and cannot yet fly, a safe space for food and water, and a variety of toys of different textures and stimulation levels that you can switch out regularly so they don’t get bored (our budgies loved their basketball and bowling alley). You will also need some sort of flooring inside the cage, but we use paper towels and our vet has confirmed that these will work just fine. Keep your cage in a common area where you spend a lot of time, and be sure to clean the cage with soap and water regularly every week.
Health and Nutrition:
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that a budgies nutritional needs are so very similar to that of a human, with the essential food groups remaining the same and only the quantities and proportions a bit different. A healthy diet consists of primarily seeds and grains, with about a quarter of their total diet including fruits and vegetables. Of course, budgies also require a constant water supply and occasional treats (our birds go crazy over millet, so we use it often for training purposes and just to show love and bond – but use sparingly)! Just like humans, birds need daily exercise and fresh air if the weather permits, and should spend at least an hour a day playing outside of their cage.
Other Care-taking Tips:
When caring for a budgie, it is best to learn the essentials and use common sense for the rest. Just like any other pet, budgies need to eat, sleep, play, and bathe regularly. They also need to see their primary veterinarian, as I am not a budgie expert and the information on this post is not intended to substitute for professional medical care. Most of all, your budgie or budgies need your love and attention, and to be treated with patience and kindness at all times. These furry flying friends rely on you and when given the chance, will quickly become part of your family.