When will my parakeet let me pet him?

I saw this question posed recently in a social media group and it made me wonder how many new or prospective budgie owners think they are going to have a snugly cuddly relationship with their parakeet.

I’m not saying it never happens; we’ve all seen videos of a parakeet lying down in someone’s hand enjoying a neck and head rub and looking like they are in total ecstasy.  Much like the budgies with insane vocabularies (Disco, for example) those cases of the snugly parakeet are the exception and not the rule.

Here’s the thing though, that’s okay.  It simply isn’t natural for a parakeet to want to be petted, it’s great if you adopt the rare parakeet that does, or if you hand raise a parakeet and he grows up feeling comfortable with your touch, but if you have the average budgie that isn’t very snugly, that’s okay too, and it doesn’t mean you have failed at having a good relationship with your parakeet.

An additional factor is that similar to dogs and cats, each parakeet has his own personality and overall ability to be tamed. I had a cat once who loved having her tummy rubbed, and another cat who would take your hand off for even suggesting it.  Our Petsmart bird Toby was way more comfortable with people and hands after living with us for 6 months than Kelly is, and Kelly was hand-raised by expert bird breeders who handled her every day.

Most parakeets that start out feral will become comfortable with perching on your hands, shoulders, head etc. (with a lot of hard work on your part). They will be happy to play with you and preen you. Fewer than that will be okay with you lightly rubbing their necks and heads.  Even fewer than that will accept more touching.

I’ve posted before about the theory that a parakeet regards your hands as other birds, having nothing to do with your head. From that perspective it makes a lot of sense that they would never accept being petted, since why would one bird pet another?

A further complication is that you can accidentally stimulate your parakeet sexually by touching his back, since that’s something they associate with mating. Not surprisingly, it can be very frustrating for a bird to be stimulated in that way without having a mate, and unless you are trying to breed parakeets you don’t want them to be in season anyway.

Bottom line takeaways are:

  • If you want a cuddly pet a parakeet may not be a good choice for you
  • Your parakeet may never be interested in being petted or touched, no matter what you do, he may even react out of fear every time you approach with your hands, and that’s okay
  • You can still have a fulfilling relationship with your parakeet if he does not fit into your definition of “tame”, and lack of being able to cuddle him does not constitute a failure on your part.

8 thoughts on “When will my parakeet let me pet him?”

  1. Thank you so much for this post. I am starting to be really frustrated with people in Facebook groups who think their birds will be time if they own it for a week or two without putting in any work. This morning someone asked why his bird still wasn’t tame. Turns out budgie does come and sit on his hand when offered millet which I think is a great first step. What this person didn’t understand was that he now needs to spend time teaching and training the bird to do what he wants- and even that isn’t a guarantee he ever will.
    Makes me so sad for some budgies who end up spending their life inside a cage because they don’t want to be pet like a dog.
    I really enjoy reading your blog. Keep going x

    1. Thank you so much! It’s nice to hear that there are other’s out there with the same frustrations that I have! Also thank you for your kind words, I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog 🙂

  2. Ok so i have a question. I recently bought a parakeet from petco and all was going super great as far as taming him. I was at the point of where he would find his way to me and climb up on my shoulder and perch! Ok well i began to notice he seemed awfully quiet and I felt like something was wrong i noticed he wasnt hardly chirping and or singing so i began to read online how one budgie alone can become lonely and depressed. Made sense to me that he couldve been just that. So I tell my boyfriend he needs a companion and off to petco we go and purchase him a little female bird friend! We bring her home and i dont want my male bird to think i had anything to do with bringing the random bird into his space lol so i make my boyfriend do the dirty work lol and put her into his cage! To our surprise they instantly clicked!!! Like love at first sight!!!! Yay!!!! Right? Well i would love to agree and say alls well but thats totally opposite of what i have now because my sweet little bird guy is mean to me lmao he bites me and acts like hes terrified of me again!? Like i am having to gain his trust all over again and tame him again! Very frustrated with this and the outcome of our female addition bc my male has turned on me :'( So with all that said my question is should i separate them to their own cages? And try to tame him again?

    1. You could try separating them, but I think that now he’s aware there’s another bird in the house he’s probably going to want to hang out with her no matter what. Especially since they got along so well initially.

      You could try it and see how it goes, separating them into two rooms and working each of then individually, there wouldn’t be any long range harm in doing that, in my opinion and if it doesn’t work then you’re not any worse off than you are now.

      You could also leave them together and just keep working on them, with lots of treats and time together.

      No matter what, it’s probably going to be a long process with a lot of “one step forward, two steps back” kind of frustrations.

      I’m sorry that doesn’t sound very encouraging! I wish there was an easy answer but they can certainly be hard to tame and almost always prefer the company of another bird to a human.

      Best of luck to you! And I’m sorry it took me so long to respond.

  3. I got a free budgie with my purchase of a bearded dragon from a wonderful breeder who rescued this budgie from a terrible breeder after it was thrown from the nest and she planned to feed it to her pythons. My breeder saved him and gave him to me free with a cage just because she heard me say I missed my late parakeet and grew up with a house full of parrots. He is very skittish and terrified of me but the rainbow budgie I got from Petco a week later is so much more docile and brave, still working on not flying off of me but he let’s me pick him up and kiss him while holding him in my hand, he naturally wants to trust. I fully agree though that they don’t think hands have anything to do with you because when I put my hands behind my back and lean in for a kiss neither of them fly away or act scared and my rainbow budgie kisses back.
    My late budgie, Charlie, was one we found outdoors as an escapee and she was extremely aggressive the first night then I turned that biting into a game of “get the feet” which literally won her over by the next day. Charlie would try to “feed” me so I think she thought i was her mate or something which always makes them extra loving, lol.
    Easier to tame a single lonely.budgie but it is unbearable to watch them be all alone knowing how social they are. Even just 2 is a bit sad, I play budgie sounds to perk them up!

    1. Hi Joel! I’m so glad that you were able to save that poor budgie from being eaten by a python! It sounds like he will have a wonderful life with you!

      I agree, a single budgie can be a a very sad thing, although I know some folks make it work and provide a very full life – nothing I can do could match what another budgie has to offer.

      Thank you for commenting!

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