Unfortunately, one loss has followed another, and our girl Toby passed away a few days ago. I know that parakeets hide their illnesses well, but it has been hard not to second guess whether I should have seen that something was wrong leading up to her passing.
Looking back, I can see that she was quieter, which I chalked up to a couple of factors. Everything was quieter after Kevin died because he was the primary singer of the group who would get everyone else going. Additionally, Toby has always been a bit less rambunctious during the coldest winter months. Regardless of any hindsight or second-guessing, a few days ago Toby had some kind of episode and declined extremely rapidly afterwards.
Toby’s human and parakeet flock were all with her when she passed, and as difficult as it was, I am glad that we were all together to see her off. Particularly for Kelly’s sake, as she watched what was happening with Toby very intently.
I have read that it is good to help a surviving budgie understand their friend is gone. Without being too graphic, we allowed Kelly some time with Toby after she passed. It felt a bit like the viewing that humans have in many cultures after someone dies. It was comforting, in a way, taking the time to process what happened all together. Kelly preened Toby’s head a little bit, and once her focus shifted, we removed Toby.
Kelly has not flock-called for Toby, looked for her, or seemed at all confused about why she is alone, so I think that we did the right thing by making sure that she had time to understand what had happened.
A solo budgie is not the right thing long term, however. My husband and I both work full time jobs, and there are too many hours in the day that we can’t be with her. Also, even if we were around all the time, I do not think that humans can meet all her social needs. We can’t preen her, or bob our heads just the right way, we can’t fly around with her, or all eat seeds at the same time. We can’t even really sing properly in a way that will get her singing! Kelly remains aggressive towards human hands, so while you might think we could sort of approximate the preening at least, that it a total non-starter.
The past few days are the only time in Kelly’s life that she’s ever been without at least one other budgie. I imagine that even understanding what’s going on, she must be feeling lonely and a bit at sea. We’re making sure to spend tons of time with her, and keep her busy with her favorite toys, but it’s not enough.
So, even though it might seem fast, we’re going to get a new friend in budgie quarantine as soon as possible. We fixed up a quarantine cage, which is Toby’s old flight cage and looks ridiculously large for the purposes of budgie quarantine, but that’s what we have available.
You might wonder why Kelly is staying in her somewhat smaller cage instead of moving up to Toby’s old cage. First, Kelly loves this cage. She has lived in a few other cages over the years and this is the one she always seems most at ease in. Second, as mentioned above, she is super hand averse and loves biting really hard. This cage has food and water doors that I can easily access without putting my hands in her cage and saves me from a lot of bites.
Hopefully in the next week or so we’ll be bringing home a new friend for Kelly (well, for all of us!). We’re going to be looking for a social fellow who’s confident in himself and likes “talking” to others but isn’t bossy or demanding. It might sound silly to think that we could find those traits just observing a budgie in a pet shop, but if you spend some time watching you can get the measure of a budgie’s personality. When we went to pick out Kevin, we were looking for a budgie who was kind and deferential, who liked other parakeets a lot, but would always let someone else have their way. And that’s exactly who Kevin was.
I’m hopeful that the new fellow will handle quarantine better than Kevin did and we’ll be able to make some inroads. He will be housed in my home office for the budgie quarantine period. I’m still working from home half of the time due to COVID, so he’ll certainly have enough time to stare at me and determine whether I’m a likely predator!
Thanks again to everyone for your condolences on Toby’s passing. It helps so much feeling the love and compassion from this community of parrot-loving folks. Please keep an eye out for upcoming posts about our new budgie and wish us luck in budgie quarantine.