The glorious smell of budgies – what budgies should smell like

Pet owners who have cared for small pets in the rodent or reptile family may wonder what budgies should smell like, considering other small pets can have such a strong odor. Budgies are a totally different ball game, not only do they have a particularly lackluster sense of smell, but they don’t produce odor themselves. Under good conditions, what budgies smell like is nothing, what they rub their heads on, or what they eat.

This extends to their poop as well, if your budgie’s poop is smelly then he may be ill and you should seek veterinary care. Literally, you should be able to not clean your cage(s) for weeks (totally not recommended) and it should not smell. If it does smell and you have been feeding fruits and vegetables look to see if you’ve missed some scraps of food that are rotting. Also, watch out for ants!

Typically, I find that my parakeets smell like very mild citrus, which is pleasant and comes from their seed mix. For a while I was freaked out because Toby smelled like tomato soup, at the time I was trying her on Roudybush Pellets and it turns out those smell like tomato soup to me.

Another cause of transient smell can be eating fresh vegetables and fruits. After Kelly eats broccoli she has very distinct and fairly gross broccoli breath. That makes sense because the broccoli is hanging out in her crop for a while with her hulled seeds, basically composting itself. If that smell persisted it would be another sign of illness such as a crop infection, impaction, or sour crop.

Persistent bad breath can be a sign of other internal issues as well. If your budgie has a foul odor coming out of its mouth that can’t be tied to eating something and lingers beyond a day then it is probably time to find an avian vet and get a diagnosis and treatment.

For anyone who’s been wary of getting a budgie due to the potential of bad odors, fear not! Their lack of smell is part of what makes a budgie an excellent pet for a smaller space/apartment, in my opinion. And for those of us who are already budgie owners, keep your nose at semi-alert, a new odor on or around your budgie can be an excellent first warning of illness or habitat conditions like rotting food that need to be remedied.

Disclaimer: As always, I’m not a vet and I’m not qualified to diagnose or provide recommendations for medical treatment of your pets. When in doubt, seek the expertise of an avian vet.


The difference between the terms budgie and parakeet

So, you brought home your first pet bird, and if you’re anything like me, you immediately started hitting Google and other resources with all sorts of questions. Things like, how long should my bird sleep, what’s the best food, etc. As you do more research, another question starts to loom large: what the heck is this animal called in the first place? Did I get a parakeet, a fancy parakeet, a budgie, or a budgerigar?

To clear it right up, if you have something that looks like this:

coming home from travel

You have a budgie which is the common term for a budgerigar, a small Australian parakeet. A parakeet is a parrot with a long tail and a slender body. There are hundreds of types of parakeets and budgies are just one of them. So, look at you go, in one new friend you have a budgie, a parakeet AND a parrot!

Where it got twisted is that if you’re in America, you have probably only seen these little guys referred to as parakeets or, for certain color mutations, fancy parakeets. When they first started selling budgies in America (or so the lore goes), the Ad Men sat around a table and said, “we can’t possibly sell something call budgerigar to American families! They will never be able to pronounce it, let alone understand what that is!”

Then they asked themselves if there was any other name they could call it and realized that it’s also a parakeet. Patting themselves on the back, they decided that budgies would be known as parakeets, and any other parakeet would have to pick another name or a modifier!

This is how we came to have our little misnomered babies. Here at Home Keet Home, I end up using the terms somewhat interchangeably, which is less than ideal if I want to look like a well-informed budgie owner! But, keeping in mind that many readers will be A. American and B. new to budgie parenthood, it seems prudent that folks be able to find us no matter where they are in the world or where they are in their journey with budgies!

You may also hear the term “English Budgie”. There really is no such thing as an English budgie. What people are talking about are larger Show or Exhibition Budgies that have been bred with some different characteristics, frequently for the purpose of showing them in the way that people who breed championship dogs would, although there are many people who breed exhibition style budgies for pets only.

Ultimately I don’t think anyone should feel shame or be shamed for using the terms they are familiar with. Much like learning over time about the complex social, emotional, intellectual and physical needs that budgies have, I wouldn’t expect anyone to know day one that the animal that was called a parakeet in every pet store in the USA is more accurately a budgie!

The budgies have their own room – finally!

Quite a while ago I started thinking seriously about moving the budgies into their own room. I did some crowd-sourcing and readers were split on whether it was a great idea or would be a total disaster. I got hung up and probably too concerned about the outcome, considering it wouldn’t have to be a permanent situation! Toby’s continuing obsession with her “papa” pushed the issue and we finally decided that we all needed a bit of space. At long last the budgies have had their own room for several weeks now.

In their new room, Toby, Kelly and Kevin have their cages, and they also have a fun play zone with the Java tree and a hanging Boing.

after waffling about it for ages the budgies have their own room!java tree in the budgies new room

Hanging boing in the budgies new roomThey really enjoy all of the added play space. I’m working on a way to get them better window access, but we’re not all the way there yet.

I was worried that this would keep them separate from the humans and they would be isolated, but in practice it’s expanded their territory, which is awesome!  After a few days they were very comfortable flying back and forth from their room to their play area with Playstand where the cages used to be in the dining room.

playstand where the cages used to beThey will spend literally all day chilling out on the Playstand, and at their window perches in the kitchen and living room. I keep the food cups full and it’s convenient having the table right there to put fruits and vegetables out and water so they don’t get thirsty.

So, the budgies are definitely not isolated and in fact they get even more time out of their cages then they used to. Having their cage space separate from the play zone made for an unexpected expansion of “neutral territory” so there’s been a reduction in knock down drag-out fights between the girls. We are still struggling with Toby being unable to leave Patrick alone and she will defend him like he’s her property, but we are now well into springtime so I am sure hormones are a factor.

As I had hoped, they are getting a lot better sleep now too. We are able to put them to bed between 6:30pm and 7pm and since they are farther away from the kitchen and living room I don’t have to worry as much about keeping them up cooking or watching television. It’s also nice that on the rare occasion we burn something in the toaster over I don’t have to fret about smoke inhalation.

Patrick’s allergies have been easier to manage since the move, but I do have to admit that I feel like I’ve got a lot more to clean up after, since they have increased their territory and mess zone. Toby has had one night terror since the move and I was able to hear it and respond really quickly, so that’s not much different either.

So far so good! The positives of much better sleep for the budgies and being able to make an ice cream sundae after 7:30pm for the humans are worth the increased cleaning for sure! Sometimes it does feel like it’s the budgies’ house and we are just living in it, but I suppose that was inevitable once they outnumbered the humans.

My budgies make me proud with some very responsible behavior

My husband had his tonsils out last Tuesday. Tonsillectomy is pretty regularly done on little kids, who, I presume, heal more quickly or otherwise just take it better. Anyway, leading up to the surgery everyone we told was basically like “this is going to be the worst thing you’ve ever experienced in your life”. Or would tell us an awesome horror story about rupturing or death. As we came up on the surgery date I worried about Patrick having a horrible recovery, but also increasingly about how the whole budgies with sick humans thing would pan out.

With the exception of Kevin, who’s still quite shy with us, the rest of the flock can be extremely in your face. Toby especially with Patrick, and particularly in springtime! I knew that if they bothered Patrick while he was recovering they would be stuck in their cages, but I hate doing that. Since I was working from home the days after his surgery it seemed particularly unfair to keep them cooped up all day.

The afternoon we got home from his procedure we installed Patrick on the reclining couch and I decided to try letting the budgies out. Honestly I was feeling a bit scared and stressed, and wanted some cheering up and company.

Before I let them out I asked them all to calm down and I gave them a talking to. This will sound a bit silly, but making eye contact with all of them I said, “Your papa doesn’t feel good, and I need you to leave him alone. Don’t look at him, don’t jump on his head and don’t scream in his ears, go it?” I repeated the messaging a few times and…

They have left Patrick completely alone. Toby has landed on his head twice in the last several days and has not screamed in his ears at all. I’ve given them the same talk every day before letting them out.

Now, am I sitting here trying to tell you that my parakeets understand English?  No, definitely not.

I think it’s a combination of things. One is that it’s extremely unusual for me to make them settle down before they get out of their cages, so they may have been tipped off immediately that something was different. Also, I call my husband Papa to them all the time, and since budgies do have a concept of naming they may actually connect the dots on “papa” being a person.

More than that though, I think it’s down to their sensitivity to what’s going on with their flock, which includes humans. I think it could also be related to their super awesome sight, which may give them an enhanced ability to see that Patrick is in pain.

No matter how they managed to behave so responsibly, I appreciate it beyond words. Their company has been such a major source of comfort to me while Patrick has been recovering that I would have been much worse off it they ended up getting grounded!

Using AviCalm for an aggressive budgie

I should have known from the moment we laid eyes on Kelly that she was not going to be a warm and gentle soul. She was the first to hatch out of her clutch and, when we first met her, stood looking at her younger siblings with a sort of detached haughtiness that was certainly a sign of things to come. But, Patrick was drawn to her immediately so I bit my tongue and we chose her for our flock.

As a juvenile budgie, Kelly kept her rage under wraps, she had been clipped and seemed to understand that she needed her human flock for mobility assistance. We had fun building her ramps and bridges, but Kelly was more interested in taking off and seeing how far she could go before thumping to the floor.

Once she molted her way into flight and adulthood all bets were off. Even before she was fully mature she started chomping at us any chance she could get. Not really limiting her biting to territory issues, Kelly liked to preen you gently for a few moments and then start biting! Flying in the face of some common budgie wisdom, Kelly seemed to bite either for her own amusement or just inherent anger. We’ve tried all the many many tips for a biting budgie, which is pretty well documented on the blog already, and only succeeded in making her angrier.

So, it’s not a huge issue to keep our anger-inducing human selves away from Kelly and let her live her best budgie life. But where I feel bad for her is that she can’t seem to make it work socially with other budgies. I thought she and Toby had issues because they are two adult females, so we brought in Kevin and Kelly’s pretty much equally aggressive to him. He doesn’t escalate the way Toby does, thankfully, but still, no solace in the friendship of budgies.

Kelly can’t live with them because she’s got a nasty tendency to bite feet to the point of physical injury, but she doesn’t understand why she’s relegated tjo her own cage (mansion) at the end of the day. The result of that frustration was the recent mania for biting the cage bars, which we mostly managed to stop by providing an insane amount of things to chew and destroy.

TL:DR Kelly didn’t seem to be very happy, and I felt terrible for her.

Enter AviCalm. I was doing research one day about how to help an angry parrot and stumbled across this product. AviCalm is a supplement that is put in the budgie’s food or water and when ingested, helps with calming them down. AviCalm can be used on screamers, feather pickers, chewers and aggressive birds in general.

There are dosing suggestions by size on the packaging; we have been using half of the recommended dose for Kelly for about a month now. While she’s certainly not turned into a snuggle buddy, I have to say that AviCalm has helped immensely with her aggression.

Patrick and I are starting to be less afraid when she lands on us, I’ve even tried stepping her up a few times and while I’ve gotten bit for it, she hasn’t broken skin in weeks. Biting is still a likely eventuality, but it’s not with the same ferocity she used to dole out on a daily basis.

She even landed on my head and preened my hair yesterday without biting at all; I literally almost cried.

Beyond helping with her aggression towards us, I think that Kelly is feeling a lot better and calmer. She’s been way less fixated on Toby and has been able to relax by herself and play. Kevin loves singing and Kelly has been joining in, which is incredible.

The biggest change has been our bed time routine. We used to have to chase down Kelly and battle to get her in her cage every night. She would obsess over Toby and fight with her through the cage bars until we sometimes resorted to gently nabbing her in a pillow case.

Not anymore! Now I ring the bell for bed time and she is FIRST in her cage and goes right to the perch where she gets her reward. Even if Toby and Kevin are monkeying around, Kelly knows what the objective is, completes it immediately and even seems happy to do it! It’s amazing to not feel like we are torturing her every evening.

Reviews of AviCalm seem pretty mixed; based on my experience I heartily recommend giving it a try if you’re dealing with a difficult budgie. At the half dose we still see all of Kelly’s personality, she’s feisty, likes to explore and wants to assert her dominance, but we take the edge off of the incessant biting and obsessive behavior. Obviously I’m not a parrot psychiatrist, but I do think that Kelly is happier on the supplement.

That reminds me! Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian nor am I providing medical advice for your budgies. I am merely providing a review of my own experience with a product. YMMV. This post was not sponsored by AviCalm, but as usual the links are affiliate links.