Getting ready for quarantine – new parakeet coming soon!

I’m sort of freaking out with excitement. After our initial plans to get a boy parakeet in early November didn’t pan out due to our plumbing issues  it was starting to feel a bit remote that we would actually get a boy budgie added to the flock. Happily, things have quieted down and we are going to go pick out our new boy this Saturday! This means it is finally time to get ready for a new parakeet quarantine.

Quarantine is important for a few reasons. One is that if the new budgie comes in carrying diseases we want to avoid spreading them to our existing flock. Some diseases can be transmitted by touching only, and some are airborne. The new budgie also could have mites, and we would definitely want to avoid transmitting those. The new parakeet will be quarantined in a separate room for 30 days, which should be enough time to know if he is sick. During that time we will have to be careful to wash our hands thoroughly before and after interacting with him. Ideally he would be in a totally separate air space, but that’s not totally possible. The room he’s going into will get too cold at night if the door is shut, so we’re going to keep them as separate as possible and take all the precautions we can, even if it’s not perfect.

The 30 day quarantine should also give us time to get to know our new flock member and bond with him one on one. So, more than an inconvenience, it’s really an opportunity. We didn’t quarantine Kelly and regretted it deeply, not just because we took a risk with Toby’s health, but also because it made our bonding with her much more difficult. I still wonder if working with her during a quarantine would have lessened her aggression towards us.

I debated quite a bit on where to get our new fellow, and finally landed on a locally owned pet store, Benson’s.  It’s not as great as getting a rescue budgie, but we really have some specific needs for our new friend and I know that rescues like to adopt out pairs or more of parakeets. I am glad to support a local business instead of a big chain store, and we’ve checked out their aviaries, which are amazing! The parakeets look like they are in great condition, both physically and mentally.

To get set up for our new fellow I barely had to buy anything, due to the expansive nature of my toy and perch hoard.

We also already had an extra cage on hand (technically 3 extra cages, but who’s counting!). Since we upgraded Toby and Kelly to flight cages, it meant we had the Drs. Foster & Smith HQ Victorian Top Cage ready and waiting. It’s a bit bigger than a traditional quarantine cage, but particularly since the new guy will be used to having quite a bit of room I think he’ll be okay.

They clip birds before you bring them home at the local shop, and although I’m not a fan of lifelong clipping, it will make me feel less nervous transporting him. Also, I think that if we play our cards right, his being clipped will help accelerate the taming process. We put a careful eye towards designing his quarantine cage for maximum accessibility in terms of hopping around and climbing the bars from perch to perch.

When we bring him home, I will also make sure to get a supply of whatever he is used to eating to make sure he doesn’t reject a new food when he’s already freaked out about being in a new place.

I think we’ve got everything lined up for as smooth a transition as possible. Now all I have to do is make it through the next 24 hours without bursting with excitement!  Wish me luck, and watch my Facebook Page for a pic of the new fellow tomorrow!

Parakeet pedicure time: Kelly gets her nails trimmed

Toby and Kelly are not necessarily what I would consider to be tame. They like their human flock and are happy to come hang out with us if we’re doing something interesting. But, we’ve never really put a ton of effort into training them to do specific things. They are pretty much entirely at their leisure to come and go as they please if we’re home and not cooking. The one exception would be training them to go back in their cage, which we have put some work into and it goes okay for the most part. When it’s parakeet pedicure time, though, we have zero procedures for getting them calmed down enough for a nail trimming.

By the way, yes I have seen videos of people with their parakeets chilling out on their shoulders, clipping a nail one by one almost without that parakeet’s notice. I don’t know what magic those people have, because Toby and Kelly are way too crafty and security-conscious for that kind of sneak attack! Instead, we end up trying to lure them onto a clean cloth napkin so they can be wrapped up like a burrito and spirited away to a quiet room.

We were originally shooting for Toby this time, but it was not happening. As soon as Patrick’s hands start moving she is wise to the trap and flies off to laugh at us.

He did manage to nab Kelly and we took her off to be “tortured” This involves covering her whole upper body including her head and just letting her feet free. Then trying to grab the tiny bicycling tootsie and clip one tiny nail on one tiny toe. Totally ridiculous prospect. When you could easily clip off an entire toe it really ramps up the danger quotient.

Patrick managed to get two or three of the longest nails on each foot and then we released Kelly back into the wilds of the home. We were all feeling quite battered from the experience. Kelly showed off her angry wings for a bit but calmed down and was given lots of Millet for her trouble.

Actual angry bird

With that done the humans gave up and had a stiff drink, and Toby sharpened her nails while chuckling gleefully at our failure!

Using a food trough as a parakeet toy box

When we purchased Toby’s new Flight Cage it came with a set of plastic trough style Feeder Cups, which I knew immediately I wasn’t going to use. Not only do plastic feeders encourage bacteria growth, but they were also difficult to get in and out of the cage. In fact, I’m not sure how you would keep water clean in them at all without quite a bit of difficulty. So, I bought a set of my preferred Stainless Steel Hanging Bowls, put away the plastic tray feeders and didn’t think about them again for a few months.

Fast forward to Patrick and I cleaning out the parakeets’ toy and perch cupboard. It’s terrible, like a totally embarrassing toy hoard, someday I’ll post a picture! Anyway, every so often we go through and toss out stuff that got put away but most likely the birds wouldn’t really use, or toys that are fairly beat up.

He noticed the food trays and decided to try hanging one off the outside of Kelly’s cage and then put a bunch of little toys in it for her to throw out. What’s in there are some pieces that came off old toys, like a vine star from a Christmas toy, a large wooden bead, etc. But also, some Baby Links and Vine Balls. All together it’s a bunch of little items with different shapes, sizes and textures as well as varying degrees of difficulty to pick up and throw.

Kelly typically has a short attention span and doesn’t play with toys much. But, she will happily spend time picking up and throwing out every single one of the items, and then when you load it back up she’ll do it all over again. She’s our obsessive biter, so anything that keeps her occupied and relatively happy is a major win for us!

Even if your parakeets don’t need something to obsess over, the little trough of foot toys would be fun for even the most well-adjusted parakeet. Who hasn’t seen their parakeet drop a feather or piece of food and then watch with intensity as it falls to the ground? Sure, it can get a little tedious picking everything back up and resetting, but it’s totally worth it in the name of parakeet fun and enrichment!

Running errands with budgies

It’s easy to feel very close to a budgie, as though you have a mutual understanding. What a wonderful feeling really, to have such a smart little pet that provides you emotional support and vice versa. I know I’ve certainly experienced how Toby and Kelly help me keep my emotions under control. So, it might seem logical or natural to use your best budgie pal as an emotional support animal, who accompanies you while out in the world in situations that may be stressful.

Here are just a few reasons I would caution you against taking your budgies out in public for anything other than necessity, such as going to the vet, or boarding them for a vacation.

      • Budgie lungs are very sensitive and going out in public can expose them to several toxic irritants. Did you know that many retailers pump fragrance into their stores through their HVAC systems? I have to assume that since we can’t safely use plug-ins, febreeze, etc in our homes that exposure to this kind of fragrance outside the home, even just for a run in to grab something, would be very dangerous. Even if the store itself isn’t using fragrance there are loads of fragranced products in many big box stores and the cumulative effect of being around those products (even if they are sealed) is troubling. Additionally, they will have much greater exposure to car exhaust traveling frequently, as well as the potential for cigarette smoke.
      • Beyond fragrance dangers, taking a budgie to a restaurant could expose them to fumes from the kitchen that you have no control over. Possiblly even non-stick coating which can be fatal. Additionally, even some casual restaurants use candles at the table which are also a big no for budgie-breathing.
      • Budgies are prey animals who are prone to being scared of anything seen as a threat. I know that not all budgies are fearful, but you must keep in mind their instinct will be either to freeze in place, which may look to you like calm, or take flight. You could have several successful outings with your parakeet before finding out that something totally random scares them like crazy. If they are in a small travel cage a fit of panic could cause them great harm. Worse yet, if they are out on your shoulder you could lose them forever. Just as a note, if you don’t have a travel cage make sure to get one or have another plan for transporting your budgie safely. You never know when you’ll have to evacuate your house due to fire or other emergency.


    • Danger from other human beings. Taking your parakeet out in the world will almost certainly cause a small spectacle. Drawing attention of other people to your budgie could result in harm if someone decides to grab at him, and doesn’t understand how breakable he is. I’m not going to stand on a soap box and say that humans are horrible, but I think that there’s certainly a capacity for thoughtlessness and danger with introducing your budgie to a lot of people.

Don’t get me wrong, the relationship between a budgie and their human is totally special, and I absolutely believe that a budgie can fulfill the role of an emotional support animal. I also think that the safest way to do that is in your home. It might be tempting to try running errands with budgies, but the ultimate cost can be too high.

Rain delay – why we haven’t added our third parakeet

Early November has almost come and gone, and our quarantine cage remains sadly empty. We had hoped to get a third parakeet right after coming back from a short vacation at the end of October. It would have been a perfect time since I’m not traveling for work again until early spring, and typically both our jobs get a little less crazy leading into the holiday season.

The delay has occurred for a couple of reasons. First, Patrick had warned me that early November was going to be madness for him at work. That wouldn’t be a deal breaker ordinarily, but he works from home three days a week. So, having a quarantined bird screaming to Toby and Kelly all day long for 30 days would be a real impediment to good quality conference calls and quiet time to focus!  We are actively monitoring the work situation and will see when a new budgie would fit in okay to disturb Patrick.

On top of Patrick’s work concerns we have now also had a home issue that took our quarantine space out of play. When we left for vacation we had an issue with a slow drain in our kitchen. By the time we came back it turned into a no-drain pipe! The plumber came and cleaned it out, but in doing so broke the pipe further up the line. Not really his fault, they are galvanized steel pipes that were original to the house (1954) so we are lucky we got that much time out of it!

Where this impacts the parakeets is that when the plumber is working in the kitchen making a variety of horrible noises and potentially chemical related smells they can’t be out there getting freaked out and poisoned!  So, they have been spending those days in what would be the quarantine room.  Thank goodness I didn’t get home from vacation and immediately rush out to get my new baby, I have no idea what we would do to try and get some separate air space.

There is still some work going on this week to replace a bunch of pipes, but hopefully by the end of November I will have my new budgie. In the interim I’ve been using this time to order him a few things that will make his quarantine more pleasant, like his own Echo Dot so he can listen to music, as well as a set of night lights and a small lamp.

At this point I would love to get the new baby no later than Thanksgiving week so that he’ll be able to spend Christmas with the flock, but I guess we will see how long Patrick’s work trauma and our plumbing issues play out. It stinks having to be responsible when I would much prefer immediate gratification, but I know that we have a much better change of safe and successful integration of a new parakeet if I exercise patience and restraint!

Kelly gets grounded for obsessive behavior

In a recent post about flock favorites I explored Toby’s obsession with her “papa”, who she would like to be with at all times. Things have gotten a little better since then, she’s been much friendlier to me when we’re alone, and even when we’re all together I’m able to get a bit more love. Unfortunately, Kelly increased her obsessive budgie behavior and spent a couple of days “grounded” so we could all take a break. Although, if I’m being honest, it’s just as much Toby’s fault as it is Kelly’s anyway.

Here’s the vicious cycle that we can’t seem to break.

  1. Toby comes out of her cage and goes to sit on Patrick’s shoulders immediately, she is very happy and sings to his ears, grooms his stubble etc.
  2. Kelly emerges from her cage and wants to be with Toby with great intensity.
  3. Kelly flies to Patrick’s shoulders and is seen as an aggressive interloper by Toby, who fends her off repeatedly.
  4. Instead of taking the hint that her presence is unwelcome, Kelly grows increasingly intent on being with Toby.
  5. Toby becomes more and more violent and attacks Kelly, then chases her around the house attacking her until they are both worn out.
  6. No one is happy or having their needs met! Humans included, because witnessing vicious budgie fights is stressful and alarming.

We had a few bad days where some beaks got nicked up and they really could have hurt themselves fighting mid-air and crashing into things. It’s just an untenable situation.

Thinking about it logically, Toby is the problem. She’s the aggressive, territorial, mean girl. But, we can’t ground Toby and let Kelly out in the same space. Kelly is so Toby-obsessed that she will cling to Toby’s cage and let Toby bite her feet. Additionally, and I’m a little ashamed to admit it, Kelly is not a lot of fun to hang out with. She’s not super human-friendly and bites us, she’s only happy if she gets her way precisely. So, if you try to stop her from painfully biting at your freckles she just escalates and bites the sensitive skin near your underarms.

So, Kelly took a break for a couple of days so we could all get some rest. She didn’t take it particularly well and looked very sad trying to break out of her cage and just generally acting miserable. In fact, she was originally going to take a full week break and I’m the one who broke and let her out after a couple of days.  I should add that she has a flight cage all to herself so spending a week in there is not cruel and unusual punishment!

We are getting very close now to adding our boy to the flock and I am keeping my fingers and toes crossed that he and Kelly bond and Toby can just be part of her human flock without feeling like Kelly is always trying to be too close or steal her people. Obsessive budgie behavior is no fun for anyone.  Has anyone else out there dealt with this sort of triangulation?  Is there something else I can do?

Maximing exterior cage space for budgie enrichment

I’ve been thinking a lot about budgie cage set up lately, possibly a consequence of now having two flight cages! We put a big emphasis on changing up their cages regularly, I recommend weekly switching at least a toy or two out and moving some perches. Budgies are very intelligent and can be prone to boredom, so it’s a good idea to keep them engaged in their space and not let home become stale. I’m sure there are some budgies out there that hate change, so your mileage may vary and use your judgement. In addition to the interior space, it’s also important to think about maximizing exterior cage space for budgie enrichment.

Utilizing exterior cage space is also a great way to help your budgie feel comfortable out in the “world” that is your home. One idea is making a fun space on top of the cage so your budgie has a place to hang out. We used a Booda Comfy Perch and a Super Bird Creations Wind Chimes Toy for Birds to create a fun and budgie friendly play location on top of Toby’s cage. We added a cluster of Vine Balls trailing down over the side to provide even more indoor/outdoor play options.

Toby’s cage also has a perch placed outside underneath her main door to ease the transition into the cage, which can frequently be difficult to navigate. It’s also a sand perch, which she loves but I know can be hard on budgie feet. So placing it outside the cage means Toby gets time with the perch but without the risk of her trying to nap or sleep on it and hurt her feet.

Kelly’s cage has a totally different flair. She has a Bendable Wooden Bridge that comes off the top like a ski jump, as well as a Spiral Boing Perch that connects to a Natural Rope Ladder and then back to the edge of the cage.

Kelly also has a Sand Perch outside her cage, but hers facilitates entry into the Lixit Quick Lock Bird Bath. The Lixit bath is still one of the most reliable ways to get Kelly to clean up and having it mounted on the outside of the cage makes it easier to clean up the inevitable water-soaked “splash zone”.

Adding areas of interest to the outside of the cage helps parakeets transition from indoor to outdoor space while still keeping a sense of safety and being “home”. This can be a big help during the initial taming/training process, but is also just a great plan to keep your budgies engaged outside their cages. Expanding your budgies’ livable space and maximizing enrichment can really enhance their lives overall.