Working from home with parakeet colleagues

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Working from home is a great perk that’s increasingly available to employees. Creating a good environment for a full workday can be challenging in any situation, but when you throw in a flock of noisy budgies there’s a whole extra layer of careful planning to make. I only work from home occasionally, but my husband has a dedicated home office that he uses three days a week, most of these tips come right from him after a few years of experience.

  1. If at all possible, get a door (or a floor!) between you and your budgies. We have a single-floor and relatively small home, so my husband’s office is right next to the bird’s room. Even so, he does have two doors that he can close between him and the budgies, which helps dampen sound.
  2. Speaking of dampening sound, if you’ve got particularly bad spots you can buy or make sound panels to absorb some of the screeching.
  3. Use in-ear headphones for calls, particularly with an inline microphone that has a small range. This tip is mine! I have an inexpensive set of headphones that I’m absolutely in love with. They work with both my laptop and my cell phone, the in-ear speakers help me tune out parakeet noise and the inline microphone picks up my voice really well but isn’t strong enough to get a lot of noise outside of me.

If those aren’t an option and you have to use a regular headset with a more powerful microphone then try not to worry about it too much. I mean really, how many conference calls have you been on where someone’s dogs or kids created a ruckus?  Parakeet coworkers may be more unusual, but they are certainly not the only uninvited guests at the meeting! My husband has had people comment along the lines of, “oh, you’ve got birds”, but then they usually launch into their own story of bird parenting, or reminisce about the cockatiel their parents had.

  1. Play soft pleasant music for your parakeets. This may seem counterintuitive because of course they are compelled to sing along, but, fairly continuous pleasant singing is better than intermittent screaming. Especially if you’ve been quiet for a long time and then pick up a call, the budgies are likely to be reminded that you’re home and start desperately flock calling.
  2. I suggest resisting the urge to cover them routinely during the day. If you’re attending a Board meeting via conference call and absolutely have to be sure of silence then that’s one thing, but for daily routine, I don’t think it’s quite fair to take away their daytime. I’m sure not everyone will agree with me on that one, but I feel like they deserve to have their day as well, and it’s not their fault there’s so much to sing about!
  3. Listen to your own music or white noise when you need to focus. There are tons of white noise options or music to help you concentrate options on YouTube. My personal favorite is wind through bamboo. If you put on a pair of Noise Cancelling Headphones and some good masking noise it may help you concentrate and not get distracted thinking of all the fun you could be having with your parakeets.
  4. Make sure your budgies have ample things to occupy themselves with! A bored budgie can be an exponentially noisy budgie. Add in and regularly rotate a variety of engaging toys and items for destruction to keep those beaks and brains busy.

Although having a flock of budgies adjacent to your home office can be an adjustment, there are ways to help you get your work done while your budgies have a nice day at home in their cage. If you’ve got any tips to share that I missed, please drop a comment below!

 

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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!

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.

Getting parakeets back in their cage

Here’s the scene: I’m home alone and the parakeets are spending free time out of their cages. I have a super small house with an open layout, so when they are out they are out everywhere in the house. To put even a finer point on it, my front door doesn’t even have a screen or storm door, when you open it it’s wide open to the terrible world. So – the doorbell rings in this scenario, if I have to open it then I better have a system for getting parakeets back in their cage with haste!

In some instances we’ve gone over and opened the window in the bedroom closest to the front door and yelled out at people, which is very handy when you wouldn’t have wanted to entertain the stranger anyway. But, when it’s a long-awaited package that’s signature required there better be a way to get that door open!

Patrick decided to try training them to go in using this Meditation Chime although I’m sure he could have just used the training clicker. Now that I’m thinking about it – if you found a Doorbell that sounded like yours you could probably literally train them to go in the cage anytime the doorbell rang.

At any rate, what we did was ring the chime, then put the budgies in their cages, shut the door, then ring the chime again and give them a little millet.

In short order, Toby has got it down flat. The Meditation Chime rings and she immediately looks very alert and hauls butt right back to her cage, then stands on the perch she always receives her millet. Kelly is much slower to learn anything, so we’re still working on her after several weeks. But, once Toby is in her cage Kelly tends to be more calm and pliable so it’s easier to step her up and put her home for the night. Kevin is usually already at home in his cage, or happy to go back when Toby does.

The hope is that given enough time, both girls and boy will hear the chime and hop right back into their cages. This would be great for times we unexpectedly need to open the front door, but also just for routine at bed time and convenience.  Time to make dinner, just ring the chime and you’ll be able to preheat the oven no trouble!

With the flock’s current home in the middle of the house, being able to reliably get them into their cage is key. So, hopefully Kelly will get with the program soon. With most parakeets I think you’d have a pretty easy time getting them all to go in their cage using a certain tone or signal.

Tips for budgie names – ideas and themes

Picking out and bringing home your new budgie is very exciting, but choosing a name can feel a bit more daunting. Particularly since budgies live up to 15 years and learn their names very easily, it’s a pretty big responsibility! I find that if you have a theme or a general set of names to chose from choosing a name can be fun, but not overwhelming. Here are my tips for budgie names.

  1. You can always choose names based on color, Toby was almost named Blueberry (Berry for short). There are lots of Kiwis, Clouds, Storms, Sunshines and Rains out there. Not to say they are bad names, in fact I think it’s very cute. You could also go for a scientific cloud or other weather name.
  2. Characters from books or movies. Even if you start with one budgie, and are dead-set that he will be an only bird, you’re probably going to end up with more budgies. That’s just the way it goes. So, if you start with a theme idea you’ll always have names at the ready. Toby, Kelly and Kevin are named after characters from the American TV show The Office. I could name parakeets for the rest of my life based on characters from that show! You could do the same thing with characters from Friends, Harry Potter, Sesame Street, or The Muppets. When you pick a theme like this you have a ton of naming options, but only enough that it feels fun choosing a name, instead of impossible to narrow down.
  3. Similarly, if you’re bringing home a pair of budgies choosing a theme couple name can make life easier. Fortunately, parakeets do not care if their name matches their sex, so you could have a male pair of Thelma & Louise without anyone having an identity crisis. I also like Oscar and Felix, Finn and Jake and Rick & Morty.
  4. If you are adopting an adult bird, please don’t drastically change his name. Budgies learn their names and it becomes part of their identity. Kevin responded to his name within two weeks of being home. In the wild, budgies name each other with certain sounds and use those “names” for the rest of their lives. If you truly can’t stand the name then Thaddeus can become Ted, keeping a familiar sound. Similarly, Jerkface could transition to Jerry much more easily than he could to Nimbus.

Good luck naming your new friend!  No matter what you choose after a while it will seem to suit them perfectly and be part of who they are, so don’t stress over it too much. Every member of our flock had their name chosen before we met them, I think sometimes we chose the birds to fit the names!