Which sexes of budgies get along best

If I was starting fresh with zero parakeets right now, choosing which sex to get would be very easy. I would get two males, no question. A pair of males will almost always get along well, and I wouldn’t have to worry about anyone laying eggs and accompanying issues like becoming egg bound.

A male/female pairing might work, but the female could end up bullying the male and being overly territorial, and I really don’t want to breed parakeets. So, if they mated and began laying I would have to do stuff like steal eggs, boil them and return them to the cage so that they could have the experience of taking care of the eggs, without actually having baby parakeets.  I feel uncomfortable just thinking about doing that.  I know there’s no guarantee that would actually happen, and by not providing a nesting box and keeping daylight hours limited I could possibly avoid laying, but it’s just things I do not want to deal with as a parront.

Female/female is what we have now, and it’s working out pretty well.  Despite the fact that many people will tell you two females is impossible and they will kill each other, Toby and Kelly hang out together all day, preen each other, flock call when they are separated and generally seem to enjoy each other’s company.

But, they are both territorial, so from dawn till dusk (or later!) we do have intermittent squabbles that are usually about food bowls or toys. The key to keeping these relatively civil is to have a big enough cage for everyone to have their sense of space, and also to duplicate the important stuff. We have two food dishes, two waters and two perches for sleeping at the top of the cage.  They’ve been living together for over 6 months now and no one has ever drawn blood, so I consider that a success.

So – two female budgies can live together in my experience, which is, of course, limited to these two budgies.  We did also discuss this with the Rensselaer Bird Center staff when we took Kelly home, and they stated that in all their many years of breeding and housing budgies, two females had only ever had to be separated one time.  Like many of these issues, I’m sure it comes down to the individual bird, but you can sway it towards the positive by providing optimal living conditions.

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awwwww

Winter woes – dry houses and dry budgies

As we moved from fall to winter this year temperatures started dropping significantly, and so did our indoor humidity.  We have gas heat with baseboard radiators, it’s not as drying as forced air heat can be, but using our Analog Hygrometer by Western Humidor we could see that the humidity levels were sinking rapidly.  We think a comfortable range is about 40-55 percent humidity and the house was dropping well into the 30 percent range.  Not only is this bad for the humans, but it is very uncomfortable for budgies.

We began using our Travel Ultrasonic Humidifier – Mini Cool Mist Water Bottle Humidifier Offers Perfect Portable Solution for Home, Office, Hotel, and More, which puts out a surprisingly good amount of humidity, and we prefer it to purchasing a big traditional humidifier (like a Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier – Premium Humidifying Unit with Whisper-quiet Operation, Automatic Shut-off, and Night Light Function) for a couple of reasons. One because big humidifiers are harder to maintain and would need vigilance and lots of cleaning to keep mold out of the picture and two because of Patrick’s chemical sensitivities, bringing a big new plastic appliance into the house is a challenge.  It would probably end up in the garage for months (at best) off-gassing whatever chemicals it came with.

I also tried using our Crock-Pot SCCPVL610-S 6-Quart Programmable Cook and Carry Oval Slow Cooker, Digital Timer, Stainless Steel as a humidifier, which you should only attempt if you are going to be home AND your birds will be safe at home in their cage.  This is simple enough to do, just fill the crock with water and set it for a few hours; with the lid off the water should simmer and release steam.  We tried on the low setting and it didn’t do enough to be worth bothering. I intended to try it on the high setting but then we decided to invest in a few more travel humidifiers so it hasn’t been necessary.

That reminds me, I know a lot of folks probably miss being able to use candles, febreeze, diffusers and the like after they get budgies, and one way to safely scent your home would be to put a cinnamon stick in your crock pot while you’re steaming your house.  You can also fill the crock half way, add a few tablespoons of baking soda and turn the crock on low to deodorize a room naturally as well.

So far the budgies seem to be doing okay with winter dryness, however, I could see quite easily that it was taking a toll on their feet.  I neglected to take any pictures, but their feet were starting to look a little cracked and like the skin was peeling up a bit. Nothing drastic that would indicate a medical problem, just a bit like the skin on human hands if you don’t moisturize in winter.

I immediately started googling and found a couple of possible solutions, one of them is to use a tiny bit of Carrington Farms Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, 54 Ounce on their feet. There are a few ways I can think of to get the oil on their tootsies, one is to apply the oil to a finger used for step up, and then sneak attack your thumb onto their feet to apply more on top.  Alternately you could put the oil on a perch and just let them land, or you could hold/towel them and just get the job done.

In doing my research I was warned against getting ANY oil on their feathers as it can impede their ability to fly.  Also I was warned that the coconut oil could give them diarrhea if they ingested it, so I would recommend using sparingly, although I also uncovered evidence that some folks give their parrots coconut oil to eat as a supplement, so like most parrot-related issues there’s bound to be a hot debate over who’s doing what wrong!

The person who warned against the potential for diarrhea suggested using baby lotion instead, but I feel a little uncomfortable about that, since they nom their feet pretty often for personal maintenance I would prefer they were nomming on something that is actually food.

I ordered the coconut oil and also started giving them a shallow dish of water to splash around in inside of their cage (also only while I’m home). They really like running around in water and I usually throw in some spinach leaves or a few small broccoli florets to make it more interesting.  Also that way I can pretend they are eating some vegetables!  This splash pool is in addition to a weekly (at minimum) offer of a bath in the Lixit Corporation BLX0787 Quick Lock Bird Bath and/or hanging greens.

Even though the coconut oil only took a few days to get to us thanks to Amazon Prime shipping, by the time it arrived their foot dryness had completely resolved thanks to walking around in water every day. So, that’s a huge testament to the power of water keeping budgie feet in good condition.

Of course I’m glad to have the coconut oil on hand, and similar to several other occasions where I completely misjudge sizes I certainly have a lot of it – I guess Patrick and I will need to start cooking with coconut oil!

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Just a girl and her coconut oil

When will my parakeet talk?

This is a very similar post to when will my parakeet let me pet him, in that the answer is typically “don’t count on it”.   Many parakeets may learn to mumble a few garbled words, but fewer will be intelligible and barely any will have the clarity and vocabulary of a Disco the parakeet.

There is some correlation between budgies that learn to talk and sex, boys tend to be a lot more vocal in general, have sweeter songs, and a greater capacity for speech. When we first brought Toby home we thought she was a boy, I knew some about how the color of the budgie’s cere can be used to determine the sex, but I didn’t know that it was different when they are juveniles.  So, I should have been looking for a baby with a solid pink cere which would have absolutely been a boy, instead all I knew was boy=blue, not that young hens typically have light blue ceres with white around their nares (nostrils).

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hindsight 20/20, obviously a baby girl!

The employee at the pet store where we got Toby also said it looked like she was a boy, of course I know now that pet store workers typically have no specialized knowledge, and though the employee was well-intentioned, he probably knew about as much as we did about parakeets.

Anyhow, the result was that we brought home a girl thinking she was a boy, and even though she proved to be mostly quiet over the next couple of months we tried and tried to teach her to speak a simple two word phrase. We held her close to our mouths and made sure she was watching while we slowly sounded out the same words over and over and I’m sure she thought she’d been brought home by lunatics. When that failed, we moved on to playing YouTube clips on repeat of phrases, with the same lack of any result.

When we brought home Kelly we knew sooner that she was a female, and in the past six months we have mostly focused on trying to teach them any sort of cool sound, like playing the Lyre bird, which Toby really responds to and also this reel of R2-D2 noises with the screeching taken out.  Patrick thinks he hears them do some R2-D2 on occasion, but I’m not sure about that.

If you have a young male budgie he may be quite inclined to speak, if you repeat the same words and phrases often ie: “pretty bird” he might even pick them up on his own.  I’ve heard also that many females are capable of learning words.  I think it must depend mostly on the individual parakeet’s interest level, with a better chance of interest in males vs. females.

Originally we were pretty invested in Toby learning a word or two, and working with her on that dovetailed neatly with getting her hand tamed anyway, but if your budgie doesn’t seem interested in learning to speak then I would waste a lot of time on it, there are tons of other fun things you can teach your budgie and their natural vocalizations are (in my opinion) pleasant enough anyway.

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Review of the K&H Snuggle Up Bird Warmer

Updated 1/27/2018

It’s now January of 2018 and we finally have a budgie that likes the K&H Sand Thermo-Perch Heated Bird Perch Small! Our new boy Kevin sits on the heated perch every afternoon for his nap time and you can tell he feel very comfy-cozy. Since he’s a bit smaller than our girls I’m so happy he has the extra heat of a bird warmer. Also I’m so pleased that all of our K&H warmers have been incredible safe and reliable, as this is their third winter in use and we have had no trouble with them whatsoever.

K&H Thermo Perch

We keep our house at a steady 69 in winter, but I know that a lot of folks would find that either too warm at night and/or prohibitively expensive, depending on your type of heating.  We’re also pretty lucky that the parakeets’ cage is in a relatively draft free zone, at least 3 feet away from a window and quite a bit more than that from a door.  It’s probably one of the warmer areas of the house, especially since the bedrooms tend to be on the chilly side.

Anyway, I know that budgies still like a bit more warmth than 68, even though they seem to have adjusted to our indoor winter temperature very easily, so I bought them the K&H Snuggle Up Bird Warmer Small/Medium for a little extra heat.

Last year we had the K&H Thermo Perch, Small and Toby wanted no part of it, and in fact began avoided a full ¼ of her cage just to ensure she never had to land on the perch.  We tried it again this fall, thinking maybe Kelly could influence her in to giving it a try, but instead they both just kept away from it.

Even though Toby has some issues with color-based fear, I decided to try the K&H Snuggle Up Bird Warmer Small/Medium, hoping that gray would not be too threatening and that even if they just occasionally ended up near it playing with a toy, that would be fine by me.

The warmer installs easily, you just have to make sure your cage is near an outlet or have an extension cord handy.  This is an extremely safe heater in our experience; it’s now been on continuously for about a month and always maintains a consistent and comfortable temperature. I wouldn’t hesitate to leave it on if we were going away for a weekend or a longer period of time.

As expected, the parakeets are not really in love with the warmer, they don’t specifically go over to it, or (as the name implies) snuggle up to it at all. But, I put it above a nice corner perch that they could hang out on for a while if they wanted, and I make sure to put fun toys nearby to lure them over.  Thus far they don’t in any way avoid it, and that was my best case scenario, so I’m very happy!  And, they may make the connection at some point and start going over when they feel chilled; a month is way too early to know how they will react by the end of winter.

One thing to watch out for is the power cord that comes out of the cage; it’s wrapped for their safety as far as not being able to chew through the cord, but mine tried anyway.  They love crawling around on the outside of their cage (and trying to sit on top of the Lixit Bird Waterer – 5 oz) so when we first got the snuggle up Kelly was obsessed with trying to go and chew on the cord. I moved her away several times and now they are both aware that they aren’t supposed to go near it. Of course a couples of times a week I catch them trying to sneak over to it, but as soon as I stand up or make eye contact they hustle away as though to say “me?  I would never!”

My final verdict is a definite go for it – even if your parakeets, like mine, aren’t totally sold on the concept, it gives me peace of mind to know that there’s a source of extra warmth in the cage, and that it’s extremely safe and I can feel comfortable leaving it plugged in and running 24/7 is fantastic.

Putting together a first aid kit for parakeets

The start of a year is always a good time to sort of take stock and see if there’s anything I could be doing better.  One such thing this year is that we’ve been pretty blasé about being prepared for any parakeet mishaps or illnesses.  So far so good, there have been no major injuries or health conditions, but I know that any pet is really just a ticking time bomb.

For my peace of mind, I want to put together a budgie first aid kit with some basic necessities, so we will be prepared for minor emergencies.  (Obligatory warning: I am not a vet and I am not suggesting anyone skip seeing a vet – nor am I giving medical advice.) Here are some of the items that I’ll start with

Of course you can skip all the guesswork and just purchase a First Aid Kit for Birds, but I think I’d prefer to build mine piece by piece so I familiarize myself with each item, instead of having an emergency and opening the box for the first time in a panic.

If I’m missing something that is an essential 1st round item please let me know in the comments below!

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