Cage bar biting budgie – tips for redirection

It shouldn’t have been too surprising, given how much she likes to bite everything, that Kelly turned into a cage bar biting budgie. I could almost tolerate anything better than the clanging, twanging noise of her plucking away at those cage bars!

My first concern (in addition to my sanity) was whether she was safe, I’ve checked the cage every day and she’s not removing any of the finish so I’m not too worried about her eating paint and poisoning herself. I also took stock to make sure I was meeting all of her needs. She is out of her cage for adequate time every day, and even though she can’t live with Toby and Kevin they get time to be together supervised daily as well. She always has clean water and food, and ample variety of toys and perches and enriching experiences.

The bar biting though did seem to be borne out of boredom, even if it was the unwarranted boredom of being in her cage for more than 5 minutes, or settling down to sleep every night. So, I began putting a toy or mineral block or anything she could chew anywhere she went to bite at the bars. The last problem zone was near her sleeping perch, because there wasn’t room for a toy. In that area I painstakingly wove paper strands in between the bars so there would be something to chew at.

woven paper strands to redirect cage bar biting budgieAs far of the rest of the cage, I paved one wall with sea grass mats and toys that we had generally regarded as “too big” when they first arrived.

using big toys to distract cage bar biting budgieIn other places I put cuttle bones or mineral block.

cuttle bone to redirect bar chewing budgieThe overall effect is very busy!

jam-packed with things for a cage bar biting budgie to chew

But, it’s working! It has now been two weeks since Kelly has ruined the household serenity by chewing on her cage bars! The last holdout was the sleep perch area, and those woven paper strands have definitely saved me.

I know those paper strands won’t hold out forever, and I’m so excited to have found this Braided Palm Leaf Rope, which should be easy to weave through the bars and hold up to a lot of abuse.

As far as toys that will cover a lot of bar area, I’m going to have this monster size Seagrass Foraging Wall Toy on deck and load up on Bird Beak Conditioner Blocks

While I can’t say with 100% certainty that this redirection will work for every bar biting budgie, putting a toy or other chew object everywhere she wants to bit the bars helped Kelly redirect her energy. If you’ve met all of your parakeets needs and she is still biting, it’s at least worth a try!

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Budgie morning noise – sleeping in on the weekends

It seems pretty common that flock parents struggle with budgie morning noise. Typically it’s a pure joy to hear the flock trilling away, but at the break of dawn after a late night is another thing entirely! Weirdly, even with the addition of the fantastic singing Kevin to the flock, our mornings are still quiet until at least 8am, if not later.

I think that we’re creating a situation that’s conducive to everyone sleeping until a reasonable hour in a couple of ways.

  1. The parakeets’ cage is not in our bedroom. I don’t recommend placing cages in bedrooms for several reasons, one of which is preserving the quality of your sleep. I bet it’s pretty hard to convince an eager parakeet they should sleep a couple more hours if they see you get up to use the bathroom at 6 in the morning. Keeping cages separate from human sleeping quarters buys you a bit of time before they are aware you’re stirring.
  2. We don’t use a Cage Cover, but all of the windows in the bird zone of the house have Blackout Curtains. Not only do the curtains block almost 100% of the light coming in, but they also help us block drafts. I totally recommend using Blackout Curtains, wherever your birds are. This reminds me that I only have blinds in the room we are moving the birds to, and I really need to get on the ball!

These are the only things I can think of that we do to impact the flock and their likelihood of singing in the early morning hours. So far I don’t think we’ve had a single weekend morning where we’ve been woken up by a pack of singing lunatics. Just this morning I woke Toby up at 8:30am.

I’d love to hear some other tips for keeping mornings calm and sleepy! Or does everyone else like being woken up at the crack of dawn on the weekends and I’m just a lazy bones with equally lazy budgies?

Popcorn and budgies – an update and note of caution

Last week, I published a post about the budgies experiencing popcorn for the first time. In response, a kind reader commented that in a budgie group recently, someone recounted the experience of having their budgie choke to death while they desperately tried to save her. The culprit was, of course, popcorn. I am so grateful to the person who let me know about the recent situation.

First, my heartfelt condolences go out to the person who so recently lost their pet in a tragic and traumatizing manner. Second, I would hate to ever espouse any course of action that might lead to a budgie being injured or worse.

I wondered whether popcorn is a frequent choking hazard, or if this was a one in a million incident. Writing this blog, even for a relatively small audience, I’m aware of a responsibility not to publish harmful or misleading information. At the same time, I’m just a budgie parent, not a vet or avian specialist, and I’m learning as I go along too.

In order to gather some more data about a possible link between popcorn and choking, I posed the question on a FB page called Feathered Friends. This page provides an incredible resource, with nearly 80,000 fans who are parrot enthusiasts and owners it’s an excellent place to post a question and get a ton of well-reasoned answers.

What I gleaned from the many responses was that a budgie choking on popcorn is not a common occurrence. Also, it confirmed my concept that, much like humans, a budgie could choke to death on anything they ate and it would probably not be possible to eliminate all dangerous foods.

I was also called ignorant (yay internet!). As I’m sure we all know, asking questions is the way we conquer ignorance!

Some folks did feel that popcorn is inappropriate for smaller parrots. So, before you decide to try popcorn as enrichment, weigh the risks versus the reward, but also know that we can be the best informed and the most well-intentioned bird owners, and tragedy may still strike.

As a best practice, make sure to remove all kernels from the popcorn you provide your budgies. I mentioned in the original post, the popcorn should be free of salt and butter. You can also remove any hull-like kernel pieces to reduce the risk of choking.

I think you can easily keep popcorn off the menu for your budgies and they won’t know the difference. I think you could give popcorn once a month for the next ten years and most likely nothing bad would happen (except you’d be cleaning up shredded popcorn once a month!).

The thing that’s important to me as someone who is concerned with honesty and transparency is that I let my readers know what I’ve found out about the possible dangers of popcorn. That way you can make a better informed decision for your budgies.

As far as things go for our flock, I will give Toby, Kelly and Kevin the chance to explore popcorn as often as we make it, which is about 4 times a year. While I understand there may be a risk inherent, I also don’t want to dwell in the fear of what might happen.

How to avoid breeding parakeets

Now that we have added a boy to our formerly all girl flock, some folks have asked if we plan to breed parakeets. The answer is a resounding “NO”! I plan to avoid breeding parakeets for several reasons:

  1. I have enough parakeets and don’t want more, particularly with my husband’s allergies, three molting parakeets is about all he can take! Also, the world does not need me to make more parakeets, there are loads out there that need a good home. I see lots of home-based breeders who have a hard time finding homes for their babies.
  2. Breeding parakeets can be incredibly difficult. If it goes well, maybe not, but even provisioning a nest box, nesting material, and then keeping the babies and nest clean is more than I want to handle. And that’s just basic human intervention, assuming mom and dad budgie do their job caring for the babies. If they can’t or won’t I would have to take over feeding babies on a crazy schedule, with a full time job there’s no way.
  3. The health risks to my adult females is not worth it for me. Laying budgies can become egg bound, which is potentially fatal. Yes, I know that every female parakeet may lay eggs, whether they are fertile or not. But, we’ve been able to keep our two girls, both in breeding condition for over a year, from laying at all. If I can prevent it, I do not want the presence of a male parakeet to change that track record.
  4. If allowed to begin breeding we could quickly end up with an excessive number of parakeets. Also, I would then have to worry about the baby parakeets growing up and wanting to breed with their clutch mates/siblings. Animals don’t have a sense that incest is undesirable, so it would be incumbent on me to make sure they didn’t breed with close relatives. And basically everyone in the cage would be a relative.
  5. The cost of care and potential veterinarian costs would rise exponentially with the numbers of parakeets, and I’m not prepared to take on a large additional expense.

How do I plan to keep them from breeding and laying?

  1. Provide no nest box or anything that could be perceived as a nest. I’m aware that some budgies will lay just about anywhere, including a cage floor or just randomly while sitting on a perch. But, not providing anything that could be construed as a next box is one way to discourage laying. This means no flat wood perches, no food bowls that they can comfortably sit in, and absolutely no Coconut Hideaways , Sea Grass Bird Snuggle Huts or anything else that they can hide in, sit on, or may otherwise see as a desirable place to raise children.
  2. Limit daylight hours. We need to keep day and night even, if the budgies think that it’s springtime with longer days they may decide it’s a good time to start laying. We are going to make sure that everyone gets 12 hours of darkness and no more than 12 hours of light. If things start getting amorous we may push it back to more darkness than that.
  3. Separate the sexes. No one has expressed any romantic interest in Kevin yet, but it the cage starts rocking I will probably make the choice to keep Kevin caged apart from whichever girl wants to mate with him. We just got down to one cage, so that will not be ideal, but if they are only together under adult supervision, and with the third wheel of the other girl, hopefully we can keep these crazy kids from knocking beaks.

I know there’s no way to 100% keep them from laying eggs if their bodies tell them to do it, but I can still control what happens at that point. I’m sure that this is a bit controversial, or offensive to some, but I don’t believe that my female parakeets have a natural “right” to reproduce. I think that it’s okay for me, the ultimately responsible party, to ensure that we don’t bring more parakeets into the world. Here are some options for what to do if we end up with unwanted eggs.

  1. After the first egg is laid, complete the clutch with Dummy Eggs . Using the dummy eggs to get up to a full clutch of seven can make the budgie stop laying. At that point I would just leave her the fake eggs to care for until she was bored of them.
  2. As eggs are laid, shake, boil, or freeze them and then return to the cage. If boiling or freezing, make sure the eggs come back to room temperature before returning. Again, wait until the parakeet is tired of caring for the eggs and then remove.

I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that we can keep everyone in the friend zone. But, if not, I’m glad to have a plan for contingencies and unwanted eggs. I would encourage every parakeet parent to leave breeding up to the pros (including home-based pros, of course!) and also to be mindful of the fact that there is no shortage of parakeets out there already who are looking for good homes.

A couple of uses for discarded seeds and hulls

No matter how you feed your budgies, at some point you probably end up with a bunch of seed hulls. Mixed in with those seed hulls are unwanted seed and maybe some pellets, dried fruits and veggies and herbs, depending on your preferred brand of parakeet feed. There’s no need to throw those discarded seeds right into the trash. Here are a couple of ways to extend their life.

  1. Use them as a fun enrichment. I feed Toby and Kelly 2 tablespoons each of a mix of the following every morning: Dr. Harvey’s parakeet blend, Volkman Avian Science Super Parakeet and Harrison’s High Potency Super Fine Pellets. Even though it’s only 2 tablespoons per day, there’s always some leftover. They especially do not like the sesame seeds in the Dr. Harvey’s, and they are still getting used to the pellets. So, every morning when I refresh I put the leftovers into a Tupperware container that I keep on my kitchen counter next to the seed mix. Tupperware of discarded seedsThere’s still a ton of great stuff in there! So, I use it as an opportunity for foraging enrichment. Either I pour some on top of a fruit or vegetable I’m getting them to try, or a little bit on a flat plate really gets them excited. For a super fun Saturday I pour a good 1/4 inch onto a plate and let them go crazy. They really love digging through the discards and finding delectable morsels they missed the first time around, and I love getting just a little more use out of the good quality food I spent my money on!uses for discarded seeds and hulls
  2. When you are truly done with the discards, throw what you’ve collected over the week outside for the outdoor birds and squirrels. I have two squirrels right now in my backyard digging through my budgies leftovers. It’s winter so I’m sure they are happy to have the little bit of extra food. Soon the birds will come and pick through the rest. What my picky eaters are too good for turns into a treat for wild birds.

I’m sure it doesn’t mean much to them, but in a “waste not want not” kind of way it makes me feel good not to put usable seeds and pellets into the trash.

Does anyone else use their discarded seeds and hulls for anything?  If you’ve got ideas I’d love to hear them!  Otherwise, if you’re throwing out uneaten seeds on a regular basis I hope you’ll consider saving them for foraging, either for your budgies or the outdoor birds.