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.

Tips for keeping budgie food and water free of poop

A common question that many parakeet owners have (frequently said with great anguish and frustration) is, “why does my budgie keep pooping in his water?” First, I would offer an assurance that the budgie is probably not purposefully soiling his water and food sources. Second, I would suggest that his current cage design and food/water sources probably unwittingly encourages this to occur. Here are some tips to consider when troubleshooting the issue of poop in water or food.

  • Level design – Anyone who has played Super Mario Maker knows how important level design is to making a good play-through experience. The same theory holds for designing the interior landscape of your budgie’s cage. You can plan ways to make transitioning from perch to perch easy, as well as how he will access toys, food and water. This can be helpful when planning for a comfortable sleeping space for your parakeet. Where it is truly critical is in making sure that the areas above food and water bowls are free of toys and perches, greatly reducing the likelihood that poop will fall into the food and water from above. It stinks losing usable cage space that way, but anyone who has put a food or water bowl below what turns out to be a favorite napping spot knows the fallout is not worth it!
  • Fully enclosed water bottles – Our parakeets have Stainless Steel Hanging Bowls, which are largely ignored in favor of Lixit Bird Waterers, which offer a straw to drink from and no opening at all for water to be contaminated. They do have to be very carefully scrubbed to discourage bacteria growth, so be mindful of that!  Other than the additional cleaning requirements these are perfect, both Toby and Kelly far prefer drinking from this style bottle to a bowl. There are also Silo Waterers which achieve essentially the same result with a small pool of water that would be much harder to dirty.
  • Mostly enclosed food bowls or silos – Similar to the water silos there are also Silo Bird Feeders and Cup Feeders that would both greatly reduce the opportunity to poop in food. There are also covered feeders like the Seed Corral No Mess Pet Feeder – although it looks to me like the parakeet could go into the bowl and sit in their food, which would probably defeat the purpose on that one!
  • Purposefully placing blocking items above bowls. Getting back to the concept of level design, you can thoughtfully place blockers above food and water bowls to protect them from fall out. Some ideas would be the Polly’s Comfy Clam Bird Perch, a Round Natural Wood Bird Perch or a Lava Ledge, which are also good for chewing and perching on to keep beaks and nails in check.

With a keen eye for environment design and possibly changing up the food and water sources I am confident that you can greatly reduce the amount of poop soiling your budgies’ food and water dishes.  Outside of the issue of poop, always make sure to wash your budgies food and water bowls regularly.

Halloween safety for budgies

When you think of Halloween safety, you probably think of tips for kids or dogs. I have been thinking about the holidays recently, and felt there are enough budgie hazards to warrant a post about Halloween safety for budgies!  Here’s a few things to remember as you prepare for one of my favorite holidays.

  • When welcoming trick-or-treaters, make sure of a couple of things. 1. That your budgies are safely stowed in their cage and can’t escape out a frequently opening door. 2. That they won’t be exposed to a draft from the door opening and closing more than normal.  This might be an unexpected issue particularly if your family usually enters through a side door but trick-or-treaters come to the front.
  • If you have a party in your home, move the cage to an out of the way spot where the budgies won’t be bothered by guests young or old. Make sure guests know that the budgies are off-limits, and especially keep an eye on little ones who might think it’s fun to yell at the birds or let them out to play.
  • On that theme, make sure you let kids know that they shouldn’t share their candy with budgies. It’s natural to want to share with a friend, but Chocolate is deadly for parakeets, and other types of Candy have way too much sugar and salt.
  • Watch out for a Costume that could be scary to your parakeets. It’s not a tragedy to frighten them a little as you’re going about your business, but be mindful that a Mask covering your face might give them a scare.  I know mine hate it when I wear a hat, so I can’t even imagine what a demon mask would do!
  • Speaking of costuming, you might want to use Glitter Hairsprayor other products that aren’t typical in your household. Don’t forget that aeorosal sprays and other air contaminants can be dangerous or deadly for your budgies. If you are getting ready at home, make sure you do so in a separate air space. This is also a good note for any crafting you might do with glue sprays or other craft glue.
  • Halloween is also a time for making special treats, so be mindful about bringing out any non-stick cookware for the holidays.  That pan you only use once a year to make Halloween caramel might be non-stick, and it wouldn’t be in the forefront of your mind if you’re focused on the fun.

Please feel free to add more tips in the comments, I’m sure I missed a lot of the hazards inherent to the season. But, hopefully this is a good starting point to think about your plans and how they might inadvertently impact your budgies health.

Happy Halloween!

Halloweed safety for budgies

Parakeets and nail polish – what are the dangers?

It’s been several years since I used nail polish on the regular. My husband has allergies and sensitivities to chemicals, so every time I want to paint my finger or toe nails it’s been a real production. I have to go outside to paint them and stay out long enough to dry, then when I come in I have to wash my feet as soon as the polish is totally dry. Even after that the chemicals would irritate his throat and I would end up having to wear socks around the house and to bed for several days. Since I did it so infrequently I rarely though about the possible implications for parakeets and nail polish exposure.

I’ve been traveling more for work lately and attending conferences wearing sandals this summer brought the issue more to the forefront. I still didn’t really want to paint my finger nails, because Toby can’t stand most nail colors. When my mom visits with anything other than a neutral nail Toby won’t go anywhere near her! But, to look professional and put together I did want to be able to polish my toes more frequently.

I started researching whether there was a chemical-free option for nail polish, and was immediately horrified to learn about what I’d been putting on my toes and into our home’s air space for years. Most nail polish brands that I had been picking up at the grocery store contained chemicals like:

  • DBP (dibutyl phthalate) – a toxic chemicals that has been proven to cause reproductive issues in rats as well as birth defects.
  • Toulene – long term exposure to toluene is linked to several lovely conditions such as anemia, lowered blood cell count, liver and kidney damage.
  • Formaldehyde – I feel like just putting that word there should be enough, most of us associate formaldehyde with preserving dead animals and tissues as specimens and I think we can all intuit that using it on humans is a poor idea. It is a known carcinogen as well as a respiratory irritant.

No wonder it was such a problem for my husband, he consistently reacts to formaldehyde when it’s used in clothing manufacturing (also GROSS), so I’ve basically been trying to poison him every time I polished my toes. Additionally, I was pretty devastated that I’d been bringing these products into the house with budgies at all, even if I took precautions to use them outdoors only, if my husband reacted to it for days after application it couldn’t possibly be healthy for them.

Happily, there are options that are far less dangerous than traditional polishes. You want to look for products that are, at a minimum, noted to be “3 free” or “5 free”, this refers to the number of chemicals that are not present in the product.

I began searching on Amazon and found butter LONDON Nail Lacquer, which at just a little bit higher price point than my grocery store polish boasts of being “8 free”. The chemicals additionally excluded are: Formaldehyde Resin, Camphor, Ethyl Tosylamide, Xylene, and TPHP.

As a review of butter LONDON Nail Lacquer I am happy to report that it goes on fairly easily and lasts well. It does not go on as smoothly as a polish with the added chemicals, however, and you may want to buff your nails before application to ensure a smooth finish.

The final verdict was that this polish is a total success story for my household! I still applied the polish outside, but had to come in before it dried completely due to weather issues. My husband could tolerate it immediately, no frantic foot washing or hiding them away in socks required!  I am so pleased that I’ll be able to polish my toes just because I want to in the future without having to take crazy precautions. I also feel about a million times better about not exposing the parakeets to dangerous nail polish chemicals.

If you use polish frequently I urge you to make sure your preferred brand is at least “3 free” if not more. If it isn’t and this post doesn’t convince you to change then please do some additional googling and make sure you are comfortable exposing both yourself and your children/pets to the chemicals. Especially budgies, whose air systems are so much more delicate than ours.

Budgies and mirrors – our take on the great debate

When we first got Toby I was pretty convinced that mirrors in cages were a bad idea. There’s tons of anecdotal evidence that having a mirror in the cage greatly reduces the likelihood that your new parakeet will bond with you. This is because they think the bird in the mirror is a part of their flock, and a non-tame budgie will almost always prefer the company of his own kind. Bonding with a mirror bird can mean the budgie will spend hours a day singing to the mirror, bopping heads, and potentially even attempting to feed the mirror through regurgitation.

This kind of bond can make the budgie unmotivated to ever come out of the cage and interact with you. I mean, why would he want to if his best pal can’t come out too?  It may also make the budgie more territorial and protective of his cage, if he thinks he’s defending another bird. In some extreme cases, attachment to a mirror can result in a budgie getting stuck in a feedback loop. In that instance, since the mirror budgie never breaks the loop of action and reaction, the real budgie can interact with the mirror to the detriment of their own health; potentially resulting in dehydration and starvation. Now, that’s super extreme. I would not expect that to happen to 99% of budgies with mirrors.

But, I would anticipate that the vast majority of solo budgies’ ability to be tamed would be impacted by a mirror friend. When bringing home a new budgie I would recommend leaving mirrored toys off your shopping list.

All of those warnings aside, we did recently get a mirror for Toby and a mirror for Kelly as a bit of a trial run. I’ve been feeling increasing bad for Kelly since she and Toby split up, she’s clearly lonely in the cage and I was worried about her becoming depressed about not being able to get to Toby. Since we can’t get a new roommate for Kelly until November due to my travel schedule we talked about it and decided to try adding a mirror so she wouldn’t feel as alone. Toby got one too because that’s how we roll, like giving your kids an even number of presents on the holidays, you can’t do for one without doing for the other!

I’m pleasantly surprised by the experiment so far. Neither parakeet has gotten overly attached to their mirror bird. Kelly spends some time hanging out near hers daily singing to it, but hasn’t gotten too into interacting. Toby plays with the beads on her mirror and occasionally seems interested in what she sees, but typically gets distracted in short order and wanders off to play with something else. There’s been no impact on their readiness to come out of the cage when the doors are opened, which may be because there’s a real bird to come out and play with. Neither bird has gotten more territorial than they already were about their cage either. Although to be fair they are quite territorial anyway!

It eases my mind a bit to know that while we are at work they each have a facsimile of a pal inside the cage with them. I hope that it helps them feel secure and like they are not alone. I still do think that mirrors are not for every bird, and that some may take it much more seriously than ours. If you’ve got a tame budgie that might be a bit lonely while you’re out of the house I don’t see any harm in giving a mirror a try. I would recommend watching closely to make sure it isn’t creating a problem, and be ready to pull the mirror out at the first sign of an issue that would be detrimental either mentally or physically

An observation about adult molting budgies

It used to be that molting was a huge deal in our house. Toby and Kelly would behave as though they were on death’s door and it would be days of very dramatic budgie behavior. Sleeping for almost 24 hours straight, being fluffed up, wanting to be snuggled when they usually hate to be touched. It was typically a very uneasy time full of trying to make them more comfortable. But, now that they have both reached maturity, I’ve made some observations about adult molting budgies.

At first it was just Toby who started to handle molting better, although I didn’t notice at the time because I was so focused on Kelly’s discomfort!  Then, once Kelly turned one and a few months her next molt was a relative breeze too.

I mean, they were still cranky and untouchable and even more inclined to bite than usual (Kelly). But, there was no puffing up, no sleeping all day and no cuddling into mamma for some comfort. I might miss that last bit, but otherwise it’s such a relief not to have the vet on speed dial just because we are laid low by pin feathers!

This leads me to believe that once a budgie has gone through a few molts and is a healthy, mature adult they are able to handle the molt a lot better. I have no idea whether it would be because the mature body is heartier or whether it’s just that they aren’t surprised by what’s going on and know that they will make it through okay.

Either way, I’m happy that it’s easier for all of us to get through it with some extra baths, misting and maybe some extra millet to lift the spirits.  This also provides a possible explanation as to why I see so many folks saying that their budgies always go through a molt like it’s no big deal!  I now think there’s a huge difference between juvenile and adult molting budgies.

Budgie preferred sleeping arrangements

When you first bring home a new budgie it may be hard to believe that after a full day on their feet they would prefer to sleep standing up. But, it’s true, a comfortable budgie will grind his beak before going to sleep; then tuck one leg up underneath him and drift off. You may also see your parakeet turn his head around and rest it on his back. Here are some typically preferred sleeping arrangements for budgies.

  • Your budgie will probably not want to sleep in a soft enclosure like a Happy Hut, which is good, because they can be unsafe for several reasons. But, even a safe option like this Sea Grass Snuggle Hut may be regarded as quite unsuitable for sleeping, even if it’s fun for day time play and chewing. If you are concerned about your budgie getting cold in winter time, you can use a Bird Cage Cover if your parakeets will tolerate it, mine don’t care for being covered at all! Otherwise, you can use heated perches, like the K&H Thermo Perch or the K&H Snuggle Up Bird Warmer.
  • What the parakeet does want, in most cases, is to sleep on the highest perch possible. Or rather, the highest thing in the cage, no matter if it’s a perch or the top of a toy.  If there’s nothing at a suitable height they will even cling to the bars of the cage in an upper corner. If your parakeet sleeps that way, try putting a perch in that space and see if he’ll get off the wall, although please don’t attempt that after bedtime!  Toby used to run through her options every night before bed and would try to sleep on top of several very unstable toys, until we dropped them all lower than the sleeping perch using Plastic Chain. If you have multiple parakeets make sure you have enough high up perch space to help avoid fighting over preferred territory. Some parakeets prefer to sleep on a Perch Swing, so you can try offering that as well. I wonder if the movement is soothing, like being on a gently swaying tree branch.
  • Make sure you also have a couple of Night Lights or even a Small Lamp to help avoid night terrors.

If you’re providing comfortable perches as the highest items in the cage, and eliminating drafts and scary dark spaces your parakeets should be great sleepers! Although there are exceptions to every rule, most parakeets are very comfortable sleeping standing up and resting one foot at a time by tucking it up into their tummies.