Just for fun – things your parakeet is yelling about

I’m guessing that most budgie owners have had at least a day or two when their dear sweet angel babies get the idea to start yelling and don’t stop until they’ve worn out your eardrums (save for eating and naps).  Here is a list of reasons your parakeet may be yelling.

  • It’s snowing
  • It’s windy
  • It’s sunny
  • It’s raining
  • It’s cloudy
  • There are leaves falling from trees
  • She has spotted a squirrel 50 feet away that poses an immediate threat to everyone’s safety
  • “There are other birds out there do you see them???”

Methods of dealing for humans include Flents Contour Ear Plugs – Soft Comfort! 50 Pair with Clear Plastic Travel Jar or closing the curtains.  But really, if they are enjoying a good yell who am I to shut it down?  They are parrots and so they must be noisy 🙂

Healthy Weight for Budgies

I’ve been watching my waistline and trying to get fit lately and it made me reflect on my parakeet’s weight. Similar to humans, there is a target range for budgie weight that relates to optimal health.  This range is about 1.1 to 1.4 ounces (or 25 to 36 grams).

It may seem sort of impossible to weigh a flying target that amounts to less than a package of 2 Reese’s peanut butter cups, but it’s actually pretty easy.  Some folks get an official bird scale like the ZIEIS Digital Bird Scale | A63SS-NMP | Mounted Wooden T Perch | 1.0 Gram or 0.05 Ounce Accuracy | 3000 Gram or 96 Ounce Capacity | Stainless Steel Platform, which comes with a perch and should be very simple for a large parrot to use, but for a small parrot like a budgie, I have found it’s easy enough to use a basic food scale like the Ozeri Pronto Digital Multifunction Kitchen and Food Scale, Elegant Black (and some Kaytee Spray Millet for Birds, 12-Count).

Toby is very happy to do a photo shoot on the scale for treats, you can see that the scale shows she appears to be at the upper limit of healthy weights, but I didn’t weigh her at the best time of day so it was a bit elevated.  For the most accurate weight reading you will want to weigh your parakeet after their large morning poop but before they have had breakfast.

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It’s quite common for budgies to become obese, particularly if they are sedentary and stay at home in their cage most of the time.  Also a lot of commercially available seed mixes are high in fats and it can be extremely difficult to get parakeets to eat healthy (again, like people!).

This is another reason I would advocate strongly for allowing your budgies to be flighted; this will really help them get the exercise they need to maintain a healthy weight.  If you choose not to have flighted budgies then please make sure yours have the largest cage possible/lots of toys to play with and when outside of the cage you encourage them in physical play.  Well, really either way your budgie should have the biggest cage you can afford and a suitable number of toys and perches.

So – what are the health risks associated with obese budgies?  The big one is liver disease/fatty liver. Liver disease occurs because birds store excess fat in their livers, and over time an obese bird’s liver tissue is replaced with fat, compromising the liver function.

The symptoms of liver disease could be difficult to detect at first or confused with other diseases, they include (but are not limited to) loss of appetite, breathing difficulty, diarrhea, depression, distended abdomen and lethargy.

The best way to avoid fatty liver disease is to help your budgie maintain a healthy weight and an active lifestyle, and offer a diet that includes a good quality seed mix (like Dr. Harvey’s Our Best Parakeet Blend Natural Food for Parakeets, 4-Pound Bag) and depending on your preference, pellets (Harrison’s High Potency Super Fine 1lb …) as well as vegetables and fruits.

As long as you are keeping an eye on your parakeet’s weight and offering a good diet and lots of opportunities for exercise your parakeet should be able to easily avoid the perils of putting on a few ounces.

Additionally, thinking of the holiday season, it may be particularly tempting to feed your parakeet some human treats, or even things like crackers, cereal etc, but they don’t need it and it’s not good for them.  Since it should be pretty easy to avoid I recommend not feeding any “human” food at all outside of veggies and fruits.


Review of the Lixit Quick Lock bird bath

This should be a pretty short review of the lixit quick lock bird bath – really all I want to say is “buy it!” I am always on the lookout for products to help my budgies bathe. They aren’t into the running tap or taking a dip in their water bowl. We’ve had success with hanging greens upside down in the cage for Toby to use as a shower, but Kelly wasn’t a fan of that method.

So, I decided to try the Lixit Corporation BLX0787 Quick Lock Bird Bath. This is a two part system, one piece is installed semi-permanently on the cage, and then the bowl locks securely in and out of place on the base.

You can install this either on the interior or exterior of the cage. I chose exterior so that any water mess would be mostly on my kitchen tile and not soaking the rest of the cage, toys and liner at the bottom of the cage.

It installed very easily and twisting gate bowl into place is simple, and very secure. The budgies seem to like that they can see the water from outside the bowl, and the width of the bowl is perfect for a parakeet to spread out.

Initially, they both needed there to be some kale or other greenery in the water to understand that it was a bath. Toby still isn’t the biggest fan but she’ll at least get her feet wet. Kelly loves bathing in the Lixit bath with or without greens now, which it great. I can tell she really likes diving in and splashing around. I usually heat their bath water in the microwave in a coffee mug for 15 seconds, but Kelly will wait until it’s room temperature or even icier before jumping in – I suppose there is no accounting for personal preference!

As I’ve talked about before, bathing is incredibly important for parakeets, especially as we are headed into winter, since it can help them with dry feet and overall comfort. Also, it can help the humans who might be a bit allergic to parakeets, as they remove dust and loose feathers with a good soaking.

I don’t have anything bad to say about this product, it’s inexpensive enough to take a risk on, and there’s a good chance your parakeets will love it too!  If it doesn’t work out as a bath it would still be a perfectly good water bowl or even a food dish.

In the pictures below you’ll see how utterly soaked Kelly got during her first bath!

Choosing a budgie-safe Christmas tree

For the past several years before bringing Toby home we had not put up a traditional Christmas tree, either real or artificial. Some years it seemed like too much hassle and others I guess we just didn’t have the holiday spirit.

Once we had Toby though it somehow made me feel more of the holiday vibe, so I wanted to put a little more effort into decorating. Which is a terrible idea by the way, since parakeets just want to chew everything.  I should have spent our intervening pet-less years decking the halls till they burst.

Last Christmas we bought a teeny tiny little tree made out of tinsel and only put it out on Christmas day, which provided some small  festivity for a couple of hours, and then Toby stopped being afraid of it and did this

prompting the tree to be taken away immediately.

This year I wanted to try again, and started looking into which trees are safe for companion parrots. Some real trees are, but even if they are the safe kind the sap is still dangerous, and beyond that, if you don’t know how the tree was grown there can be issues with pesticides and whatever chemicals they use to make the trees last for so long.

It seems like fake is the way to go (although clearly, not made out of tinsel!), so I looked at that, and then thought about the constant battle it would be to make sure they weren’t eating the tree, or eating paint off of ornaments, or fabric, or chewing the strands of lights!  Now, don’t get me wrong, a year or two down the road I might be up for the challenge, but this year it seemed right to get ourselves a A&E CAGE COMPANY AE500M Java Wood Table Top Play Stand and a bunch of Christmas toys from Drs. Foster & Smith and enjoy the season worry-free.

What’s even better is that the tree can be in use year-round, so far the parakeets are a little wary of it, but I’m guessing in a few days it will be the most popular new hangout.

The A&E Java trees are very good quality and sourced from wood that would otherwise be discarded. As I’ve mentioned, Patrick has allergies/chemical sensitivities that frequently make it difficult to buy new furniture or anything really, but we were able to use this pretty much right out of the box, the only issue were the rubber feet had a fairly strong “new” smell, which dissipated over a few days. I know this tree may be a bit big for the budgies to be comfortable on but we’ll be making some modifications over time for better accessibility if they are needed.

What’s even better is that A&E CAGE COMPANY AE500M Java Wood Table Top Play Stand is available on Amazon Prime, and with 2 day shipping there’s still time if you want to give your parakeets a tree of their own this year!

A tale of three vacuums – one of the most important items in the war against parakeet mess

Parrot ownership, even with smaller birds like budgies, can be quite messy. They love to throw seeds and hulls all over the place, as well as feathers, pieces of toys, anything they can shred…essentially anything a bird can be messy with, it will be quite delighted to do so. One of Toby and Kelly’s favorite pastimes is to throw whatever they can lift and then watch it fall.

To deal with the resulting mess we deploy an army of 3 vacuums, each with a specific purpose.

iRobot Roomba 650 Robotic Vacuum Cleaner:
Roomba goes out every weekday between 2pm and 3pm and vacuums as much of the house as it can before going back to base. What’s great about this is it means we don’t need to vacuum the entire house every day, and since it’s scheduled for mid-afternoon, we humans don’t have to listen to it work. The downside is that it can’t go where the cages are because there’s a small step up between hard wood and tile floors. Even if it could get up there is wouldn’t work out, I tried Roomba in their area once and the vacuum hit the cage so hard that it moved. There’s no way I would subject the parakeets to that every day! It does drive a foot or two away from their cage and they hustle over to the side and yell at it until it goes away, which is cute, and also a nice common enemy for them to bond over. Although it can’t get under their cage Roomba takes the edge off of our duties as budgie mess does not tend to stay in one spot. Even on days where they haven’t been out yet I’ll come home to find feathers in the bedrooms.

The iRobot Roomba 650 Robotic Vacuum Cleaner does take some care to maintain, we’ve had ours for many years, you’ll need to invest in replacement parts, like brushes and filters, and you do have to clean it weekly at a minimum. I believe we’ve even had to replace the motor on ours. It can also be annoying, if you’ve left any doors ajar it will trap itself and just keep going for hours/until the battery runs out. It’s also not very smart and might go vacuum the same room every day for a week straight.

Even considering the downsides, I think Roomba is a valuable addition to our arsenal.

Shark Rocket Ultra-Light Upright (HV302):
A few days into having Toby with us we realized we needed to have a dedicated bird vacuum that we could use conveniently every day in the cage area and kitchen. It had to be lightweight and easy to store but have really good suction and capacity. We started out with a dust buster but that wasn’t really cutting it for getting into crevices and all the way under the cage, and it stopped holding a charge after just a month or so. I have a feeling it just wasn’t up to the herculean task of cleaning up after birds.

We ended up purchasing the Shark Rocket Ultra-Light Upright (HV302) and it is fantastic. It’s corded, which I thought would annoy me at first, but we just keep it tucked out-of-the-way behind a door and it stretches where it needs to go. The attachments are awesome for getting under the radiators and it picks up everything as it should. It’s bagless and the canister is see-through. I find that we can go a couple of weeks without emptying.

We run this every day in the dining area where the cage it and usually extend into the kitchen as well as the hallway next to the cage. It only takes a few minutes a day but makes a huge difference between relatively clean floors versus tracking seeds and feathers everywhere.

Shark Rotator Professional Lift-Away (NV501):
This vacuum is the big gun. It has an array of attachments, including an upholstery tool that will pull any tiny speck of dirt out of your couch. The canister pops off the base so it can be carried easily around the house and the smaller head attachment is good for both hard surface floors and carpets. Against with a clear cylinder canister it’s easy to tell when you need to empty and so satisfying to watch it fill up.

Unlike our daily vacuums, this guy only comes out on the weekends when we clean house, it is extremely thorough and powerful and easy to maintain.

Recently I dropped about 5 pounds of seed and pellets on our kitchen floor and after salvaging what I could we vacuumed up the rest, the Shark made quick work of it and probably would have been happy to chow down on the full amount.

The shark also does a great job during heavy molting times and has really good suction for getting tiny feathers from under tables, chairs, couches and oh just everywhere (since everywhere is where they are!).

Depending on your needs you can’t go wrong with any of these vacuums; I think all three are a great system to keep parakeet (and everyday human) mess under control.

One big note about safety, please don’t ever vacuum with your budgies out of the cage. I saw a terrible story once about a parakeet that got sucked up in a vacuum, thankfully it survived with medical intervention but hat’s a vet bill that’s pretty easily avoided by keeping birds at home when vacuums are out. I’m going to assume that most parakeets are not huge fans of the vacuum anyway and probably feel safer in their cages instead of battling the great noisy beast!

Cooking safely with parakeets in the home

I’ve been thinking lately about cooking and how to safely cook around budgies.  They process air much faster than humans so the smallest pollutant can be fatal.  Most people know that things like candles and cigarettes are big no-nos for birds, but there are several things to avoid specifically while cooking.

The big one to stay away from is Teflon pans. It was with some sadness that I got rid of all my non-stick cookware the day Toby came home. It’s safe to use stainless pans, like the Cuisinart 733-30H Chef’s Classic Stainless 5-1/2-Quart Saute Pan with Helper Handle and Cover, although it certainly increases my risk of burning things!  Which, I am joking about, but we make every effort not to introduce cooking smoke into the budgie’s breathing space. It’s not recommended to keep parakeets in the vicinity of a kitchen because of all the contaminants, but with a small house we really don’t have a choice on that.

Because of switching to stainless from non-stick, it may be tempting to rely more on cooking sprays that grease your pans, these are also bad for budgie airways. That’s just a good reminder about any spray, really, from hair spray and deodorants to home scents.

Another big danger zone is your oven. A new oven is deadly to birds, and needs to be run for a long time to release all of its breaking in fumes, which I believe are burning off some coating on the interior of the stove. Basically you either need to remove the budgies from the area and run your oven at a very high temperature several times or if you buy from a local appliance store it’s my understanding you can pay a little extra to have them do this for you.

We are pretty much without our oven at this point, we bought it last fall and thought that we had burned everything off properly, Patrick spent two days at home with Toby in another room and the oven running/house vented, and we were able to use it around Christmas last year, but really didn’t do much with it after the holidays.

Flash forward to this year when we went to heat up a frozen pizza and realized that it still isn’t done giving off fumes.  So, we’ve agreed to skip the oven this winter and work on getting it properly broken in this spring/summer when we can move the birds to another room AND vent the house without making it too cold.  Fortunately we have this toaster oven, BLACK+DECKER CTO6335S 6-Slice Digital Convection Countertop Toaster Oven, Includes Bake Pan, Broil Rack & Toasting Rack, Stainless Steel Digital Convection Toaster Oven that is pretty big and safe to use until we sort out the oven issues.

Also watch out for the self-cleaning oven setting, this releases fumes that will kill your parakeets because the oven heats itself to about 900 degrees and this super heats the chemical coating inside.  If your oven needs to be cleaned it’s much safer for your birds and you to use natural products like baking soda, vinegar and your own scrubbing power.  I would also suggest that spot cleaning your oven after a spill may help avoid the need for devoting an entire day to oven-cleaning down the road.

The best tool in my kitchen is my Crock-Pot SCCPVL610-S 6-Quart Programmable Cook and Carry Oval Slow Cooker, Digital Timer, Stainless Steel, we usually throw something in it on Sunday morning and it has us set for dinner for at least two or three nights.  The slow cooker is safe for budgies because the insert is ceramic and has no coating – YAY! If a recipe calls for it to be coated with cooking spray I take it outside, but I think in most cases I could replace that with greasing it with butter anyway.

Beyond taking care about what products you are cooking with I would also strongly caution anyone about having parakeets or other companion birds outside of their cages while you cook. Even a budgie that you think is clipped for his “safety” can make a random leap onto a hot surface or (heaven forbid) into a pot of boiling water.  We discouraged Toby from hanging out on the kitchen counters when she was young and subsequently she and Kelly never land on them, but I’m still careful to tuck the crock pot out-of-the-way while it’s on, and they are not allowed out if we are preparing food either using knives or heat.

For me this all adds up to a pretty good excuse for cooking less and eating out more!  Also, not cooking equals more time for parakeet bonding, so, win-win on that point.  Seriously though, if you love to cook and bake you can still do so safely with budgies, but like most facets of bird ownership, you just need to be mindful and careful of the dangers to your feathered kids.

Review of Dr. Harvey’s Parakeet Food

I think my days of mixing together different seed blends to try and perfect our parakeet’s diet is over now that we’ve tried Dr. Harvey’s Our Best Parakeet Blend Natural Food for Parakeets, 4-Pound Bag.

When we first got Toby we started out with a big bag of Kaytee foraging parakeet blend which was $8 for 5 pounds, and here we are 14 months later ending up at $26 for 4 pounds for Dr. Harvey’s!  Quite an increase in price, but as it is with most things you get what you pay for.

The difference between this blend and other commercial blends is easy to see, feel and smell. I swear I am fairly tempted to eat this as a snack myself.

Per the product’s description the food is a “wonderful blend of nuts, fruits, seeds, vegetables, herbs and bee pollen made specifically for parakeets. This blend is so plentiful in vitamins and minerals and the appropriate amount of protein that it takes the guesswork out of feeing your parakeet”. For me, knowing that I’m providing the parakeets with the best possible seed-based nutrition is totally worth the relatively high price tag.

Dr. Harvey’s is also free of chemicals, dyes, preservatives and synthetic ingredients. I love that there is nothing in the mix with a color that doesn’t occur in nature. Also, although I haven’t tried it yet, I have read several reviews that the seeds are so fresh you can sprout them and feed the sprouts to your budgies. I will have to test that out and report back.

I can report that our budgies mostly ignore or remove all of the larger pieces of fruit in the blend, although it we hold one out for them they will eat it from our hands they just aren’t that interested when it’s in the food bowl.  So, this blend does not replace offering fresh fruit and veggies, nor should it!

As you’ll see in the photos below our parakeets took to Dr. Harvey’s immediately. For now I’ve been mixing it in with my last blend because I do want to use that up, but going forward I think we’ll be a Dr. Harvey’s family.

And, once I got over my sticker shock I rationalized that A. our parakeets are worth the very best and B. since we’re talking about a matter of 5 tablespoons of food per day, I think we can shoulder the financial burden!

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