Never fear, we’re all still here!

After a one year delay, I’m sure that even our semi-faithful readers must have thought that some tragedy befell the flock. Fear not for the lives of our intrepid budgies, it’s merely my laziness that has kept me from posting.

To be honest not much has changed since I wrote Kelly’s two year post, except for the fact that she’s three! Toby, Kelly and Kevin have not been joined by any additional budgies, and they are still enjoying their privacy with a room of their own. Regardless, I thought a good post to start writing again would be a general update of how everyone’s doing.

Toby will be four in October and although she’s still quite sassy and feisty I do think there’s an air of maturity about her. Although she remained close to her human flock after we got Kelly, it’s been a bit different since Kevin assimilated. She and Kevin live together and I sometimes refer to Kevin as Toby’s support animal. He takes very good care of her and always looks out for her well-being. As a consequence she really doesn’t need us that much for social interaction anymore. Toby enjoys fresh corn and millet and is still the quietest of the bunch.

Kelly is our resident crab. I frequently feel like she wants to be friends with everyone but just can’t figure out how to stop being so aggressive. She has her moments, of course, but mostly spends her free time starting trouble with other birds, humans, or biting her cage bars. We do everything we can to make her happy and give her lots of toys to destroy, but most of the time she’s pretty cranky. We can’t seem to snap her out of breeding condition, although she’s never laid an egg, so I think that’s part of the issue with her attitude. Kelly’s favorites include shredding toys and watching videos of parrots on YouTube.

Kevin the budgie on a swing

Kevin is a total sweetheart to Toby and alternately aggressive and amorous with Kelly. He would be willing to shack up with either lady, but they aren’t that interested in his advances. He has pressed his suit successfully on a couple of occasions with both of them, but no permanent romantic bonds have been established and he hasn’t made any babies. I think recently he’s given up a bit on the wooing and settled in to playing, yelling, and tons of singing. He’s not particularly interested in human interaction, but will occasionally acquiesce and chew on my glasses or groom my eyebrows. When he does it’s clear he’s doing it to be a good sport, but he’d rather be elsewhere.

Kevin wants everyone to get along and be happy, and he’ll nip any budgie who steps out of line, assuming it’s Kelly. Toby could probably stand on his head pecking and he’d put up with it and say, “whatever you want, boss”. Kevin loves chewing on lava rocks and he adores singing along to whatever we play on our Amazon Echo, but his number one, all-time favorite, passionate sing-along song is Let It Go from the Frozen soundtrack.

Not much changes day-to-day or even month-to month-now, and although we do variations on enrichments and try to play together every day, humans are a much tougher sell with all the budgie entertainments on deck. I’m going to try to get back into the habit of posting at least once a month, but we’ll see! At any rate, I did want to make sure to let readers know that the flock is still going strong!

A letter to Kelly on her second Gotcha Day

I cannot believe it has been two years since Kelly came home with us. It simultaneously feels like no time at all and forever. Celebrating a budgie gotcha day is a good time to pause and reflect on what your little friend has brought to your life. I wrote a letter to Toby on her second gotcha day and thought I would continue the tradition with Kelly. Given all the time I’ve spent writing about Kelly’s penchant for biting everything in sight (especially humans) you might think this post would take a turn for the negative. But, there’s much to admire about this little lady too!

the second time we saw KellyThis picture is from the second time I ever saw Kelly, when she was still a baby being weaned at the Rensselaer Bird Center. How could this little baby not steal your heart?

What I most admire and appreciate about Kelly is her sense of adventure. She’s the first one to expand a territory, discover something new, and show Toby and Kevin that there’s nothing to be scared about. This enhances the other budgies’ lives immeasurably. Even if there are prices to pay for having a bold spirit in your flock (like chewed up tables and painting frames), it’s totally worth it to have a fearless flock leader.

Kelly's recent fascination with the microwaveIf I’m being honest, it also keeps me on my toes in a way that I enjoy. Kelly is engaged with the house and the world around her in a way that Toby and Kevin aren’t.  They are perfectly content to stay on their loops (little Westworld reference there), but Kelly wants more from life.

I also love how this engagement applies to the human members of the flock too. Even when all she wants to do is test our skin strength, Kelly is the budgie who is most reliably interested in being with her people. Sure, most of the time it devolves into an attempted mole removal, but when you walk up to Kelly’s cage she is super excited to see you and wants to hop on your shoulder and be part of your action.

Can I pierce this ear for you ma'am?In her calmer moments she does also love preening hair and eyebrows and chilling out. Kelly is a total mama’s girl, nothing wrong with that! She will pal around with Patrick if I’m not home, but I’m the clear winner of favorites at present, which I would never turn down.

Lastly, she is a special beauty. I mean it is hard to look at her precious angel face, even while she’s chewing up the grocery list, and not want to just coo endearments at her. I have to assume there’s some kind of intentional delicate balance at work here, like, I can get away with “this much” absolute evil as long as I look like an angel that flitted down to earth.

Gorgeous angel budgieA very happy second gotcha day to Kelly. Thank you for keeping me on my toes and biting your way into my heart!

Taming Kevin – two steps forward and one back

From the start, Kevin has been a hard sell as far as human companionship is concerned. Once he was introduced to Toby and Kelly we humans hung back for a bit. It seemed more important that he get along well with the budgies and find his sweet spot in the bird flock, so taming our male budgie was put on the back burner.

Kevin has done so well fitting in with our girl budgies. It took some time for them to stop trying to bite his head, but now he’s got this great vibe going. I’m not sure how he negotiated it, but they both seem to respect him without requiring much violence at all. It’s rare to see him fight with anyone, but he somehow manages to get his way. And he’s so happy most of the time! He sings all day and tries to feeds the girls, even though they are not having it.

He has intense conversations with inanimate objects, sings along to the radio and tv (his favorite show is Intervention), loves taking baths and trying new foods. Now that he’s been through a big molt he has almost all his flight feathers back and he is definitely the fastest flyer of all three. Sometimes he even has to take extra loops to slow down before landing. Kevin is basically the perfect pet parakeet, except he thinks that his human family is not to be trusted!

Patrick tried working with Kevin pretty intensely when he was in quarantine to no avail. I had hoped that once Kevin saw that Toby and Kelly basically treat me like a human play gym he would loosen up a little bit. And he has, but it is taking months.

Kevin will step up when asked, and then tends to look for his first chance to escape. We’ll go on for weeks of me asking him to step up a few times a day and then all of a sudden he’ll land on my shoulder, or randomly decide to beak my nose or glasses. I, of course, get excited thinking we’ve made a break through, and then he goes back to alternately ignoring me or acting like I’m very suspicious!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled he’s happy, and I’m sure I should be even more thrilled to have such a polite and shy young man, as a counter point to my crazy, brash girls. But, I do look forward to building a bond with Kevin and showing him how cool his human flock can be.

I’m grateful that these little guys have a nice long life span; I should have a lot of years to make friends. Lately I’ve been working with him much more and using my old standby Millet. It’s a bit square one as far as taming goes, but hey, whatever works! I hope that continuing to have him associate me with the possibility of treats will eventually unlock a bit more trust.

I am constantly counseling patience when budgie owners express frustration with their standoffish birds. It’s hard to take my own advice, but I’m confident that if I keep on the steady treat-giving path we’ll get there!

How do you not want to be friends with this guy?

The budgies have their own room – finally!

Quite a while ago I started thinking seriously about moving the budgies into their own room. I did some crowd-sourcing and readers were split on whether it was a great idea or would be a total disaster. I got hung up and probably too concerned about the outcome, considering it wouldn’t have to be a permanent situation! Toby’s continuing obsession with her “papa” pushed the issue and we finally decided that we all needed a bit of space. At long last the budgies have had their own room for several weeks now.

In their new room, Toby, Kelly and Kevin have their cages, and they also have a fun play zone with the Java tree and a hanging Boing.

after waffling about it for ages the budgies have their own room!java tree in the budgies new room

Hanging boing in the budgies new roomThey really enjoy all of the added play space. I’m working on a way to get them better window access, but we’re not all the way there yet.

I was worried that this would keep them separate from the humans and they would be isolated, but in practice it’s expanded their territory, which is awesome!  After a few days they were very comfortable flying back and forth from their room to their play area with Playstand where the cages used to be in the dining room.

playstand where the cages used to beThey will spend literally all day chilling out on the Playstand, and at their window perches in the kitchen and living room. I keep the food cups full and it’s convenient having the table right there to put fruits and vegetables out and water so they don’t get thirsty.

So, the budgies are definitely not isolated and in fact they get even more time out of their cages then they used to. Having their cage space separate from the play zone made for an unexpected expansion of “neutral territory” so there’s been a reduction in knock down drag-out fights between the girls. We are still struggling with Toby being unable to leave Patrick alone and she will defend him like he’s her property, but we are now well into springtime so I am sure hormones are a factor.

As I had hoped, they are getting a lot better sleep now too. We are able to put them to bed between 6:30pm and 7pm and since they are farther away from the kitchen and living room I don’t have to worry as much about keeping them up cooking or watching television. It’s also nice that on the rare occasion we burn something in the toaster over I don’t have to fret about smoke inhalation.

Patrick’s allergies have been easier to manage since the move, but I do have to admit that I feel like I’ve got a lot more to clean up after, since they have increased their territory and mess zone. Toby has had one night terror since the move and I was able to hear it and respond really quickly, so that’s not much different either.

So far so good! The positives of much better sleep for the budgies and being able to make an ice cream sundae after 7:30pm for the humans are worth the increased cleaning for sure! Sometimes it does feel like it’s the budgies’ house and we are just living in it, but I suppose that was inevitable once they outnumbered the humans.

My budgies make me proud with some very responsible behavior

My husband had his tonsils out last Tuesday. Tonsillectomy is pretty regularly done on little kids, who, I presume, heal more quickly or otherwise just take it better. Anyway, leading up to the surgery everyone we told was basically like “this is going to be the worst thing you’ve ever experienced in your life”. Or would tell us an awesome horror story about rupturing or death. As we came up on the surgery date I worried about Patrick having a horrible recovery, but also increasingly about how the whole budgies with sick humans thing would pan out.

With the exception of Kevin, who’s still quite shy with us, the rest of the flock can be extremely in your face. Toby especially with Patrick, and particularly in springtime! I knew that if they bothered Patrick while he was recovering they would be stuck in their cages, but I hate doing that. Since I was working from home the days after his surgery it seemed particularly unfair to keep them cooped up all day.

The afternoon we got home from his procedure we installed Patrick on the reclining couch and I decided to try letting the budgies out. Honestly I was feeling a bit scared and stressed, and wanted some cheering up and company.

Before I let them out I asked them all to calm down and I gave them a talking to. This will sound a bit silly, but making eye contact with all of them I said, “Your papa doesn’t feel good, and I need you to leave him alone. Don’t look at him, don’t jump on his head and don’t scream in his ears, go it?” I repeated the messaging a few times and…

They have left Patrick completely alone. Toby has landed on his head twice in the last several days and has not screamed in his ears at all. I’ve given them the same talk every day before letting them out.

Now, am I sitting here trying to tell you that my parakeets understand English?  No, definitely not.

I think it’s a combination of things. One is that it’s extremely unusual for me to make them settle down before they get out of their cages, so they may have been tipped off immediately that something was different. Also, I call my husband Papa to them all the time, and since budgies do have a concept of naming they may actually connect the dots on “papa” being a person.

More than that though, I think it’s down to their sensitivity to what’s going on with their flock, which includes humans. I think it could also be related to their super awesome sight, which may give them an enhanced ability to see that Patrick is in pain.

No matter how they managed to behave so responsibly, I appreciate it beyond words. Their company has been such a major source of comfort to me while Patrick has been recovering that I would have been much worse off it they ended up getting grounded!