Budgie cage placement – separate room or middle of the action?

A couple of years ago we decided to move the parakeets’ cages into what is intended to be the master bedroom in our house. We decided to change our budgie cage placement for a couple of primary reasons.

The first was that our oldest girl, Toby, had become really fixated on my husband. She was territorial about him and loved nothing more than to sit on his shoulder, scream in his ear and fight anyone who came near him. The second was that our “middle child”, Kelly, had developed a habit of chewing her cage bars and making a horrific clanging noise. We were working on redirection, but honestly given the two lady budgies’ issues it seemed like a good time to take a break and hopefully hit reset on some behaviors.

We lasted a bit over a year and now the budgies are all back in the dining area between our kitchen and living room. Our house has an open floor plan so they are in the middle of the action with a good view on all human activity except work and sleep time.

Our cage set up
Our two current cage set up

Here are my pros and cons for budgies having a separate room.

Pros

    • In their own room the parakeets could be guaranteed ten to twelve hours of solid quiet, dark sleep time. This helps to keep them out breeding condition and is good for their health in general. With budgie cage placement in the common area they are much more likely to stay up later while we are cooking dinner, watching television in the evenings, or grabbing a late night snack. If you have night owls in your family this can cause disturbed sleep until the wee hours of the night.
    • Speaking of cooking, being removed from the kitchen in their own room meant we didn’t have to worry as much about accidental smoke or other dangers from the kitchen.  We only cook using stainless steel pans, and would never take the risk of non-stick/Teflon cookware, but I still worry about accidentally burning toast someday and risking their lives.
    • The budgies had a place to remove themselves if they were feeling overstimulated. If we were watching a loud movie or playing music the budgies could remove themselves any time they wished to a nice quiet place and take a break. Granted, I’m not sure how legitimate this one is, since they seem to enjoy loudness in general!
    • It was much easier to corral them all into one place at a moment’s notice so we could open the front door. With the budgies in the main section of our house we eliminate the ability to open our front door during the day. This makes signing for packages or just going in and out of the house a very difficult task requiring bribery to get them all into cages. With their home base in a room with a door it was much easier to shoo them all in and shut it quickly.

Cons

    • It was harder to clean up after the flock and service their cages. They weren’t near the kitchen anymore so getting water every day was a nuisance. It felt like more of a pain cleaning up after them overall, the mess was spread out all across the house and, if I’m being honest, it was easier to ignore messy cages when they weren’t in front of me all the time. Similarly, I found myself forgetting to swap out toys and perches routinely to keep their cages enriching.
    • The bedroom didn’t offer them any opportunities to look out a window. Unfortunately all of the windows have a view of a busy street. During the day the sun glints off cars whizzing by and at night it’s all headlights. The few times I tried leaving a curtain open I could tell the flock was constantly startled by traffic. With their dining area placement they can look out into the backyard and watch bunnies, squirrels and of course outside birds. This is definitely a source of entertainment.
    • Their separate room was also the hardest of our house to heat and cool. In the summer it gets direct sunlight all afternoon until sunset and heats up pretty fast. In the winter, as the largest room in the house it’s also the hardest to keep heated. So, even if I had less worries about kitchen smoke and disturbed sleep I replaced them with different concerns about overheating and chilling.
    • It set us back severely in taming Kevin. Kevin was totally miserable the entire time he was in quarantine and desperate for parakeet company. Shortly after he integrated into the flock we moved them all to the bedroom. The fact that he had 24/7 budgie company coupled with becoming even less familiar with us resulted in him viewing humans as an inconvenient necessity and nothing more. We certainly were not part of his flock. I now believe that parakeets being able to view human activity from a safe distance is a critical part of taming. Shortly after they moved out to the common area and he could watch us go about our business I saw a shift in his behavior. It clicked for him pretty quickly that we were not, in fact, scary monsters, but part of his larger flock. Kevin can still be pretty shy around us, but he’s much more likely to choose interacting now and it’s so gratifying just to not have him react to us with fear. I don’t think we would have gotten past that without his being immersed in our daily lives.
    • This brings me to my biggest con. The parakeets being separate from us in their own room enabled them to create their own little subculture. Across the board they didn’t choose to interact with us as much as they had. It started to feel less like a human/pet relationship and more like I had rented out a room to a small family that didn’t speak the same language as I did. They were living their separate lives and happy without integrating too much. It was painful to feel that Toby and Kelly, who are typically way interested in humans and their activities, were totally fine with limited interaction.

Although almost any of the cons would have been enough to convince me to put our budgies back in a common area it’s the last one that really did it. It was so sad not having them as a major part of our daily lives and I think we’ve all been happier now that they are part of all the action again. So, my final recommendation on budgie cage placement is in the middle of the action 100 percent! Even though it takes more care not to open doors and increased safety in the kitchen it is absolutely worth it to feel like we are all part of one flock.

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Photo tour of our parakeet cage set up and play areas

As you embark on your journey of parakeet keeping you may find that your flock’s territory expands further and further throughout your home. We welcome the flock into most rooms of our house and have employed various methods to help them feel like they have a space just for them. Hopefully this photo tour of our parakeet cage set up and play areas will help provide some ideas for your home!

First, here are our cages:

Our cage set up
Our current cage set up

I have already done a full review of all our cages so I won’t go too much into these except to say we are happy with both. When setting up a cage for a parakeet make sure to have a variety of perches and toys. Also watch out for putting perches and toys directly above water and food bowls to reduce to amount of poop you can expect in either.

HQ Victorian flight cage for parakeets
This was our first “big” cage purchased, still loving it 4 years later.
Flight cage for budgies with toys and perches in it
The A&E flight cage is a great value for a solid, well-made cage

Above are some close up shots so you can see the set up in each cage. They are tailored to the needs of the parakeets that live in them. Kelly (HQ Victorian) has a lot of shredding toys because she loves to chew all day. Toby (A&E cage) has to have all of the toys dropped below the top perches or she’ll try to sleep on whatever is the highest thing in the cage.

Our first play area is a Java Wood Table Top Play Stand . You’ll probably notice a theme between this and our floor-standing play gym, they are too large for parakeets but with adjustments we make it work. For both stands we use a lot of Comfy Perch For Birds to make usable space for budgies. The flexibility of these perches is a huge bonus.

Java tree stand for parakeets
The java tree is  technically too big for parakeets but we make it work

My favorite play stand is the Prevue Pet Products Small Parrot Playstand because I can move it around the house with me. This play stand has also been modified to be useful for parakeets.

A standing play gym for parakeets
All the parakeets feel like this is their home away from home

Next up is the Polly’s Sandy Window and Shower Bird Perch, Large. This perch is technically slightly too large for parakeets. They like to sit here and look out the back window, but not for extended periods of time. I wouldn’t encourage them to sit there for ages due to the large width of the perch as well as the fact that it’s a sand perch, which can be tough on feet.

A perch for parakeets that sticks to a window
I think this is really intended for a shower perch, but it sticks well to the window.

In the front window we use a Triangle Perch, some Plastic Chain and a Command Hook to rig this up. All three of our budgies love sitting here and looking out the window. It does also draw them upward to the curtain rod, so if you’re not looking to encourage that behavior then I don’t recommend doing this. We took those plastic balls from another toy to create “bumpers” on the triangle so it doesn’t smack into the glass too hard.

Hanging perch for parakeets near a window
Everyone enjoys looking out the front window from this perch.

Last but not least I have a hanging area for them in my home office space. This is made from a comfy perch, a command hook and a swing from a company called Hari Rustic Treasures. Hari Rustic Treasures used to be available at Dr. Foster & Smith, which is no longer operating. I’m not sure where (if anywhere) that particular swing is available any more. This Yosoo Bird Swing looks like it would be pretty fun though, if you’re looking for another idea.

A picture showing a hanging play gym for parakeets
This hangs near my home-based office space – a command hook holds it all up.

That’s it (so far!) for our parakeet cage set up and play areas. About half the rooms in our house are parakeet-welcoming. They are not invited to hang out in our bedroom, bathroom and my husband’s office. If you have any questions about our set up or would like more detailed pictures feel free to let me know by dropping a comment on this post.

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Pet Parakeets and COVID-19

When I wrote my most recent post giving advice about working from home with budgies for coworkers I had no idea that I would end up in a mandatory work from home situation! But, here we are, due to attempts to slow the spread of COVID-19 I’m in my home office for the foreseeable future.

My new supervisor
My new supervisor sure likes to stay on top of me! Talk about micromanaging!

In the mix with all of our other coronavirus related concerns, it is certainly scary to think that either we could give our pet parakeets COVID-19, or that they could transmit it to us.

First, the good news, per the CDC there is no evidence that COVID-19 will transmit to any pets or other animals, or that pets could transmit it to people.

But, here are some coronavirus related considerations:

  • Although your pets cannot contract and transmit this coronavirus, they could carry the disease on their bodies. Say, for instance, someone with COVID-19 coughs on a budgie (which, let’s not in the first place) – the virus could live for several hours on the budgie’s body and be transmitted to someone else who handled him. So, we should all take care not to cough or sneeze directly on our pets. I think that’s generally good advice, even without a pandemic!
  • It is never a bad idea to wash your hands before handling your parakeets, but watch out for using hand sanitizer. Sanitizers that are alcohol-based could be toxic to your birds. Plain old soap and water are perfectly good for getting rid of the virus on your hands and body. Additionally, it might be tempting to hose your home down with disinfecting sprays but these are also known to be deadly.
  • Supply chain issues could become a concern. We all know that toilet paper is virtually impossible to get at the moment. I don’t advise panicking and buying up a pet store, but there is not any harm in buying enough of whatever you feed your birds to get you through two to four weeks of quarantine.
  • Similarly, now is a good time to make sure you’ve got a good first aid kit for your budgies in case of emergencies. I imagine that veterinary clinics will stay open to some extent as a necessity, but I think it’s safe to assume that hours may be limited, and already difficult to find avian vets may be even harder to see.

As we all get settled in to practicing social distancing and getting used to being homebodies our parakeets can be a source of stress relief and humor. Although I’m trying to keep mine out of my work day I know that I appreciate, more than ever, their company and their goofy antics.

Stay safe and healthy out there, readers, and know that this trying time will pass. Try not to worry too much about your pet parakeets and COVID-19. Also, it might be the perfect time to quarantine a new feathered friend, if you’re stuck home anyway!

handsome kevin
Kevin is a handsome gentleman and a messy eater.
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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!