Using AviCalm for an aggressive budgie

I should have known from the moment we laid eyes on Kelly that she was not going to be a warm and gentle soul. She was the first to hatch out of her clutch and, when we first met her, stood looking at her younger siblings with a sort of detached haughtiness that was certainly a sign of things to come. But, Patrick was drawn to her immediately so I bit my tongue and we chose her for our flock.

As a juvenile budgie, Kelly kept her rage under wraps, she had been clipped and seemed to understand that she needed her human flock for mobility assistance. We had fun building her ramps and bridges, but Kelly was more interested in taking off and seeing how far she could go before thumping to the floor.

Once she molted her way into flight and adulthood all bets were off. Even before she was fully mature she started chomping at us any chance she could get. Not really limiting her biting to territory issues, Kelly liked to preen you gently for a few moments and then start biting! Flying in the face of some common budgie wisdom, Kelly seemed to bite either for her own amusement or just inherent anger. We’ve tried all the many many tips for a biting budgie, which is pretty well documented on the blog already, and only succeeded in making her angrier.

So, it’s not a huge issue to keep our anger-inducing human selves away from Kelly and let her live her best budgie life. But where I feel bad for her is that she can’t seem to make it work socially with other budgies. I thought she and Toby had issues because they are two adult females, so we brought in Kevin and Kelly’s pretty much equally aggressive to him. He doesn’t escalate the way Toby does, thankfully, but still, no solace in the friendship of budgies.

Kelly can’t live with them because she’s got a nasty tendency to bite feet to the point of physical injury, but she doesn’t understand why she’s relegated tjo her own cage (mansion) at the end of the day. The result of that frustration was the recent mania for biting the cage bars, which we mostly managed to stop by providing an insane amount of things to chew and destroy.

TL:DR Kelly didn’t seem to be very happy, and I felt terrible for her.

Enter AviCalm. I was doing research one day about how to help an angry parrot and stumbled across this product. AviCalm is a supplement that is put in the budgie’s food or water and when ingested, helps with calming them down. AviCalm can be used on screamers, feather pickers, chewers and aggressive birds in general.

There are dosing suggestions by size on the packaging; we have been using half of the recommended dose for Kelly for about a month now. While she’s certainly not turned into a snuggle buddy, I have to say that AviCalm has helped immensely with her aggression.

Patrick and I are starting to be less afraid when she lands on us, I’ve even tried stepping her up a few times and while I’ve gotten bit for it, she hasn’t broken skin in weeks. Biting is still a likely eventuality, but it’s not with the same ferocity she used to dole out on a daily basis.

She even landed on my head and preened my hair yesterday without biting at all; I literally almost cried.

Beyond helping with her aggression towards us, I think that Kelly is feeling a lot better and calmer. She’s been way less fixated on Toby and has been able to relax by herself and play. Kevin loves singing and Kelly has been joining in, which is incredible.

The biggest change has been our bed time routine. We used to have to chase down Kelly and battle to get her in her cage every night. She would obsess over Toby and fight with her through the cage bars until we sometimes resorted to gently nabbing her in a pillow case.

Not anymore! Now I ring the bell for bed time and she is FIRST in her cage and goes right to the perch where she gets her reward. Even if Toby and Kevin are monkeying around, Kelly knows what the objective is, completes it immediately and even seems happy to do it! It’s amazing to not feel like we are torturing her every evening.

Reviews of AviCalm seem pretty mixed; based on my experience I heartily recommend giving it a try if you’re dealing with a difficult budgie. At the half dose we still see all of Kelly’s personality, she’s feisty, likes to explore and wants to assert her dominance, but we take the edge off of the incessant biting and obsessive behavior. Obviously I’m not a parrot psychiatrist, but I do think that Kelly is happier on the supplement.

That reminds me! Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian nor am I providing medical advice for your budgies. I am merely providing a review of my own experience with a product. YMMV. This post was not sponsored by AviCalm, but as usual the links are affiliate links.

My budgies use as much electricity as a bunch of teenagers

I’ve been waffling back and forth for ages now about whether to move the budgies into their own room. The bulk of what’s stopping me are random emotion-based concerns, but I do also have some logistical issues. One is that even though it’s not ideal to have the cages so close to the kitchen, it is really convenient to wash food bowls and refill waters so close to the sink and refrigerator. Another issue is availability of power outlets; once I started counting up all of the budgie-gear that requires electricity I realized that the flock is a bunch of electricity hogs! Here’s a run-down of how they are impacting my utility bill.

  1. AvianSun Lamp and Timer. Budgies need a few hours of full spectrum lighting every day to assist with Vitamin D production and absorption. Just having them near a sun-soaked window does not work for this as glass blocks the essentials rays of light. On the flip side, this isn’t a lamp that I can leave on all day because they really only need 3-4 hours per day and more than that is overkill. So, the avian lamp is on a timer that goes on every day from 12pm – 3pm and takes up two electrical outlets because the timer covers both.
  2. Night Light(s). Toby is an infrequent night terror sufferer who refuses to be covered at night. She needs ample lighting overnight so when she wakes up and sees a scary shadow she can see well enough to know it’s not a murderous night predator.
  3. Thermo-Perch. Even though the budgies are in a draft free zone and we keep the house at a steady 69 (Fahrenheit) in winter I have a thermo perch in Toby and Kevin’s cage to warm up their feet. Kevin loves that perch and naps there every afternoon.
  4. Air Purifier. This is for both humans and budgies, I suppose. They have a dedicated purifier that helps clear the air of their dander and dust. It also helps clear out cooking smells and generally keeps the air fresh for them. It’s nice, even in the deep of winter, to have some air movement too so it doesn’t feel stagnant.
  5. Amazon Echo Dot . The budgies have their very own Amazon Echo so they can listen to music during the day. I love that I can just pick a type of music and it will play for hours on end. It can also be turned on and off by using the app. If they are super agitated I play the lullabies channel to set a nice relaxed tone.
  6. Night Lamp. Totally distinct from the night lights, this is just a tiny little table lamp that I use to help signal night time. The first stage of my process is to start dimming their ceiling light and turn on the little light so they know that bed time is approaching. I leave this on in addition to the night lights. It doesn’t give off much light but it’s a nice way to help them know that bedtime is coming, and that when I turn it off in the morning it’s time to start the day.
  7. Vacuum. We have a Roomba and a Shark Vacuum for the whole house, but the budgies have a dedicated stick vacuum. It’s small enough to fit in a corner unobtrusively and light enough that I don’t mind dragging it out every day (or multiple times a day during molting!).

I think that’s about it, although if I didn’t have a light in the ceiling I would have to add at least one floor lamp. Seven outlets for 3 little budgies! If they do move into the master bedroom I will have to invest in a Power Strip in order to plug in all of their accessories.  It makes me wish that I had tracked my electricity spend before Toby, and then as we added more budgies and more gear, so see the impact on the utility bottom line. I should have also tracked keeping the house warmer in winter and cooler in summer than we used to pre birds. When we think about monthly costs of budgie ownership it’s common to factor in food, toys, perches and all the other basics, but maybe less obvious to think about increased electrical and other utilities. Possibly it’s too small an amount to worry about for your household, but I know that we’ve made changes that definitely impacted our bottom line.

Any extra spend is totally worth it, of course, for healthy happy budgies. They can have all the electronic devices they want, as far as I’m concerned, although I would probably draw the line at IPads I’m sure there are budgies out there that enjoy some screen time!

Budgies and anxiety – two sides of the coin

It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me in real life when I say that I can be a worrier. Like many people in this overwhelming world I struggle with moments of anxiety and excessive concern. I might joke that I’m a nervous nell or that I have a hard time letting things go, but the truth is that I do wish I was better at going with the flow and not concerning myself with every little detail. There are ways that budgies have helped me cope with anxiety, but on the flip side, they have also aggravated my concerns to an uncomfortable degree at times.

Positives regarding budgies and anxiety
There are so many ways the budgies have helped me cope with anxiety, it’s no surprise that some folks use them as emotional support animals, although as you know I don’t advocate for bringing budgies out into the world with you.

  • Budgies are super sensitive to their flock, and this includes their humans. I know that Toby, in particular, gets out of sorts if I’m angry or feeling cranky. Making sure that I’m centered and feeling calm before I walk in the door from work definitely helps me manage my emotional temperature. I value the time that I spend with the budgies and I don’t want to waste it by putting them off as soon as I come home.
  • Having any pet to care for is soothing, even though you can’t pet a budgie the way you would a dog or cat (at least my budgies aren’t cuddly). Interacting with them helps me get out of a negative head space. Coming up with enriching new food and activity experiences for them, devoting mental space to designing their physical space, and generally amusing and being amused by them can be a great distraction from worrying about work, family, or whatever is bringing you down.
  • When they are relaxed it helps me relax. Sometimes if I’m particularly stressed at work I open up my Security Camera app and listen to them singing. It immediately helps me center myself and refocus when I hear them having a happy day. Another good one is listening to them grind their beaks before going to sleep. Even hearing the soft rustling of their wings as they preen themselves can help me feel more centered and calm.

Negatives regarding budgies and anxiety
This is probably pretty obvious, but the list of things that you can worry yourself to death over regarding pet budgies could probably run the length of a football field.

The first eight months we had Toby I worried constantly about her dying. Every time she cleared her crop, preened herself too much, molted, had a night terror, or looked at me sideways I would dramatically declare she was dying. I misspent a ton of energy worrying about her well-being. In fact, I remember sitting myself down for a talking to and acknowledging that if I couldn’t get my anxiety about her health under control I was going to have to give her up for both our sakes.

A couple of things helped me with this, the first was time passing and her continuing to live, second was adding Kelly to the mix. Somehow having two budgies to fuss over decreased my nervousness instead of doubling it. Maybe splitting the concern made it impossible to maintain at that intense level?  Who knows!

On the other hand, fear of them dying is totally valid. I do a lot of research about budgies both for the blog and to be a well-informed pet parent. There are so many ways to kill a budgie accidentally, including, I just saw, frying avocados in your home! Not that I had any plans to fry avocados, but wow, if you want a delicate pet that requires tons of special handling budgies are for you!

I’ve done all my due diligence and we don’t use anything that isn’t safe for the budgies, but I’m sure there’s some new thing just around the corner. And even with being pretty near 100% bird-proofed, I worry when they pick up puzzle pieces of a new cardboard Puzzle, or if they try to climb up my sleeve and I’m wearing (Fragrance-Free) deodorant. I mean, you can just drive yourself utterly insane worrying about every tiny thing that might possibly harm them. And that’s just physically, when you start adding in concerns over their mental health it’s enough to go completely around the bend.

For me the positive impact on my tendency to worry far outweighs the negative impact. The knowledge that I am on top of their physical and mental needs makes me feel good. Knowing that I have supplies for minor emergencies and know who to seek out in the event of a major emergency help me feel prepared for the inevitable fiascos waiting down the road. Some of it, I think, is just coming to terms with the fact that there will be loss. Although I could have 15 years with my budgies, it’s pretty unlikely, and like with almost any pet, knowing that there will be grief someday is hard to handle, even if it’s a natural part of life.

I think it’s okay to acknowledge that owning budgies can be scary and worrisome. I’m sure that there are folks out there who will read this and think that I’m way high strung and overblowing everything. There are all kinds of ways to live, and I have a certain amount of envy for people who are able to think that things will mostly work out okay. Whether it’s true or not, I’m more the type to think that things will mostly work out okay, if I put in a ton of work and worry and don’t let any balls drop for a moment! So, for all of the readers out there who are like me, we are doing the best we can and should just try to enjoy the moment as much as possible.

Coming home from travel – how do budgies react

I was away for almost a week recently for work and since I went across the country time zone changes made it more difficult than usual to check in on the budgies. They were, of course, totally fine with my husband taking care of them! I did wonder how they would react when I got home though, which is probably a concern for any budgie mom or dad that travels.

For me it usually goes one of two ways. In the first option, I get home super excited to see them and they basically ignore me. Totally devastating!  When this happens it takes a few days for them to get back into the rhythm of spending time with me instead of devoting all their attention to their “papa” who took such good care of them. I don’t think they are mad at me when this happens, they just got used to a different way of doing things and I wasn’t a part of it.

Patrick always reports that they are such good babies when I am gone, MUCH more mellow and relaxed. In terms of our budgie parenting styles, he tends to set better boundaries and expects certain behavior from them, whereas I totally encourage them to be close to me and basically treat me like a human play gym.  I also am much more frequently the purveyor of undeserved treats. 

Fortunately this homecoming was the second variety. I got through the door and they instantly start going nuts with excitement. Way more welcoming! I let them out right away and Toby screamed in my face for about four minutes straight. I’m pretty sure she was simultaneously chewing me out for being gone so long and also telling me how psyched she was that I was finally back.

After I got my “talking to” she settled down to preening my nose and hair.

coming home from travelThe next several days everyone was extremely excitable. Even though they had been well-behaved for Patrick they were super willful now that I was back. Getting them in their cages for bed time or whenever we had to leave the house was a nightmare. I totally get it, all I wanted to do was spend time with them too. I think we were all having some mild separation anxiety.

I did some reflecting while on this trip, my work schedule is changing a bit very soon and I’ll be spending more time at the office. Additionally, I have business trips coming up in six out of the next seven months. In between all of that, a couple of close family members are having surgeries in the next month.

I’m not going to stop writing, but I’m going to start posting once a week instead of two. I think it’s the best way to take some pressure off and make sure I can still put up (hopefully) decent quality content, instead of rushing just to make an arbitrary weekly quota.

Thanks, as always, for reading!

I’m stuck – considering moving the flock to their own room

A while back I made some grand plans about moving the flock to their own room. It seemed like a great way to give them better sleep at night, as well as making their lives safer. It’s true, part of it may have also been so that the humans could use the kitchen at night!

Here’s where I started

what will be the budgie's roomAnd here’s how far I’ve gotten

moving the flockAs you can see, this is definitely not a bird haven! It’s still very much my whole room drying rack. But, I have some very good excuses for why the birds don’t have their own wonderland.

  1. Shortly after I wrote that post Kevin started singing consistently right before bed time, and I got terribly sad thinking about missing that if they were in a room down the hall.
  2. Everyone started a heavy molt and wanted to do nothing but sleep all day and loaf around. It seemed like a bad time to get them excited for anything new, especially a big change that they might find scary.
  3. Toby had a couple of night terrors and I got worried that I wouldn’t hear her in the new room. She tends to have a night terror when there are people still awake so it’s easy to turn up the light a little bit and help her get calmed down.
  4. Patrick pointed out that in that room it will be hard to keep the cages out of the air conditioning flow in summer. Where they are now the vent is directly above their cage and the air flows out so it never hits them directly.
  5. I have a lot of travel coming up for work, and I got worried about them being lonely while I was gone. Patrick takes good care of them, but he doesn’t like to let them out as much as I do. And that’s fine, I don’t expect him to obsess over them like I do. But, I can’t picture him devoting a couple hours a day to hanging out with them in another room, so it’s better if they are in the same room as him not forgetting that humans exist!

I’ll keep you posted, but for now it’s safe to assume the birds are staying put and the humans are still sneaking into the kitchen for a snack every evening.