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.

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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.

Budgie morning noise – sleeping in on the weekends

It seems pretty common that flock parents struggle with budgie morning noise. Typically it’s a pure joy to hear the flock trilling away, but at the break of dawn after a late night is another thing entirely! Weirdly, even with the addition of the fantastic singing Kevin to the flock, our mornings are still quiet until at least 8am, if not later.

I think that we’re creating a situation that’s conducive to everyone sleeping until a reasonable hour in a couple of ways.

  1. The parakeets’ cage is not in our bedroom. I don’t recommend placing cages in bedrooms for several reasons, one of which is preserving the quality of your sleep. I bet it’s pretty hard to convince an eager parakeet they should sleep a couple more hours if they see you get up to use the bathroom at 6 in the morning. Keeping cages separate from human sleeping quarters buys you a bit of time before they are aware you’re stirring.
  2. We don’t use a Cage Cover, but all of the windows in the bird zone of the house have Blackout Curtains. Not only do the curtains block almost 100% of the light coming in, but they also help us block drafts. I totally recommend using Blackout Curtains, wherever your birds are. This reminds me that I only have blinds in the room we are moving the birds to, and I really need to get on the ball!

These are the only things I can think of that we do to impact the flock and their likelihood of singing in the early morning hours. So far I don’t think we’ve had a single weekend morning where we’ve been woken up by a pack of singing lunatics. Just this morning I woke Toby up at 8:30am.

I’d love to hear some other tips for keeping mornings calm and sleepy! Or does everyone else like being woken up at the crack of dawn on the weekends and I’m just a lazy bones with equally lazy budgies?

New flock order – there will be singing budgies!

For the two plus years when we only had female budgies I wondered what people were talking about when they complained of budgies that sang loudly all day. Toby and Kelly on their own were largely silent, except bouts of screeching and screaming at each other. Now that Kevin is integrated with the flock I finally know the joy of singing budgies!

When we first picked out Kevin at the pet store he was behind Plexiglas so we couldn’t hear him singing. But, we chose him in part because we could visually tell that he was singing his heart out. Upon bringing him home he made zero sounds for the time he was in quarantine, except for some weak flock calling to the girls. It was so sad, even though we played music for him constantly and budgie noises on YouTube, he was just not having any part of it. I think the poor fellow was so terrified all the time it seemed way too risky.

A couple of weeks after coming out of quarantine Kevin decided it was safe enough to try a little song. For a while every afternoon he would sing for a few minutes, and then presumably wait to see if anything came to murder him. Finding that there was no imminent threat, every day he sang more and more.

I love the sound of Kevin’s singing!  At first he was a bit rusty and quiet, and now he’s very warbly and melodic most of the time, and he loves to run through his whole catalogue of sounds.

The best part is that he’s convincing Toby and Kelly that there’s more to vocalization than screeching and flock calls. They all take part in the singing and even though there’s way more noise overall it’s SO much more pleasant. When they are all three singing their best songs it makes me a little bit misty to think they are a happy flock.

The other side of the coin, of course, is that I finally know what people are talking about when they say their flock’s singing rivals whatever is on the television! We were watching a movie last weekend and they sang along with everything and wanted to be the loudest thing in the room. So far it’s new enough to just be absolutely adorable, but I’m sure that will wear off.

When we had just the girls I tried for ages to get them to learn R2 D2 noises from a YouTube video. It was a total non-starter. I’ve tried again a few times since getting Kevin and shockingly, Kelly has picked up a few noises very quickly. I remember when she first came home that she had a lot more sounds than Toby, she even used to make a car alarm noise. But she definitely ended up limiting her range to whatever Toby would reproduce as well, and all the variety was gone in short order.

I couldn’t be happier with the noisy, happy sounds of our flock of three. I want to get some of it recorded but Kevin is still super camera shy and clams up as soon as he sees it come out. Given a few more weeks I’m sure he’ll be fully adapted to having a camera in his face at all times, just like the rest of them.

One other side effect of the singing is that it’s making me rethink moving them to another room. I feel like I might miss out on a lot of the good stuff, and I’m not sure I’m okay with that, even if it’s selfish in some ways. For now I want to enjoy all the singing all the time!