Encouraging your budgie to work for her food by foraging

I read an article recently called “Are we killing the natural instincts of the budgerigar” which put me on notice that no matter how many stimulating toys I provide, or flight time, or any material object, I have been ignoring a major component of my parakeet’s mental and physical health. That component is foraging for food.

You should read the whole article, but to condense, the experiment they are conducting in an aviary setting changed the budgies over from eating readily available seeds in shallow bowls that are refreshed every day, to serving food in deep bowls and not refreshing constantly, so the budgies would have to dig for their food. It also involves spreading the remaining seed on the aviary floor at the end of the cycle, instead of throwing it out, so that the budgies could sift through it again, simulating the ground foraging their wild cousins do, as well as getting much more use out of the provided seed.

The article inspired me to make some changes, because I am of course one of those people who feeds every day and discards every day, meaning the chances for foraging are extremely limited.

My big change was to take out the grate at the bottom of the cage. It took a couple of days, but the budgies love going down there and hunting through the seed hulls that fall out of their bowls. This also means that when I serve them vegetables they can go down to the cage floor and “forage” around in them. Like the green pepper shown above. They love ripping off all the seeds and then coming back to go through them all over again.  Right now they have a cup of torn romaine lettuce that they are digging through and throwing all over, and then going back to forage around in the lettuce leaves.

I also tried scattering what was left of their seed bowls on the ground of the cage, which would be okay a couple of times a week but really caused a mess explosion, due to the dramatically increased likelihood of hulls being blown out of the cage.

My next steps are to create more foraging opportunities. I always see foraging toys for big parrots, but I think for the little guys it may have to be a little more DIY.  Here’s a great idea for a foraging mat just made out of a doormat, and here’s another post about making a bunch of different foraging toys – some seem to be for bigger parrots, but there are some awesome easy things the the blogger suggests, even something as simple as covering the food bowl with a paper towel that the parrot has to remove before eating.

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Foraging 101

For higher up foraging, we are going to get back into using our Creative Foraging Systems Ball and Kabob, 5-Inch. If we put some shredded veggies in the ball the budgies will spend the bulk of their day pulling them out, whether they eat them or not, so at least mentally there’s the simulation of working for your food.

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The importance of foraging and digging through food also reinforces my decision to switch to a mostly seed diet, with pelleted diets a budgie would have even less opportunities for foraging.  And with Dr. Harvey’s parakeet food (Dr. Harvey’s Our Best Parakeet Blend Natural Food for Parakeets, 4-Pound Bag) there are a lot of different items in the blend to be foraged through and pushed aside to find the favorite morsels, and then throughout the day more and more of the less desirable items are consumed.

Overall, I want to be more cognizant of how I could be making it harder and more rewarding for Toby and Kelly to find food, after reading that article I’m certain I can do better at meeting their need to forage.

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Foraging for the wild cucumber

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Top 10 reasons owning budgies is like going to a gentleman’s club

  1. Budgie names are usually cute and easy to remember
  2. The budgies can touch you, but you can’t touch them
  3. Budgies dance in cages for your amusement, but they would do it anyway if you weren’t there
  4. They only pay attention to you if you give them a lot of want they want (millet)
  5. It’s hard to keep them off the (curtain) pole – see pic above
  6. They will probably lose interest in you and move on to the next customer
  7. Budgies need time in between “shows” to preen and chat
  8. They really seem to like shiny things
  9. It’s way more expensive than you thought it would be going into it
  10. Sometimes at night there’s a cover
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Do you like what you see, gentlemen?

Video – could you listen to this flock calling parakeet for 2 hours straight?

We had a little warm spell recently and it brought a lot of outdoor birds out of their hiding spots to chirp and enjoy the nice days.  It has also made Kelly want to communicate with them desperately, so she’s been flock calling to them every morning for hours straight. I know that in a week or so she would realize they aren’t going to talk back and stop trying, but in the interim we have this incessant yelling.

Before getting a budgie (or any bird), listen to this on a loop for 2 hours and decide if you can take the noise!  Please excuse the weirdly-sized video and the water noise in the background, she stopped yelling as soon as she saw the camera so I had to run the water to get her going again!

Gift ideas for the parakeet and parakeet parent

The holidays are fast approaching so as a special “cyber Monday” post I wanted to provide a convenient place to find my recommended gifts for parakeets and people owned by parakeets.

The products in this store have all been used in our household and are products I don’t hesitate to recommend.

Click here to access my Amazon Astore & happy shopping!

Snuggle huts – worth the risk to parakeet safety?

In our early days of having Toby I was searching around for toys and perches on Amazon and came across the Prevue Snuggle Hut. There are a lot of variations on these type of “tent”, some have hard sides covered in fabric, like the snuggle hut, and others have three soft sides, there are different types of fabric and different ways to connect them to your cage. They all follow the same theme of providing a nice snuggly hiding spot for your bird.

Theoretically, this is awesome, parakeets are easily freaked out by a wide array of things so having a safe space that’s soft and dim and cosy is a boon to their feeling of security. Also, snuggle huts are super fun to play on and in; budgies can cling to the sides and top, and play peekaboo on the interior. The fleecy sides can be preened and the thicker sturdier fabric interior can be chewed and pulled.

I purchased one for Toby and installed it in her cage; she was so cute going in and out of the tent and she clearly loved hanging out inside of it. Unfortunately, I noticed she was also wedging herself between the tent and the cage bars, on the sides and on the top of the hut. She was able to get out every time, but I thought of the hours that she spends by himself when we are at work and it just didn’t sit right with me, so I quickly took the snuggle hut back out and stored it away in our toy cabinet.

Afterwards, I started reading up on the dangers of snuggle huts and similar products. Because of parrots propensity to rip and tear any material they will frequently rip open the seams on these tents, and some budgies and larger parrots then wedge themselves inside the walls of the snuggle hut. If the owner is home and can get them out quickly enough this might result in a successful rescue, but there are a lot of cases where a parrot has been seriously injured or died.

Also because of the shredding habits parakeets may end up ingesting fabric while tearing apart their snuggle huts. Ingesting fabric can lead to an impacted crop. Here again you are looking at either a death or in this cage an expensive surgical procedure to remove material from the crop.

Since these tents could be fairly hard to access once in the cage you could have the best intentions to maintain it and make sure there are no holes or loose threads, but it would be very difficult to inspect the entire tent on a daily basis.

Outside of the risks of physical harm, a snuggle hut could also seem like a nesting space to a parakeet, and if you are not trying to breed your birds that’s just a bad idea!

I recently came across our old snuggle hut as I was cleaning out some toys that the parakeets don’t love, so I decided to put it on our play gym for a few days. Of course both Toby and Kelly were immediately infatuated with it – they both spent tons of time crawling in and out of the tent as well as on the outside. They are so stinking cute playing hide and seek that I wish I could put the snuggle hut right back in the cage. Especially for winter, it seems like it could be a nice place for a nap or even night-time sleeping.

For us, though, the risks are too great to outweigh the benefits. If you currently have a snuggle hut or any similar product in your cage, or are thinking about getting one, I strongly encourage you to do some research and read some of the stories of people who lost their parrots to hut-related injuries. In a couple of days I plan to take our snuggle hut down and finally throw it out, in the mean time I’ll certainly make sure they only have supervised play time around it an I’ll inspect for loose threads and dangerous tears after every play session.

The good news is that you can also find budgie-safe huts made out of sea grass or very heavy canvas. Here’s a couple of sea grass huts available at Amazon, the Prevue Naturals Sea Grass Snuggle Hut or the Seagrass Tent Bird Toy .

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holes after just a few hours of play, could easily be widened