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!

Getting parakeets back in their cage

Here’s the scene: I’m home alone and the parakeets are spending free time out of their cages. I have a super small house with an open layout, so when they are out they are out everywhere in the house. To put even a finer point on it, my front door doesn’t even have a screen or storm door, when you open it it’s wide open to the terrible world. So – the doorbell rings in this scenario, if I have to open it then I better have a system for getting parakeets back in their cage with haste!

In some instances we’ve gone over and opened the window in the bedroom closest to the front door and yelled out at people, which is very handy when you wouldn’t have wanted to entertain the stranger anyway. But, when it’s a long-awaited package that’s signature required there better be a way to get that door open!

Patrick decided to try training them to go in using this Meditation Chime although I’m sure he could have just used the training clicker. Now that I’m thinking about it – if you found a Doorbell that sounded like yours you could probably literally train them to go in the cage anytime the doorbell rang.

At any rate, what we did was ring the chime, then put the budgies in their cages, shut the door, then ring the chime again and give them a little millet.

In short order, Toby has got it down flat. The Meditation Chime rings and she immediately looks very alert and hauls butt right back to her cage, then stands on the perch she always receives her millet. Kelly is much slower to learn anything, so we’re still working on her after several weeks. But, once Toby is in her cage Kelly tends to be more calm and pliable so it’s easier to step her up and put her home for the night. Kevin is usually already at home in his cage, or happy to go back when Toby does.

The hope is that given enough time, both girls and boy will hear the chime and hop right back into their cages. This would be great for times we unexpectedly need to open the front door, but also just for routine at bed time and convenience.  Time to make dinner, just ring the chime and you’ll be able to preheat the oven no trouble!

With the flock’s current home in the middle of the house, being able to reliably get them into their cage is key. So, hopefully Kelly will get with the program soon. With most parakeets I think you’d have a pretty easy time getting them all to go in their cage using a certain tone or signal.

Tips for budgie names – ideas and themes

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Picking out and bringing home your new budgie is very exciting, but choosing a name can feel a bit more daunting. Particularly since budgies live up to 15 years and learn their names very easily, it’s a pretty big responsibility! I find that if you have a theme or a general set of names to chose from choosing a name can be fun, but not overwhelming. Here are my tips for budgie names.

  1. You can always choose names based on color, Toby was almost named Blueberry (Berry for short). There are lots of Kiwis, Clouds, Storms, Sunshines and Rains out there. Not to say they are bad names, in fact I think it’s very cute. You could also go for a scientific cloud or other weather name.
  2. Characters from books or movies. Even if you start with one budgie, and are dead-set that he will be an only bird, you’re probably going to end up with more budgies. That’s just the way it goes. So, if you start with a theme idea you’ll always have names at the ready. Toby, Kelly and Kevin are named after characters from the American TV show The Office. I could name parakeets for the rest of my life based on characters from that show! You could do the same thing with characters from Friends, Harry Potter, Sesame Street, or The Muppets. When you pick a theme like this you have a ton of naming options, but only enough that it feels fun choosing a name, instead of impossible to narrow down.
  3. Similarly, if you’re bringing home a pair of budgies choosing a theme couple name can make life easier. Fortunately, parakeets do not care if their name matches their sex, so you could have a male pair of Thelma & Louise without anyone having an identity crisis. I also like Oscar and Felix, Finn and Jake and Rick & Morty.
  4. If you are adopting an adult bird, please don’t drastically change his name. Budgies learn their names and it becomes part of their identity. Kevin responded to his name within two weeks of being home. In the wild, budgies name each other with certain sounds and use those “names” for the rest of their lives. If you truly can’t stand the name then Thaddeus can become Ted, keeping a familiar sound. Similarly, Jerkface could transition to Jerry much more easily than he could to Nimbus.

Good luck naming your new friend!  No matter what you choose after a while it will seem to suit them perfectly and be part of who they are, so don’t stress over it too much. Every member of our flock had their name chosen before we met them, I think sometimes we chose the birds to fit the names!

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