Taming Kevin – two steps forward and one back

From the start, Kevin has been a hard sell as far as human companionship is concerned. Once he was introduced to Toby and Kelly we humans hung back for a bit. It seemed more important that he get along well with the budgies and find his sweet spot in the bird flock, so taming our male budgie was put on the back burner.

Kevin has done so well fitting in with our girl budgies. It took some time for them to stop trying to bite his head, but now he’s got this great vibe going. I’m not sure how he negotiated it, but they both seem to respect him without requiring much violence at all. It’s rare to see him fight with anyone, but he somehow manages to get his way. And he’s so happy most of the time! He sings all day and tries to feeds the girls, even though they are not having it.

He has intense conversations with inanimate objects, sings along to the radio and tv (his favorite show is Intervention), loves taking baths and trying new foods. Now that he’s been through a big molt he has almost all his flight feathers back and he is definitely the fastest flyer of all three. Sometimes he even has to take extra loops to slow down before landing. Kevin is basically the perfect pet parakeet, except he thinks that his human family is not to be trusted!

Patrick tried working with Kevin pretty intensely when he was in quarantine to no avail. I had hoped that once Kevin saw that Toby and Kelly basically treat me like a human play gym he would loosen up a little bit. And he has, but it is taking months.

Kevin will step up when asked, and then tends to look for his first chance to escape. We’ll go on for weeks of me asking him to step up a few times a day and then all of a sudden he’ll land on my shoulder, or randomly decide to beak my nose or glasses. I, of course, get excited thinking we’ve made a break through, and then he goes back to alternately ignoring me or acting like I’m very suspicious!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled he’s happy, and I’m sure I should be even more thrilled to have such a polite and shy young man, as a counter point to my crazy, brash girls. But, I do look forward to building a bond with Kevin and showing him how cool his human flock can be.

I’m grateful that these little guys have a nice long life span; I should have a lot of years to make friends. Lately I’ve been working with him much more and using my old standby Millet. It’s a bit square one as far as taming goes, but hey, whatever works! I hope that continuing to have him associate me with the possibility of treats will eventually unlock a bit more trust.

I am constantly counseling patience when budgie owners express frustration with their standoffish birds. It’s hard to take my own advice, but I’m confident that if I keep on the steady treat-giving path we’ll get there!

How do you not want to be friends with this guy?

Advertisements

The glorious smell of budgies – what budgies should smell like

Pet owners who have cared for small pets in the rodent or reptile family may wonder what budgies should smell like, considering other small pets can have such a strong odor. Budgies are a totally different ball game, not only do they have a particularly lackluster sense of smell, but they don’t produce odor themselves. Under good conditions, what budgies smell like is nothing, what they rub their heads on, or what they eat.

This extends to their poop as well, if your budgie’s poop is smelly then he may be ill and you should seek veterinary care. Literally, you should be able to not clean your cage(s) for weeks (totally not recommended) and it should not smell. If it does smell and you have been feeding fruits and vegetables look to see if you’ve missed some scraps of food that are rotting. Also, watch out for ants!

Typically, I find that my parakeets smell like very mild citrus, which is pleasant and comes from their seed mix. For a while I was freaked out because Toby smelled like tomato soup, at the time I was trying her on Roudybush Pellets and it turns out those smell like tomato soup to me.

Another cause of transient smell can be eating fresh vegetables and fruits. After Kelly eats broccoli she has very distinct and fairly gross broccoli breath. That makes sense because the broccoli is hanging out in her crop for a while with her hulled seeds, basically composting itself. If that smell persisted it would be another sign of illness such as a crop infection, impaction, or sour crop.

Persistent bad breath can be a sign of other internal issues as well. If your budgie has a foul odor coming out of its mouth that can’t be tied to eating something and lingers beyond a day then it is probably time to find an avian vet and get a diagnosis and treatment.

For anyone who’s been wary of getting a budgie due to the potential of bad odors, fear not! Their lack of smell is part of what makes a budgie an excellent pet for a smaller space/apartment, in my opinion. And for those of us who are already budgie owners, keep your nose at semi-alert, a new odor on or around your budgie can be an excellent first warning of illness or habitat conditions like rotting food that need to be remedied.

Disclaimer: As always, I’m not a vet and I’m not qualified to diagnose or provide recommendations for medical treatment of your pets. When in doubt, seek the expertise of an avian vet.


The difference between the terms budgie and parakeet

So, you brought home your first pet bird, and if you’re anything like me, you immediately started hitting Google and other resources with all sorts of questions. Things like, how long should my bird sleep, what’s the best food, etc. As you do more research, another question starts to loom large: what the heck is this animal called in the first place? Did I get a parakeet, a fancy parakeet, a budgie, or a budgerigar?

To clear it right up, if you have something that looks like this:

coming home from travel

You have a budgie which is the common term for a budgerigar, a small Australian parakeet. A parakeet is a parrot with a long tail and a slender body. There are hundreds of types of parakeets and budgies are just one of them. So, look at you go, in one new friend you have a budgie, a parakeet AND a parrot!

Where it got twisted is that if you’re in America, you have probably only seen these little guys referred to as parakeets or, for certain color mutations, fancy parakeets. When they first started selling budgies in America (or so the lore goes), the Ad Men sat around a table and said, “we can’t possibly sell something call budgerigar to American families! They will never be able to pronounce it, let alone understand what that is!”

Then they asked themselves if there was any other name they could call it and realized that it’s also a parakeet. Patting themselves on the back, they decided that budgies would be known as parakeets, and any other parakeet would have to pick another name or a modifier!

This is how we came to have our little misnomered babies. Here at Home Keet Home, I end up using the terms somewhat interchangeably, which is less than ideal if I want to look like a well-informed budgie owner! But, keeping in mind that many readers will be A. American and B. new to budgie parenthood, it seems prudent that folks be able to find us no matter where they are in the world or where they are in their journey with budgies!

You may also hear the term “English Budgie”. There really is no such thing as an English budgie. What people are talking about are larger Show or Exhibition Budgies that have been bred with some different characteristics, frequently for the purpose of showing them in the way that people who breed championship dogs would, although there are many people who breed exhibition style budgies for pets only.

Ultimately I don’t think anyone should feel shame or be shamed for using the terms they are familiar with. Much like learning over time about the complex social, emotional, intellectual and physical needs that budgies have, I wouldn’t expect anyone to know day one that the animal that was called a parakeet in every pet store in the USA is more accurately a budgie!

The budgies have their own room – finally!

Quite a while ago I started thinking seriously about moving the budgies into their own room. I did some crowd-sourcing and readers were split on whether it was a great idea or would be a total disaster. I got hung up and probably too concerned about the outcome, considering it wouldn’t have to be a permanent situation! Toby’s continuing obsession with her “papa” pushed the issue and we finally decided that we all needed a bit of space. At long last the budgies have had their own room for several weeks now.

In their new room, Toby, Kelly and Kevin have their cages, and they also have a fun play zone with the Java tree and a hanging Boing.

after waffling about it for ages the budgies have their own room!java tree in the budgies new room

Hanging boing in the budgies new roomThey really enjoy all of the added play space. I’m working on a way to get them better window access, but we’re not all the way there yet.

I was worried that this would keep them separate from the humans and they would be isolated, but in practice it’s expanded their territory, which is awesome!  After a few days they were very comfortable flying back and forth from their room to their play area with Playstand where the cages used to be in the dining room.

playstand where the cages used to beThey will spend literally all day chilling out on the Playstand, and at their window perches in the kitchen and living room. I keep the food cups full and it’s convenient having the table right there to put fruits and vegetables out and water so they don’t get thirsty.

So, the budgies are definitely not isolated and in fact they get even more time out of their cages then they used to. Having their cage space separate from the play zone made for an unexpected expansion of “neutral territory” so there’s been a reduction in knock down drag-out fights between the girls. We are still struggling with Toby being unable to leave Patrick alone and she will defend him like he’s her property, but we are now well into springtime so I am sure hormones are a factor.

As I had hoped, they are getting a lot better sleep now too. We are able to put them to bed between 6:30pm and 7pm and since they are farther away from the kitchen and living room I don’t have to worry as much about keeping them up cooking or watching television. It’s also nice that on the rare occasion we burn something in the toaster over I don’t have to fret about smoke inhalation.

Patrick’s allergies have been easier to manage since the move, but I do have to admit that I feel like I’ve got a lot more to clean up after, since they have increased their territory and mess zone. Toby has had one night terror since the move and I was able to hear it and respond really quickly, so that’s not much different either.

So far so good! The positives of much better sleep for the budgies and being able to make an ice cream sundae after 7:30pm for the humans are worth the increased cleaning for sure! Sometimes it does feel like it’s the budgies’ house and we are just living in it, but I suppose that was inevitable once they outnumbered the humans.

My budgies make me proud with some very responsible behavior

My husband had his tonsils out last Tuesday. Tonsillectomy is pretty regularly done on little kids, who, I presume, heal more quickly or otherwise just take it better. Anyway, leading up to the surgery everyone we told was basically like “this is going to be the worst thing you’ve ever experienced in your life”. Or would tell us an awesome horror story about rupturing or death. As we came up on the surgery date I worried about Patrick having a horrible recovery, but also increasingly about how the whole budgies with sick humans thing would pan out.

With the exception of Kevin, who’s still quite shy with us, the rest of the flock can be extremely in your face. Toby especially with Patrick, and particularly in springtime! I knew that if they bothered Patrick while he was recovering they would be stuck in their cages, but I hate doing that. Since I was working from home the days after his surgery it seemed particularly unfair to keep them cooped up all day.

The afternoon we got home from his procedure we installed Patrick on the reclining couch and I decided to try letting the budgies out. Honestly I was feeling a bit scared and stressed, and wanted some cheering up and company.

Before I let them out I asked them all to calm down and I gave them a talking to. This will sound a bit silly, but making eye contact with all of them I said, “Your papa doesn’t feel good, and I need you to leave him alone. Don’t look at him, don’t jump on his head and don’t scream in his ears, go it?” I repeated the messaging a few times and…

They have left Patrick completely alone. Toby has landed on his head twice in the last several days and has not screamed in his ears at all. I’ve given them the same talk every day before letting them out.

Now, am I sitting here trying to tell you that my parakeets understand English?  No, definitely not.

I think it’s a combination of things. One is that it’s extremely unusual for me to make them settle down before they get out of their cages, so they may have been tipped off immediately that something was different. Also, I call my husband Papa to them all the time, and since budgies do have a concept of naming they may actually connect the dots on “papa” being a person.

More than that though, I think it’s down to their sensitivity to what’s going on with their flock, which includes humans. I think it could also be related to their super awesome sight, which may give them an enhanced ability to see that Patrick is in pain.

No matter how they managed to behave so responsibly, I appreciate it beyond words. Their company has been such a major source of comfort to me while Patrick has been recovering that I would have been much worse off it they ended up getting grounded!