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.

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.

Hide your hands – Kelly is a biting parakeet

I realized recently that I never provided an update on Kelly’s hand-aggressive behavior.  In my last post on the subject, Hide your hands – Kelly is a teenager I ended on a somewhat hopeful or positive note, assuming there was a solution to this issue. I can now report I have not found the method to solve a biting parakeet.

Many people will tell you that A. budgies only bite when they are scared, and B. the bite of a budgie does not hurt. I am here to tell you that these statements are not absolutes. Kelly is not scared of us, and Kelly bites hard enough to cause pain, bruising and broken skin. She bites completely unprovoked, choosing to land on your hand and then biting incredibly hard.

I have tried the following conventional attempts to discourage biting with zero impact:

  • Gently wiggle your hand so the parakeet cannot keep its balance and learns to stop biting.  HAHA. Kelly seemed to either enjoy the wagging hand, or it made her angry thus increasing the frequency and pressure of the bites.
  • Blow in the budgies face lightly (which they dislike) until they learn that biting causes you to blow in their faces. Again, Kelly either ignores this or it makes her madder and she bites harder.
  • Say “no” or “ouch”, budgies are intelligent creatures and will learn that the behavior is undesirable. No impact.
  • Ignore the behavior until they learn that there is no consequence to biting and since it generates no reaction they stop. This is simply impossible as her biting hurts too much and you end up looking like you got a bunch of needle sticks in your hand from bruising! 
  • We also tried going the positive reinforcement route. This involved verbal praise for not biting as well as providing a treat. There was little to no impact as Kelly is not motivated by treats and does not care if we praise her.

I should add that the aggression is not limited to hands, she will land on your shoulder and bite your neck. She loves climbing in and out of shirt collars but we can’t let her do it anymore because she bites your chest and neck too much to bear it. This isn’t even aggressive initially, but if you try to redirect her she gets angry and bites harder.

I’m sure some of this is impacted by the fact that she’s in breeding condition, but it’s been an issue all along. She also has AMPLE appropriate toys and perches to destroy in her cage, which she enjoys.

Ultimately our solution has ben to take a hands off approach with Kelly. It stinks because I feel like we don’t have much of a relationship with her, but interacting  with us does not make her happy. Not that much does, she is just generally a real crab. If she had been our first bird I’m sure I would have quickly concluded that parakeets were difficult and violent pets!

I wanted to write this post for a couple of reasons, firstly so I don’t give the wrong impression that I managed to resolve this issue. But, more importantly, I want you to know that if you’re struggling with an aggressive budgie and people keep telling you that budgies aren’t aggressive you are not alone!  There are other angry parakeets out there biting their human flock for no reason who cannot be stopped.

If I do manage to reduce the aggression I’ll report back, but other wise it’s safe to assume that Kelly’s human flock is walking around with a few bites at all times! I should add that she has never harmed another parakeet. When she is  aggressive towards Kevin she focuses on trying to pull out his feathers. I’m not a fan of that behavior either, but if it was more serious I would think about separating her or even rehoming to an environment she might enjoy more. What that would be I have no idea!

A brief review of every budgie cage we own

I know it’s completely excessive, but I own five cages (two of them flight cages) and only three birds! I swear there’s an excuse for every one. Since I’ve got a good range of parakeet cages, I thought it might help someone out to have a brief review of each one.  They all have pros, cons and some have very specific purposes. Hopefully I can justify a portion of my over-spending by helping others make informed decisions!

prevue park plaza bird cage
Prevue Pet Products Park Plaza Bird Cage, Coco Brown (on the right)
This was our very first bird cage. It met the minimum size requirement for parakeets (see size on link) and seemed to have some nice features. To be honest, before we got our first parakeet we weren’t too sure birds would be for us, and this cage could have also worked for a sugar glider.

The Park Plaza is a very good solid bird cage with nice construction. I liked that the food and water bowls swung out with the access doors, making it easy to replace food and water without letting a not yet tame bird out of the cage. There is also a double lock on the front access door. The door itself has a nice large opening which was a big help for taming.

We ended up replacing this cage because it was too low to the ground. Toby is not at all a ground bird and so ended up just using the top portion of the cage. She was fine with it, but it really wasn’t enough room to move or play. Also for a bird that spends several hours a day in their cage it just doesn’t have enough horizontal space for exercising.

Another con is that when you take the grate out at the bottom, which we like to do so our parakeets can ground forage, it leaves a huge gap at the front which must be “patched” with cardboard. Not a huge deal for our Toby, who has never tried to escape anything in her life, but for a more intrepid budgie this would be a problem.

Also, not shown are the seed catcher attachments, which we used for a while, and found that they really increased the footprint of the cage without much benefit.

parakeet cage costs

HQ Victorian Top Bird Cage with Cart Stand
This is my favorite cage out of all five. It is incredibly well-made, and really attractive. I find that our flight cages are okay looking, but this cage looks like a nice piece of furniture versus something utilitarian.

It’s not just appealing to the human eye, but also has many features that birds appreciate. The top opens for a great way to transition to the outside, there’s a wooden dowel perch included to keep the top open, otherwise it could slam shut which would be dangerous. We’ve weighted it with perches on the outside to make it heavy enough to stay open on its own.

The area above the main access door also folds out for a porch-like area. Our parakeets get a ton of use out of the indoor/outdoor features.

The food access doors on this cage are great too, you open the door and slide out the bowl, which is nestled in a “cage” of its own. It’s very easy to sneak bowls in and out of the cage without risking an escape.

Speaking of which, you can also remove the grate without having to patch a gap, because of the included metal flap covering the area.

There are a few cons to the cage – all the decorative curves make it a little harder to clean the crevices. Additionally, because of the way the top opens it can be challenging to hang toys from the top of the cage, the way you would in a flat top cage. Because it narrows at the top we found it difficult to make a good place for multiple budgies to sleep, since they all like to be high up.

For the size, this cage is also fairly expensive, $209 at the time of this posting. You can certainly get a bigger cage for a lot less money, but what you’re paying for here is the superior quality and the details. Even with the few cons, this cage edges out the A&E flight cage as my favorite.

Prevue chalk white flight cage
Prevue Pet Products Wrought Iron Flight Cage with Stand, Chalk White (on left, dimensions at link)
Out of the three largest cages we own, this is the one that I would least recommend. As soon as we took it out of the box we were disappointed by the quality. Several of the bars were bent and the finish was already nicked. The bent bars were pushed back into shape, but it was certainly telling how easy it was to do so. Also I like having a flat top to put out treats or toys, but this was so weak and bowed in it made me nervous putting anything remotely heavy up there.

I thought I would dislike the brightness of the cage, but I actually didn’t mind that at all. It makes it easy to find soiled areas and clean them up.

The size is really nice, but that’s about it. The food access doors are on spring hinges which would be dangerous for any budgie that might try to escape. Also, removing the grate at the bottom left a huge gap at the back. We used paper tape to cover it, which worked for Toby because, again, she’s never tried to escape anything in her life. But, there’s no way that Kelly could live in this cage, she’d be out in a second either through the food doors or the bottom. With Kelly’s propensity for bar-chewing she would almost certainly eat all the paint off this cage anyway.

Overall I’m pretty disappointed with this purchase, particularly since a spend of just about $30 more got me much better quality for the next cage on our list.

second flight cage A&E flight cage

A&E Cage Company Flight Bird Cage (on left, dimension at link, select color “green”)
With similar dimensions and features, for just slightly more money, this cage is FAR better than the Prevue flight cage. The bars are much sturdier and the top is rock solid. I’m not a huge fan of the food access doors on this one either, but they have a tab lock that is at least secure, if not convenient.

The space and the construction are very good, but there aren’t a lot of optional features to be found here either. Just a good solid flight cage with a lot of room. Taking out the grate does leave a gap, we were able to use the included dowel perch to fill the space and I’m still able to remove the bottom tray, so that worked out just fine.

If you want a utilitarian flight cage with loads of room and really good finish and bar quality this is the cage for you.

small Vision cage quarantine cage for our new parakeet
Vision Bird Cage Model S01 – Small
I almost forgot to include this cage because we don’t use it very often at all! I purchased the Small Vision cage for a few potential purposes.
– Hospital cage for a sick bird
– Travel cage if we needed to go to the vet
– Going outside to enjoy good weather cage

For the size, this cage was a real pain to put together! After having owned several relatively expensive cages, this is definitely a whole different animal. The bars seem very weak, everything else is made of plastic. I know a lot of people find the bottom tray very convenient for containing mess, but I can’t imagine having a bigger version of this and having to lift the whole cage top off to clean the bottom.

I don’t like that the doors just fall open if you’re not careful when unlocking them. Overall this cage is fine for what we would use it for, but based on my feelings about this one I would never get a larger Vision Cage for a main cage. I know they are very reasonably priced and a lot of people love them, so no flames please! It’s just not my cup of tea. I do like that they are tabletop though, that seems like it would be great, since all of my main cages eat a ton of floor space.

So, that’s a very brief review of our five cages. The two that we are currently using are the HQ Victorian Top and the A&E flight cage. The Park Prevue I think I’m going to donate to a bird rescue or see if there’s anyone else local who would like it. The Prevue Chalk White flight cage is currently taking up a ton of space in a spare room, I’m not sure what I’m going to do with that one!

If you have any specific questions about these cages feel free to drop a comment or reach out through my Facebook page. I’ll be happy to help!

How to avoid breeding parakeets

Now that we have added a boy to our formerly all girl flock, some folks have asked if we plan to breed parakeets. The answer is a resounding “NO”! I plan to avoid breeding parakeets for several reasons:

  1. I have enough parakeets and don’t want more, particularly with my husband’s allergies, three molting parakeets is about all he can take! Also, the world does not need me to make more parakeets, there are loads out there that need a good home. I see lots of home-based breeders who have a hard time finding homes for their babies.
  2. Breeding parakeets can be incredibly difficult. If it goes well, maybe not, but even provisioning a nest box, nesting material, and then keeping the babies and nest clean is more than I want to handle. And that’s just basic human intervention, assuming mom and dad budgie do their job caring for the babies. If they can’t or won’t I would have to take over feeding babies on a crazy schedule, with a full time job there’s no way.
  3. The health risks to my adult females is not worth it for me. Laying budgies can become egg bound, which is potentially fatal. Yes, I know that every female parakeet may lay eggs, whether they are fertile or not. But, we’ve been able to keep our two girls, both in breeding condition for over a year, from laying at all. If I can prevent it, I do not want the presence of a male parakeet to change that track record.
  4. If allowed to begin breeding we could quickly end up with an excessive number of parakeets. Also, I would then have to worry about the baby parakeets growing up and wanting to breed with their clutch mates/siblings. Animals don’t have a sense that incest is undesirable, so it would be incumbent on me to make sure they didn’t breed with close relatives. And basically everyone in the cage would be a relative.
  5. The cost of care and potential veterinarian costs would rise exponentially with the numbers of parakeets, and I’m not prepared to take on a large additional expense.

How do I plan to keep them from breeding and laying?

  1. Provide no nest box or anything that could be perceived as a nest. I’m aware that some budgies will lay just about anywhere, including a cage floor or just randomly while sitting on a perch. But, not providing anything that could be construed as a next box is one way to discourage laying. This means no flat wood perches, no food bowls that they can comfortably sit in, and absolutely no Coconut Hideaways , Sea Grass Bird Snuggle Huts or anything else that they can hide in, sit on, or may otherwise see as a desirable place to raise children.
  2. Limit daylight hours. We need to keep day and night even, if the budgies think that it’s springtime with longer days they may decide it’s a good time to start laying. We are going to make sure that everyone gets 12 hours of darkness and no more than 12 hours of light. If things start getting amorous we may push it back to more darkness than that.
  3. Separate the sexes. No one has expressed any romantic interest in Kevin yet, but it the cage starts rocking I will probably make the choice to keep Kevin caged apart from whichever girl wants to mate with him. We just got down to one cage, so that will not be ideal, but if they are only together under adult supervision, and with the third wheel of the other girl, hopefully we can keep these crazy kids from knocking beaks.

I know there’s no way to 100% keep them from laying eggs if their bodies tell them to do it, but I can still control what happens at that point. I’m sure that this is a bit controversial, or offensive to some, but I don’t believe that my female parakeets have a natural “right” to reproduce. I think that it’s okay for me, the ultimately responsible party, to ensure that we don’t bring more parakeets into the world. Here are some options for what to do if we end up with unwanted eggs.

  1. After the first egg is laid, complete the clutch with Dummy Eggs . Using the dummy eggs to get up to a full clutch of seven can make the budgie stop laying. At that point I would just leave her the fake eggs to care for until she was bored of them.
  2. As eggs are laid, shake, boil, or freeze them and then return to the cage. If boiling or freezing, make sure the eggs come back to room temperature before returning. Again, wait until the parakeet is tired of caring for the eggs and then remove.

I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that we can keep everyone in the friend zone. But, if not, I’m glad to have a plan for contingencies and unwanted eggs. I would encourage every parakeet parent to leave breeding up to the pros (including home-based pros, of course!) and also to be mindful of the fact that there is no shortage of parakeets out there already who are looking for good homes.