Keeping ants out of parakeet cages

I’m betting that one of the last things a parakeet parent wants to see is a line of ants trooping into their bird’s cage and stealing food! Ants are a common household pest and can be very difficult to eradicate. While I have never had ants go directly for my parakeets’ cages, I have fought many a war against them and I always come out the victor! Here’s my recommendations for getting rid of ants in a way that is safe for your parakeets.

First, as soon as the weather starts to warm up get a jug of TERRO Perimeter Ant Bait and follow the directions to surround the perimeter of your home. Of course if you don’t live in a single family detached home you may have to skip this step. I feel like it creates a first wave defense to deter the ants, although it will need to be reapplied periodically throughout the warm months, especially if you get a lot of rain.

While you’re going around your house with the Terro, look for cracks and crevices that ants could crawl in and possibly access your home. These can be sealed with Caulk or Great Stuff.

You can also take a peek at your trees for early carpenter ant activity. If the carpenter ant colonies outgrow their home trees they may come looking to take up residence inside your walls (eww), so if you see any your can lay out Terro traps at the base of the trees. I use both the Terro Outdoor Liquid Ant Baits as well as the TERRO Outdoor Liquid Ant Killer Bait Stakes . It won’t take out a whole colony but it does keep their numbers in check. We have also had several trees close to our house removed because the ants were out of control. I’ve used these traps mostly for carpenter ants, but they will work on any variety.

Once you’ve laid all your outdoor traps and can focus on interior protection I recommend going around all your windows on the inside and caulking gaps here too. If you use caulk on the interior of your home make sure your parakeets are in a separate and well-ventilated area or outside of the house entirely. Caulk can have dangerous and deadly fumes. You can also keep stricter rules about cleaning and food storage during summer months. I’m never truly lax at any time of year, but during summer I make sure food is always put away and that food garbage from snacks etc. is always cleaned up promptly. A cup with juice residue left out by a human being could be a juice bar for a conga line of ants in short order!

This also applies to parakeet feedings of fruits and vegetables. My parakeets do a fair amount of food flinging. It is a key part of the daily routine to check walls and floors for food scraps or smears. It’s also important to keep the floor clean with daily vacuuming or sweeping for dry spills and wiping down for wet.

Even with all these precautions it is quite likely that ants are going to pass through your house at some point, and it doesn’t mean that you have done anything wrong or are “dirty”.

Once you’ve got ants you will want to try and follow them to find out where they are coming in and out of your house and see if you’ve got an obvious breach. It’s tempting to seal that up right away if you find it, but don’t! First, whether you find the access point or not, get some TERRO Liquid Ant Baits and lay them in the ants’ path. Things are going to get gross after that, as the word gets out to the colony that there’s this awesome sugar well free for the taking. It’s tempting to want to kill all the ants you see at the trap but don’t. It is imperative that you leave the trap and the ants alone while they are actively feeding and taking poison back to the colony.

After a few days the activity will drop off and once you are no longer seeing ants at the trap you can go ahead and seal up any access point you had found. Otherwise just remove the traps at that point; you don’t want to draw in a totally different group of ants if they are just wandering around.

The TERRO Liquid Ant Baits have no discernable odor and are safe for use in the home but your parakeets should not be in contact with them. So, no putting any variety of Terro trap in their cages and if they are floor wanderers be VERY careful about that too. You could try taking them to another room for a few days when they are out or block off the traps to budgie access by hiding them under a heavy book.

If you prefer not to use a poison at all you can get Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth (DE) instead. DE is a natural powdery substance made up of phytoplankton. It is completely non-toxic and even edible for mammals, but when an insect with an exoskeleton comes into contact with the DE it’s lights out! The DE pierces the exoskeleton and the insect dries up and dies.

One summer I was at my with end with a colony of carpenter ants trying to move into my house, it turned out they were coming in under my baseboard heat radiators. I didn’t feel comfortable having the traps near the radiators, even thought they weren’t on at the time, so I bought a bag of DE and a powder dispenser to lay it down under the radiator. Then once the ants were dead I was able to easily vacuum up the DE powder and the ant carcasses.

You can lay down a ring of DE around the base of your parakeet cage if you have ants that are climbing up to steal your parakeet’s food. This would be much safer than having poison close to their cages and even if they land in the powder it should not cause them any harm. I have even heard of budgie owners treating their parakeet for mites or lice with DE and applying it directly to the bird. (DISCLAIMER: I am not a vet and I am not providing treatment recommendations for your budgie. Please seek the advice of a professional vet if you have any questions about medical treatment for your parakeet. Home Keet Home accepts no liability for anything with which you treat your parakeet).

There are loads of other natural remedies that insist ants won’t cross a line of cinnamon, or mint, or you can drown them in dish soap. I’ve tried them all over the years and for my part prefer the efficiency of the TERRO Liquid Ant Baits and/or DE. I hate to say that I have murder in my heart, but when it comes to ants I am guilty as charged, particularly if it means ants bothering my parakeets!

 

Toby moves to the big house

After waiting several weeks for the HQ Victorian Top cage that was solidly back-ordered, I finally canceled the order and decided to get the Prevue Pet Products Wrought Iron Flight Cage with Stand, Chalk White so that we could get Toby out of the small Prevue Park Plaza Bird Cage and alleviate some of my guilt over her situation. It turns out the new flight cage is even more spacious than I imagined, which may be causing Toby some anxiety, but ultimately may mean that she and Kelly could be roommates again.

The new cage arrived just a couple of days after I ordered it, and I set to work immediately unboxing the pieces, wiping everything down and theoretically organizing it all by spreading it across the kitchen floor.

Quality wise, I knew it wasn’t going to be up to the level of the HQ Victorian Top, since the price-point was about $70 less, and it definitely is lighter-weight and much less like a piece of furniture. But, it’s reasonably well constructed and extremely functional. Right out of the box I noticed a few of the bars were bent all out of shape, we were able to put it to rights, but I’m sure I could have called the manufacturer and asked for a replacement front panel.

Once Patrick got out of work for the day we set to the task of assembly. Since this wasn’t our first rodeo I expected to get it put together in short order. But, one of us spent about 30 minutes looking for a tool that was totally unnecessary (not it!) and so we spent about an hour and a half total.

so many pieces!

Once together, we realized this was a much more spacious cage than the Victorian Top, having greater length and width. We didn’t have much time that evening to try and introduce the parakeets to the new cage, but they did watch us put it together with great interest.

Over the next few days I started migrating toys and perches to the new cage and we tried, without putting on a lot of pressure, encouraging Toby and Kelly to explore the new cage.  They are not in love with it so far, but it’s a totally different color and shape than either of the cages they are familiar with, so I can understand.

The following Saturday we moved the rest of Toby’s belongings from her old cage to the new flight cage and that was that. She went in with very little protesting when it was time for bed, but spent a ton of time wandering around in the cage looking for the best place to sleep. Strangely it also disturbed Kelly who would not settle down for hours – which is very unusual for her.

It’s so much room that we may try having them sleep together or even spend some days together, at present they don’t like hanging out in it even when the other cage is closed, but we’ll get them used to it at some point!

I’m pleased to have Toby out of her old cage and into something where she can really flap her wings and get some exercise. Also, this leaves me an extra cage for quarantining someone new, should that occur at any time in the next few months!  At that point (following quarantine) even if they can’t live three together we can have a single and a double and the parakeets will be able to choose the living arrangements.

Toby’s new cage – our first traditional flight cage

Toby and Kelly have been living single for several weeks now and it’s still going great. They are both getting good rest, individual attention and have enough time to play without someone else bothering or attacking them. I had ordered Toby a new cage from Doctors Foster & Smith a while ago, but it was back-ordered and the fulfillment date just kept getting pushed out further and further. So, I finally decided to cancel the order and get her a traditional flight cage.

At first, we thought we would get another HQ Victorian Top Bird Cage, which has served us well for a long time. I love that it looks like a nice piece of furniture, instead of just a utilitarian bird cage. Also, it’s really solid and not at all flimsy, which is something that bothers me about the Vision Small Bird Cage that we used for a car ride. I know a lot of people love Vision cages because they contain mess and are easy to clean, but it just doesn’t feel like a permanent bird home to me.

Anyway, it initially seemed like a no-brainer to just buy another HQ Victorian Top and put Toby’s new cage right next to Kelly’s existing. I ordered the cage and didn’t even notice the back-order warning when I checked out (ooops!), so it wasn’t until 5 days later that I started wondering why it hadn’t shipped, and then realized I would still have to wait another month for delivery!

I thought about canceling at that point, but Toby has been such a good sport about living in her old Prevue Park Plaza Bird Cage it’s really unbelievable. She goes right in at the end of the day and doesn’t even appear bothered that she can’t fly in her home cage. Because she’s being so chill about it I felt like we could wait the month.

Fortunately she’s continued to be a solid citizen about her living arrangement, because once the month passed the fulfillment date jumped again by two weeks! I know this has nothing to do with Doctors Foster & Smith, I’m sure it’s down to manufacturing delays for the cages themselves, but it was sort of a bummer realizing that not only were we delayed again, but I really couldn’t trust the new date either.

We were still pretty set on holding out for the HQ Victorian Top, but I started thinking about how much it would be a bummer to lose out on the flat top of the Prevue Park Plaza Bird Cage, which I use every day to keep food and water out when Toby and Kelly are out playing. We also put baths up there and toys for them to play with one top of the cage. The Victorian Top cage is really cool for them to hang out on, but it doesn’t have utility space the way the Prevue Park Plaza does.

Since I had all the extra time waiting on the HQ Victorian it allowed me to really second guess the decision, and decide that we would all be better served by getting a good quality flight cage with a flat top.  Enter the Prevue Pet Products Wrought Iron Flight Cage with Stand, Chalk White, which is made by a company I already trust, and looks like it will be a great home for Toby.

The only thing I’m not thrilled with are the included plastic food and water bowls. I think that plastic bowls tend to get dirtier faster and don’t get as clean as stainless steel. I found these Stainless Steel Hanging Bowls which solve that issue. I like that they are a two part system so I can hang them wherever and just remove the bowls for filling and cleaning.

Because we have Amazon Prime it should be here in just a couple of days, and I’ll be sure to report on the cage set-up and how Toby likes her new digs.  Hopefully our first traditional flight cage will be a winner!

Parakeet ladies living single – not trying to make female parakeets cohabitate

It’s been a while since Toby and Kelly split households and things have been going amazingly well. I hadn’t realized how much stress we were all enduring every day trying to make two territorial female parakeets live together. The constant screeching battles over perch height, food bowls, and everything else in their cage were, in retrospect, absolutely not worth the few moments every day that they would preen each other and be sweet.

The biggest positive change has been in Toby. She has been in a fantastic mood ever since she got her own space back.  She’s back to her old self, wanting scritches through the cage bars and being so excited to greet the day.  Even though she’s still stuck in her Prevue Park Plaza Bird Cage which is totally the wrong size for a parakeet (being an 18″ square that’s too tall and too low to the ground).  I ordered her a cage to match Kelly’s, the HQ Victorian Top, from Drs Foster & Smith, but it has been back-ordered for ages, and the delivery date keeps getting pushed back.

Fortunately there’s not a lot of urgency about it, she is happy as a clam in her little space, and so glad to move around without someone following her every moment of the day. As soon as they are both out she’ll go hang in the big cage, but we don’t have much trouble getting her back into the Prevue at the end of the day, although it usually involves some Millet and some Clicker Training . The bonus on that is that the nightly clicker training is helping her focus, and she’s overall much calmer and very well-behaved. Even though it’s just a few minutes a day, it has a HUGE impact on her demeanor, she’s more willing to sit on a finger or shoulder for a longer amount of time. I suppose part of that could be that she’s becoming a mature lady parakeet, but it really seems more due to both getting a good night’s sleep every night and the clicker training.

Kelly is always a bit of a cranky girl, so she hasn’t changed that much. But, I do know that she’s getting a solid night’s sleep more often.  I am keeping my fingers crossed that we will get her out of breeding condition at some point.

I asked Patrick what he thought the biggest positive change has been for Kelly and he pointed out that she plays a lot more when she’s alone in the cage. When she and Toby were together Kelly would follow her around all the time and ruin both their fun, now that she’s not obsessing over Toby 24/7 she’s got a lot more time to enjoy her toys.

Toby and Kelly are still allowed out together and have fun during those times. They choose to sit near one another and spend some time grooming, but do fight over everything. We can’t leave their food dishes in their cages while they are out or they will both go in one cage and fight over food!  So, both bowls go on top of Toby’s cage and we minimize the battles.

I continue to think that Kelly is missing out on having company, and that if Toby wasn’t such an independent lady they would have been perfectly fine together. So, I’m wearing Patrick down on the idea of introducing a male parakeet who might bond with Kelly and be the best pal she seems to want. Hopefully after his quarantine he would be able to move in with Kelly so I wouldn’t end up having three cages to maintain!  In the interim, I’m glad that having our female parakeets live solo is working out so well for all of us.

female parakeets

Best toys for parakeets/budgies

With so many toys out there in the marketplace it can be tough to choose for your budgies. I know I’ve made tons of mistakes buying toys that were way too big, or worse, dangerous. It can be difficult to look at pictures on the internet and know what to buy for mental and physical stimulation. Here are Toby and Kelly’s recommendations for best toys for parakeets, all of them are either currently in their cages or were and were so well-loved they no longer exist!

  • Super Bird Creations Wind Chimes Toy for Birds – Toby and Kelly love this toy so much I’ve already written not one, but two reviews of it!  They can be found here and here. This toy can be played with in multiple ways, preening, chewing, attacking, moving the straw “arms” and it has several levels. If installed with a perch midway down the parakeets can burrow into the center of the straws (where there is a bell to reward them!), and the ends of the straws with their shoelace ties provide a totally different play opportunity.  Toby and Kelly also enjoy launching themselves at it and clinging to the red ball at the top.

  • Bonka Bird Toys 1925 Cake Bird Toy – this toy is, without a doubt, Kelly’s favorite toy of all time. The problem is that she destroys is in a single day! This has happened on to occasions, the first of which I recorded in a review.  It’s still fun to play with after the destruction of the sola wood, the cupcake liners are totally a toy in their own right, but I mostly recommend buying this toy for special occasions like hatch days or gotcha days.
  • JW Pet Company Activitoys The Wave Bird Toy – These relatively inexpensive plastic toys made by JW Pet Company are some of Toby and Kelly’s favorites, and this is one of them.  I avoided buying them anything with a mirror for a long time. I was worried, especially when Toby was a solo parakeet, that she would end up in a feedback loop with her own reflection and never think to eat or get a drink of water.  I think that’s less of a concern with these small round mirrors, they may catch an intriguing glance of “another” parakeet in the mirror, but it’s not enough to start trying to interact with. The mirrors also rotate and there are fun little beads to chew and the whole thing is light enough that they can grab it and bang it on something else, which is always a good time!  You could also hang something else from the bottom if you wanted a very long toy. Kelly saw herself in a mirror for the first time in this toy, I managed to get a very cute video (unfortunately this was before I learned to take all videos “side to side so the margins are wide” I apologize!).
  • Wesco Pet Original Bird Kabob Shreddable Bird Toy – Deceptively simply in its design this toy provides days and days of shredding fun. Chewing is extremely important for parakeets beak health and mental health. They are born and designed to chew and destroy. These are made of a soft wood, but still take a lot of work to get through, versus something like the bonka 1925, which is very quickly shredded. They come strung on a rope that can be untied if you want to add one of the “donuts” of wood to another toy or put them on a metal skewer instead.  Toby and Kelly’s interest in this toy waxes and wanes, but there’s always a Wesco Shreddable Bird Toy of some sort available to them.
  • JW Pet Company Activitoy Olympia Rings Small Bird Toy – This is another one of our favorite inexpensive JW plastic toys. I think I bought this back in 2005 and it’s always been in a cage or on the play gyms.  It’s a classic and a must have, and another toy that can be played with in a few different ways. Toby likes to grab the bell at the bottom and shake it vigorously, or climb from the bottom to the top.  She also will grab one of the rings and use it to stabilize her foot while she grooms herself. Kelly, on the other hand, likes to go through the rings over and over again in some very “Olympic” gymnastics!  At first I was worried she would get stuck but it seems like they are the perfect size for such antics. This toy is also really easy to clean up, a huge plus for something that’s going to be around for several years.
  • This last toy is a bit of a toy/perch hybrid, the Super Bird Creations Mini Flying Trapeze Toy for Birds. But with so much going on I think it has earned it’s way onto our top six toys! There is sea grass to rip apart, plastic links to climb and chew, and these great tiny plastic toys to reach for and try to destroy as well. My only caveat is I would not give this to female birds in breeding condition, as they may regard it as a possible nesting space. Also since it’s got a rather large footprint they can get very territorial about it and we’ve had some associated squabbles.

There you have it, Toby and Kelly’s recommended best toys for parakeets. They have all been “road tested” in our home and I feel comfortable guaranteeing that even if they aren’t your parakeet’s favorites they are at least appropriately-sized and safe for your budgies. I’d love to hear some of your favorites, please leave a comment!

10 tips for optimal bird cage placement

  1. Budgies like to be part of the family, so place the cage in a central location where they will get lots of visitors and interaction.
  2. Budgies are prey and retain those concerns even when living in your home, place the cage against a wall or in a corner so they feel secure.
  3. They will also feel safer if you put the cage up at about your chest level. Because they are naturally tree dwellers, they feel safer up high and being near the ground makes them feel very vulnerable to attack from above.
  4. Put the cage somewhere they can see out a window and they will likely get hours of enjoyment watching other birds and nature. Conversely, they may be scared of what they see out the window, particularly large birds or lots of traffic, so I wouldn’t recommend putting the cage directly up against a window where they can’t ignore it. Another caveat is to make sure they are NOT exposed to direct sunlight; they have no sweat glands and can overheat very quickly. Also, make sure there are no cold drafts in winter.
  5. If at all possible do not put their cage where they can see a television. The images can be scary to them and the flickering lights and noise can have a very detrimental effect on their sleeping habits.
  6. Try to avoid the kitchen because of the fumes, I hope you don’t have non-stick cookware, but even regular cooking smells and smoke can be bad for your parakeet’s respiratory systems.
  7. The bedroom should also be avoided if possible, for a couple of reasons. One is that even though a child’s or an adult’s bedroom might seem like a place where a lot of time is spent there are most likely better and more trafficked areas. Two is that parrots, even parakeets, create a fair amount of air pollution via molted feathers, dust, dried poop, seed hulls etc. Breathing these things in is generally not going to be a problem, but deep-breathing every night while you sleep may cause some health issues, particularly in people who have preexisting breathing issues or allergies.
  8. Never put a bird cage on top of a refrigerator or anything else that vibrates. Apparently this can make budgies feel so insecure they lose their minds.
  9. Budgies need 10-12 hours of sleep per night so make sure the cage is somewhere that’s relatively calm and dark at night.
  10. Watch out for AC and heating vents – you never want to have hot or cold air blowing directly at your budgies.

Taken all together these seem like a pretty tall order, but you do the best you can and adjust if you see your parakeets having issues. For example, my cage is kitchen adjacent and only against 1 wall, so I’ve definitely failed on perfect placement, but unless I completely renovate my home’s floor plan it’s the best option we’ve got!

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Review of the K&H Snuggle Up Bird Warmer

We keep our house at a steady 68 in winter, but I know that a lot of folks would find that either too warm at night and/or prohibitively expensive, depending on your type of heating.  We’re also pretty lucky that the parakeets’ cage is in a relatively draft free zone, at least 3 feet away from a window and quite a bit more than that from a door.  It’s probably one of the warmer areas of the house, especially since the bedrooms tend to be on the chilly side.

Anyway, I know that budgies still like a bit more warmth than 68, even though they seem to have adjusted to our indoor winter temperature very easily, so I bought them the K&H Manufacturing Snuggle Up Bird Warmer, Small/Medium Grey for a little extra heat.

Last year we had the K&H Thermo Perch, Small and Toby wanted no part of it, and in fact began avoided a full ¼ of her cage just to ensure she never had to land on the perch.  We tried it again this fall, thinking maybe Kelly could influence her in to giving it a try, but instead they both just kept away from it.

Even though Toby has some issues with color-based fear, I decided to try the K&H Manufacturing Snuggle Up Bird Warmer, Small/Medium Grey, hoping that gray would not be too threatening and that even if they just occasionally ended up near it playing with a toy, that would be fine by me.

The warmer installs easily, you just have to make sure your cage is near an outlet or have an extension cord handy.  This is an extremely safe heater in our experience; it’s now been on continuously for about a month and always maintains a consistent and comfortable temperature. I wouldn’t hesitate to leave it on if we were going away for a weekend or a longer period of time.

As expected, the parakeets are not really in love with the K&H Manufacturing Snuggle Up Bird Warmer, Small/Medium Grey, they don’t specifically go over to it, or (as the name implies) snuggle up to it at all. But, I put it above a nice corner perch that they could hang out on for a while if they wanted, and I make sure to put fun toys nearby to lure them over.  Thus far they don’t in any way avoid it, and that was my best case scenario, so I’m very happy!  And, they may make the connection at some point and start going over when they feel chilled; a month is way too early to know how they will react by the end of winter.

One thing to watch out for is the power cord that comes out of the cage; it’s wrapped for their safety as far as not being able to chew through the cord, but mine tried anyway.  They love crawling around on the outside of their cage (and trying to sit on top of the Lixit Bird Waterer – 5 oz) so when we first got the snuggle up Kelly was obsessed with trying to go and chew on the cord. I moved her away several times and now they are both aware that they aren’t supposed to go near it. Of course a couples of times a week I catch them trying to sneak over to it, but as soon as I stand up or make eye contact they hustle away as though to say “me?  I would never!”

My final verdict is a definite go for it – even if your parakeets, like mine, aren’t totally sold on the concept, it gives me peace of mind to know that there’s a source of extra warmth in the cage, and that it’s extremely safe and I can feel comfortable leaving it plugged in and running 24/7 is fantastic.