Flight cage proliferation – buying our second flight cage

I didn’t think this would ever happen, but we’ve side-lined my previously favorite cage, the HQ Victorian Top, in favor of a second flight cage for Kelly. We had purchased the Prevue Flight Cage a few weeks ago for Toby, but always intended to leave Kelly in the old cage. Here’s what changed our minds.

The flat top of the Prevue Flight Cage – we hadn’t realized how much we missed that with the Victorian top cage. It is so convenient to serve treats on top of a cage, or offer a bath up there, and they just love running around on the surface of the cages. Patrick even installed a neat Booda Comfy Perch bridge on top of the cage, which they get enjoyment out of every day. There was a downside though, using the Prevue Flight Cage top so much we found that it wasn’t very sturdy or flat but tended to want to bow inward. I guess that’s what you get at that price point, but it was a little disappointing. I also ended up not loving the white finish, it’s easy to clean, but I think it chips more easily.

Another great thing about a traditional flight cage is the ability to hang things from any point in the ceiling of the cage. With the HQ Victorian Top you couldn’t hang much from the top doors, which left you with very little ceiling space left. And the shape of it in general encouraged short flights, but even though it was large the usable space was really diminished by the decorative shape. The traditional flight cage is also easier to clean than the HQ Victorian due to the lack of rounded edges that create small, hard to get into spaces.

Anyway, we popped in at a local pet store and were checking out their selection of cages.  We saw this A&E flight cage in black and were immediately in love with the size, the color and most importantly, the overall quality. It didn’t have the cheap, bendable feel of the Prevue Flight Cage .

We went back the next week and snapped it up, not even realizing that buying in store meant we would be purchasing an already assembled cage, instead of spending another several hours putting it together ourselves. It did, however, mean that the cage needed to be thoroughly cleaned, because it had been on the sales floor. Some White Vinegar and elbow grease made quick work of the dirt and we were quickly ready to load it up with toys and get Kelly settled in.

I’m nervous about her spending the night in there, she is not very adaptable to change, but for now we just moved everything over from her old cage and put it exactly where it had been. Hopefully that and the fact that it’s in the same spot and the same color that the old one was will help her adjust.

The best part is that when we get our boy bird in November he can move in with whichever lady he gets along with. Or maybe if he eases up the tension they can all live in the new flight cage.  AND, now I don’t have to worry about quarantining the new guy in an inappropriately small cage, he can live in the HQ Victorian Top while he quarantines in my office space.

Here’s a good indicator of just how roomy this new cage is!

Budgies and mirrors – our take on the great debate

When we first got Toby I was pretty convinced that mirrors in cages were a bad idea. There’s tons of anecdotal evidence that having a mirror in the cage greatly reduces the likelihood that your new parakeet will bond with you. This is because they think the bird in the mirror is a part of their flock, and a non-tame budgie will almost always prefer the company of his own kind. Bonding with a mirror bird can mean the budgie will spend hours a day singing to the mirror, bopping heads, and potentially even attempting to feed the mirror through regurgitation.

This kind of bond can make the budgie unmotivated to ever come out of the cage and interact with you. I mean, why would he want to if his best pal can’t come out too?  It may also make the budgie more territorial and protective of his cage, if he thinks he’s defending another bird. In some extreme cases, attachment to a mirror can result in a budgie getting stuck in a feedback loop. In that instance, since the mirror budgie never breaks the loop of action and reaction, the real budgie can interact with the mirror to the detriment of their own health; potentially resulting in dehydration and starvation. Now, that’s super extreme. I would not expect that to happen to 99% of budgies with mirrors.

But, I would anticipate that the vast majority of solo budgies’ ability to be tamed would be impacted by a mirror friend. When bringing home a new budgie I would recommend leaving mirrored toys off your shopping list.

All of those warnings aside, we did recently get a mirror for Toby and a mirror for Kelly as a bit of a trial run. I’ve been feeling increasing bad for Kelly since she and Toby split up, she’s clearly lonely in the cage and I was worried about her becoming depressed about not being able to get to Toby. Since we can’t get a new roommate for Kelly until November due to my travel schedule we talked about it and decided to try adding a mirror so she wouldn’t feel as alone. Toby got one too because that’s how we roll, like giving your kids an even number of presents on the holidays, you can’t do for one without doing for the other!

I’m pleasantly surprised by the experiment so far. Neither parakeet has gotten overly attached to their mirror bird. Kelly spends some time hanging out near hers daily singing to it, but hasn’t gotten too into interacting. Toby plays with the beads on her mirror and occasionally seems interested in what she sees, but typically gets distracted in short order and wanders off to play with something else. There’s been no impact on their readiness to come out of the cage when the doors are opened, which may be because there’s a real bird to come out and play with. Neither bird has gotten more territorial than they already were about their cage either. Although to be fair they are quite territorial anyway!

It eases my mind a bit to know that while we are at work they each have a facsimile of a pal inside the cage with them. I hope that it helps them feel secure and like they are not alone. I still do think that mirrors are not for every bird, and that some may take it much more seriously than ours. If you’ve got a tame budgie that might be a bit lonely while you’re out of the house I don’t see any harm in giving a mirror a try. I would recommend watching closely to make sure it isn’t creating a problem, and be ready to pull the mirror out at the first sign of an issue that would be detrimental either mentally or physically

Budgie preferred sleeping arrangements

When you first bring home a new budgie it may be hard to believe that after a full day on their feet they would prefer to sleep standing up. But, it’s true, a comfortable budgie will grind his beak before going to sleep; then tuck one leg up underneath him and drift off. You may also see your parakeet turn his head around and rest it on his back. Here are some typically preferred sleeping arrangements for budgies.

  • Your budgie will probably not want to sleep in a soft enclosure like a Happy Hut, which is good, because they can be unsafe for several reasons. But, even a safe option like this Sea Grass Snuggle Hut may be regarded as quite unsuitable for sleeping, even if it’s fun for day time play and chewing. If you are concerned about your budgie getting cold in winter time, you can use a Bird Cage Cover if your parakeets will tolerate it, mine don’t care for being covered at all! Otherwise, you can use heated perches, like the K&H Thermo Perch or the K&H Snuggle Up Bird Warmer.
  • What the parakeet does want, in most cases, is to sleep on the highest perch possible. Or rather, the highest thing in the cage, no matter if it’s a perch or the top of a toy.  If there’s nothing at a suitable height they will even cling to the bars of the cage in an upper corner. If your parakeet sleeps that way, try putting a perch in that space and see if he’ll get off the wall, although please don’t attempt that after bedtime!  Toby used to run through her options every night before bed and would try to sleep on top of several very unstable toys, until we dropped them all lower than the sleeping perch using Plastic Chain. If you have multiple parakeets make sure you have enough high up perch space to help avoid fighting over preferred territory. Some parakeets prefer to sleep on a Perch Swing, so you can try offering that as well. I wonder if the movement is soothing, like being on a gently swaying tree branch.
  • Make sure you also have a couple of Night Lights or even a Small Lamp to help avoid night terrors.

If you’re providing comfortable perches as the highest items in the cage, and eliminating drafts and scary dark spaces your parakeets should be great sleepers! Although there are exceptions to every rule, most parakeets are very comfortable sleeping standing up and resting one foot at a time by tucking it up into their tummies.

How we use millet for parakeets in my household

In my attempts to be a well-informed parakeet owner, and also my general nosiness, I look at a lot of different cage set-ups. I love getting inspiration from other bird-owners, especially seeing new toys or the awesomely creative stuff that people DIY. One thing I notice a lot of that surprises me is the use of a Millet Spray Holder or generally the free-range offer of Millet in the cage. I think that if you go that route you’re losing your most powerful motivator and possibly setting yourself up for nutrition issues.

First a note on Millet Spray Holder; some of them may be unsafe. There is, in particular a plastic Millet Spray Holder that looks like a cage for millet, as well as a Stainless Steel Millet Holder that is a steel spiral. I have heard of several budgies getting their heads caught in these items, and some have not survived. Now, I fully believe that a determined parakeet could kill themselves with almost anything in their environment; they are delicate creatures that act like invincible tough guys! But, there’s enough anecdotal evidence for me that this optional item is best skipped.

Outside of safety, your parakeet simply does need free access to Millet. It is not particularly nutritious and could lead to unnecessary weight gain. I work in an office all day, and free feed Millet would be the equivalent of someone hanging a party size bag of Doritos in my cubicle and telling me to have at it. Not only would I eat my weight in Doritos every day, I would probably also make poor nutritiounal choices and eat Doritos almost exclusively, regardless of whether there was also a basket of Apples nearby.

Maybe most humans would make better choices than me! But, parakeets have about the same mono-vision when it comes to Millet that I have when it comes to Doritos. If you want your parakeet to eat a healthy seed, pellet, vegetable and fruit-based diet, having Millet readily available is not the best plan. The parakeet is not thinking about losing the weight for swimsuit season or making sure he avoids fatty liver disease, so you have to think abou tthese things for him.

Beyond being unnecessary for a balanced daily diet, free-feeding Millet also takes it out of your arsenal as one of the most powerful motivators for good budgie training. In my house Millet is only used during training or other instances in which we humans desire a specific parakeet result and are willing to “pay” for it with a treat.

As far as Toby and Kelly are aware, the only way to get Millet is from humans, by doing desirable things. So, initially during taming the desirable thing might be to simply sit on someone’s hand or shoulder. This helps the parakeet learn that good things have when you interact with people. Except not really just good things, but the best things and treat can only be guaranteed by becoming part of a flock with those funny-looking birds whose eyes are in the wrong place (ie: humans).

We’re not doing a ton of training lately, the parakeets have been molting so we have backed off until everyone is feeling great again. The only time they currently get Millet is once per day, they each get a little bit broken off the larger spray, and only after going into their cages peaceably at night at bed time. At this point it’s such a routine that Toby goes in eagerly as soon as I shut the curtain near their cage and immediately perches where I can put the Millet through the bars. Kelly is a bit of a daydreamer and usually continues to wander around until I tap on her sleeping perch to remind her of the time.

We used to wait until they got tired and sorted themselves out for bed, but sometimes, like tired little kids, they would loop back around to hyper and uncontrollable, so now I set the bedtime and they are happy to comply if it means an evening treat!

Particularly with flighted birds, a parakeet parent has very little control over budgie actions unless they can be motivated to good behavior. If we didn’t keep their love of Millet in our reserves, I am not sure how we could convince Toby and Kelly to do anything they didn’t want to do! As it stands, we have the ace in our sleeves at all times and training, as well as motivating daily tasks, becomes much easier.

Vultures visit my street – and remind me why cages next to windows are a bad idea

We had some excitement near our house recently, there was some nice fresh roadkill across the street and a wake of vultures showed up to have a feast and party.  Toby’s reaction provided me with a good reminder of why we don’t keep our bird cages next to windows!

Patrick first noticed the vultures on Saturday morning when one swooped low going over our house. First there was just one, but by the time they figured out how to land near the street, there were 6 vultures fighting over whatever poor animal had gotten hit by a car.

Of course as bird lovers we were fascinated! Particularly by how much like a flock of parakeets they were. Just like Toby and Kelly they were always on alert for danger, and they fought over food just like our budgies too. A few vultures were always sitting on top of a tree keeping lookout.

We kept moving from room to room trying to get the best vantage point, and my husband was snapping tons of pictures.

Since it was a Saturday morning Toby and Kelly were out and about doing there own thing, we hadn’t been paying much attention to them, and they really hadn’t paid us much mind either. Then while I was standing next to our big front window Toby came over to see what was going on, and the poor thing froze in terror as soon as she spotted the vultures.

Now mind you, these vultures were not 10-20 feet away, they were all the way across the street and down quite a bit, but she just absolutely went still as a statue frozen in place with her eyes wide wide open.

I tried soothing her with my voice and she didn’t budgie. I even tried getting her to step up by pushing my finger against her tummy and she didn’t move a muscle! I probably could have petted her wherever I wanted and in that moment staying still so the vultures didn’t see her would have remained top priority!  Of course that wouldn’t have been very kind, and instead I immediately closed the curtains and removed, in her mind, the threat of the vultures coming to get her.

As soon as the curtains were shut she was able to move again and went back to her home cage, shaking off the fright quickly.

It made me so glad that our bird cages aren’t next to that big window or any windows with a direct view of the outside world. Even though you might think it’s fun for your parakeets to watch the world go by, and it probably is 90% of the time, the other 10% is full of stuff going by that’s going to scare them. Like vultures, other predators, or even “silly” stuff like a hard wind blowing leaves around.

We humans all know that the flock is safe at home behind glass, but Toby’s reaction to those vultures really drove home for me that the parakeets don’t have that on board assumption of safety, so it’s important that we help them feel safe by using good judgement in cage placement.

 

Parakeets and food silos = less mess?

When we first got Toby’s new cage I was dismayed by the included food bowls, which are plastic trough-like rectangles with a divider for food and water. We’ve always used Stainless Steel Bowls, which I think are very easy to keep clean and I like that they can help reduce slimy buildup in the water dish. I ordered a set of Stainless Steel Bowls with right attachments on the same day that I ordered the cage, but I didn’t realize they would take a few weeks in shipment. I guess delays are somewhat of a theme here lately!

I started off putting Toby’s steel bowls from her old cage on the bottom of the new cage, but she refuses to go down to the bottom and feed. Then I filled the troughs with food, but she could not for the life of her figure out how to access the trough.

Fortunately, a while back I bought a Food Silo on a whim and just never installed it. At the time of purchase I was thinking it might be a good back-up feeder if we were gone for a long day or on vacation. Even with someone coming in every day it couldn’t hurt to have a secondary, protected source of food.

I hastily installed the Food Silo in Toby’s cage so she would have somewhere to eat, and she took to it immediately with great gusto. Moreover, Kelly loved it too and would go hang out in Toby’s cage just to eat the same food that she had out of a different vessel! For my part, it was awesome to be able to fill the Food Silo from outside the cage, instead of opening an access door and risking escapees on busy workday mornings.

Seeing how much Kelly liked Toby’s silo I quickly ordered one for her so they could both experience the joy of the in-home Food Silo .

Here’s where things got messy. Once Toby was totally adjusted to the Food Silo she started entertaining herself by using her beak to shovel all the seed out of the silo tray. She was throwing out 3+ tablespoons of food per day. And she can’t forage through the discarded seed because we can’t take the grate out of her new cage without leaving inch wide gaps at the base. Although she won’t go to the bottom anyway so it’s a total wash.

Kelly is much more responsible with her silo, but Toby comes over when the cages are open and does the same thing in Kelly’s cage! So, they may truly end up being vacation or other exception only.

I have seen tons of reviews about how much mess the silo feeder saves parakeet owners, but that is definitely not the case for us. I had not taken into account how much mess I was saving by using relatively deep stainless steel bowls and only feeding two tablespoons per bowl per day. With that low volume of food it’s not enough for them to kick food out of their bowls, even if they want to sit in the bowl with their food. I’m glad that Toby finally adjusted to her troughs so I can get rid of her silo, although I suppose the experience was quite a lot of fun for her, food silos are too much mess for my household!

The face of a mess-maker!

 

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!