Toby and Kelly’s Christmas wish list

Toby and Kelly have been working feverishly on their Christmas wish list for parakeet-Santa.  They are cutting it a little close to the wire, but here’s their parakeet gift list full of their secret and most closely held desires!

Toby really wants to try having Nutriberries as a treat! She has heard that if I crumble them up for her she will be in a heretofore unknown ecstasy of foraging.

Kelly’s wants are a bit more basic. She plows through a cuttlebone every week, so she would like a never-ending supply of essential calcium as well as beak-exercising destruction.

Kelly snuck in a second want in a row! She loves the smaller version of this toy so much that she wants to try out the one for big birds! Since the single cupcake style is destroyed in a single day, we’re hoping that Santa brings one that lasts for three days!

Both Toby and Kelly are dreaming of a new play gym. They acknowledge that they previously had a very similar gym and totally ignored it, but they feel that since they both have flat top flight cages now they will get a lot more use of out of a play gym if it’s on top of the cage.

You’re probably wondering what poor new kid Kevin would like for Christmas. He’s just dreaming of getting out of quarantine and spending some time with his “sisters”.

He has been using the java tree as his personal play stand, so we all hope he comes out of quarantine in time for us to use his play tree as our Christmas tree like we did last year!

Speaking of which, Santa better bring us some new Christmas-themed bird toys to load up our “tree”.  Seems like some human “Santas” may need to start adding things to their carts before we run out of time!  I hope everybirdy out there finds exactly what they most want and need under their trees this year!

Working out with a budgie

Anyone who knows me through this blog can probably guess that I’m pretty budgie-obsessed in all facets of my life. This definitely extends to social media. I’m a frequent visitor to several parakeet groups on Facebook, and as a consequence, almost my entire feed is about budgies and other parrots. So, when I glanced at a post one day asking, “do you prefer working out with a budgie, or solo” I prepared myself to write a really thorough response about how Patrick and I have balanced making physical fitness a priority while also not taking anything away from Toby and Kelly. Of course once I actually read the post I realized it was one of my fitness coach friends asking, “do you prefer to work out with a buddy” but since my brain was already churning about the topic I thought I better write up my response here!

Once budgies take over your life it can be pretty difficult to hit the gym. Unless your budgies have their own room or an aviary, they probably need you to be in the house to have freedom to free fly around and explore. So, hitting the gym for a couple of hours after work would take away time that they could be out getting their exercise. And, let’s be honest, time that you could be spending with them as well.

It’s a much better plan, in my opinion, to spend your gym membership money on a few basics for home exercise, and then the rest on budgie gear!  Seriously though, you can get a great workout at home, your budgies can be flying around getting their exercise, and who knows, sometimes they may even land on you during a cardio routine and get some extra fitness in trying to hold on while you bounce around.  Toby and Kelly used to get a lot of practice clinging when we were in a Leslie Sansone Walking Program phase. I highly recommend Leslie’s videos if you are just starting to workout. They are very low impact and she has a ton of different videos. Also she’s so chatty that even if you’re working out solo you really don’t feel alone. Another good feature of Leslie’s videos is that you don’t need any additional equipment, just a clear space on your floor. She uses music to keep the pace, which the budgies absolutely love singing along to as well.

If you want something a bit more challenging, check out Fitness Blender’s free workout videos. They can also be found on YouTube and not only are there so many you could exercise for years without repeating, they run the gamut from super easy low impact cardio and yoga, to challenging weight training and intense cardio. Fitness Blender is a husband and wife team, which of course appeals to Patrick and me!

Again, not too much extra equipment is needed for these videos. I would recommend investing in a good quality set of weights. We love this Adjustable Dumbbell Set, it goes from 3 pounds to 24 pounds just by changing out the weights.  They are easy to change on the fly and it’s a huge space saver versus a traditional set of free weights.

Lastly, snag a good quality Yoga Mat that isn’t made out of terrible chemical nonsense that will poison you while you are exercising. We’ve actually been using doubled over blankets instead after a run of buying a few really smelly exercise mats. I just ordered the one in the link today, so I’ll have to report back, but the reviews are good and the listing indicates it doesn’t have Phthalates, Phenols, PAHS, Latex, Silicone or Rubber.

Using just a few small gym items and free or inexpensive videos it is totally possible to get or stay fit at home, without wasting loads of time outside the house or money on a gym membership. It’s also much easier to commit to working out most days if you live in your gym space. You can enrich your budgies lives with the extra time out of their cages and the curiosity of you bouncing around like a lunatic while listening to awesome upbeat music!

I’d totally love some recommendations for good exercise videos on YouTube or otherwise, so please hit me up if you’ve got anything great to share! You can leave a comment here or drop me a line through Home Keet Home’s Facebook page.

Using a food trough as a parakeet toy box

When we purchased Toby’s new Flight Cage it came with a set of plastic trough style Feeder Cups, which I knew immediately I wasn’t going to use. Not only do plastic feeders encourage bacteria growth, but they were also difficult to get in and out of the cage. In fact, I’m not sure how you would keep water clean in them at all without quite a bit of difficulty. So, I bought a set of my preferred Stainless Steel Hanging Bowls, put away the plastic tray feeders and didn’t think about them again for a few months.

Fast forward to Patrick and I cleaning out the parakeets’ toy and perch cupboard. It’s terrible, like a totally embarrassing toy hoard, someday I’ll post a picture! Anyway, every so often we go through and toss out stuff that got put away but most likely the birds wouldn’t really use, or toys that are fairly beat up.

He noticed the food trays and decided to try hanging one off the outside of Kelly’s cage and then put a bunch of little toys in it for her to throw out. What’s in there are some pieces that came off old toys, like a vine star from a Christmas toy, a large wooden bead, etc. But also, some Baby Links and Vine Balls. All together it’s a bunch of little items with different shapes, sizes and textures as well as varying degrees of difficulty to pick up and throw.

Kelly typically has a short attention span and doesn’t play with toys much. But, she will happily spend time picking up and throwing out every single one of the items, and then when you load it back up she’ll do it all over again. She’s our obsessive biter, so anything that keeps her occupied and relatively happy is a major win for us!

Even if your parakeets don’t need something to obsess over, the little trough of foot toys would be fun for even the most well-adjusted parakeet. Who hasn’t seen their parakeet drop a feather or piece of food and then watch with intensity as it falls to the ground? Sure, it can get a little tedious picking everything back up and resetting, but it’s totally worth it in the name of parakeet fun and enrichment!

Maximing exterior cage space for budgie enrichment

I’ve been thinking a lot about budgie cage set up lately, possibly a consequence of now having two flight cages! We put a big emphasis on changing up their cages regularly, I recommend weekly switching at least a toy or two out and moving some perches. Budgies are very intelligent and can be prone to boredom, so it’s a good idea to keep them engaged in their space and not let home become stale. I’m sure there are some budgies out there that hate change, so your mileage may vary and use your judgement. In addition to the interior space, it’s also important to think about maximizing exterior cage space for budgie enrichment.

Utilizing exterior cage space is also a great way to help your budgie feel comfortable out in the “world” that is your home. One idea is making a fun space on top of the cage so your budgie has a place to hang out. We used a Booda Comfy Perch and a Super Bird Creations Wind Chimes Toy for Birds to create a fun and budgie friendly play location on top of Toby’s cage. We added a cluster of Vine Balls trailing down over the side to provide even more indoor/outdoor play options.

Toby’s cage also has a perch placed outside underneath her main door to ease the transition into the cage, which can frequently be difficult to navigate. It’s also a sand perch, which she loves but I know can be hard on budgie feet. So placing it outside the cage means Toby gets time with the perch but without the risk of her trying to nap or sleep on it and hurt her feet.

Kelly’s cage has a totally different flair. She has a Bendable Wooden Bridge that comes off the top like a ski jump, as well as a Spiral Boing Perch that connects to a Natural Rope Ladder and then back to the edge of the cage.

Kelly also has a Sand Perch outside her cage, but hers facilitates entry into the Lixit Quick Lock Bird Bath. The Lixit bath is still one of the most reliable ways to get Kelly to clean up and having it mounted on the outside of the cage makes it easier to clean up the inevitable water-soaked “splash zone”.

Adding areas of interest to the outside of the cage helps parakeets transition from indoor to outdoor space while still keeping a sense of safety and being “home”. This can be a big help during the initial taming/training process, but is also just a great plan to keep your budgies engaged outside their cages. Expanding your budgies’ livable space and maximizing enrichment can really enhance their lives overall.

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

Raw cauliflower – Could it be nature’s most perfect shredding toy?

I always try to serve the parakeet a wide variety of vegetables and fruits, but they do tend to eat the same things we are eating. For example, if we have a pepper they get the pepper head and seeds. Apparently we don’t eat a lot of cauliflower, because I bought a head  this week and gave raw cauliflower to the parakeets for the first time, and they were in love!

The hope when trying a new vegetable is always that they will give it a nibble and maybe be more likely to try it the next time around. They were a little wary of the cauliflower at first, I gave them a few big florets and also chopped some up in small bits. Very rapidly they discovered that not only was it tasty, but it was an amazing shred experience. They really enjoyed hooking their beaks into the crevices in the cauliflower and then tugging until they broke pieces off.

They would do this to each floret until it was almost smooth with nothing else to hook into. I know they mostly threw the cauliflower around but I’m sure they couldn’t have avoided eating some of it as well.

I gave them more raw cauliflower a few days later to see if it was a fluke and they went crazy for it again, this time I did mostly larger florets and they had a ball shredding them. They also enjoying picking them up and pretending they were heavyweight champions of the world, throwing the florets at each other and off the top of the cage.

We did have some territorial food issues, Kelly certainly felt like she was queen of the cauliflower. That’s pretty typical and I guess a good sign that they both really loved it.

This was as insanely messy snack, which would be the only downside. Because they started throwing pieces large and small I ended up with what looked like a chunky coating of snow on the interior of Toby’s cage floor as well as the floor below, some on the walls and even under the radiators!

I think that I might try giving them a whole head someday to see what they would do with it, maybe for someone’s birthday treat.  Otherwise I think that reasonable amounts of cauliflower will definitely be in our regular rotation from now on.

Facts about the 5 senses of the parakeet

Over the past several months I wrote posts about each of the 5 senses of the parakeets.  I think it’s good to have some basic knowledge about how your parakeet perceives the world so you can accommodate his needs and understand things that might be scary, or conversely, might be very pleasing to them.  Here are links to all of those posts with some key facts for each sense.

SIGHT

  • Parakeets have much better vision than humans and can see ultraviolet light.
  • With the exception of a few color mutations – parakeets eyes change as they age, they develop a visible iris and begin to “flash” or “pin” their pupils in response to stimuli.
  • As good as parakeet sight is during the day it is terrible at night, which can be the root cause of night terrors. Any movement detected during the night can be perceived as a threat.

HEARING

  • Parakeets have an internal ear, an adult parakeet’s ear holes are not typically visible unless the parakeet is very wet.
  • They also have perfect pitch and can store sound in their memories with incredible skill.
  • Parakeets that live together will “flock call” to each other frequently when they are out of eye line to check in and make sure everything is okay. Some parakeets also loudly call out to birds that they hear outdoors, this is cute, but can be quite loud and go on for hours.

TOUCH

  • Don’t expect to pet or snuggle your parakeet. Although some may learn to enjoy it, petting is not a natural behavior to a budgie.
  • Parakeets are very sensitive to vibrations – cars and trucks lumbering by may vibrate the budgies cage and can be a little scary. It’s also best to keep cages away from appliances that vibrate, such as refrigerators and washing machines.
  • Our parakeets are able to feel pain, so we have a great responsibility to make a safe environment for our pets. Of course this applies to every pet in your home!

SMELL

  • Scientists aren’t quite sure how much parakeets use their sense of smell. In the wild it is probably not a key part of how they evade predators they way that sight and hearing are.
  • They do not use their sense of smell to know who you are – since their sights and hearing are so much better they recognize the way you look and the sound of your voice.
  • Possible lack of importance of the sense has nothing to do with chemical and smoke sensitivity – Teflon, burning candles, chemical cleaners etc. are all very dangerous.

TASTE

  • Parakeets have fewer taste buds than humans and the taste buds they do have are located at the base of the tongue.
  • As foragers, keen sense of taste wouldn’t be a huge benefit. If you need to scrounge around on the ground for your food it wouldn’t do to be picky!!
  • They can detect the taste of sweet foods which is probably why many parakeets prefer fruit to vegetables – but watch out for overdoing the sugar.

Please click the link on the individual senses for more detailed information about each – there are a ton of useful tips and points to ponder for each sense.