Cage bar biting budgie – tips for redirection

It shouldn’t have been too surprising, given how much she likes to bite everything, that Kelly turned into a cage bar biting budgie. I could almost tolerate anything better than the clanging, twanging noise of her plucking away at those cage bars!

My first concern (in addition to my sanity) was whether she was safe, I’ve checked the cage every day and she’s not removing any of the finish so I’m not too worried about her eating paint and poisoning herself. I also took stock to make sure I was meeting all of her needs. She is out of her cage for adequate time every day, and even though she can’t live with Toby and Kevin they get time to be together supervised daily as well. She always has clean water and food, and ample variety of toys and perches and enriching experiences.

The bar biting though did seem to be borne out of boredom, even if it was the unwarranted boredom of being in her cage for more than 5 minutes, or settling down to sleep every night. So, I began putting a toy or mineral block or anything she could chew anywhere she went to bite at the bars. The last problem zone was near her sleeping perch, because there wasn’t room for a toy. In that area I painstakingly wove paper strands in between the bars so there would be something to chew at.

woven paper strands to redirect cage bar biting budgieAs far of the rest of the cage, I paved one wall with sea grass mats and toys that we had generally regarded as “too big” when they first arrived.

using big toys to distract cage bar biting budgieIn other places I put cuttle bones or mineral block.

cuttle bone to redirect bar chewing budgieThe overall effect is very busy!

jam-packed with things for a cage bar biting budgie to chew

But, it’s working! It has now been two weeks since Kelly has ruined the household serenity by chewing on her cage bars! The last holdout was the sleep perch area, and those woven paper strands have definitely saved me.

I know those paper strands won’t hold out forever, and I’m so excited to have found this Braided Palm Leaf Rope, which should be easy to weave through the bars and hold up to a lot of abuse.

As far as toys that will cover a lot of bar area, I’m going to have this monster size Seagrass Foraging Wall Toy on deck and load up on Bird Beak Conditioner Blocks

While I can’t say with 100% certainty that this redirection will work for every bar biting budgie, putting a toy or other chew object everywhere she wants to bit the bars helped Kelly redirect her energy. If you’ve met all of your parakeets needs and she is still biting, it’s at least worth a try!

Popcorn and budgies – an update and note of caution

Last week, I published a post about the budgies experiencing popcorn for the first time. In response, a kind reader commented that in a budgie group recently, someone recounted the experience of having their budgie choke to death while they desperately tried to save her. The culprit was, of course, popcorn. I am so grateful to the person who let me know about the recent situation.

First, my heartfelt condolences go out to the person who so recently lost their pet in a tragic and traumatizing manner. Second, I would hate to ever espouse any course of action that might lead to a budgie being injured or worse.

I wondered whether popcorn is a frequent choking hazard, or if this was a one in a million incident. Writing this blog, even for a relatively small audience, I’m aware of a responsibility not to publish harmful or misleading information. At the same time, I’m just a budgie parent, not a vet or avian specialist, and I’m learning as I go along too.

In order to gather some more data about a possible link between popcorn and choking, I posed the question on a FB page called Feathered Friends. This page provides an incredible resource, with nearly 80,000 fans who are parrot enthusiasts and owners it’s an excellent place to post a question and get a ton of well-reasoned answers.

What I gleaned from the many responses was that a budgie choking on popcorn is not a common occurrence. Also, it confirmed my concept that, much like humans, a budgie could choke to death on anything they ate and it would probably not be possible to eliminate all dangerous foods.

I was also called ignorant (yay internet!). As I’m sure we all know, asking questions is the way we conquer ignorance!

Some folks did feel that popcorn is inappropriate for smaller parrots. So, before you decide to try popcorn as enrichment, weigh the risks versus the reward, but also know that we can be the best informed and the most well-intentioned bird owners, and tragedy may still strike.

As a best practice, make sure to remove all kernels from the popcorn you provide your budgies. I mentioned in the original post, the popcorn should be free of salt and butter. You can also remove any hull-like kernel pieces to reduce the risk of choking.

I think you can easily keep popcorn off the menu for your budgies and they won’t know the difference. I think you could give popcorn once a month for the next ten years and most likely nothing bad would happen (except you’d be cleaning up shredded popcorn once a month!).

The thing that’s important to me as someone who is concerned with honesty and transparency is that I let my readers know what I’ve found out about the possible dangers of popcorn. That way you can make a better informed decision for your budgies.

As far as things go for our flock, I will give Toby, Kelly and Kevin the chance to explore popcorn as often as we make it, which is about 4 times a year. While I understand there may be a risk inherent, I also don’t want to dwell in the fear of what might happen.

The parakeets eat popcorn for the first time

I am all about feeding the parakeets new and interesting foods, although of course only parakeet-safe stuff. There aren’t too many human snacks that we can share with our parakeets, but popcorn is on the approved list. The only caveat is that it can’t be the salty, buttery awesomeness like you get at the movie theater or from a bag of microwaved popcorn. Plain old popcorn is the ticket.

We’ve had a Presto Hot Air Corn Popper for years – it’s the same brand that I grew up with and it’s so easy to use. You put the corn kernels into the well, plug it in and wait until they pop. It’s a bit noisy as the air heats the kernels but in a few minutes it’s all over and you have a beautiful bowl of pristine popcorn. Our favorite kernels are Snappy White Popcorn and we have some on hand at all times. The best thing about the air popper is that you don’t have to worry about burning oil on the stove top or washing a greasy pan afterwards. It’s a great way to make a healthy snack for humans or parakeets.

Because of my concerns about the noise, I hadn’t made popcorn literally in the two years since we got Toby. Pretty silly, right? We recently decided to try it out and see how traumatized the parakeets would be – which was, as it turns out, zero traumatized.

Although that didn’t mean they quite knew what to do with the popcorn once it was popped. Kelly enjoyed ripping a few pieces apart while Patrick held them, but once they were on a little plate in her cage she totally lost interest. Toby was very suspicious of the end product and didn’t even venture to lick a piece of popcorn.

No worries though, parakeets are notoriously reluctant to try new things so I’m not really put off. Now that we know they aren’t scared of the noisy Air Popper there will be a lot more popcorn opportunities in our house. So, we will offer them a little bit each time and see if the idea catches on; if not, at least it’s something unusual for them to think about, which is always an enriching experience.

A couple of uses for discarded seeds and hulls

No matter how you feed your budgies, at some point you probably end up with a bunch of seed hulls. Mixed in with those seed hulls are unwanted seed and maybe some pellets, dried fruits and veggies and herbs, depending on your preferred brand of parakeet feed. There’s no need to throw those discarded seeds right into the trash. Here are a couple of ways to extend their life.

  1. Use them as a fun enrichment. I feed Toby and Kelly 2 tablespoons each of a mix of the following every morning: Dr. Harvey’s parakeet blend, Volkman Avian Science Super Parakeet and Harrison’s High Potency Super Fine Pellets. Even though it’s only 2 tablespoons per day, there’s always some leftover. They especially do not like the sesame seeds in the Dr. Harvey’s, and they are still getting used to the pellets. So, every morning when I refresh I put the leftovers into a Tupperware container that I keep on my kitchen counter next to the seed mix. Tupperware of discarded seedsThere’s still a ton of great stuff in there! So, I use it as an opportunity for foraging enrichment. Either I pour some on top of a fruit or vegetable I’m getting them to try, or a little bit on a flat plate really gets them excited. For a super fun Saturday I pour a good 1/4 inch onto a plate and let them go crazy. They really love digging through the discards and finding delectable morsels they missed the first time around, and I love getting just a little more use out of the good quality food I spent my money on!uses for discarded seeds and hulls
  2. When you are truly done with the discards, throw what you’ve collected over the week outside for the outdoor birds and squirrels. I have two squirrels right now in my backyard digging through my budgies leftovers. It’s winter so I’m sure they are happy to have the little bit of extra food. Soon the birds will come and pick through the rest. What my picky eaters are too good for turns into a treat for wild birds.

I’m sure it doesn’t mean much to them, but in a “waste not want not” kind of way it makes me feel good not to put usable seeds and pellets into the trash.

Does anyone else use their discarded seeds and hulls for anything?  If you’ve got ideas I’d love to hear them!  Otherwise, if you’re throwing out uneaten seeds on a regular basis I hope you’ll consider saving them for foraging, either for your budgies or the outdoor birds.

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!