Prepping vegetables for your budgies – and actually getting them to eat

I have to tell you something that will seem unrelated to parakeets; I hate cooking. I’m really horrendous about kitchen stuff; sometimes an activity as easy as making a cup of tea is too much bother.

Where this impacts my budgies is chop and my utter failure to make it happen. Chop is basically the ideal parrot diet; you grab a ton of fresh veggies, fruits, grains and beans and then blend them up in a food processor. I love my budgies, I think a ton about their well-being and diet, and I cannot get myself either to the grocery store to procure these supplies or into the kitchen to prepare.

Here’s what I have managed to do, and what’s worked to get my budgies eating fruits and vegetables pretty reliably.

Tools needed:
– small plate
OXO Good Grips Utility Cutting Board
OXO Good Grips Soft-Handled Garlic Press (I got a separate one for bird stuff since garlic is a “no” for them)
OXO Good Grips Swivel Peeler
Good Cook 4.5-Inch Vegetable Knife
OXO Good Grips Grater

The plate is probably the most important piece of the puzzle, I realized after several weeks of reliably feeding fruits and veggies on one specific plate they were getting excited any time that plate came out of the cupboard. They so strongly associate that plate with food that they will try anything that shows up on it, even if they have never seen it before!
When I prep a veggie for them the doors of the cage are usually open, they become aware that I’m taking out the plate, and the cutting board etc, and get increasingly excited because they know something good is coming. They fly over to my shoulders and typically start walking down my arms which makes the whole process quite a bit longer, ensuring they are safe from getting cut.

I usually “sell” them what I’m preparing by eating little pieces of it and visibly enjoying them and even talking about what I’m doing. Sometimes I will let them try it off of my hand as a sneak peak.

They do prefer very small pieces or even puréed items, so instead of taking the time to mince things I run them through the garlic press or I grate them.

I also prefer to peel every fruit or veggie that isn’t organic, even though I wash them thoroughly I worry about pesticides. Apples are one of the most pesticide-laden fruits out there, so I try to buy organic at least for apples if not everything they eat.

So far, using the same-plate method they have tried, cucumber, peaches, oranges and grapes, to name a few, they also love any color pepper head, picking off the seeds and eating them is an hours-long project of pure pleasure.

Until I get my kitchen-hating self-motivated enough to make some chop they get a single fruit or vegetable per day offered up in a way that makes them feel it’s a treat. If not on their special plate then in their hanging foraging ball, like alfalfa sprouts or torn up dark greens or broccoli. We also offer hanging greens as a bath and those usually get eaten too!
I thought about writing a post about what fruits and veggies are safe, but other folks have done it all before and very well, so a quick google search of a specific item or a search for a list will suffice.

For a long time I felt discouraged about how to get my budgies to eat anything other than seed, pellets or millet, but by repeatedly offering them fruits and vegetables in a way that they grew accustomed to and a size of food bit that they felt comfortable with we have made some major progress. It is a total joy to watch them dig in to a new food without hesitation, and that makes it worth dragging myself into the dreaded kitchen!

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Update to the review of the Super Bird Creations Wind Chime Toy for Birds

It’s been several months now since my original review of the Super Bird Creations Wind Chimes Toy for Birds and this toy is still Kelly’s number one favorite.  Not only that, but it is still in good shape for being abused daily.  The toy lost a plastic straw and bead last week when the bottom knot came until, but other than that it looks pretty darn mint.

Here’s a video of Kelly being a bat girl with the wind chimes – I wish it was better but she gets very camera shy, you can see she stops playing and rapidly nods her head at me to indicate I should leave her alone!  Although Kelly is the primary user, Toby also gets into it, but instead of hanging upside down and twisting around Toby prefers to separate one “leg” at a time and drape it over the nearby perch before dominating.

I know that at about $13 it might seem like a pretty big outlay of cash for a single toy, but with budgies it will last you a long time and if yours are like mine it will be the belle of the ball.

Realistic start-up costs for a budgie

In my first post on this blog I made a bit of a wild claim as to how much I felt start-up budgie costs would be.  Recently I’ve been wondering whether I was close at all and decided to do a bit of research and some basic addition. This post assumes you are purchasing nothing secondhand and you don’t have any existing supplies.

  • First and most important is cage selection, I have heard a lot of good reviews of Vision brand cages and I would always endorse getting the largest cage possible, so I’m picking the Vision Bird Cage Model L01 – Large for my scenario (this cage is approx. $85). I have the HQ Victorian top bird cage with cart stand (approx. $200). So clearly there is a big range here, and of course I’ve chosen higher end cages, which may not be in everyone’s budgie budget.  In this instance I will say you need to anticipate a minimum spend of $70.
  • Next up is food. You’ll want to get some of whatever your budge is accustomed to eating, let’s assume he has been on a seed-based diet because that’s very common, especially for a pet store. An example would be Volkman Avian Science Super Parakeet Bird Seed 4 Lb, and that’s about $11 for 4 pounds. You might as well get Kaytee Spray Millet for Birds, 12-Count while you’re at it because you’ll need it for treats and to help you in taming your budgie (if feral).  The millet is approximately $7. Most bird owners these days also offer their parakeets pelleted food, and a very common brand is ZuPreem. I don’t recommend feeding anything with unnatural color and so I’ll start with the ZuPreem Natural with Added Vitamins, Minerals, Amino Acids Small Bird Food, 2.25 lb and get a 2.25 pound bag for $13. Total food spend is $31
  • On to perches – your cage will probably come with one or two, but they will undoubtedly be either round plastic or smooth doweled wood. You can leave them in if you like, but parakeets need a lot more variety in perch size and material. This is for foot exercise and nail maintenance, and also for chewing and mental stimulation. Perches should not exceed ½ inch in diameter, or your budgie will have trouble getting comfortable. You are going to buy the Alfie Pet by Petoga Couture – Iona Natural Wood Y-Rack 2-Piece Set for Birds for $10, the Living World Pedi-Perch, Small for $11.50 and the Living World Nature’s Perch, Small for $15.20. There are a million different kinds of perches, fun chewy perches and mineral perches, with all sorts of shapes and sizes. And these should be rotated fairly regularly so your initial spend should by no means be considered your lifetime spend. Total start up is approximately $36
  • Toys are another extremely important facet of initial cage set up. Every parakeet needs them, and especially those who may need taming. If a parakeet is confined to his cage for the bulk of his time he absolutely needs an outlet for physical activity, mental stimulation, and destructive chewing. Much like with perches the toy options are almost limitless. Let’s assume that you need a minimum of three toys to start with.  First I recommend the BIRD KABOB Bird Toy, Mini Max ($7) which provides hours of chewing fun. Next something like the JW Pet Company Activitoy Olympia Rings Small Bird Toy, Colors Vary for about $5; this toy is deceptively simple, being just a series of interlocked rings, my parakeets adore this and like going through the rings acrobatically or just chewing them and ringing the bell repetitively.  Super Bird Creations Wind Chimes Toy for Birds coming in at $12.50 which I’ve written a whole separate review about because my budgies are obsessed with it.  Much like the perches, toy options are vast and start-up cost is just the beginning of spending!  Total is $24.50
  • This item is completely optional – there are a lot of different ways to handle the bottom of the cage lining material. Many people use newspaper (black ink pages only) or even paper towel. I like to use Bird Cage Liners – Small Cages – Pick-Your-Size – 150 Count – 40 Pound Paper. Not only does it allow me to easily assess my budgies’ poop condition (and therefore their health) but it also resists absorbing water spills and makes clean up a total snap. I can’t imagine not having them. Cost depends on cage size approx. $35
  • Another semi-optional starter item is the Lixit Bird Waterer – 5 oz. I can practically guarantee that within a few days of parakeet-ownership you will realize that it is nearly impossible to keep their water from being contaminated by poop, food, and/or bathing. You should still maintain the traditional water bowl, but having the lixit bird waterer means that you do not have to worry about a clean supply of drinking water. You should buy as many of these as you have budgies so they don’t fight over it (in theory!). Minimum cost $12.50
  • Living World Cuttlebone, Large, Twin Pack provides absolutely essential calcium and minerals and is very inexpensive to boot! Cost $3.50
  • And finally – the budgies!! I’m hoping you’re starting with two so that they feel less afraid and have a pal, I know it will be harder to tame them, but I don’t think you’ll regret it.  Depending on where you get your parakeets they are either a small donation to a rescue, or up to $50 each for a handfed baby. I will hit sort of in the middle and say that you spent $40 for your two parakeets.  $40

Done conservatively, that comes to about $250 dollars.  That is far less than my original estimate of $400, but still a pretty substantial chunk of change.

Of course, that does not include everything that you will either find is a necessity down the road (like a 1st aid kit) or replacement toys and perches.  Also, almost every bird owner discovers they need a dedicated vacuum or some type for budgie mess.  You will probably also end up buying an air purifier (we have the Winix WAC9500 Ultimate Pet True HEPA Air Cleaner with PlasmaWave Technology), both for your budgie’s health and for yours once you realize the amount of dust and other air contaminants that come with birds.

Also not accounted for is an Zoo Med AvianSun Deluxe Floor Pet Lamp, and Zoo Med 24975 Avian Sun 5.0 Uvb Compact Fluorescent Lamp, 26W these provide full spectrum UVB and UVA lighting which parrots need to synthesize vitamin D3.  They cannot get these types of light through windows – so even if you think your budgie is technically getting “enough light” because they are near a big window, they are not getting the full spectrum which they need for physical and mental health.  Buying the lamp and bulb at Amazon will run you another $65.

For such a small thing budgies need a lot of gear for optimal physical and mental health. Far from being just an ornamental pet to keep in a cage, budgies are complex and extremely intelligent creatures and they deserve to have their basic needs met, or hopefully exceeded.

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The time Toby proved her intelligence by biting my face

If I was going to recommend a single item of clothing to every budgie owner it would be a hooded sweatshirt.  Put one of these on around a budgie and suddenly you are a parkour dreamland, your pockets, the folds of the sleeves, the hood itself, all of these are fodder for exploration, climbing and swinging!

But the best part of all, without a doubt, are the drawstrings of your sweatshirt. They must be subdued through lots of domination, and their ends can be chewed happily for hours.

Because of the delightful chewy properties of the drawstrings I usually try not to wear sweatshirts that have aglets on the ends. I don’t want the parakeets accidentally eating any plastic or chewing on metal that could be unsafe.

All of my usual sweatshirts were in the wash so I threw on my Lakeshore Winery hoodie, and Toby immediately honed in on those plastic aglets! She was chewing away happily so I pulled the drawstrings away from her and tucked them into the front of the sweatshirt, whereupon she promptly bit my face and flew off in a very exasperated fashion.

I was really impressed that she made that connection, not just that the fun item had disappeared, but that I had taken it away and she was mad at me, and also understood that my hands were a part of me. She didn’t bite hard, mind you, just a nip to show that she did not appreciate having her toy taken away.

To make an even greater show of her intelligence, the following day I was wearing the same sweatshirt with the drawstrings tucked in – she landed on my front, climbed up to my neck and pulled them back out!

I have a tendency to think of Toby as a sweetie who’s fearful but eager to please, so it’s a good reminder to me that she’s always thinking and plotting. It also makes me realize that I need to up my game on providing enrichments for these two and make sure they have enough of an outlet for their smart little parrot heads 🙂

Hari Rustic Treasures toy line at Drs. Foster & Smith

Whenever we get a new Doctors Foster & Smith catalog in the mail I’m excited to see what’s new and also filled with a small amount of dread, knowing I’m about to part with a pretty good chunk of change!

They always have a ton of great toys for birds of all sizes, and a line that was featured in their recent catalog, Hari Rustic Treasures, has an array of toys that range in price from approximately $4 to $19.

What attracted me to this line was not just that they look like tons of fun for our budgies, but also that they are made of natural and eco-friendly materials, feature lead/zinc free chains and are certified fair trade.  They also have a really unique and, indeed, rustic handmade look to them, while also being brightly colored and eye-catching.

I bought the:
Silk Cascade bird toy
Grass Bundles bird toy
T-Swing

They are all a bit big for budgies, but I like that, since I know they will take some effort before they are fully destroyed!

So, if you’re looking for a new toy for your parrots that you can feel good about buying I definitely recommend checking out Hari Rustic Treasures at Drs. Foster & Smith.

Buying a tablecloth for your budgie

As I’ve mentioned, Kelly recently got over her fear of everything and is now quite a handful, more precisely, a handful of constantly chewing beak.  Which is totally normal, parrots are machines built for destruction, and the only saving grace of a budgie is its small size and (relatively) weak beak.  If Kelly was an African Gray or a Macaw I would probably have no wood furniture or door frames left at this point.

Since she can’t take it to that extent, Kelly limits herself to chewing on approved toys for the most part, but the exception is the edge of our dining room table.  Toby went through a brief table-mania last year, but was easily dissuaded from the pursuit.  Kelly, not so much, she is determined to turn that thing into matchsticks one chomp at a time.

I can’t even be mad at her for it, seriously, it’s what she’s meant to do, so it’s on me to find a workaround and shooing her away 500 times a day isn’t cutting it.  Also, I don’t know what varnish or veneer is on the table, and I don’t want her to slowly poison herself chewing on the wood.

My first idea was to take a long sheet of paper towels and drape it over the edge in question, weighting it with a couple of toys. This worked well, both Kelly and Toby enjoyed climbing up and down the hanging paper towel and it distracted from the table itself.  But, I’m not feeling that style of home décor, so a more permanent solution was needed.

I decided to buy a tablecloth, I’m pretty sure this is the first tablecloth I have ever purchased.  I didn’t want to spend a ton of money, but I was looking for something that would be visually appealing to both the parakeets and the humans, and seemed durable.

We ended up with the ColorBird Solid Cotton Linen Tablecloth Waterproof Macrame Lace Table Cover for Kitchen Dinning Tabletop Decoration (Rectangle/Oblong, 55″*102″, Linen) in sage green, which is a color that Toby likes. Taking it out of the box I noticed immediately that the fabric is nice and tightly woven and has a sheen to it, which has been great, it’s really easy to just wipe poops off of it, and small amounts of liquid don’t sink through. Also because of the tight weave it will take the budgies a while to destroy. It can be machine washed and line dried and that may be easier to manage than it currently is wiping down the table all the time.

I also like the lace edging. I know I’ll have to make sure they don’t eat it, but they will enjoy ripping it apart. It seems sort of odd to buy a nice item knowing that it’s basically going to be treated as disposable, but it will certainly be cheaper to replace than a whole table. Also, if they only attack one side I can rotate the tablecloth a few times for maximum use.

Hopefully this will be a good save for the table, I’m sure in a few weeks Kelly will figure out she can climb down and underneath and I’ll have a whole new set of issues.  Coming soon, presumably, a post about getting rid of our dining room table and turning the entire house into an aviary 🙂

Review of the Bonka Bird Toys 1925 Cake Bird Toy

At first glance the Bonka Bird Toys 1925 Cake Bird Toy foraging parrot cage toys cages shred cockatiel african grey looks a bit cheap, I was sort of skeptical of the foam pieces, and it just overall looked a bit too thrown together and sort of unnatural for my tastes.  But, I was chucking stuff in my cart at amazon so this got added in too!

Once it arrived I was even more turned off, the solla wood that makes up the “cupcake” is extremely lightweight, and the foam and plastic pieces looked just as insubstantial in person.

I stowed it away in our toy cabinet and basically forgot about it until this weekend when I was swapping out some things, and decided to use it on our play gym.

Kelly made a beeline to the Bonka Bird Toys 1925 Cake Bird Toy foraging parrot cage toys cages shred cockatiel african grey, and played with that toy for the entire day virtually non-stop.  She did make a huge mess and totally tore apart the wood piece in one day, but it was well worth it to watch her enjoy herself and just chew away.

It wouldn’t make a ton of economic sense to provide her with one daily, but I think she can be sure to have one of these as a treat every so often.  And I’m definitely going to seek out more solla wood toys!

I did slide a wood block on the post after the cupcake was murdered and she enjoys that as well, the cupcake wrappers seem fun to nibble at and she likes the sound it makes.  I think the fact that she could hear the bell jingling but not actually see it was fun for her too.

The whole thing put her into a frenzy in the best possible way!