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 pullover sweatshirt (Hanes ComfortBlend EcoSmart Pullover Hoodie Sweatshirt Ash LARGE). 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!

When will my parakeet talk?

This is a very similar post to when will my parakeet let me pet him, in that the answer is typically “don’t count on it”.   Many parakeets may learn to mumble a few garbled words, but fewer will be intelligible and barely any will have the clarity and vocabulary of a Disco the parakeet.

There is some correlation between budgies that learn to talk and sex, boys tend to be a lot more vocal in general, have sweeter songs, and a greater capacity for speech. When we first brought Toby home we thought she was a boy, I knew some about how the color of the budgie’s cere can be used to determine the sex, but I didn’t know that it was different when they are juveniles.  So, I should have been looking for a baby with a solid pink cere which would have absolutely been a boy, instead all I knew was boy=blue, not that young hens typically have light blue ceres with white around their nares (nostrils).

toby bars 1
hindsight 20/20, obviously a baby girl!

The employee at the pet store where we got Toby also said it looked like she was a boy, of course I know now that pet store workers typically have no specialized knowledge, and though the employee was well-intentioned, he probably knew about as much as we did about parakeets.

Anyhow, the result was that we brought home a girl thinking she was a boy, and even though she proved to be mostly quiet over the next couple of months we tried and tried to teach her to speak a simple two word phrase. We held her close to our mouths and made sure she was watching while we slowly sounded out the same words over and over and I’m sure she thought she’d been brought home by lunatics. When that failed, we moved on to playing YouTube clips on repeat of phrases, with the same lack of any result.

When we brought home Kelly we knew sooner that she was a female, and in the past six months we have mostly focused on trying to teach them any sort of cool sound, like playing the Lyre bird, which Toby really responds to and also this reel of R2-D2 noises with the screeching taken out.  Patrick thinks he hears them do some R2-D2 on occasion, but I’m not sure about that.

If you have a young male budgie he may be quite inclined to speak, if you repeat the same words and phrases often ie: “pretty bird” he might even pick them up on his own.  I’ve heard also that many females are capable of learning words.  I think it must depend mostly on the individual parakeet’s interest level, with a better chance of interest in males vs. females.

Originally we were pretty invested in Toby learning a word or two, and working with her on that dovetailed neatly with getting her hand tamed anyway, but if your budgie doesn’t seem interested in learning to speak then I would waste a lot of time on it, there are tons of other fun things you can teach your budgie and their natural vocalizations are (in my opinion) pleasant enough anyway.

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Parakeet fun with shredded newspaper

Toby and Kelly have been enjoying their Caitec Party Cubes Bird Shredding toy from Drs Foster & Smith so much that all of the paper streamers were either destroyed or thrown around and “eaten” by the vacuum.  I kept trying to pick them all up at the end of the day and refill the boxes but it was a losing battle!  So – I decided to buy a newspaper and make some shreds of my own. The finished product is a huge hit, possibly even more beloved than it was originally because I packed the shreds in really tightly and have made it much more of a challenge.

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Neither parakeet would allow me to take their picture while playing

While I was cutting out shreds I decided to see if they would enjoy playing around in a lose pile of them on the floor and oh yes they did.  I plan to do this again sometime soon and possibly hide some millet or other treats underneath the paper.  The only difficult part was keeping track of Kelly, she really enjoyed burrowing in and definitely blended in with the paper!

10 ideas for parakeet enrichment

When I mention enrichments you might just think about larger parrots, but parakeets need to have new and interesting experiences too. They are very bright and it’s important to keep their brains active and working on new ideas and objects. Here are a few of the enrichments that we’ve done with our budgies.

    • Paper Towels or Toilet Paper tubes – some parakeets may happily run right through these whole, but you can also cut them into smaller rings that are run to chew, toss around and drop. Also an empty cereal or oatmeal box can be cut in half for a hideout.
    • Baby teething rings that snap together – (Bright Starts Lots of Links Accessory Toy) Parakeets will enjoy chewing on the hard plastic and these are great to hang off perches, either alone or changed together. You may even see some ring gymnastics. A ring hung off a perch is also a good brain teaser, figuring out how to slide it off and throw on the floor can be quite a puzzle.
    • Use the floor or a table – changing the venue sometimes makes an old toy exciting again. I also like to scatter some Seed or Pellets around on any flat surface with toys and let then “forage”.
    • Hold a half empty bottle of water sideways, tilt it gently side to side to make a wave. This fascinates my parakeets to no end, and they love to try and go after the drops of water on the inside of the bottle.
    • Throw on a hooded sweatshirt and let them explore your hood and chew your drawstrings. If the sweatshirt has a kangaroo pouch show them the opening and let them go through or think about it. One of our parakeets is tremendously neophobic and won’t really do much adventuring, but even thinking about a new situation is beneficial. A similar approach could be using a folded sheet of paper as a tent, not only is it a pop-up cave but a great opportunity for paper destruction.
    • Foraging food ball (Creative Foraging Systems+E487 CFS Fillable 3-Ball and Kabob Pet Feeder) – load this up with shredded lettuce or kale and millet, even if you parakeet won’t eat vegetables he’s going to have a fantastic time teasing them out of the ball and throwing them to the floor. You could put any kind of vegetable or fruit in there, they would all be equally fun to get out.
    • window perches – There are hours of entertainment to be had in sitting and watching the world, especially if there are other birds outside! Toby and Kelly both love watching the outdoor birds and weather, expect lots of yelling and watch out for crows and other things that can scare your fids (feathered kids).
    • Vegetables and fruits in new and exciting ways – If you always offer veggies diced, try giving a whole broccoli floret or thin strips of carrots or apple.
    • Play new sounds for your parakeets to learn – We love this R2D2 mix for parakeets that has all the screeching noises removed. Toby and Kelly have to hear it about 8 times in a row before they start trying to mimic, but you can see them paying attention and thinking about it. We haven’t had any big successes yet, but we have the two least melodic budgies ever, so yours will probably do better!
    • Come find me – If you have a flighted parakeet who can be trusted out of his cage alone for short periods of time, leave the room and call to him to come find you – Toby will methodically fly around the house seeking us out and she’s always so proud when she reaches her goal!

As long as you’re introducing new objects and concepts you are doing a great job enriching your parakeets and keeping their lives interesting. Even something as simple as a water bottle or a piece of paper can keep a budgie’s mind active and engaged.