The difference between budgie regurgitation and vomiting

Seeing seeds come back up out of your budgies beak can be unsettling for a new parakeet owner. Rest assured, most of the time when you see a budgie spitting seeds out of its beak it’s something called regurgitation and there’s nothing to worried about. There are, however, times when a budgie vomits due to illness and may need medical attention. It’s important to be able to tell the difference between normal, healthy regurgitation and vomiting.

When your budgie eats he hulls his seeds to remove outer layer, which is why he doesn’t need grit. The next place the seed goes is into his crop, check out this page for an image of the digestive system and detailed description of how the crop and digestion functions. Typically after being stored in the crop the food is released slowly into the rest of their digestive tract. It’s intelligent design to keep yourself going with a consistent energy source if you’re not always sure where your next meal is going to come from. Although of course that’s not an issue with our spoiled pet parakeets! Regurgitation and vomiting are two reasons the seed would come back out the mouth instead of traveling through the tract, so let’s break it down and provide some explanations of each.

Regurgitation
Regurgitation is a targeted and purposeful bringing up of seeds from the crop and out the mouth. At the start of life regurgitation is how parent budgies feed their babies and it continues to have a positive connotation for adults. A budgie will regurgitate to another budgie who is a bonded mate or good friend who may even be the same sex. They can also regurgitate to humans that they are very fond of, in some cases a thumbnail or any part of a person to which they are particularly attached. Budgies will additionally regurgitate to a specific toy they like a lot, or very commonly to a mirror.

Regurgitation can be a part of a romantic pair’s relationship but it’s not always an expression of sexual interest from an adult budgie.  Toby and Kelly have never had a romantic relationship but when they are getting along particularly well or one of them is having a tough molt they will regurgitate to each other. It’s actually pretty sweet, if you don’t watch too closely!

When a budgie regurgitates he will jerk his head fairly rapidly up and down until seeds come out in a lump and are deposited either in another budgie’s mouth or somewhere else intentionally. He will be either calm or pleasantly excited and in a happy mood and may sing or make other happy vocalizations before and after regurgitating.

Neither Toby nor Kelly has ever regurgitated on Patrick or me. Toby will get very into tapping her beak on my fingernails and jerks her head like she’s thinking about it, but so far hasn’t completed the action. I’m sort of hoping it stays that way, even though I would take it as quite a compliment.

Vomiting
Vomiting is a totally separate issue and always cause for concern and careful monitoring. A budgie who is vomiting may have a crop impaction (something stuck in the crop), or any number of stomach issues. Some of these issues may pass on their own, some you can treat at home with the Organic Apple Cider Vinegar that you keep in your first aid kit, but others will require the attention of an avian vet. I’m not a vet and I’m not capable of providing medical recommendations that would replace medical attention.

If you suspect your budgie is vomiting monitor them very carefully for other signs of illness. You want to make sure they are able to eat and drink after vomiting , their poop looks good, and they are not listless and puffy. If your budgie has an episode of vomiting and then acts perfectly fine afterwards it may be okay to treat with some preventative Organic Apple Cider Vinegar and take a wait and see approach to seeing the vet.

On the other hand if you suspect they have vomited and they are exhibiting other signs of illness then it’s probably best to place them in a small hospital cage with a Heating Pad for extra warmth. Then call up a vet and ask them what they think.

When a budgie vomits it’s pretty easy to tell something is wrong. In the time that I’ve had Toby I’ve seen her do it twice and both times my adrenaline started pumping and I knew immediately she was in distress.

A vomiting budgie shakes his head from side to side while seeds spray out of his mouth in addition to clear liquid or white foam.  Seeds will come out of his mouth either singly or in small wet clusters. You may find these stuck to cage bars or on the walls next to the cage. If you’re home when your budgie is vomiting you may hear the seeds striking the cage bars.

In between bouts of vomiting your budgie may hop rapidly from perch to perch, almost as though they are trying to outrun the urge to vomit. They will not be consolable and probably won’t be interested or able to step up. Their faces will also become soiled and wet due to the liquid that comes out with the seed. It is truly an unsettling experience to see your budgie vomiting uncontrollably and know that in that moment there’s nothing you can really do to see them through it short of some soothing words and proper care.

It made me uncomfortable just writing about a budgie vomiting! I hope that you never see your budgies in medical distress due to stomach issues (or any issues!), but it’s vitally important to know the difference between healthy regurgitation and unhealthy vomiting.

Budgie FAQ – commonly asked budgie questions

Q. What size cage does a budgie require?
A. The best answer here is to get the largest cage you can afford and keep in mind that most budgies prefer a cage that is longer than it is tall because of the way they fly. Also, bar spacing of 1/2 inch is key, anything larger and you can run the risk of budgie escape or injury. A cage size of 20 inches long, 18 inches deep and 18 inches wide is the minimum for a single budgie while a pair should have no less than 30 inches long, but the same depth and height.


Q. How long do budgies live?
A. Budgies can live anywhere from 2 years to 15 years depending on diet and quality of care. A good average is 6 years. Many budgies also die prematurely in home accidents such as attack by other household pets and injury from common dangers such as windows and mirrors.

Q. What’s the best material to put at the bottom of the cage?
A. Many budgie owners use newspaper (black and white pages only), paper towels or craft paper at the bottom of the cage. Home Keet Home thinks all of these options are good as they allow you to monitor the quality of your budgie’s poop. In our house we use cut-to-size liners from Amazon. This is totally a convenience item versus a necessity but it makes our lives easier!


Q. Will my budgie learn to talk?
A. Maybe, although generally not without a lot of effort on your part. Also boys are more likely to talk than girls. Anecdotal evidence suggests that it is easier to teach a single budgie to talk rather than a pair or more.

Q. How much sleep do budgies need?
A. Budgies need 10-12 hours or sleep per night. Some can get by on less by supplementing with naps during the day, but they really should have at least 10 hours of dark per night.

Q. What temperature should a house be for budgies?
A. Budgies will typically adjust pretty well to a wide range of temperatures. Budgies that live in outdoor areas can even tolerate temperatures in the 40 degree Fahrenheit range as long as there is a source of heat and they are not exposed to wind. In the home, a suggested range would be 68-78 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure they are not to cold or too hot. Of great importance is avoiding drafts, which are very dangerous to budgie health.

Q. What’s the best diet for a budgie?
A. This is a hotly contested issue. Many budgie parents believe that pellets offer complete nutrition and any other base diet is a recipe for disaster. We disagree, feeling that natural seed is a better base diet than processed food. Home Keet Home is not a veterinarian and does not substitute consulting your vet, but we think that going close to natural diet makes sense. We free feed a quality seed mix and some pellets mixed in as a base diet and then offer vegetables and fruits daily.


Q. Should I get one budgie or two?
A. This is a tough one. Budgies are flock birds and feel safer in groups, but if you are home a lot and want to bond closely with your budgie then it’s easies to do so with one. I think that starting with one is fine and then use your judgement to let you know if your new friend is lonely or scared.

Q. How can you tell the sex of a budgie?
A. The best way to tell the sex of a budgie is its cere (above the beak). In mature budgies a female will have a chalk white, pale blue, or tan – dark brown cere depending on breeding condition. Males will have a solid pink or very dark vibrant cere. There is some variation on this based on coloring, and juvenile budgies are different as well. The important thing is to do your own research instead of listening to a pet store employee, they are frequently either totally misinformed or may want you to believe that the budgie in question in a boy which is a frequently preferred sex for a pet budgie.

Q. How can I tell if a budgie is young?
A. A young budgie has bars down the top of its head meeting up with the tip of it’s cere. These are referred to as “baby bars”. They also have fully black eyes with no sign of an iris. This can also vary by color mutation but with a standard blue or green budgie they are very reliable markers.

Q. Should I clip my budgies wings?
A. For my household the answer is no. We feel that budgies are built to fly and should be able to have free flight in the home for at least 2 hours per day (typically more). But, we were willing to totally bird-proof our home and take tons of precautions for their safety. If your circumstances differ you might consider either confining your birds to a single room for free flight or clipping them. Some budgies may need to be continue to be clipped if they never learned to fly as babies and are unable to learn as adults. Many budgie owners report that it is easier to tame a clipped bird and then let the wings grow out. Fortunately clipping is not generally a permanent situation, the clipped feathers will fall out upon molting and grow back restoring full flight. We do recommend that clipping be done by a professional, or at the very least that you learn how to clip your birds from a professional before attempting at home.

Q. What gear does a budgie need?
A. A budgie needs lots of stuff for basic health as well as enrichment. Some basics are cage, food and water bowls, variety of perches, toys etc. Check out our post on start-up budgie costs for a comprehensive list.

Q. I have never seen my budgie drink, is he okay?
A. Budgies are prey birds and drinking puts them in a very vulnerable position. Until your budgie is totally comfortable in your home you probably will not catch him drinking. Instead he will wait until he’s alone and feels safe to take the chance. Access to clean water is very important to budgie health, and it’s vitally important that you do not give them distilled water.

Q. My budgie won’t bathe, what do I do?
A. There are many different ways that budgies bathe. Not all budgies will take to a single kind of bath. Perseverance is the key here, and you can always resort to lightly misting them if they are seriously water averse.

Q. My parakeet is losing tons of feathers, what’s happening?
A. Unless your budgie has a feather disorder , he is molting, which is a very normal process by which a budgie sheds old feathers and replaces them with new. Molting occurs two times a year or more and can be triggered by changing seasons.

Q. My budgie’s cage came with plastic perches, do I need any other perches?
A. Absolutely. Please provide a wide variety of natural wood perches as well as those made of other materials. Perches should have varying widths to encourage foot health. We don’t recommend keeping any of those plastic perches.

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.

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!

 

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.

A summer treat for parakeets – fresh corn on the cob

If you’re anything like me, a portion of your time at the grocery store is spent hunting for fruits and vegetables to try feeding your parakeets.  Actually, they’ve probably helped me increase my intake of that portion of the food pyramid, if I’m cutting something up for them I usually make that my afternoon snack as well! A few weeks ago I noticed that ears of corn were on sale at 5 for $1.00 and thought that fresh corn on the cob for parakeets would be both economical and fun.

I’ve tried feeding them frozen corn before that’s been brought up to room temperature and they wanted nothing to do with it, but I know parakeets can be really fussy so I didn’t let that dissuade me from trying fresh.

Preparation is easy, just husk the corn as you usually would, and set aside the interior husks, we will use them for something else.  Once the corn is husked wash it thoroughly and then take a knife to shave off some kernels of corn.  No need to cook the corn at all, raw is perfect.

The first time we presented Toby and Kelly with fresh corn they were not quite sure about it and took some time to regard it and discuss.

They eventually decided to give it a go and were thrilled with the fun of both eating the corn and throwing the kernels everywhere, of course.

The next week I decided to get them another ear of corn and as soon as they saw the ear they freaked out with excitement and were all over it immediately. I have seen other parakeets eat corn right off the cob, but Toby and Kelly like for it all to be shaved off for them. I don’t mind taking that extra step if it means more of the corn gets eaten.

As for the corn husks that you set aside – those should go outside to dry in the sun – after which they will look something like this…

The dried husks can be used shred toys and can be given as they are or tied into other toys or woven etc. I had not originally made the connection, but that’s what one of their favorite toys from Drs. Foster & Smith was made of, the woven corn husk toy.

I offered Kelly a strip to play with on the window perch and she was tentatively very pro-husk, they weren’t quite dried so I’ll have to take some additional pictures after they are destroyed!

For just 20 cents the parakeets have a great fresh snack, the enrichment of throwing around kernels and digging in them, and then the additional enjoyment of a homemade shred toy.  For a summer time treat, corn on the cob for parakeets really cannot be beat.

The best treats for a parakeet

It’s natural to want to give your parakeets treats, the same way you would a dog or cat. But, they are quite different animals, and there certainly aren’t as many treats on the market for a parakeet as there are for a mammal pet.  I frequently see people mention the Honey Bird Treat Sticks as a popular treat – with some folks even giving their parakeets a stick every week. There isn’t anything wrong with those treats, per se, but I don’t think they are the best treats for a parakeet.

Parakeets can certainly eat honey, but they really shouldn’t have a lot. Even sugary fruits have to be limited, so a real sugar like honey should be a rare treat indeed.  Also, if your parakeets really get hooked on the honey treats they can start rejecting normal seed and demand sugary treats all the time.  Maintaining a healthy budgie weight is critical to long-term good health, and trying to break a parakeet of a sugar habit would be a frustrating nightmare!

Honey can be very useful to help perk up an ailing parakeet and get the some extra energy and calories to burn. I think that honey should be reserved for an emergency treat, you could even keep a Honey Straw or two in your parakeet’s first aid kit.

If, like me, you don’t want to introduce honey as a regular menu item here are some other ideas for the times you want to spoil your parakeets a little bit.

    • No treat list would be complete (or accurate!) if it didn’t include Millet. Spray millet is almost universally regarded by parakeets as the ultimate in pleasure food. If your new parakeet doesn’t realize yet this is his favorite food he will soon. Millet doesn’t have a lot of nutritional value to it so it really should just be used as a treat. I know there are a lot of Miller Spray Holders on the market so you can put a whole spray of millet in the cage with the parakeets, but I don’t recommend going that route. I think that if millet always comes from the humans it’s a much more powerful bonding and training tool.  Also millet readily available in the cage is the equivalent of me having a limitless bag of Doritos in my cube at work, no good would come of that for my health and I don’t think that unlimited millet will do your parakeets any health favors either.
    • Vegetables and occasional fruits. I know, I know, you’re thinking I’m crazy because your parakeets currently won’t even look at a slice of cucumber without having a panic attack, or ignore it completely. And I’m telling you (virtually guaranteeing) that if you are persistent and keep offering the good stuff multiple times a week in a variety of different ways and/or mixed with seed and millet you will eventually wear them down and have a pack of veggie-lovers! The absolute key is persistence.  You can’t say after a month of trying that they hate vegetables because that is not long enough. These little guys can be more stubborn and fearful than one could possibly imagine.
    • New toys and perches. The great thing is that even though we might all joke around about “spoiling” our parakeets it really can’t be done! They need new toys and different perches regularly to keep their brains active and bodies exercised.  So, if you were going to spend $4 on honey treats, why not spend it on the JW Pet Company Activitoy Lattice Chain Small Bird Toy instead?  I’ve had that toy rotating in and out of cages for the past 2 years, which is comparably a really great value!  I’ll put links at the end of this post to a few inexpensive and awesome toys.
    • Your time and attention. Really the best treat of all. Even if you’re still in the taming process and they can barely tolerate the sight of you, sit by their cage for 15 minutes and sing them a song. Every day when I get home from work my first instincts are to start tidying up the house, make the parakeets a snack and generally get on with the million and one things I have to do. But, I make it a point to make eye contact and greet them, let them out of their cages, and stay put. For as long as they are interested in jumping on my head, screaming in my ear, or chewing on the seams of my shirt, I chill out and just hang. Sometimes I talk to them about my day or theirs, and sometimes we are quiet together. Thinking about it now, even though it can feel painful to slow it down and stop being productive, it’s one of the best things I do both for the parakeets and for me.

I’m sure there are a million other ways to treat your ‘keet, but that’s my shortlist of relatively healthy and inexpensive (or free!) best treats for a parakeet.