Transitioning parakeets to new food

One of the first things you will likely purchase as a new budgie owner is a supply of food for your new friend. Depending on where your budgie came from, you may want to change his food pretty quickly from a low quality seed mix to something with added dried vegetables, fruits and herbs. Transitioning parakeets to new food is not as easy as making a swap and crossing your fingers, there are some considerations and warnings.

  • I don’t think it’s fair to call parakeets “stubborn”, but they will starve to death rather than eat something they don’t see as a safe food, or as food at all. This is not out of willfulness but because they literally may not view something like a pellet as food, particularly if it’s nothing like what they are used to eating. Please don’t ever totally change your parakeet from one food to another with no transition period. Particularly don’t ever abruptly change from a seed mix to pellets.
  • Instead, start with what they are used to eating and slowly mix in what you are switching them to, increasing the ratio of the new food over several days or weeks. Even if you’re just changing to a new seed blend, this is a helpful way to make sure your parakeet still has something they feel safe eating and won’t starve.
  • This does particularly apply if you are transitioning to pellets, which, I’m just going to be honest, I don’t recommend as a primary source of nutrition. I’ve written about seeds vs. pellets in this post, but in brief, I don’t think that pellets have been proven to be nutritionally complete and they are not mentally stimulating enough. Additionally, budgies are designed to eat seeds.
  • I’ve focused a bit on transitioning from seed to seed or seed to pellet, but you may also need to do some work to get your parakeet trying vegetables and fruits. A great way to start is by chopping a vegetable up very finely and mixing it with millet or your parakeet’s preferred seed mix. Offer that as the only food source for a couple hours and even if they just pick out the millet they are sure to accidentally eat some vegetables too. Make sure not to leave fresh vegetables and fruits in your parakeet’s cage for too long, especially in warmer months as rotting vegetables aren’t anyone’s idea of a good meal!
  • The bottom line is that most budgies should transition fairly easily to a good quality seed mix, no matter what quality the pet store or breeder was feeding. Just take your time and make sure you’re seeing seed hulls in your food cups every day and good healthy poops, which indicate your parakeet is eating.

Hopefully there’s at least some food for thought here (haha!). Healthy feeding is always top of mind for parakeet parents and transitioning parakeets to a new food can be one of the most nerve-wracking hurdles to overcome. But, with a little sly work to transition them to a new food, you’ll have healthy-eating babies in no time.

A blue parakeet foraging in some seed on a plate
Toby loves foraging through her regular seed mix on a plate
Two parakeets trying some sprouts
We did not care for these. Which is too bad, since they were expensive!

 

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How much time out of the cage budgies should have every day

So, you’ve had your parakeet for a while, he’s pretty much tamed up and is one of your best pals. Now that the hard work is done you might be wondering how much time your budgie should have out of the cage every day. The answer depends on your schedule and your individual budgie.

If your budgie is still on the edge of being new then the answer is how much time can you devote? For the first several months when we had Toby as a solo parakeet she couldn’t be  out of the cage without full supervision. She would come out and immediately look to us to entertain her. If she didn’t have our full attention there was no telling where she would end up or what she’d get into. Now mind you, my house is small, but it’s still pretty darn easy to lose a parakeet in any nook or cranny.

I do not recommend having a parakeet out unsupervised that you don’t know extremely well. And I do mean even for you to run and change over a load of laundry.

Under those limitations, if you can devote two hours a day to hanging out with your parakeet I think that’s great. That’s enough time for them to stretch their wings, socialize, and hopefully tire themselves out a bit.

But please don’t beat yourself up if you don’t make that every day. Sometimes you’re going to have to work late and you get home just in time for dinner. Other times your human family will have needs that take precedence. Stuff happens that is totally out of your control and you will miss days. So, please make sure your budgie(s) have a nice large Flight Cage and all of the toys and perches that make up a varied life.

budgie time out of the cage
If this is what I do when you’re watching me, imagine the fun I have unsupervised!

Budgie time out of the cage for an established flock can be different. Now that we’ve had Toby, Kelly and Kevin for several years we know their behavior patterns pretty well. Also, having three of them typically means they keep themselves fairly well occupied. If someone wants to really get into trouble (like trying to eat framed artwork or the blinds) inevitably another parakeet will come over and ruin their fun.

Over time we have adjusted things in the house that we know are problem areas. Like putting decals on windows and covering enticing gaps.

My flock of three is usually out of their cages for about 2-3 hours on a weekday (as soon as I get home from work I let them out) and anywhere from 4 hours to the entire day on a weekend. As long as we’re going to be home I open up the cages as soon as I get up and typically put them to bed around 7pm.

Now mind you they are at their leisure to head back to their cages at any time, and they do typically go home for a lengthy afternoon nap. Otherwise they are usually on one of their window perches, on a play gym, or, yes, getting into nonsense.

budgie time out of the cage
Is this the nonsense to which you are referring?

The other key piece is that they typically like to hang out where they can see the whole flock, and that includes humans. So, if I go into my office space to work at least a couple of them will follow me and hang out on the play gym there.

For budgie(s) that you know well and have established patterns of behavior relaxing your vigilance a bit regarding supervision is natural. Check in every so often and be aware of any suspicious sounds (or the lack of sound, which is always MOST suspicious!). In any case, make sure your budgie always has easy access to food and water. Unless you are limiting their access to the cage for taming or training purposes they should also be able to chose to go home and take a break.

Ultimately I feel like a good guideline is that your budgie should have time out of the cage for about two hours a day. But, we must acknowledge that this absolutely won’t work every day. There will be days that you’re able to let them out for 15 minutes and days that are missed entirely. That’s okay, and you shouldn’t beat yourself up about a random missed day or two. There will be enough days that they are out for 2++ hours that more than balance out the short days.  

budgie time out of the cage
I live here now, right?

Pet Parakeets and COVID-19

When I wrote my most recent post giving advice about working from home with budgies for coworkers I had no idea that I would end up in a mandatory work from home situation! But, here we are, due to attempts to slow the spread of COVID-19 I’m in my home office for the foreseeable future.

My new supervisor
My new supervisor sure likes to stay on top of me! Talk about micromanaging!

In the mix with all of our other coronavirus related concerns, it is certainly scary to think that either we could give our pet parakeets COVID-19, or that they could transmit it to us.

First, the good news, per the CDC there is no evidence that COVID-19 will transmit to any pets or other animals, or that pets could transmit it to people.

But, here are some coronavirus related considerations:

  • Although your pets cannot contract and transmit this coronavirus, they could carry the disease on their bodies. Say, for instance, someone with COVID-19 coughs on a budgie (which, let’s not in the first place) – the virus could live for several hours on the budgie’s body and be transmitted to someone else who handled him. So, we should all take care not to cough or sneeze directly on our pets. I think that’s generally good advice, even without a pandemic!
  • It is never a bad idea to wash your hands before handling your parakeets, but watch out for using hand sanitizer. Sanitizers that are alcohol-based could be toxic to your birds. Plain old soap and water are perfectly good for getting rid of the virus on your hands and body. Additionally, it might be tempting to hose your home down with disinfecting sprays but these are also known to be deadly.
  • Supply chain issues could become a concern. We all know that toilet paper is virtually impossible to get at the moment. I don’t advise panicking and buying up a pet store, but there is not any harm in buying enough of whatever you feed your birds to get you through two to four weeks of quarantine.
  • Similarly, now is a good time to make sure you’ve got a good first aid kit for your budgies in case of emergencies. I imagine that veterinary clinics will stay open to some extent as a necessity, but I think it’s safe to assume that hours may be limited, and already difficult to find avian vets may be even harder to see.

As we all get settled in to practicing social distancing and getting used to being homebodies our parakeets can be a source of stress relief and humor. Although I’m trying to keep mine out of my work day I know that I appreciate, more than ever, their company and their goofy antics.

Stay safe and healthy out there, readers, and know that this trying time will pass. Try not to worry too much about your pet parakeets and COVID-19. Also, it might be the perfect time to quarantine a new feathered friend, if you’re stuck home anyway!

handsome kevin
Kevin is a handsome gentleman and a messy eater.
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NutriBullet Rx Review (and how that has anything to do with budgies)

When Patrick had his tonsils out we knew he’d be on soft foods for weeks and that he’d probably get sick or starve to death trying to eat popsicles and fro-yo the whole time! So, my mom and stepdad were kind enough to loan us their NutriBullet Rx and I began looking up Smoothie Recipes that would be good meal replacements. Leading up to his surgery we started using the NutriBullet Rx and testing things out.

Almost immediately we realized this was a huge game changer in a house with budgies, and would help us stop wasting a lot of fruits and vegetables.

Virtually every week I buy a bunch of carrots with tops so that the birds can have their preferred type of bath. But the thing is, I don’t want to eat carrots every week. They aren’t my favorite snack and they don’t always fit into our dinners. Same thing goes for bunches of celery, as well as most fruits and vegetables that I buy for the parakeets. If I buy a pint of strawberries and they eat two, I better figure out what to do with the rest of them!

I realize that this may not be an issue in larger households where there are healthy lunches and after school snacks being made for little ones. But, in a two adult situation it’s just too much produce to choke down every week.

Enter the NutriBullet Rx . Now for weekend breakfasts everything that didn’t go in a budgie’s crop goes into the blender. We keep some frozen fruit and oatmeal on hand to pad it out and I always have greek yogurt in the refrigerator. It’s a great way to stop throwing out money on produce and Patrick and I are having healthy breakfasts on the weekend instead of starting the day with carbs.

I know, I am years behind on discovering how great smoothies are! But, I think they are even more awesome to help manage the extra produce you have when you’re trying to get your budgies to eat some fresh fruits and vegetables and don’t particularly feel like eating crudité every day.

As far as the NutriBullet Rx review, it is extremely easy to use and clean up after. Fill the cup to the max line with your preferred combination of fruits, veggies, liquids and fillers like oatmeal, then just turn it over and place it on the base. The blender automatically starts working and stops after a preset amount of time. No timing or thinking involved there!

nutribullet rx cupnutribullet rx review

When it stops you remove the cup from the base, unscrew the cap (which has the blades) and rinse in the sink. Pour out your smoothies and voila, you have two perfect cups of goodness!

I can’t imagine the NutriBullet Rx being any easier to use than it is. And, Kelly enjoyed the carrot stump that didn’t go into the mix!

 

The glorious smell of budgies – what budgies should smell like

Pet owners who have cared for small pets in the rodent or reptile family may wonder what budgies should smell like, considering other small pets can have such a strong odor. Budgies are a totally different ball game, not only do they have a particularly lackluster sense of smell, but they don’t produce odor themselves. Under good conditions, what budgies smell like is nothing, what they rub their heads on, or what they eat.

This extends to their poop as well, if your budgie’s poop is smelly then he may be ill and you should seek veterinary care. Literally, you should be able to not clean your cage(s) for weeks (totally not recommended) and it should not smell. If it does smell and you have been feeding fruits and vegetables look to see if you’ve missed some scraps of food that are rotting. Also, watch out for ants!

Typically, I find that my parakeets smell like very mild citrus, which is pleasant and comes from their seed mix. For a while I was freaked out because Toby smelled like tomato soup, at the time I was trying her on Roudybush Pellets and it turns out those smell like tomato soup to me.

Another cause of transient smell can be eating fresh vegetables and fruits. After Kelly eats broccoli she has very distinct and fairly gross broccoli breath. That makes sense because the broccoli is hanging out in her crop for a while with her hulled seeds, basically composting itself. If that smell persisted it would be another sign of illness such as a crop infection, impaction, or sour crop.

Persistent bad breath can be a sign of other internal issues as well. If your budgie has a foul odor coming out of its mouth that can’t be tied to eating something and lingers beyond a day then it is probably time to find an avian vet and get a diagnosis and treatment.

For anyone who’s been wary of getting a budgie due to the potential of bad odors, fear not! Their lack of smell is part of what makes a budgie an excellent pet for a smaller space/apartment, in my opinion. And for those of us who are already budgie owners, keep your nose at semi-alert, a new odor on or around your budgie can be an excellent first warning of illness or habitat conditions like rotting food that need to be remedied.

Disclaimer: As always, I’m not a vet and I’m not qualified to diagnose or provide recommendations for medical treatment of your pets. When in doubt, seek the expertise of an avian vet.