Budgies/parakeets do not need grit

There are several species of bird that need insoluble grit added to their diet to aid in digestion. For example, adult chickens need grit; they swallow their food whole and the grit they eat sits in their gizzards and helps break down larger pieces of food or hard-hulled seeds. Many chicken owners use ground oyster shells for grit, which also provides much-needed calcium to the chicken.

Years ago, after noting that many birds needed grit, it became widely accepted that budgies must need grit too, and it was quite common to offer household pet parakeets grit.

This is, we now know, wildly unnecessary. Unlike chickens, budgies hull their seeds before they eat them, meaning there is nothing hard to break down once it reaches their crop. Also, when they are eating other foods they use their beaks to break it down, so there is again no need for grit assistance.

Beyond just being completely unnecessary, insoluble grit can be detrimental to your budgie’s health. Because of the way the budgie digestive system is designed, there’s a good chance the grit will get stuck in their bodies instead of passing through, and this will cause blockages and potentially death.

Budgies DO need additional calcium like the oyster shell grit would provide, but this can easily be achieved by offering cuttlebone and/or a mineral block. You could also feed your budgie crushed eggshells for calcium.

So, grit is one thing you can remove from your shopping list, which is always nice!

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Winter woes – dry houses and dry budgies

As we moved from fall to winter this year temperatures started dropping significantly, and so did our indoor humidity.  We have gas heat with baseboard radiators, it’s not as drying as forced air heat can be, but using our Analog Hygrometer by Western Humidor we could see that the humidity levels were sinking rapidly.  We think a comfortable range is about 40-55 percent humidity and the house was dropping well into the 30 percent range.  Not only is this bad for the humans, but it is very uncomfortable for budgies.

We began using our Travel Ultrasonic Humidifier – Mini Cool Mist Water Bottle Humidifier Offers Perfect Portable Solution for Home, Office, Hotel, and More, which puts out a surprisingly good amount of humidity, and we prefer it to purchasing a big traditional humidifier (like a Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier – Premium Humidifying Unit with Whisper-quiet Operation, Automatic Shut-off, and Night Light Function) for a couple of reasons. One because big humidifiers are harder to maintain and would need vigilance and lots of cleaning to keep mold out of the picture and two because of Patrick’s chemical sensitivities, bringing a big new plastic appliance into the house is a challenge.  It would probably end up in the garage for months (at best) off-gassing whatever chemicals it came with.

I also tried using our Crock-Pot SCCPVL610-S 6-Quart Programmable Cook and Carry Oval Slow Cooker, Digital Timer, Stainless Steel as a humidifier, which you should only attempt if you are going to be home AND your birds will be safe at home in their cage.  This is simple enough to do, just fill the crock with water and set it for a few hours; with the lid off the water should simmer and release steam.  We tried on the low setting and it didn’t do enough to be worth bothering. I intended to try it on the high setting but then we decided to invest in a few more travel humidifiers so it hasn’t been necessary.

That reminds me, I know a lot of folks probably miss being able to use candles, febreeze, diffusers and the like after they get budgies, and one way to safely scent your home would be to put a cinnamon stick in your crock pot while you’re steaming your house.  You can also fill the crock half way, add a few tablespoons of baking soda and turn the crock on low to deodorize a room naturally as well.

So far the budgies seem to be doing okay with winter dryness, however, I could see quite easily that it was taking a toll on their feet.  I neglected to take any pictures, but their feet were starting to look a little cracked and like the skin was peeling up a bit. Nothing drastic that would indicate a medical problem, just a bit like the skin on human hands if you don’t moisturize in winter.

I immediately started googling and found a couple of possible solutions, one of them is to use a tiny bit of Carrington Farms Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, 54 Ounce on their feet. There are a few ways I can think of to get the oil on their tootsies, one is to apply the oil to a finger used for step up, and then sneak attack your thumb onto their feet to apply more on top.  Alternately you could put the oil on a perch and just let them land, or you could hold/towel them and just get the job done.

In doing my research I was warned against getting ANY oil on their feathers as it can impede their ability to fly.  Also I was warned that the coconut oil could give them diarrhea if they ingested it, so I would recommend using sparingly, although I also uncovered evidence that some folks give their parrots coconut oil to eat as a supplement, so like most parrot-related issues there’s bound to be a hot debate over who’s doing what wrong!

The person who warned against the potential for diarrhea suggested using baby lotion instead, but I feel a little uncomfortable about that, since they nom their feet pretty often for personal maintenance I would prefer they were nomming on something that is actually food.

I ordered the coconut oil and also started giving them a shallow dish of water to splash around in inside of their cage (also only while I’m home). They really like running around in water and I usually throw in some spinach leaves or a few small broccoli florets to make it more interesting.  Also that way I can pretend they are eating some vegetables!  This splash pool is in addition to a weekly (at minimum) offer of a bath in the Lixit Corporation BLX0787 Quick Lock Bird Bath and/or hanging greens.

Even though the coconut oil only took a few days to get to us thanks to Amazon Prime shipping, by the time it arrived their foot dryness had completely resolved thanks to walking around in water every day. So, that’s a huge testament to the power of water keeping budgie feet in good condition.

Of course I’m glad to have the coconut oil on hand, and similar to several other occasions where I completely misjudge sizes I certainly have a lot of it – I guess Patrick and I will need to start cooking with coconut oil!

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Just a girl and her coconut oil

Putting together a first aid kit for parakeets

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The start of a year is always a good time to sort of take stock and see if there’s anything I could be doing better.  One such thing this year is that we’ve been pretty blasé about being prepared for any parakeet mishaps or illnesses.  So far so good, there have been no major injuries or health conditions, but I know that any pet is really just a ticking time bomb.

For my peace of mind, I want to put together a budgie first aid kit with some basic necessities, so we will be prepared for minor emergencies.  (Obligatory warning: I am not a vet and I am not suggesting anyone skip seeing a vet – nor am I giving medical advice.) Here are some of the items that I’ll start with

  • Vision Bird Cage Model S01 – Small – This could be used either to transport both budgies to the vet (versus our tiny one-man cage) or it could be used as a quarantine/hospital cage if one budgie takes ill and needs to be separated and closely monitored.
  • Sunbeam 732-500 King Size Heating Pad with UltraHeatTechnology – it’s recommended to keep a sick budgie nice and toasty warm, you can drape the heating pad over the top of the travel cage and then cover the cage on three sides for a nice cozy space. You always want to leave one side uncovered so if the budgie gets too warm they can move to cooler air.
  • Miracle Care Kwik Stop Styptic Powder, 0.5 Oz – This powder aids in clotting for minor cuts. If you clip your budgie’s nails too short and hit the quick (blood supply) you will want to have styptic powder – or in a pinch Argo 100% Pure Corn Starch, 16 Oz – to help stop the bleeding. It does not take much for a budgie to bleed to death so this is an absolute must have. As far as clipping nails goes, a small breed dog clipper is the most recommended for budgie nails.
  • Neosporin First Aid Antibiotic Ointment, 0.5-Ounce – Has to be the kind without pain relief. This can be used on minor scrapes and cuts as well to aid healing.
  • Stanley 84-096 5-Inch Needle Nose Plier or Purely Me Precision Flat Tip Tweezer – Used to pull blood feathers. Blood feather is really just another term for pin feathers that come in during molting. They have a more substantial blood supply to aid in growing and if they are broken they will bleed, which can again be very dangerous for such a small bird. I’m not sure this is one I would try to deal with myself, but you can restrain the bird and pull the blood feather out at the shaft, with a bit of pressure applied the bleeding should stop and a new feather will grow in eventually.  Yikes!  Sounds like frontier medicine, although I’m sure it’s the same thing the vet will do.
  • Bragg Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar, 32 Ounce – 1 Pack – Some folks dose their budgie’s water with Bragg’s organic apple cider vinegar year round to help control the growth of bad bacteria in the parakeet’s digestive tract. It can also get rid of viral, bacterial and fungal infections, as well as respiratory infections and parasites! Essentially this stuff sounds like a miracle product.  I don’t intend to give it on the daily, but I want to have it on hand in case I see any symptoms develop, it seems like this would be something safe to start with while we are waiting to get in at the vets.  Please google how much to give and draw your own conclusions.  I saw different amounts ranging from a few drops in the water bowl to teaspoons, and since I haven’t personally tried it yet I don’t want to give poor advice.  After reading up on organic apple cider vinegar I may start taking it daily, apparently the benefits to humans are also life-changing!
  • Mckesson Performance plus Gauze Sponge Cover Dressing Sterile, 4 X 4 Inches, 25 packs of 2, Nexcare Durapore Cloth First Aid Tape 1 Inches X 10 Yards Rolled, 0.08 Pound for bandaging. Although seriously, if you are not a pro-level bird owner and you’re getting into bandaging wounds please see a vet.

Of course you can skip all the guesswork and just purchase a First Aid Kit for Birds, but I think I’d prefer to build mine piece by piece so I familiarize myself with each item, instead of having an emergency and opening the box for the first time in a panic.

If I’m missing something that is an essential 1st round item please let me know in the comments below!

 

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Cooking safely with parakeets in the home

I’ve been thinking lately about cooking and how to safely cook around budgies.  They process air much faster than humans so the smallest pollutant can be fatal.  Most people know that things like candles and cigarettes are big no-nos for birds, but there are several things to avoid specifically while cooking.

The big one to stay away from is Teflon pans. It was with some sadness that I got rid of all my non-stick cookware the day Toby came home. It’s safe to use stainless pans, like the Cuisinart 733-30H Chef’s Classic Stainless 5-1/2-Quart Saute Pan with Helper Handle and Cover, although it certainly increases my risk of burning things!  Which, I am joking about, but we make every effort not to introduce cooking smoke into the budgie’s breathing space. It’s not recommended to keep parakeets in the vicinity of a kitchen because of all the contaminants, but with a small house we really don’t have a choice on that.

Because of switching to stainless from non-stick, it may be tempting to rely more on cooking sprays that grease your pans, these are also bad for budgie airways. That’s just a good reminder about any spray, really, from hair spray and deodorants to home scents.

Another big danger zone is your oven. A new oven is deadly to birds, and needs to be run for a long time to release all of its breaking in fumes, which I believe are burning off some coating on the interior of the stove. Basically you either need to remove the budgies from the area and run your oven at a very high temperature several times or if you buy from a local appliance store it’s my understanding you can pay a little extra to have them do this for you.

We are pretty much without our oven at this point, we bought it last fall and thought that we had burned everything off properly, Patrick spent two days at home with Toby in another room and the oven running/house vented, and we were able to use it around Christmas last year, but really didn’t do much with it after the holidays.

Flash forward to this year when we went to heat up a frozen pizza and realized that it still isn’t done giving off fumes.  So, we’ve agreed to skip the oven this winter and work on getting it properly broken in this spring/summer when we can move the birds to another room AND vent the house without making it too cold.  Fortunately we have this toaster oven, BLACK+DECKER CTO6335S 6-Slice Digital Convection Countertop Toaster Oven, Includes Bake Pan, Broil Rack & Toasting Rack, Stainless Steel Digital Convection Toaster Oven that is pretty big and safe to use until we sort out the oven issues.

Also watch out for the self-cleaning oven setting, this releases fumes that will kill your parakeets because the oven heats itself to about 900 degrees and this super heats the chemical coating inside.  If your oven needs to be cleaned it’s much safer for your birds and you to use natural products like baking soda, vinegar and your own scrubbing power.  I would also suggest that spot cleaning your oven after a spill may help avoid the need for devoting an entire day to oven-cleaning down the road.

The best tool in my kitchen is my Crock-Pot SCCPVL610-S 6-Quart Programmable Cook and Carry Oval Slow Cooker, Digital Timer, Stainless Steel, we usually throw something in it on Sunday morning and it has us set for dinner for at least two or three nights.  The slow cooker is safe for budgies because the insert is ceramic and has no coating – YAY! If a recipe calls for it to be coated with cooking spray I take it outside, but I think in most cases I could replace that with greasing it with butter anyway.

Beyond taking care about what products you are cooking with I would also strongly caution anyone about having parakeets or other companion birds outside of their cages while you cook. Even a budgie that you think is clipped for his “safety” can make a random leap onto a hot surface or (heaven forbid) into a pot of boiling water.  We discouraged Toby from hanging out on the kitchen counters when she was young and subsequently she and Kelly never land on them, but I’m still careful to tuck the crock pot out-of-the-way while it’s on, and they are not allowed out if we are preparing food either using knives or heat.

For me this all adds up to a pretty good excuse for cooking less and eating out more!  Also, not cooking equals more time for parakeet bonding, so, win-win on that point.  Seriously though, if you love to cook and bake you can still do so safely with budgies, but like most facets of bird ownership, you just need to be mindful and careful of the dangers to your feathered kids.