Halloween safety for budgies

When you think of Halloween safety, you probably think of tips for kids or dogs. I have been thinking about the holidays recently, and felt there are enough budgie hazards to warrant a post about Halloween safety for budgies!  Here’s a few things to remember as you prepare for one of my favorite holidays.

  • When welcoming trick-or-treaters, make sure of a couple of things. 1. That your budgies are safely stowed in their cage and can’t escape out a frequently opening door. 2. That they won’t be exposed to a draft from the door opening and closing more than normal.  This might be an unexpected issue particularly if your family usually enters through a side door but trick-or-treaters come to the front.
  • If you have a party in your home, move the cage to an out of the way spot where the budgies won’t be bothered by guests young or old. Make sure guests know that the budgies are off-limits, and especially keep an eye on little ones who might think it’s fun to yell at the birds or let them out to play.
  • On that theme, make sure you let kids know that they shouldn’t share their candy with budgies. It’s natural to want to share with a friend, but Chocolate is deadly for parakeets, and other types of Candy have way too much sugar and salt.
  • Watch out for a Costume that could be scary to your parakeets. It’s not a tragedy to frighten them a little as you’re going about your business, but be mindful that a Mask covering your face might give them a scare.  I know mine hate it when I wear a hat, so I can’t even imagine what a demon mask would do!
  • Speaking of costuming, you might want to use Glitter Hairsprayor other products that aren’t typical in your household. Don’t forget that aeorosal sprays and other air contaminants can be dangerous or deadly for your budgies. If you are getting ready at home, make sure you do so in a separate air space. This is also a good note for any crafting you might do with glue sprays or other craft glue.
  • Halloween is also a time for making special treats, so be mindful about bringing out any non-stick cookware for the holidays.  That pan you only use once a year to make Halloween caramel might be non-stick, and it wouldn’t be in the forefront of your mind if you’re focused on the fun.

Please feel free to add more tips in the comments, I’m sure I missed a lot of the hazards inherent to the season. But, hopefully this is a good starting point to think about your plans and how they might inadvertently impact your budgies health.

Happy Halloween!

Halloweed safety for budgies

Parakeets and nail polish – what are the dangers?

It’s been several years since I used nail polish on the regular. My husband has allergies and sensitivities to chemicals, so every time I want to paint my finger or toe nails it’s been a real production. I have to go outside to paint them and stay out long enough to dry, then when I come in I have to wash my feet as soon as the polish is totally dry. Even after that the chemicals would irritate his throat and I would end up having to wear socks around the house and to bed for several days. Since I did it so infrequently I rarely though about the possible implications for parakeets and nail polish exposure.

I’ve been traveling more for work lately and attending conferences wearing sandals this summer brought the issue more to the forefront. I still didn’t really want to paint my finger nails, because Toby can’t stand most nail colors. When my mom visits with anything other than a neutral nail Toby won’t go anywhere near her! But, to look professional and put together I did want to be able to polish my toes more frequently.

I started researching whether there was a chemical-free option for nail polish, and was immediately horrified to learn about what I’d been putting on my toes and into our home’s air space for years. Most nail polish brands that I had been picking up at the grocery store contained chemicals like:

  • DBP (dibutyl phthalate) – a toxic chemicals that has been proven to cause reproductive issues in rats as well as birth defects.
  • Toulene – long term exposure to toluene is linked to several lovely conditions such as anemia, lowered blood cell count, liver and kidney damage.
  • Formaldehyde – I feel like just putting that word there should be enough, most of us associate formaldehyde with preserving dead animals and tissues as specimens and I think we can all intuit that using it on humans is a poor idea. It is a known carcinogen as well as a respiratory irritant.

No wonder it was such a problem for my husband, he consistently reacts to formaldehyde when it’s used in clothing manufacturing (also GROSS), so I’ve basically been trying to poison him every time I polished my toes. Additionally, I was pretty devastated that I’d been bringing these products into the house with budgies at all, even if I took precautions to use them outdoors only, if my husband reacted to it for days after application it couldn’t possibly be healthy for them.

Happily, there are options that are far less dangerous than traditional polishes. You want to look for products that are, at a minimum, noted to be “3 free” or “5 free”, this refers to the number of chemicals that are not present in the product.

I began searching on Amazon and found butter LONDON Nail Lacquer, which at just a little bit higher price point than my grocery store polish boasts of being “8 free”. The chemicals additionally excluded are: Formaldehyde Resin, Camphor, Ethyl Tosylamide, Xylene, and TPHP.

As a review of butter LONDON Nail Lacquer I am happy to report that it goes on fairly easily and lasts well. It does not go on as smoothly as a polish with the added chemicals, however, and you may want to buff your nails before application to ensure a smooth finish.

The final verdict was that this polish is a total success story for my household! I still applied the polish outside, but had to come in before it dried completely due to weather issues. My husband could tolerate it immediately, no frantic foot washing or hiding them away in socks required!  I am so pleased that I’ll be able to polish my toes just because I want to in the future without having to take crazy precautions. I also feel about a million times better about not exposing the parakeets to dangerous nail polish chemicals.

If you use polish frequently I urge you to make sure your preferred brand is at least “3 free” if not more. If it isn’t and this post doesn’t convince you to change then please do some additional googling and make sure you are comfortable exposing both yourself and your children/pets to the chemicals. Especially budgies, whose air systems are so much more delicate than ours.

An observation about adult molting budgies

It used to be that molting was a huge deal in our house. Toby and Kelly would behave as though they were on death’s door and it would be days of very dramatic budgie behavior. Sleeping for almost 24 hours straight, being fluffed up, wanting to be snuggled when they usually hate to be touched. It was typically a very uneasy time full of trying to make them more comfortable. But, now that they have both reached maturity, I’ve made some observations about adult molting budgies.

At first it was just Toby who started to handle molting better, although I didn’t notice at the time because I was so focused on Kelly’s discomfort!  Then, once Kelly turned one and a few months her next molt was a relative breeze too.

I mean, they were still cranky and untouchable and even more inclined to bite than usual (Kelly). But, there was no puffing up, no sleeping all day and no cuddling into mamma for some comfort. I might miss that last bit, but otherwise it’s such a relief not to have the vet on speed dial just because we are laid low by pin feathers!

This leads me to believe that once a budgie has gone through a few molts and is a healthy, mature adult they are able to handle the molt a lot better. I have no idea whether it would be because the mature body is heartier or whether it’s just that they aren’t surprised by what’s going on and know that they will make it through okay.

Either way, I’m happy that it’s easier for all of us to get through it with some extra baths, misting and maybe some extra millet to lift the spirits.  This also provides a possible explanation as to why I see so many folks saying that their budgies always go through a molt like it’s no big deal!  I now think there’s a huge difference between juvenile and adult molting budgies.

Molting Toby takes a good bath – finally!

My flock and I live in upstate New York and we have been having the weirdest weather lately. Right at the end of August it got chilly and we had to turn our heat on for a week. As soon as the temperature dropped Toby and Kelly started on a pretty serious fall molt. Of course, by the time they were out of that molt it was mid-September and the temperature, insanely, was about 90 degrees! So, what else is a girl to do but start molting all over again.

Needless to say it’s been a solid couple of months now of feather-covered floors, sneezing humans, and itchy, cranky budgie ladies. I offer them a variety of baths on the regular, especially when they are molting, usually about twice a week. At least 50 percent of the time they completely ignore the bath, and even if they do give it notice sometimes it’s just to run through the water.  Kelly will still only take a good soak if I stand right next to her and give her constant encouragement!

Regardless of their level of interest I just keep plugging away, offering the baths and then dumping them out. Every weekend we buy a bunch of carrots with the tops still on, or some other type of green that’s good for hanging and make a hanging bath. Well, it’s a good thing we like to eat carrots because lately even that has been a total waste!

Finally Toby must have reached the depths of her molting despair and decided that a bath would be just the thing. We constructed the hanging bath and she immediately jumped on it and got the most thorough soaking she has had in months. I tried to get some good pictures but it’s tough when she’s in constant motion and puffed up like a weird broken birdy.

So, what’s the point of the post then? I guess it’s just that you have to keep trying. Even when something stops working, like the hanging bath that used to be so reliable for us. Don’t give up, keep offering them the healthy food options and the things they need, and eventually they will take you up on it. I know sometimes it might seem like a waste of your time and resources to have what you give them rejected over and over, but it matters that you do it, so don’t lose heart!

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.