Bed time is a total nightmare with three budgies!

After several days of all three cages out in the main living area Patrick and I were more than ready to consolidate parakeets and get back down to two cages. Kevin’s quarantine cage was more than half blocking the hallway to the bedroom and bathroom so you’d have to sort of sidle past. Not only was this a pain for us, but we were definitely waking Kevin up every time we went from the living room to the rest of the house after 7pm! Little did I know that reducing the number of cages would result in a budgie bed time nightmare for all of us.

The first surprising decision we made was to move Toby into Kelly’s flight cage and put Kelly and Kevin in the HQ Victorian Top cage.  Everyone seemed to enjoy using that cage during the day, choosing to nap in there and hang out on the porch like they used to. It was always Kelly’s favorite cage too, we only upgraded her because she seemed so agitated we thought she needed a larger space, but it turned out she was just generally dissatisfied being separated from Toby, even if it was for her own safety!

So, we picked a morning and reduced the three cages down to two, and Kevin found his new favorite spot on a  perch between them. We changed things up in every cage, trying to shake them all up and reduce any feelings of ownership or territoriality.

Kevin looking very handsome prior to the budgie bed time nightmareThe first day went swimmingly. They moved between cages and had a great time hanging out together and negotiating their lives as a flock of three. Kevin is still doing a lot of observation, and refuses to get involved in petty arguments. Toby likes to try and intimidate other birds from eating, but Kevin very calmly stands his ground and they typically end up eating out of the same bowl! It’s funny how he can be passive but at the same time he usually gets what he wants without being violent.

Soon the whole day had passed and it was time for everyone to bed down. I decided to try having Kevin sleep in with Toby in the big cage, because he is so chill about everything I really don’t have to worry about her being too aggressive with him, where as I had still seen Kelly aggressing on him a bit.

As soon as the lights dimmed I realized we had a bit of an unexpected issue. Kevin wouldn’t settle down! He kept climbing up and down the side bars closest to Kelly. I intuited that he wanted to be with Kelly and moved him to Kelly’s cage, leaving Toby alone.

Well, that didn’t work. Kelly was agitated and wanted to be in the next cage over with Toby. I would have been okay with letting her burn off the energy and giving up but she started biting the cage bars, which makes this absolutely infuriating clangy bang noise that drives me up a wall.

I then moved Kelly into Toby’s cage. That didn’t work for two reasons. Toby attacked Kelly immediately and Kevin got very upset that he was all alone.

So – I moved Kevin into the flight cage with Kelly and moved Toby into the cage on the left by herself.

At this point both Kelly and Toby are upset. Kelly because they are separated again and Toby because she can’t settle down, there are two toys higher than the perches in the HQ Victorian so she has to try to sleep on them, and can’t get comfortable, shockingly, on the narrow ledge of a mirror top.

It was like the most deranged shell game ever. Finally after about an hour of shuffling them around like a moron I stuck them all in the flight cage and decided to let them sort it out. Toby and Kelly battled noisily for about half an hour, because although there were at least 4 places to sleep at the exact same level they both needed to be on a small Y-perch. Kevin stayed completely out of it on another perch entirely, but I’m sure it wasn’t restful.

Finally they settled and Toby fell asleep with one foot on the perch and one foot on a cage bar. I’m guessing that she relaxed her grip when she fell into a deeper sleep because not an hour later she biffed off the perch and had quite a nice little night terror, her first in well over a year! The lights went back on and I spoke to her a bit less than sweetly until she was calmed down.

After that point we were mostly quiet except for some little squawks and angry noises. I kept one ear open all night expecting to hear another night terror, but all was quiet and everyone was undamaged this morning, at least physically!

Irrationally, perhaps, I think we are going to try having them sleep all together again, and possibly even hang out together in the flight cage when we leave the house. I know it’s taking a risk with Toby and Kelly getting in fights still, but I am so tired of Kelly being miserable that I think they need another shot at working it out. I hate leaving Kevin in the middle of it, but he’s pleased to be around budgies and I’m not sure he minds.

I’ll keep a sharp eye on everything as it develops, of course, and be ready to make adjustments and shuffle them around, but at this point I think I need to give myself a bit of a break and let them try to get it sorted! I can’t have another budgie bed time nightmare like that one at the very least.

Budgie preferred sleeping arrangements

When you first bring home a new budgie it may be hard to believe that after a full day on their feet they would prefer to sleep standing up. But, it’s true, a comfortable budgie will grind his beak before going to sleep; then tuck one leg up underneath him and drift off. You may also see your parakeet turn his head around and rest it on his back. Here are some typically preferred sleeping arrangements for budgies.

  • Your budgie will probably not want to sleep in a soft enclosure like a Happy Hut, which is good, because they can be unsafe for several reasons. But, even a safe option like this Sea Grass Snuggle Hut may be regarded as quite unsuitable for sleeping, even if it’s fun for day time play and chewing. If you are concerned about your budgie getting cold in winter time, you can use a Bird Cage Cover if your parakeets will tolerate it, mine don’t care for being covered at all! Otherwise, you can use heated perches, like the K&H Thermo Perch or the K&H Snuggle Up Bird Warmer.
  • What the parakeet does want, in most cases, is to sleep on the highest perch possible. Or rather, the highest thing in the cage, no matter if it’s a perch or the top of a toy.  If there’s nothing at a suitable height they will even cling to the bars of the cage in an upper corner. If your parakeet sleeps that way, try putting a perch in that space and see if he’ll get off the wall, although please don’t attempt that after bedtime!  Toby used to run through her options every night before bed and would try to sleep on top of several very unstable toys, until we dropped them all lower than the sleeping perch using Plastic Chain. If you have multiple parakeets make sure you have enough high up perch space to help avoid fighting over preferred territory. Some parakeets prefer to sleep on a Perch Swing, so you can try offering that as well. I wonder if the movement is soothing, like being on a gently swaying tree branch.
  • Make sure you also have a couple of Night Lights or even a Small Lamp to help avoid night terrors.

If you’re providing comfortable perches as the highest items in the cage, and eliminating drafts and scary dark spaces your parakeets should be great sleepers! Although there are exceptions to every rule, most parakeets are very comfortable sleeping standing up and resting one foot at a time by tucking it up into their tummies.

Planning for the parakeets to take a vacation

Patrick and I realized recently that our entire central air system has to be replaced. Patrick went up in the attic one day to try and clean out the air handler, and when he realized it was full of mold (!!!!) the decision was made for us.  Especially with the parakeets and the increasingly hot summer weather here, we feel like we have to have the AC. The only issue is, the job takes three days, and the budgies most definitely have to decamp for the length of the job. I hadn’t ever thought about how stressful moving parakeets would be, but I’m certainly feeling it now.

Originally I wasn’t even thinking along the lines of having to move them at all, but we are going to have the ductwork and the vents shifted so the whole system will be more efficient, and that means cutting new holes in the ceiling, and not just generating a ton of dust, but also probably contaminating our main floor air with the ceiling air, which is highly suspect!  Even without the air issues, there will be a lot of activity and noise in every area of the house, and keeping them in a state of high alert and fear for three days just seems cruel.

I am crazy lucky that there wasn’t even a question of where they would go. While the sales rep was still talking to us about our various options I was speedily texting my mom to make sure the budgies could have her guest room for a short stay!  She has cats, but they can easily be shut out of that room, and I LOVE that she doesn’t burn candles or use any plug in fragrance or incense etc., which would be a huge deal breaker for budgie visitors.

Of course since she said yes I’ve been panicking about being separated from them, which is crazy because I travel for work and we’ve vacationed before and my mom has taken care of them in our home!

All sorts of crazy thoughts about what if they have a night fright and she doesn’t wake up, or what if the cats break in and knock over their cage?  I could “what if” myself into a padded cell on this one, and I’m sure all the while the parakeets would be totally fine and probably enjoy the change of scenery.

My mom even offered to let me stay over and sleep in the room with them, but since they go to bed at 7pm I think I’ll be fine staying at home!

So, in the coming weeks I will be away 2 nights for work, then the parakeets will be away 3 for the AC, then Patrick and I will go for 5 nights on vacation, and we’re using the pet sitter for the first time. After all that I’ll be ready to camp out near their cage and never leave home again or let them go anywhere!

As much as I wish I could keep them with me the whole time, I am so grateful that they have somewhere to go that’s safe and clean and where they will be cared for diligently and interacted with as much as they are at home, if not more.

Parakeet night terrors/night frights

Night terrors, which you’ve probably heard of in human children, also happen to many species of parrots. Cockatiels seem to be most commonly afflicted, but it can happen to parakeets as well so it’s important to be prepared.

One can almost never be entirely sure of the origin of the night terror, it could be that the parakeet is waking from a bad dream, or that he opened his eyes during the night and saw a scary shadow or a bug. They are definitely primed to be scared after dark to begin with because they are prey animals and they know it.

The night terrors that Toby had were scary for both of us. I would be woken in the middle of the night by the sounds of Toby crashing around in her cage, flying around madly and blindly into the cage bars without being able to stop herself. This can be extremely dangerous because a parakeet can severely injure himself, possibly fatally.

I’m lucky that our house is all on one level and I’m not very far from the cage at night, even though it’s in the dining area. I really don’t know what to suggest to someone who’s birds sleep on a different floor than they do, short of a baby monitor, although that might seem excessive!

At any rate, I would wake up to the sounds of Toby crashing around and bolt out of bed to the dining room. To calm the parakeet down you must bring up the lights a bit and speak very gently to him – as soon as the lights come up enough he will probably stop flying around, but he may seem dazed and not recognize you.

I never advocate putting your hands in the cage after dark, so I don’t advise taking your bird out to comfort him. I firmly believe that in this state there’s no guarantee he will know who you are and find your touch comforting instead of more alarming. I did, after a particularly awful fright, feed Toby a little millet through the bars to lure her out of a bad spot.

The best way to handle it, at least for us, has been to leave the lights glowing just a bit more brightly than usual and once the parakeet has settled down and is in a safe place to go back to sleep, go back to bed and try to calm yourself down enough to sleep.

Also, it’s a good idea to have a nightlight or two for your parakeet to help them not be so scared when they wake in the middle of the night. We went a little overboard with iTimo Baby Night Light, Led Night Lights Plug In, Kids Nightlight With Dusk to Dawn Sensor, Portable Nightlights for Adults Nursery Soother Hallway Bathroom Restroom Bedroom Decor, Pack of 4 and for a while the kitchen looked like an airport runway. We’ve since scaled back to a more reasonable amount.

I’ve read that night frights can also be a symptom of calcium deficiency so if you find your parakeet having continued issues make sure you have a Zoo Med Mineral Block Original Formula Banquet Bird Food, 1-Ounce and watch out for feeding excessive amounts of spinach which binds with calcium and can lead to a calcium deficiency.

Toby had four night terrors in the first 8 months we had her, three of those we were not able to determine the cause (although I suspect mice), and one of them was absolutely my fault. I came out of the bedroom in the middle of the night and because I had my glasses off I stood next to her cage for a prolonged period trying to find her. She of course woke up and completely freaked out, who wouldn’t with some lunatic starting at you while you sleep?

Toby hasn’t had a night terror since we got our second parakeet, Kelly – I’m not sure if having a roommate makes her feel more secure, she does always want to sleep where she can see Kelly. Actually I think Toby would prefer to sleep snuggled up to Kelly, but Kelly’s not having any part of that!

The bottom lines are that you should have night lights and a mineral block for your parakeet, but they may still have the occasional unexplained night fright. The only thing you can do is get to the cage as quickly as possible, turn up the lights a bit, and speak soothingly to your parakeet until he calms down.