Toby and Kelly’s Christmas wish list

Toby and Kelly have been working feverishly on their Christmas wish list for parakeet-Santa.  They are cutting it a little close to the wire, but here’s their parakeet gift list full of their secret and most closely held desires!

Toby really wants to try having Nutriberries as a treat! She has heard that if I crumble them up for her she will be in a heretofore unknown ecstasy of foraging.

Kelly’s wants are a bit more basic. She plows through a cuttlebone every week, so she would like a never-ending supply of essential calcium as well as beak-exercising destruction.

Kelly snuck in a second want in a row! She loves the smaller version of this toy so much that she wants to try out the one for big birds! Since the single cupcake style is destroyed in a single day, we’re hoping that Santa brings one that lasts for three days!

Both Toby and Kelly are dreaming of a new play gym. They acknowledge that they previously had a very similar gym and totally ignored it, but they feel that since they both have flat top flight cages now they will get a lot more use of out of a play gym if it’s on top of the cage.

You’re probably wondering what poor new kid Kevin would like for Christmas. He’s just dreaming of getting out of quarantine and spending some time with his “sisters”.

He has been using the java tree as his personal play stand, so we all hope he comes out of quarantine in time for us to use his play tree as our Christmas tree like we did last year!

Speaking of which, Santa better bring us some new Christmas-themed bird toys to load up our “tree”.  Seems like some human “Santas” may need to start adding things to their carts before we run out of time!  I hope everybirdy out there finds exactly what they most want and need under their trees this year!

Introducing Kevin – our third parakeet and first boy!

We did it! This past Saturday, after much hemming and hawing (Patrick) and excessive preparation (me) we went to Benson’s and picked out our third parakeet and first boy budgie. His name is Kevin to fit in with the rest of our Office-inspired flock names. He’s definitely a mature gentleman. We didn’t ask at the store how long he’d been there, but based on his visible irises and lack of baby bars he is at least one year old. That’s totally a minimum, comparing his eyes to Toby’s I think there’s a good chance he is two plus.

I had received a recommendation from a reader to get a mature fellow who would be able to stand his ground against my dominant ladies. When we arrived at the pet store Saturday morning we found they only had four males available in their entire parakeet aviary. Two of them were under a year old and there was one gent even older than Kevin. We must have watched them all for at least an hour and what we saw of Kevin’s behavior and health looked very good. We were able to watch him eat and drink and forage around on the floor. He would frequently perch by himself, but if he was joined by other parakeets he was happy to chat to them and be part of the group. His eyes are bright and clear and his nares are free of any obstructions or anything that would make me concerned about respiratory infection. His feet look a tiny bit dry but there’s no sign of mites on either his feet or his cere. Although we couldn’t quite hear him we could see that he was singing his heart out, which is something we are sorely missing in our flock of screeching ladies!

Before we left the shop they had us sign a form indicating that if we weren’t able to care for Kevin they would take him back at any time. Every employee we spoke to also took care to ask us if we were familiar with caring for parakeets and had everything we needed for Kevin at home. I thought that was a really nice touch and showed me that they care about animals. They also clipped Kevin before we took him home. I know, I am an incredibly staunch opponent of clipped parakeets in your home. But, it made me feel more secure transporting him and I feel like it will give us a leg up in taming him during his quarantine. Also – they did a super tasteful job, not as severe or debilitating as Kelly’s clip was.

Arriving home we transferred Kevin from his cardboard box to his quarantine cage. Even though I have written a whole lengthy post about what to expect when you first bring home your parakeet it has still been a horrible couple of days feeling bad for Kevin! He is obviously terrified and didn’t move for many hours after coming home. We weren’t even sure he had eaten until 22 hours in, which was nerve-wracking. Again, even though I KNEW exactly what would happen, it still felt awful seeing him so scared.

I put our “Nanny Cam” trained on his cage and I’ve been peeking at him every so often during the work day. It really makes me sad seeing him just sit in one spot for hours, but I know that he will eventually understand that his new cage is a safe space. He can hear Toby and Kelly and they are definitely freaking him out a bit too.  They are totally unaware that he’s in the house, since he hasn’t made a peep yet. Occasionally they hear a bell ring and get a bit curious, but until he starts vocalizing they should be blissfully ignorant!

One thing about quarantine has been much harder than expected, and that’s the way shutting the quarantine room door has messed up our heat. Now the quarantine room gets stifling warm, and the rest of the house is much chillier. So, we’ve had to resort to leaving the door cracked open a bit when the girls are safely stowed away. I know it totally violates the separate air space tenet of quarantine, but I couldn’t very well freeze Toby and Kelly for 30 days!  As it is, Kevin has the K&H Snuggle Up Bird Warmer, Kelly had been acting chilly over the weekend so now she has the K&H Thermo-Perch. Toby appears to be totally fine with the temperature but we’re keeping an eye on her.

Bringing home Kevin has been so different already, I hate that he’s tucked away and can’t ease into the rhythm of the household. We’re making a big effort to sit with him, but it’s not the same as his being able to observe us all the time and see that we are not threatening. He seems like he will do okay ultimately. He does show some fear when we put our hands in the cage to change water or food, but he doesn’t flap around like crazy or totally lose his mind.

He seems tentatively curious about his surrounds outside the cage. You can see his head swiveling around when he hears noises to try and figure out what the heck is going on. He has been eating regularly since his 22 hour hunger strike and his poops look great. Kevin has not shown any interest in playing with the toys in his cage, but I don’t think he was exposed to toys so we will have to show him how to play down the road. Failing that, I’m sure he’ll pick it up from Toby and Kelly!

I don’t want to squander these 30 days and I want to make a big effort towards bonding with him. On the other hand, I’m a total softy and I know that he would feel so much safer and more comfortable if he was interacting with Toby and Kelly. Overall it’s exciting but also so weird, until he starts making some noise it’s very easy to forget the is there at all, it’s almost like we still just have two parakeets. I can’t wait until he’s as noisy and demanding as the rest of my budgies. Seeing the difference between Kevin and Toby/Kelly makes me regret ever saying that the two of them aren’t very tame. They aren’t trained to do much, certainly, but compared to someone straight from the pet store they are entirely tame.

Getting ready for quarantine – new parakeet coming soon!

I’m sort of freaking out with excitement. After our initial plans to get a boy parakeet in early November didn’t pan out due to our plumbing issues  it was starting to feel a bit remote that we would actually get a boy budgie added to the flock. Happily, things have quieted down and we are going to go pick out our new boy this Saturday! This means it is finally time to get ready for a new parakeet quarantine.

Quarantine is important for a few reasons. One is that if the new budgie comes in carrying diseases we want to avoid spreading them to our existing flock. Some diseases can be transmitted by touching only, and some are airborne. The new budgie also could have mites, and we would definitely want to avoid transmitting those. The new parakeet will be quarantined in a separate room for 30 days, which should be enough time to know if he is sick. During that time we will have to be careful to wash our hands thoroughly before and after interacting with him. Ideally he would be in a totally separate air space, but that’s not totally possible. The room he’s going into will get too cold at night if the door is shut, so we’re going to keep them as separate as possible and take all the precautions we can, even if it’s not perfect.

The 30 day quarantine should also give us time to get to know our new flock member and bond with him one on one. So, more than an inconvenience, it’s really an opportunity. We didn’t quarantine Kelly and regretted it deeply, not just because we took a risk with Toby’s health, but also because it made our bonding with her much more difficult. I still wonder if working with her during a quarantine would have lessened her aggression towards us.

I debated quite a bit on where to get our new fellow, and finally landed on a locally owned pet store, Benson’s.  It’s not as great as getting a rescue budgie, but we really have some specific needs for our new friend and I know that rescues like to adopt out pairs or more of parakeets. I am glad to support a local business instead of a big chain store, and we’ve checked out their aviaries, which are amazing! The parakeets look like they are in great condition, both physically and mentally.

To get set up for our new fellow I barely had to buy anything, due to the expansive nature of my toy and perch hoard.

We also already had an extra cage on hand (technically 3 extra cages, but who’s counting!). Since we upgraded Toby and Kelly to flight cages, it meant we had the Drs. Foster & Smith HQ Victorian Top Cage ready and waiting. It’s a bit bigger than a traditional quarantine cage, but particularly since the new guy will be used to having quite a bit of room I think he’ll be okay.

They clip birds before you bring them home at the local shop, and although I’m not a fan of lifelong clipping, it will make me feel less nervous transporting him. Also, I think that if we play our cards right, his being clipped will help accelerate the taming process. We put a careful eye towards designing his quarantine cage for maximum accessibility in terms of hopping around and climbing the bars from perch to perch.

When we bring him home, I will also make sure to get a supply of whatever he is used to eating to make sure he doesn’t reject a new food when he’s already freaked out about being in a new place.

I think we’ve got everything lined up for as smooth a transition as possible. Now all I have to do is make it through the next 24 hours without bursting with excitement!  Wish me luck, and watch my Facebook Page for a pic of the new fellow tomorrow!

Using a food trough as a parakeet toy box

When we purchased Toby’s new Flight Cage it came with a set of plastic trough style Feeder Cups, which I knew immediately I wasn’t going to use. Not only do plastic feeders encourage bacteria growth, but they were also difficult to get in and out of the cage. In fact, I’m not sure how you would keep water clean in them at all without quite a bit of difficulty. So, I bought a set of my preferred Stainless Steel Hanging Bowls, put away the plastic tray feeders and didn’t think about them again for a few months.

Fast forward to Patrick and I cleaning out the parakeets’ toy and perch cupboard. It’s terrible, like a totally embarrassing toy hoard, someday I’ll post a picture! Anyway, every so often we go through and toss out stuff that got put away but most likely the birds wouldn’t really use, or toys that are fairly beat up.

He noticed the food trays and decided to try hanging one off the outside of Kelly’s cage and then put a bunch of little toys in it for her to throw out. What’s in there are some pieces that came off old toys, like a vine star from a Christmas toy, a large wooden bead, etc. But also, some Baby Links and Vine Balls. All together it’s a bunch of little items with different shapes, sizes and textures as well as varying degrees of difficulty to pick up and throw.

Kelly typically has a short attention span and doesn’t play with toys much. But, she will happily spend time picking up and throwing out every single one of the items, and then when you load it back up she’ll do it all over again. She’s our obsessive biter, so anything that keeps her occupied and relatively happy is a major win for us!

Even if your parakeets don’t need something to obsess over, the little trough of foot toys would be fun for even the most well-adjusted parakeet. Who hasn’t seen their parakeet drop a feather or piece of food and then watch with intensity as it falls to the ground? Sure, it can get a little tedious picking everything back up and resetting, but it’s totally worth it in the name of parakeet fun and enrichment!

Maximing exterior cage space for budgie enrichment

I’ve been thinking a lot about budgie cage set up lately, possibly a consequence of now having two flight cages! We put a big emphasis on changing up their cages regularly, I recommend weekly switching at least a toy or two out and moving some perches. Budgies are very intelligent and can be prone to boredom, so it’s a good idea to keep them engaged in their space and not let home become stale. I’m sure there are some budgies out there that hate change, so your mileage may vary and use your judgement. In addition to the interior space, it’s also important to think about maximizing exterior cage space for budgie enrichment.

Utilizing exterior cage space is also a great way to help your budgie feel comfortable out in the “world” that is your home. One idea is making a fun space on top of the cage so your budgie has a place to hang out. We used a Booda Comfy Perch and a Super Bird Creations Wind Chimes Toy for Birds to create a fun and budgie friendly play location on top of Toby’s cage. We added a cluster of Vine Balls trailing down over the side to provide even more indoor/outdoor play options.

Toby’s cage also has a perch placed outside underneath her main door to ease the transition into the cage, which can frequently be difficult to navigate. It’s also a sand perch, which she loves but I know can be hard on budgie feet. So placing it outside the cage means Toby gets time with the perch but without the risk of her trying to nap or sleep on it and hurt her feet.

Kelly’s cage has a totally different flair. She has a Bendable Wooden Bridge that comes off the top like a ski jump, as well as a Spiral Boing Perch that connects to a Natural Rope Ladder and then back to the edge of the cage.

Kelly also has a Sand Perch outside her cage, but hers facilitates entry into the Lixit Quick Lock Bird Bath. The Lixit bath is still one of the most reliable ways to get Kelly to clean up and having it mounted on the outside of the cage makes it easier to clean up the inevitable water-soaked “splash zone”.

Adding areas of interest to the outside of the cage helps parakeets transition from indoor to outdoor space while still keeping a sense of safety and being “home”. This can be a big help during the initial taming/training process, but is also just a great plan to keep your budgies engaged outside their cages. Expanding your budgies’ livable space and maximizing enrichment can really enhance their lives overall.

Tips for keeping budgie food and water free of poop

A common question that many parakeet owners have (frequently said with great anguish and frustration) is, “why does my budgie keep pooping in his water?” First, I would offer an assurance that the budgie is probably not purposefully soiling his water and food sources. Second, I would suggest that his current cage design and food/water sources probably unwittingly encourages this to occur. Here are some tips to consider when troubleshooting the issue of poop in water or food.

  • Level design – Anyone who has played Super Mario Maker knows how important level design is to making a good play-through experience. The same theory holds for designing the interior landscape of your budgie’s cage. You can plan ways to make transitioning from perch to perch easy, as well as how he will access toys, food and water. This can be helpful when planning for a comfortable sleeping space for your parakeet. Where it is truly critical is in making sure that the areas above food and water bowls are free of toys and perches, greatly reducing the likelihood that poop will fall into the food and water from above. It stinks losing usable cage space that way, but anyone who has put a food or water bowl below what turns out to be a favorite napping spot knows the fallout is not worth it!
  • Fully enclosed water bottles – Our parakeets have Stainless Steel Hanging Bowls, which are largely ignored in favor of Lixit Bird Waterers, which offer a straw to drink from and no opening at all for water to be contaminated. They do have to be very carefully scrubbed to discourage bacteria growth, so be mindful of that!  Other than the additional cleaning requirements these are perfect, both Toby and Kelly far prefer drinking from this style bottle to a bowl. There are also Silo Waterers which achieve essentially the same result with a small pool of water that would be much harder to dirty.
  • Mostly enclosed food bowls or silos – Similar to the water silos there are also Silo Bird Feeders and Cup Feeders that would both greatly reduce the opportunity to poop in food. There are also covered feeders like the Seed Corral No Mess Pet Feeder – although it looks to me like the parakeet could go into the bowl and sit in their food, which would probably defeat the purpose on that one!
  • Purposefully placing blocking items above bowls. Getting back to the concept of level design, you can thoughtfully place blockers above food and water bowls to protect them from fall out. Some ideas would be the Polly’s Comfy Clam Bird Perch, a Round Natural Wood Bird Perch or a Lava Ledge, which are also good for chewing and perching on to keep beaks and nails in check.

With a keen eye for environment design and possibly changing up the food and water sources I am confident that you can greatly reduce the amount of poop soiling your budgies’ food and water dishes.  Outside of the issue of poop, always make sure to wash your budgies food and water bowls regularly.

Flight cage proliferation – buying our second flight cage

I didn’t think this would ever happen, but we’ve side-lined my previously favorite cage, the HQ Victorian Top, in favor of a second flight cage for Kelly. We had purchased the Prevue Flight Cage a few weeks ago for Toby, but always intended to leave Kelly in the old cage. Here’s what changed our minds.

The flat top of the Prevue Flight Cage – we hadn’t realized how much we missed that with the Victorian top cage. It is so convenient to serve treats on top of a cage, or offer a bath up there, and they just love running around on the surface of the cages. Patrick even installed a neat Booda Comfy Perch bridge on top of the cage, which they get enjoyment out of every day. There was a downside though, using the Prevue Flight Cage top so much we found that it wasn’t very sturdy or flat but tended to want to bow inward. I guess that’s what you get at that price point, but it was a little disappointing. I also ended up not loving the white finish, it’s easy to clean, but I think it chips more easily.

Another great thing about a traditional flight cage is the ability to hang things from any point in the ceiling of the cage. With the HQ Victorian Top you couldn’t hang much from the top doors, which left you with very little ceiling space left. And the shape of it in general encouraged short flights, but even though it was large the usable space was really diminished by the decorative shape. The traditional flight cage is also easier to clean than the HQ Victorian due to the lack of rounded edges that create small, hard to get into spaces.

Anyway, we popped in at a local pet store and were checking out their selection of cages.  We saw this A&E flight cage in black and were immediately in love with the size, the color and most importantly, the overall quality. It didn’t have the cheap, bendable feel of the Prevue Flight Cage .

We went back the next week and snapped it up, not even realizing that buying in store meant we would be purchasing an already assembled cage, instead of spending another several hours putting it together ourselves. It did, however, mean that the cage needed to be thoroughly cleaned, because it had been on the sales floor. Some White Vinegar and elbow grease made quick work of the dirt and we were quickly ready to load it up with toys and get Kelly settled in.

I’m nervous about her spending the night in there, she is not very adaptable to change, but for now we just moved everything over from her old cage and put it exactly where it had been. Hopefully that and the fact that it’s in the same spot and the same color that the old one was will help her adjust.

The best part is that when we get our boy bird in November he can move in with whichever lady he gets along with. Or maybe if he eases up the tension they can all live in the new flight cage.  AND, now I don’t have to worry about quarantining the new guy in an inappropriately small cage, he can live in the HQ Victorian Top while he quarantines in my office space.

Here’s a good indicator of just how roomy this new cage is!