Snuggle huts – worth the risk to parakeet safety?

In our early days of having Toby I was searching around for toys and perches on Amazon and came across the Prevue Snuggle Hut. There are a lot of variations on these type of “tent”, some have hard sides covered in fabric, like the snuggle hut, and others have three soft sides, there are different types of fabric and different ways to connect them to your cage. They all follow the same theme of providing a nice snuggly hiding spot for your bird.

Theoretically, this is awesome, parakeets are easily freaked out by a wide array of things so having a safe space that’s soft and dim and cosy is a boon to their feeling of security. Also, snuggle huts are super fun to play on and in; budgies can cling to the sides and top, and play peekaboo on the interior. The fleecy sides can be preened and the thicker sturdier fabric interior can be chewed and pulled.

I purchased one for Toby and installed it in her cage; she was so cute going in and out of the tent and she clearly loved hanging out inside of it. Unfortunately, I noticed she was also wedging herself between the tent and the cage bars, on the sides and on the top of the hut. She was able to get out every time, but I thought of the hours that she spends by himself when we are at work and it just didn’t sit right with me, so I quickly took the snuggle hut back out and stored it away in our toy cabinet.

Afterwards, I started reading up on the dangers of snuggle huts and similar products. Because of parrots propensity to rip and tear any material they will frequently rip open the seams on these tents, and some budgies and larger parrots then wedge themselves inside the walls of the snuggle hut. If the owner is home and can get them out quickly enough this might result in a successful rescue, but there are a lot of cases where a parrot has been seriously injured or died.

Also because of the shredding habits parakeets may end up ingesting fabric while tearing apart their snuggle huts. Ingesting fabric can lead to an impacted crop. Here again you are looking at either a death or in this cage an expensive surgical procedure to remove material from the crop.

Since these tents could be fairly hard to access once in the cage you could have the best intentions to maintain it and make sure there are no holes or loose threads, but it would be very difficult to inspect the entire tent on a daily basis.

Outside of the risks of physical harm, a snuggle hut could also seem like a nesting space to a parakeet, and if you are not trying to breed your birds that’s just a bad idea!

I recently came across our old snuggle hut as I was cleaning out some toys that the parakeets don’t love, so I decided to put it on our play gym for a few days. Of course both Toby and Kelly were immediately infatuated with it – they both spent tons of time crawling in and out of the tent as well as on the outside. They are so stinking cute playing hide and seek that I wish I could put the snuggle hut right back in the cage. Especially for winter, it seems like it could be a nice place for a nap or even night-time sleeping.

For us, though, the risks are too great to outweigh the benefits. If you currently have a snuggle hut or any similar product in your cage, or are thinking about getting one, I strongly encourage you to do some research and read some of the stories of people who lost their parrots to hut-related injuries. In a couple of days I plan to take our snuggle hut down and finally throw it out, in the mean time I’ll certainly make sure they only have supervised play time around it an I’ll inspect for loose threads and dangerous tears after every play session.

The good news is that you can also find budgie-safe huts made out of sea grass or very heavy canvas. Here’s a couple of sea grass huts available at Amazon, the Prevue Naturals Sea Grass Snuggle Hut or the Seagrass Tent Bird Toy .

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holes after just a few hours of play, could easily be widened

Trying a screen for nighttime – ensuring a good night of sleep for parakeets

In a previous post, I mentioned my concern that the budgies aren’t getting the best possible sleep.  This is both because they are in a high traffic area of the house, which makes sense during the day time, and because Toby won’t tolerate being covered at night.

I had the idea a while back that we should try using a room divider so even if they could hear us after bed time at least they wouldn’t be woken up by seeing us move around.  And as a bonus it might make it easier for us to access our kitchen after 7pm!

We decided on the ACME 02285 Naomi 3-Panel Wooden Screen, Natural Finish, hoping that since it was made of just wood and paper it wouldn’t smell too much (aggravating Patrick’s issues with new furniture).  We also bought a used screen to try and reduce that new furniture smell further.

Of course it still stank to high heaven, of oranges surprisingly! It’s not allowed in the house yet, right now it’s in a hallway between our kitchen and basement thinking about what it did.

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Also in quarantine is an office chair

I have no idea when it will be “house ready” but I’ll be sure to post an update about whether it helps the parakeets and the humans have better evenings.

Budgies and the importance of clean and readily available water

Ensuring access to clean water:
Budgies need access to clean water, which can be a challenge, since like their larger parrot cousins they enjoy throwing food in their water bowl, or bathing in it, or pooping in it. All of these activities, while super fun for the bird, can impact their ability to access clean water when they need it, and you don’t have to be an avian vet to know that drinking water with poop in it is a bad idea.

There are some things you can do to help make sure your budgie has the clean water he needs. First, I recommend putting a flat perch above the water bowl to block a lot of stuff falling into the water. We currently have this clam-shaped perch doing the job, but you could also use something like a lava ledge. These are both good types of perches to have anyway, so strategic placement is a great way to get double the benefits.

Also, you should be refreshing your budgie’s water at least once a day, but I feel like that’s a bare minimum commitment. I refresh first thing when I get up (at the same time as feeding) and also when I get home from work. Additionally, if I see they’ve made a mess of it I will switch out the water as needed when I’m home.

Another way to ensure a clean source of water is to use a Lixit Bird Waterer – which our parakeets strongly prefer drinking from anyway. These totally remove the danger of water becoming contaminated with poop, but you do need to wash them on a regular schedule, AND it’s vital that you check them every ay to ensure they are functioning properly. If the little ball gets stuck they can be completely full of water but inaccessible. Because of the risk of “mechanical” failure I do not recommend abandoning the bowl of water completely. We have two Bird Waterers in the cage, so there’s no waiting in line (in theory) and the bowl of water that’s being refreshed at least two times a day. So, access to water should never be an issue for our parakeets!

Is tap water safe for budgies?
My feeling is if you can provide a filtered source of water that would be best. I know that municipal water is “clean” and tested routinely for human safety but at least where I am it is still fairly hard water, which means it has a high content of minerals. I don’t believe that just because the water is deemed safe for human consumption means it’s safe for a parakeet, considering our relative size differences and the rate at which we process things. If simply being near a lit candle or ingesting avocado can kill a parakeet, then why take the risk for potential impact of long-range exposure to what’s in tap water?

If your family is like mine you’re not drinking tap water yourselves anyhow. We have the ubiquitous Brita Pitcher in our refrigerator. We also have a Faucet Mounted Water Filter attached right to our kitchen sink, this is the water that the budgies typically drink. Each filter is good for 200 gallons, so they don’t have to be replaced every five minutes and it’s very easy to switch back and forth from filtered to tap. The downside is that you cannot run hot water through the filter.

We also wash the parakeet’s fruits and vegetables in the filtered tap water, and when I wipe down the cage or scrub toys and perches I use filtered as well. We had the filter on the tap before the budgies, but I do think it’s an essential piece of our parakeet gear and it makes it very easy to water and clean up after them without taking extra steps.

Access to clean water is just as essential to parakeet health as it is to a human’s, so making sure that your budgies don’t have to worry about where their next drink is coming from is a key part of responsible budgie parenthood.

Important note: Never give your budgies distilled water to drink. Distilled water has no minerals in it and even though that might sound like the purest and best thing it is actually very dangerous to your parakeet’s health and very acidic. It’s not recommended that humans drink distilled water frequently either.   

Parakeet perch needs – best perches for budgies

Your parakeet may spend the bulk of his time at home in his cage so it’s important that it’s comfortable and entertaining – perches are a big part of cage design and budgie happiness. Health-wise, your budgie also needs a variety of perches in different sizes to keep his feet limber and also different materials, some for rest and some for keeping his nails and beak trimmed, and others to fill in his nutritional needs. When you start trying to balance all of these needs against the amount of room available in your cage it becomes apparent that a. bigger is better for cage size and b. rotating perches is key to keep your budgies needs met without over-crowding the cage. It’s important to have some of the best perches for budgies.

Most bird cages come with a single smooth dowel-type perch that runs the length of the cage, we keep ours in but it’s important that it’s the only smooth, round perch in the cage, as they don’t provide enough foot exercise or any other stimulation. A bird who has only doweled perches will probably find himself with atrophied and painful feet.

Here are some examples of important kinds of perches to invest in for your parakeet’s health and well-being.

Mac’s Creations Small Manzanita Perch – although these can also be smooth they have a variety of widths in one perch which is great for parakeet foot-limbering. My budgies also enjoy chewing on the narrow ends and climbing from one branch to another. You can find suitable branches outdoors and use them as perches; however you must be careful to do research beforehand on which trees are safe for your birds. You also have to take special care to clean branches you bring in. I’ve looked into the process and it just feels safer and like a lot less work to purchase a natural perch that I know is approved for parakeet use.

Living World Pedi-Perch, Small – these perches have a rough texture and varying widths as well. They are good for general variety, and they also help your budgie keep his nails trim and his beak ground down and polished. Parakeet’s nails and beaks keep growing all the time and it’s important for them to have hard surfaces to keep them maintained. You can avoid having to trim your parakeet’s nails yourself or having it done professionally if you provide these sorts of perches.

Polly’s Cuttlebone Calcium Bird Perch, Small – I love these, they not only provide a rough surface for nails and beak, and also for exercising feet, but they are intended to be broken down and eaten over time. They provide calcium which parakeets need for overall health – similar to the way calcium helps humans keep their bones strong; it helps parakeets with beak, nail and feather strength. There is not always a ton of calcium in a typical parakeet diet, so supplementing is a big help. Calcium deficiency can also lead to night terrors.

Ecotrition Snak Shak Chewable Perch, Small (P-84006) – We have had this Snak Shack edible branch a couple of times, it’s made from 100% edible material such as alfalfa, honey and seeds, but it looks like a branch! The fact that it’s a perch, a chew toy, and also good for exercising the feet with different textures makes is a home run for us.

Booda Comfy Perch for Birds, Medium 32-Inch, Colors Vary – I’m fully obsessed with these, I recommend buying every size and using them in different applications, both inside the cage as well as on play gyms and hanging window perches. They are bendable and were a major help with both our parakeets when they first came home. Neither of them knew how to climb around on the bars of their cages and we used a long comfy perch to make the interior of the cage navigable for a parakeet who might otherwise be scared to hop, fly or climb. They are also hand washable and hold up to a lot of abuse. Parakeets will enjoy trying to pull them apart since they are woven fabric, so it’s important to keep a close eye out for dangerous loose threads and also to make sure they are not ingesting fabric and risking a crop impaction.

Polly’s Desert Sands Bird Perch, Small – This type of perch is really essential in my opinion, they comes in a wide range of shapes, sizes and colors, some have deep divots and some are smooth with less of a natural look, they are all useful. Right now we have a manufactured sand perch as well as the more natural looking Polly’s Dessert sands. These help with foot exercise again and well as keeping nails trimmed and beaks ground down and polished. The parakeets love sitting on one of these and just chewing away.

There are a lot of other types of perches, foraging, shredding, flat perches for resting and perches that are also toys, and since you have to rotate pretty frequently to reduce boredom there’s really no harm in storing up some extras (spoken like a true shopaholic).

One caveat is to watch out for the dimensions, with parakeets you will probably want to stick with perches that are marked as small or extra small, this is both so the length will be appropriate for you cage and also so the width is suitable for budgie feed. Specifically the width should be somewhere between 3/8″ to 3/4″ with a sweet spot of about 1/2″. Anything much more than 3/4″ will be too big for their comfort.