Coming home from travel – how do budgies react

I was away for almost a week recently for work and since I went across the country time zone changes made it more difficult than usual to check in on the budgies. They were, of course, totally fine with my husband taking care of them! I did wonder how they would react when I got home though, which is probably a concern for any budgie mom or dad that travels.

For me it usually goes one of two ways. In the first option, I get home super excited to see them and they basically ignore me. Totally devastating!  When this happens it takes a few days for them to get back into the rhythm of spending time with me instead of devoting all their attention to their “papa” who took such good care of them. I don’t think they are mad at me when this happens, they just got used to a different way of doing things and I wasn’t a part of it.

Patrick always reports that they are such good babies when I am gone, MUCH more mellow and relaxed. In terms of our budgie parenting styles, he tends to set better boundaries and expects certain behavior from them, whereas I totally encourage them to be close to me and basically treat me like a human play gym.  I also am much more frequently the purveyor of undeserved treats. 

Fortunately this homecoming was the second variety. I got through the door and they instantly start going nuts with excitement. Way more welcoming! I let them out right away and Toby screamed in my face for about four minutes straight. I’m pretty sure she was simultaneously chewing me out for being gone so long and also telling me how psyched she was that I was finally back.

After I got my “talking to” she settled down to preening my nose and hair.

coming home from travelThe next several days everyone was extremely excitable. Even though they had been well-behaved for Patrick they were super willful now that I was back. Getting them in their cages for bed time or whenever we had to leave the house was a nightmare. I totally get it, all I wanted to do was spend time with them too. I think we were all having some mild separation anxiety.

I did some reflecting while on this trip, my work schedule is changing a bit very soon and I’ll be spending more time at the office. Additionally, I have business trips coming up in six out of the next seven months. In between all of that, a couple of close family members are having surgeries in the next month.

I’m not going to stop writing, but I’m going to start posting once a week instead of two. I think it’s the best way to take some pressure off and make sure I can still put up (hopefully) decent quality content, instead of rushing just to make an arbitrary weekly quota.

Thanks, as always, for reading!

Running errands with budgies

It’s easy to feel very close to a budgie, as though you have a mutual understanding. What a wonderful feeling really, to have such a smart little pet that provides you emotional support and vice versa. I know I’ve certainly experienced how Toby and Kelly help me keep my emotions under control. So, it might seem logical or natural to use your best budgie pal as an emotional support animal, who accompanies you while out in the world in situations that may be stressful.

Here are just a few reasons I would caution you against taking your budgies out in public for anything other than necessity, such as going to the vet, or boarding them for a vacation.

      • Budgie lungs are very sensitive and going out in public can expose them to several toxic irritants. Did you know that many retailers pump fragrance into their stores through their HVAC systems? I have to assume that since we can’t safely use plug-ins, febreeze, etc in our homes that exposure to this kind of fragrance outside the home, even just for a run in to grab something, would be very dangerous. Even if the store itself isn’t using fragrance there are loads of fragranced products in many big box stores and the cumulative effect of being around those products (even if they are sealed) is troubling. Additionally, they will have much greater exposure to car exhaust traveling frequently, as well as the potential for cigarette smoke.
      • Beyond fragrance dangers, taking a budgie to a restaurant could expose them to fumes from the kitchen that you have no control over. Possiblly even non-stick coating which can be fatal. Additionally, even some casual restaurants use candles at the table which are also a big no for budgie-breathing.
      • Budgies are prey animals who are prone to being scared of anything seen as a threat. I know that not all budgies are fearful, but you must keep in mind their instinct will be either to freeze in place, which may look to you like calm, or take flight. You could have several successful outings with your parakeet before finding out that something totally random scares them like crazy. If they are in a small travel cage a fit of panic could cause them great harm. Worse yet, if they are out on your shoulder you could lose them forever. Just as a note, if you don’t have a travel cage make sure to get one or have another plan for transporting your budgie safely. You never know when you’ll have to evacuate your house due to fire or other emergency.


    • Danger from other human beings. Taking your parakeet out in the world will almost certainly cause a small spectacle. Drawing attention of other people to your budgie could result in harm if someone decides to grab at him, and doesn’t understand how breakable he is. I’m not going to stand on a soap box and say that humans are horrible, but I think that there’s certainly a capacity for thoughtlessness and danger with introducing your budgie to a lot of people.

Don’t get me wrong, the relationship between a budgie and their human is totally special, and I absolutely believe that a budgie can fulfill the role of an emotional support animal. I also think that the safest way to do that is in your home. It might be tempting to try running errands with budgies, but the ultimate cost can be too high.

Parakeets and food silos = less mess?

When we first got Toby’s new cage I was dismayed by the included food bowls, which are plastic trough-like rectangles with a divider for food and water. We’ve always used Stainless Steel Bowls, which I think are very easy to keep clean and I like that they can help reduce slimy buildup in the water dish. I ordered a set of Stainless Steel Bowls with right attachments on the same day that I ordered the cage, but I didn’t realize they would take a few weeks in shipment. I guess delays are somewhat of a theme here lately!

I started off putting Toby’s steel bowls from her old cage on the bottom of the new cage, but she refuses to go down to the bottom and feed. Then I filled the troughs with food, but she could not for the life of her figure out how to access the trough.

Fortunately, a while back I bought a Food Silo on a whim and just never installed it. At the time of purchase I was thinking it might be a good back-up feeder if we were gone for a long day or on vacation. Even with someone coming in every day it couldn’t hurt to have a secondary, protected source of food.

I hastily installed the Food Silo in Toby’s cage so she would have somewhere to eat, and she took to it immediately with great gusto. Moreover, Kelly loved it too and would go hang out in Toby’s cage just to eat the same food that she had out of a different vessel! For my part, it was awesome to be able to fill the Food Silo from outside the cage, instead of opening an access door and risking escapees on busy workday mornings.

Seeing how much Kelly liked Toby’s silo I quickly ordered one for her so they could both experience the joy of the in-home Food Silo .

Here’s where things got messy. Once Toby was totally adjusted to the Food Silo she started entertaining herself by using her beak to shovel all the seed out of the silo tray. She was throwing out 3+ tablespoons of food per day. And she can’t forage through the discarded seed because we can’t take the grate out of her new cage without leaving inch wide gaps at the base. Although she won’t go to the bottom anyway so it’s a total wash.

Kelly is much more responsible with her silo, but Toby comes over when the cages are open and does the same thing in Kelly’s cage! So, they may truly end up being vacation or other exception only.

I have seen tons of reviews about how much mess the silo feeder saves parakeet owners, but that is definitely not the case for us. I had not taken into account how much mess I was saving by using relatively deep stainless steel bowls and only feeding two tablespoons per bowl per day. With that low volume of food it’s not enough for them to kick food out of their bowls, even if they want to sit in the bowl with their food. I’m glad that Toby finally adjusted to her troughs so I can get rid of her silo, although I suppose the experience was quite a lot of fun for her, food silos are too much mess for my household!

The face of a mess-maker!

 

Using a professional pet sitter for parakeets

Regular readers know that over the winter I researched local pet sitting services, interviewed a sitter and hired her for our summer vacation. I had a great feeling about her at the time, but leading up to our trip I got increasingly anxious about leaving Toby and Kelly with someone totally untested. It didn’t help that I kept seeing horror stories of people leaving their parakeets in the care of close family members and coming back from weeklong trips to find them near death or worse.

I worked myself into a pretty good state over the whole thing. Particularly after all the chaos of them staying at my mom’s for a few days and then having to separate Toby and Kelly into two cages after their bad fight that left Kelly with a bloody foot. I updated the pet sitter that they shouldn’t be out at the same time – to me, this stacked the deck even further against her. How would a woman who had limited experience with birds in the first place handle letting them out one at a time and getting them back into their proper cages?

It got to a point that I think I would have canceled the whole trip if I’d had the foresight to purchase travel insurance! No such coverage existed and off we went, but only after I harassed the pet sitter several times in the week leading up to vacation to confirm all the details. I even made an agreement with a colleague that she would get into my house somehow if I couldn’t verify that the sitter was taking care of the parakeets.

The first day of vacation I checked on the parakeets several times using my Misafes security camera, they were fine all day of course but I only made it until about 4pm before breaking down and asking the pet sitter how it went via text. She related that they had both had some time out of the cage, Kelly was very easy to get back in, and Toby was harder but very sweet and sat on her shoulder.

Huge sigh of relief, the details were precisely what I would have expected from my girls and it made me feel relieved that the pet sitter had actually been there and that the parakeets were being taken well care of, not just having food and water changed and being ignored.

I didn’t text the pet sitter every day after that (just a few more haha), but I did spy her a couple of times on the Misafes security camera. I never watched long because that would seem a bit creepy to me, but every time I saw her she was taking care of the parakeets and seemed totally engaged in what was going on with them.

The trust that she was building with me helped me enjoy the rest of our vacation with only minimal concerns about the parakeets physical and mental well-being, but on the flight home everything started creeping back in. I wondered what condition I would find the cages in, whether the parakeet’s perches would be covered in poop, or if our Bird Cage Liners had been removed every couple of days.

We opened the front door and what I saw absolutely astonished me. Not only were the cages scrupulously clean, as though I had been at home the whole time following my cleaning schedule, but she left a detailed checklist showing what maintenance had been done each day, and the coup de grâce was a short note written every single day with any notable information about how they had behaved and/or particularly adorable moments.

Now, given the choice between the two I would still love to have the pet sitting service my mom typically provides, not only does she spend hours of time at my house waiting for the parakeets to tire out but she’s also an extremely economical choice (read: free). For the times I can’t “hire” my mom, hiring the professional pet sitter was the best decision I ever made and I would strongly encourage anyone to do their research and utilize a professional pet sitting service over leaving the care of your parakeets to neighbors, friends, or in some cases, even relatives.

And, not to be totally grim, but if something had gone terribly wrong it’s much more comfortable to be devastated by something a professional did and be able to file a complaint and never utilize their services again, instead of having to see the person who you blame for the death of your birds every year at Thanksgiving.

The parakeets break up and separate households

In my post about parakeet girl fights I acknowledged that keeping two territorial females together was taking a risk. At that time, the reward of Kelly and Toby having each other for comfort and company in the same cage was worth the risk of injury from their frequent squabbles over toys and space. Well, my hubris caught up with me on this one and they are currently trying out living solo.

The past few weeks have seen a lot of upheaval for the budgies, I was away on business, and working late hours leading up to that, we made some major changes to the arrangement of our house and then they had to move to my mom’s house for a few days and the travel and change of scenery were very stressful for them.  Additionally, Kelly seems to be getting deeper into breeding condition versus moving out of it, we’ve been missing bed times lately and I’m sure that hasn’t helped.

I should also mention that Patrick and I been extremely stressed out lately, and I firmly believe that they know how we are feeling and it influences their behavior. Whether it’s true they can see our energy or not, or whether they can read facial expressions and body language, I know they are hip to what is going on with their humans.

So, overall they have been ramping up the violence while everything is in chaos around them, and I cannot blame them. I’m typically very rigid about my routine, it’s what makes me happy every day, and they are obviously  used to it as well.

The day before they went to my mom’s Kelly shredded one of Toby’s flight feathers, Toby was defending the porch on their cage and pushing Kelly towards the edge, so Kelly grabbed onto Toby’s feathers to try and pull herself back up. I was there and broke up the fight before major damage was done, but Toby’s feather has a bit of a different shape now.

This all leads up to the final straw fight – I got home from work one day and immediately noticed Kelly’s feathers on the floor. She’s not molting so that was a red flag, and the pattern of the feathers was wrong for that anyway, they were clumped together and as soon as I picked them up I realized they had been pulled out of her. I felt a pit in my stomach as I started examining the cage and the budgies for blood or other signs of damage.

Toby was all clear, but Kelly had dried blood on her foot and a cut. Thankfully it wasn’t actively bleeding so I didn’t have to worry about her bleeding to death, but it came as a sad shock that they had really hurt each other.

I let them out of the cage so that I could try to clean Kelly up a bit and make sure she was really okay, they continued going after each other and fighting, even after they had the entire house at their disposal.

With vacation coming up in just 3 days (thanks for that timing, babies) I knew that they needed to be in separate cages, at least while we were away. There was no way I could trust them to be together 24/7 without someone just coming in once a day to feed and water them. Not to mention how bad I would feel for the pet sitter if she came in to a blood bath and had to deal either with emergency medical needs due to injuries or worst case scenario, a body and a murderer.

Fortunately I had Toby’s old cage in the garage, so I pulled that out and spent the next couple of hours washing it down several times and stocking it with toys and perches. I now have justification for my excessive toy and perch hoard, since I had more than enough on hand to rig out an entire cage!

I moved Kelly into the Prevue Park Plaza since she had lived in it most recently during her quarantine last summer, but she did not tolerate the space. It’s not ideal for parakeets since it’s an 18” square but quite tall. She must feel very cramped and panicky in there because she just runs back and forth on the bottom looking for a way out.

Almost immediately I knew that wasn’t going to work out, but leaving her there to see if she would mellow out, Patrick and I went off to Petsmart to see if I could find a better option for her. They didn’t have any cages that I liked well enough to invest the money, unfortunately.

While we were still at Petsmart I checked our MiSafes Security Camera feed and I could see on our security camera app that even though it was night time dark, there was a white shape running rapidly along the floor off the cage, so before we even got home I had decided they were just going to have to sleep together that night and I would try Toby in the Prevue Park Plaza the next day.

Once we got home we let them out for a few minutes to try and get Kelly settled down and then moved her back to the big cage with Toby. There was some squabbling before bed, but nothing out of line, thank goodness.

The next morning I lured Toby into the Prevue Park Plaza and shut her in, crossing my fingers that she wouldn’t start freaking out like Kelly!  She lived in this cage the first 7 months we had her, so there was a good chance she would accept it, even if it wasn’t ideal.

While she seemed confused about what was going on she settled in pretty quickly and I breathed a sigh of relief. Before we go away I still need to make some modifications so they both have enough perches and enough to do, but it is a HUGE relief that I don’t have to worry about them killing each other while we are gone.

As far as a long term plan – once we come back from vacation I want to keep them separated for another week or so until we get back into a routine and everything is finally calmed down and on their schedule. They can still be out for flight time together so that’s a bonus and they will get socialization time then.  Once we feel comfortable we will try having them live together again and see if their time apart hit a reset button, as I’ve read that it can.

If not then they can continue living separately, as much as I don’t want to maintain two cages. Alternately we might consider adding in a male parakeet to try and break up the tension. As much as Toby and Kelly occasionally like each other, Toby more bonded to me at present, and Kelly really hasn’t bonded to anyone. My theory is that if she had a bond with someone it might take her aggression down a notch, but experts can feel free to weigh in and tell me I’m dreaming!