Where should you get your first Parakeet?

So, you’ve read up on caring for parakeets, researched everything they need and thought about how you can integrate a cage into your home.  And after all that, you still want to become a parakeet parent!  Now all that’s left is to find your budgie.  There are a few ways to get a parakeet, let’s explore some pros and cons to each.

Bird rescue or shelter:
There are a lot of huge “pros” to rescuing a parakeet, namely that you are changing the life of that bird forever.  Many parakeets are surrendered to shelters and rescues; there is a misconception that parakeets are quite easy to care for, short-lived, or not disruptive.  Of course none of these things are necessarily true.  In order to have physically and mentally healthy parakeets you have to provide a lot of physical objects and a lot of your time. Parakeets can live from 15-20 years, which is equal or greater than many dogs and cats. Parakeets cannot match the noise level of, say, a sun conure, but they can be very loud and their voices are not always pleasant.

For these reasons and countless others parakeets are frequently surrendered and you will easily find many in need of new homes.  A rescue near me currently has upwards of 10 parakeets that need new homes.

There are some cons to a rescue parakeet:
– many rescues will not allow you to adopt a single parakeet, which makes sense, because parakeets are flock birds and can be quite miserable living solo, even if their human flock spends a lot of time with them.  I agree that parakeets should not be kept solo, but I concede that new owners may wish to try bonding to a single parakeet for their first.
– Rescues will potentially want to do a home visit, which is again totally reasonable, but might be off-putting. Ultimately they are just trying to make sure that you are ready for parakeet parenthood and not visiting your home to be judgmental, but again, I see a home-visit as a potentially intimidating prospect!
– They may expect you to provide vet references and/or the name of the vet you will take the parakeet to.
– The budgies available for rescue will almost certainly not be babies and may be more difficult to bond with and tame, depending on their prior circumstances.

Reading over the list of cons it might seem like I am not in support of bird rescues!  Far from it, I hope my next parakeets are from a shelter or rescue. I simply want to point out all of the due diligence the rescues undertake to ensure the parakeets are not surrendered to them again and again in an infinite loop of unprepared owners.

Local or home-based breeder:
Selecting your parakeet from a small breeder will guarantee you get a very young parakeet. Some home breeders hand feed the babies, and some let the parents deal with feedings but make sure the babies are introduced to humans as early as possible and are handled as frequently as is healthy for them.

Either way, a small breeder baby will have had way more positive experience with humans than a parakeet from a big box pet store or possibly even a rescue parakeet.

Another pro to the local breeder is that you may have the opportunity to visit and bond with your baby before they are ready to leave their parents. Some breeders will allow you to come by as often as you like in the weeks leading up to taking your new baby home. You can also vet the parakeet’s living conditions and make sure you get a parakeet from someone you feel comfortable with – who will also probably also be able to answer all your questions about caring for parakeets, and might even be available to you after the fact for further questions.

Some cons about home based breeders
– It can be hard to find a reputable home-based breeder. There are people breeding parakeets out of their homes who do not have a lot of experience and/or don’t take much care, and that could result in sick or injured babies.  You also need to be sure they are not breeding closely related parakeets.  In this instance, you have to do your due diligence, make sure you visit them and that the parakeets are well-kept, clean, healthy and that you are comfortable with the set-up and the breeder.
– There’s a perception that a hand-fed or frequently handled baby will be easier to tame/friendlier to humans.  This is not always the case and you may be in for a disappointment! Our small breeder girl is much meaner than our pet store girl.  Some things are just down to the individual parakeet’s personality.  Our breeder was working on some great color mutations with our parakeet’s clutch and sometimes we jokingly wish she’d been working on temperament instead!

I don’t have a ton of cons for the small breeder, just be sure you do your research and feel good about the conditions of the birds being bred and how the babies are raised.

Big box pet store:
Compared to the other options it is extremely easy to get a parakeet from a big pet store. Just decide today’s the day and go to the pet store.  Literally no one will ask you if you are qualified to purchase a parakeet or have anything prepared in your home to care for it.  The parakeet will be extremely affordable and may even be “on sale”.

If you take a day or two, you can cruise by every pet store in your vicinity and make a selection from upwards of 50 parakeets. Although you may not be able to handle them beforehand, you can observe for as long as you like and get a sense of the personality of each bird.

You also can choose from a lot of different color mutations, and additionally, if you want one sex or another you will certainly find what you are looking for.

Although their living conditions will likely not be ideal, you can also easily ascertain whether the parakeets are kept clean and comfortable.  By knowing what to look for you can also visually check to see that the parakeets are healthy.

There are, of course, some cons associated:
– These parakeets have likely never been handled by humans.  They were raised by their parents until ready to go and then packed into boxes and shipped off.  They are about as feral as it gets and it can take months of hard work to gain their trust.  (Counter point – winning their trust is one of the MOST rewarding experiences you can ever imagine)
– Their living and breeding conditions were probably not great, thus increasing the chance of injured or sick birds. Some injuries and illnesses may not be visible at the time of purchase.
– Inability to tell whether the parakeet has been bred from closely related parakeets.
– Lack of support during and post purchase – with the home based breeder and the rescue you will have a point of contact that could help answer your questions about your new parakeet. Big pet stores do not typically offer that kind of service, and in fact most of the employees know next to nothing about parakeets.
– By purchasing your parakeet at a chain pet store you perpetuate the system of potentially unethical breeding and over-breeding.  I’ve done this myself, so I am certainly not casting stones. With so many parakeets in need of homes, it can be seen as a “bad” thing to support the system.

Final Thoughts:
Since parakeets are fairly addictive, once you start you’ll probably have an opportunity to try every method of acquisition.  For a first-timer, my recommendation would be to find a local or home-based breeder, I believe that you’ll get a lot more support pre and potentially post-purchase.  As superior a choice as adopting parakeets from a shelter is, I think the desire to have a baby parakeet to bond with is inescapable and valid as well, particularly for a first time owner.

To be fair, I also felt it was pretty magical picking out our Petsmart baby, and I want to give them a shout-out for having clean living conditions and friendly (if not particularly knowledgeable) employees.  I would not trade our experience of taming Toby for anything in the world, and I think the fact that we put in so much one-on-one work has made our bond with her exceptionally strong.  Although there were periods of despair along the way where it seemed like she would never trust us, the moment I realized she was excited to see me come home from work was full of unparalleled excitement and pride.

As far as drawing any conclusions – I personally think all of these options can work out perfectly well, or fail spectacularly!  There are no guarantees that any parakeet you take home will be healthy and have a good temperament.  And no matter where they come from you will have to put in work to fully tame your parakeet and maintain a bond, there is definitely no easy way out on that one!