Considering budgies as pets? Have a lot of questions about your pet budgie? What do budgies eat? What is their lifespan? What kind of cage do budgies like? What is their mating behaviour? We have been through all of these new budgie situations ourselves. Read on to learn from our lived experience.
Growing up we wanted to keep Budgies as pets. After learning to take care of fish, our parents lived up to their promise about getting us pet birds. We were excited and we chose budgies (or budgerigars) as our first pet birds. We enjoyed watching, interacting and taking care of them. We were so proud of our collection of pets – fish and budgies.
The budgies were on a different level altogether. The interaction level with a bird and a fish are very different. The birds acknowledged our presence by chirping and flapping, coming to the edge of the cage when we were about our daily chores of taking care of them. We watched them eat, drink, play, squabble and breed. We learnt to successfully breed budgies and learnt to tell when our birds were sick.
We hope through this article we are able to help you understand and take care of your budgie pets in the best possible way.
Understanding your budgie
Budgies are parakeets
Budgies are also called Budgerigars. Budgies belong to the parrot family, and further belong to the parakeet sub-family. Parakeets have a long tail and are typically smaller and have less stockier bodies than larger types of parrots. Parakeets’ size ranges from 7 to 18 inches, so they are considered small to medium-sized birds.
Budgies are small birds, measuring 6 – 7 inches long.
They have wingspans of 10 inches to 14 inches.
Beaks and Tails
They have a short beak, a long pointed tail and weigh anything from 25 – 35 grams.
Legs and Feet
A budgie’s legs are usually bluish-grey in colour. Budgies are unique because they have zygodactyl toes, which means that the second and third toes face forward and the first and fourth toes face backward. This characteristic makes budgerigars adept climbers and allows them to perch comfortably.
The cere is the part of the face that contains the nostrils, and you can determine the sex of a budgie by looking at it. The male budgie has a colourful cere after maturity, whereas the female budgie has a pale cere.
Budgies have tetrachromatic vision. They are able to see colours in the UV spectrum, and they take full advantage of it when mating and foraging.
Budgies have fluorescent feathers. This means that when you expose the feathers to ultraviolet light, they glow.
Budgies are gentle and docile birds; they are also very playful, active, and quieter than some other parrot breeds.
They are also very easy to tame. Budgies express themselves with sweet sound harmonies and are excellent talking parrots
Budgies and their colour
Budgies in the wild are green, with yellow heads, and black barring across the wings. All the other coloured budgies we see in pet shops are colour mutations that have been developed through selective breeding. You will not find budgies in the wild with these colour mutations.
Top 5 questions about Budgies as pets
1. What are the pros and cons of budgies as pets?
The Pros of having a Budgie as a pet
- Great for small homes and apartments: If you don’t have enough space to keep a larger pet, budgies are the best option. They take up very little room.
- Good pets for families with children: Budgies are very social, playful and active and bond with their owners. They even bond with other pets as well. They frequently learn behaviours and mimic voices and tones. They won’t bite as often and they don’t bite hard.
- Cheaper to buy: Budgies are pretty inexpensive when compared to the other bird pets available in the Indian market. You can buy one for anything from 200/- to 450/-
- Beautiful colours: Budgies come in so many colours: blue, cobalt, yellow, green, white, grey, rainbow and a combination of these colours with markings to mix and match you can pick whichever colour you fall in love with.
- Cheaper to feed: Budgies do have a varied diet but they are cheaper to feed when compared to the larger pet bird breeds.
- Easier to keep: All budgies need is a clean cage, fresh water, a mineral block, a variety of food and some toys. If you are short on time to interact with your budgie they will be perfectly happy with a companion budgie.
- Less mess: Budgies create less mess than larger pet birds.
- Quiet Birds: Generally, budgies are known to be quiet birds or at least not as loud as many other pet birds.
- Teaching tricks: Budgies are very intelligent birds and like to learn tricks and it would be good to devote 30 minutes a day. If you can’t then you can leave them to entertain themselves in a cage with lots of toys in it along with another budgie.
The Cons of having a Budgie as a pet
- Budgies easily get spooked: Budgies do not like loud noises and loud disturbances. They get easily spooked, if you have an aggressive pet like a dog or a cat or even a child who constantly attacks the cage you will find your budgie very nervous and skittish.
- Teaching tricks needs time: Teaching tricks to an older bird is hard. If you are interested in teaching tricks to your budgie you need to get a younger one. It requires you to devote time and patience to teaching your budgie tricks.
- Budgies are fragile: They are known to fall sick quite often if the basic care and diet is not provided. They are prone to liver diseases and tumours and require medical attention. They are also very good at hiding their illnesses.
- Work on Human Interaction: If you want your budgie to interact with you and your family then you should get a young one and let it out on a daily basis and encourage it to interact with you. It doesn’t happen automatically, you need to put in the effort.
- Depression and Companionship: They are happiest with their own kind. A single budgie might get depressed and stop eating. Budgies do better with friends. But try to bond with your budgie for a couple of months before getting another.
- They can be a bit destructive: Depending on your budgie’s personality, they might enjoy chewing up things, tearing things, basically anything that they can get their beaks into.
- Great escape artists: Budgies are highly intelligent little birds. You will have to constantly watch your windows and doors to make sure they don’t fly away while they’re out and make sure their cage door is not something they can open on their own.
- They poop every 5-10 minutes: Watch out when you let them out of their cage. You might find a lot of poop all over your house.
- Budgies are sensitive to chemicals: Budgies are unusually sensitive to chemicals. Be careful of what kind of cleaners you use to clean their bowls, your house, their cage.
2. What is the lifespan of a budgie?
There are a number of factors that influence the lifespan of budgies. It is said that budgies can live from 5 years to 8 years. The living conditions, availability of food and water play a major role. These small birds often fall prey to predators.
In our caged species the following play a major role.
Diet: Our feathery friends are mostly fed on a diet of seeds and this leads to deficiencies, obesity and other liver issues resulting in shorter lives. See our budgie diet section to learn more.
Breeding: In order to produce budgies in mass for the pet industry and selective breeding to obtain a certain colour. The quality of the stock has been neglected so recessive genes have been expressed. These genetics have led to budgies having defects, compromised immunity and finally leading to shorter life spans.
Care: The other factors are their cage size and the amount of exercise they get. Budgies are susceptible to many chemicals around your house like dishwashing liquid, cigarette smoke, perfumes etc, so they need a space with clean, fresh air.
Budgies are escape artists and do themselves major injury while trying to escape their cages and we’ve learnt through experience even if they do make out to the wild world outside their chances are slim. We had an unfortunate incident with our budgie who escaped her cage and she flew out and before we knew it a hawk got her. Budgies are prone to stress, so constant loud noises, other pets annoying them, or even just being alone without a companion can make them very depressed.
All these factors contribute to the lifespan of your budgie.
3. What do budgies eat?
Budgies are ground-feeders that eat primarily seeds and plant material in the wild. But like many animals they need carbohydrates, fats, proteins, fibre and trace minerals and vitamins.
A good diet should have a good combination of seeds both wet and dry, pellets, veggies and green leafy vegetables and fruit. The proportions can be as follows:
- Seeds 30%
- Pellets 40%
- Vegetables 20%
- Fruits 10%
Seeds: Budgies in the wild have to work a lot to get their seed and they get a lot of exercise that helps burn off the fat. Our caged birds don’t have to live the wild life and hence It is important to give them seeds in moderation. While seeds provide good nutrition they are high in fat and lead to obesity, fatty tumours, liver and kidney issues.
Seed can be provided to them in the form of soaked sprouts. Take a good mixture of seeds and soak it overnight and let them start sprouting. This sprouting also increases the nutrient value.
It is important to provide your budgie with both wet and dry seeds.
Pellets: Pelleted diets are a good choice for birds, as they are nutritionally balanced. When you get yours from a pet shop or Amazon ensure you pick one with no added flavours, colours and preservatives.
Vegetables and Green Leafy veggies: Provide your budgies orange, yellow and dark green veggies. Carrots, broccoli, spinach, coriander, mint, dill, purslane, tridax. Store bought budgies are so used to eating seeds that it is difficult for them to transition to eating their veggies. We suggest you keep trying. If your bird doesn’t eat it today, try again a week later. Experiment with different veggies.
Fruits: Fruits and berries are a good source of vitamins. You can offer your budgie fruits on alternate days. It is important that you deseed any fruits that are known to have seeds or pits. Seeds carry trace elements of cyanide which is definitely not good for your budgie.
Boiled egg: To help add protein to budgies’ diet many feed their birds boiled egg. In small quantities is fine.
Mineral block or cuttlefish bone: Put a block or small cuttlefish bone into the cage to prove the trace minerals and calcium that helps with egg laying and with their bones.
Water: It goes without saying that water should always be at hand and made available. Budgies have a tendency to bathe in and soil their water. It is important to keep their water dish clean and free from faecal matter to prevent bacterial infections.
Foods that need to be avoided are:
- Uncooked Beans (legumes)
- Milk based products
Leftover fruits and vegetables should not be left for more than half a day. Budgies are susceptible to infections and rotting food is one way to encourage infections
4. What do budgies like to play with?
Budgies need toys for their mental and physical health and wellbeing. They can become bored, stressed and lonely. Toys help stimulate the visual and hearing senses. Toys encourage them to move around and exercise. They also help build the bond between you and your bird especially when you play together.
Budgies enjoy chew toys, puzzles, balls, swings, cardboard, ropes, birdie bangles, ladders, balls, and shredding toys. It is a controversial topic but many people suggest adding mirrors as toys. Our personal suggestion is to try it out and if your budgie is getting stressed and doesn’t seem to be comfortable with it then take it out.
5. What kind of cage do budgies like?
Pick a spacious cage: Budgies are active little birds and get most of their exercise from flying. In the wild they would be foraging, climbing and hanging upside down to get at food. It is our responsibility to provide them with enough opportunities to exercise. The cage should be rectangular to provide more horizontal flying space. Budgies also like corners for them to hide especially when they are stressed. There are beautiful, round cages but for a bird like a budgie they will just not do.
An ideal cage size for a pair of budgies is 1.5 feet by 2.5 feet. The more space you can provide the happier these little pets can be.
The Bar spacing: The bars of the cage should be appropriately spaced half an inch is good. Try getting a cage with both horizontal bars and vertical bars to prevent them from escaping and also to prevent rodents from entering the cage.
Sturdy Cages: Budgies love to chew and are capable of chewing certain materials and they use their beaks to escape. For a cage to provide the security your budgie requires, find one that is made out of metal, wire or stainless steel. Avoid cages that might be made of lead or zinc.
Safety locks: Budgies are intelligent little birds and use their beaks to open doors. As it happens, sliding doors are easy for them to open. Find something that has a safety latch.
Cage has easy access: you require a cage that is easy to access without the trouble of the birds flying away. Have a cage large enough for your hand to go in conveniently to place and replace food and water without them flying out. Your cage should have a tray at the base that easily slips out for regular cleaning.
How to set up a budgie cage?
Location: Place the cage away from direct sunlight, away from the rain in a nice ventilated place
Line with paper: The tray should be lined with paper or newspaper to catch the extra seeds, the chaff from the seed, their droppings and other discarded items. Lining it with paper makes it more convenient to clean.
Water and Food Bowls: It is important the cage has a particular place where you can keep water and food for your budgies with easy access for you to be able to replace them whenever needed and as many times as needed.
Perches: A good cage setup will have multiple perches placed at different levels to encourage them to jump from one perch to the other. Ensure the perches are not placed over water bowls and food bowls as they tend to get contaminated with bird droppings and require replacement more often. Adding natural tree branches also work and your budgies might enjoy chewing at it as well.
Toys: To cater to your budgies’ playful, intelligent and inquisitive nature, provide toys such as bells, ladders, swings, and mirrors to prevent depression and boredom.
Treats: You can get clips to offer treats like green leafy veggies, millet heads, cuttlefish bone. You can also put in fruits and veggies on skewers. It is easier to clean especially since you should take them out within a half a day of giving your budgies these treats.
6. Bonus Question – How to budgies mate?
Budgies reach full maturity at about 8 months of age.
If your budgie has stripes all over his head down to the base of the beak, it is a juvenile. The first moult happens around 4 months of age, after which the head with bars is replaced with a solid colour of yellow, white, blue or green.
At 4 months you can tell the genders apart by looking at the cere. (the part where the nostrils are) Females will begin to transition from pink cere to a white cere. As the female grows the cere changes colour to a tan colour and this happens around 6 months. When the female reaches sexual maturity at about 8 months the cere becomes a chocolate brown colour.
Males will transition from pink cere to purple. As males reach sexual maturity the cere turns to a bright blue.
How do budgies mate?
When the male budgie follows the female around, tapping and touching her beak to get her into the mood. When she finally accepts she will lift her tail in the air, raise her wings to let the male know that she has accepted him as a mate. The male will then get on top of her and perform the cloacal kiss which results in him depositing sperm and rubbing from side to side. This process is short but will happen many times in a day .
What is the mating behaviour of budgies?
The early signs of mating are when you begin to see your budgies perching, feeding and preening each other. The male does a lot of head-bobbing and feather-fluffing accompanied with a song and gets into a hyperactive state. The female watches and listens, but does not join in. She has her own mating song.
What is the mating season of budgies?
Budgies start breeding from the month of October and continue through March, They also breed after the rains.
So those are the top 5 questions about budgies as pets. Let us know if the answers helped you understand your budgie better. Let us know in the comments below.
Picture Credit – Pixabay