Choosing the Right Budgie: How to Choose the Right Budgie

Various Parakeets Inside of a Pet Store

Once you have decided that a budgie is a pet for you, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and purchase the first budgie that catches your eye.

Before you bring that budgie home, though, be sure you have thought about what you are looking for in a pet bird.

Color, age, gender, and health are just a few factors to consider.

How to Choose the Right Budgie

Choosing a Color

A large pet store is sure to have an array of colored budgies, ranging from solid white to solid yellow or solid blue, with all shades of yellow, green, and blue in between.

Does color make a difference in the quality of a pet? Probably not, as long as you plan to buy one of the common colors; some rare varieties have more health problems and may have shorter average life spans.

However, it is highly unlikely that any rare and problematic budgies will be available in your local pet store.

Instead, you will find birds in the typical colors and shades, all of whom are similar in behavior, health, and longevity.

Choosing the Sex

There are differences in behavior between the sexes of budgies, although none really makes one a better pet than the other.

Males tend to be outgoing compared with many females, and they whistle and sometimes talk better.

This is to be expected, since a male is constantly trying to woo a female to mate, and the quality of his calls certainly affects how a potential mate perceives his desirability.

Males often form very close bonds with their owners, even to the point of trying to feed them.

Females form bonds with their owners that can be just as strong as those of males.

Many females are not quite as vocal as males are, although they may still whistle well.

Females can be taught to speak, but females are less likely to speak as clearly as males do.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and speaking ability is often the result of an individual owner’s training efforts.

Remember that any speaking budgie talks rapidly in a very high voice that is difficult to understand, even at its best.

Adult females sometimes lay eggs even when there are no males to fertilize them, and they will try to incubate these infertile eggs.

It is also possible for a female budgie to become egg-bound. Egg binding is a condition when the female bird is unable to expel an egg from her body.

Causes can include insufficient muscle tone or a diet lacking in calcium and other minerals that allow a thick shell to form around the egg.

An egg-bound bird is restless; sits fluffed in a corner, and does not eat or drink.

If you suspect egg binding, call your bird’s veterinarian immediately; egg binding can be fatal.

Choosing the Right Age

Budgies mature quickly, and you should be certain the bird you choose is weaned before you buy her.

Choose an 8–12 week old budgie for adoption. Before this, it won’t be weaned or ready to leave its mother.

Budgies adopted before this age are likely to have behavioral issues.

A bird who is not fully weaned won’t be able to eat the adult diet you offer her.

At best, her development could be delayed; at worst, she could become sick and die.

Budgies typically wean when six to eight weeks old, but ask the breeder or store employee about the weaning status of your budgie, and make sure you see her eating adult food.

Better yet, make arrangements to select your perfect pet bird and leave her at the pet store for one to two weeks before picking her up.

This gives the store time to make sure the bird is weaned and allows you plenty of time to buy and set up the proper cage and accessories.

In most pet stores, budgies meet this requirement. However, stores are not required to provide proof of the budgie’s age.

Pet stores aren’t the only source for finding budgies.

Reputable breeders also have healthy birds, and pet bird owners and bird clubs are excellent sources for recommendations.

When you visit a breeder’s home or aviary, look for cleanliness, toys in the cages, healthy food, and plenty of room in the cages for the budgies to hop and flutter about.

Ask the breeder about his or her experience with budgies, and confirm that he or she will be available to answer any questions you have after you take your bird home.

Budgies are also sometimes available for adoption from animal shelters or through bird rescue groups.

Choosing a Healthy Budgie

Under no circumstances should you buy a budgie from a pet store or breeder’s aviary where there are sick birds as the chances of infection spreading are too likely.

Make sure the budgies are active, have bright and clean eyes, and are walking or fluttering around in the cages.

They should not be sitting still in a corner with their heads hidden in their feathers unless it is their normal nap time.

Ask to inspect individual birds while they’re being held by a store employee so you can touch the birds and look carefully at all their features.

First, check the head.

The eyes should be bright and clean and not be sunken into the face.

Young budgies’ eyes are virtually all blackish brown.

As they mature, a gray iris ring develops around each black pupil, becoming whitish in adults (although this is not true for some color mutations).

The beak should be well-formed, never asymmetrical, with a sharp upper point and a lower point that fits correctly into the upper beak.

Give the bird seed and see how it is handled; if the bird has problems hulling the seed, there is something wrong with either the beak or the tongue.

There must also be no mucus on the nostrils, which could indicate a respiratory infection.

Ensure the feathers are well-formed

The feathers of the body should be correctly formed and lie flat, without bare spots or twisted feathers.

(In an immature budgie, it is normal for the area over the crop to have exposed skin between the feathers.)

The feathers around the vent must be clean, with no signs of diarrhea.

Central tail feathers should be straight and not badly broken or twisted.

Damage from being in a small cage will usually be corrected with the next molt, but sometimes, twisted tail feathers are an ongoing problem.

There should be good muscling on either side of the sternum (the bird’s breast bone), and the wings should be strong when they are flapped.

A budgie with drooping wings may be sick.

Examine the droppings on the bottom of the cage.

Healthy budgie droppings will be uniform in consistency and appearance and won’t be runny.

Loose droppings are the result of diarrhea, which can be a symptom of many illnesses.

Be particularly cautious of bright yellow or lime green droppings, which could indicate the presence of disease.

However, keep in mind that the color of the droppings is greatly influenced by the color of the foods being eaten.

Check the feet and legs.

The skin should be clean (no packed feces at the folds or under the feet) and without sores.

Young budgies have relatively smooth skin on their legs and feet, whereas old birds often have many naturally rough spots.

There should be no enlarged bulges on the toe joints that indicate infection or damage.

The nails should be present on all the toes and must not be twisted; if they are long, the store employee should be able to show you how to trim them correctly.

Budgies’ feet are very important because budgies are ground-feeding birds that spend a lot of time walking around and feeding on or near the ground.

Healthy feet also allow the bird to get a proper grip on a perch.

So, if the budgie seems to have problems holding onto a perch and the perch is of the proper diameter, then something is likely to be physically wrong with the bird.

Check the personality

A budgie’s initial disposition toward people may depend on how she is raised: parent-raised, hand-raised, or hand-fed.

Her price will also vary depending on how she was raised, given the increased amount of time it takes to hand-feed and handle a bird.

Parent-raised (and therefore parent-fed) budgies may not be tame unless the pet store or breeder has been making a solid effort to tame them.

They may be hesitant to step up onto your finger and may not enjoy being petted.

Some budgie owners do not mind buying untamed budgies and are happy to tame them themselves.

Hand-raised budgies are fed by their parents until weaning, at which time the pet store or the breeder actively gets the birds used to being handled by humans by interacting with them several times every day.

Hand-fed budgies are fed by a human at some point before weaning.

Some may be fed by hand from the beginning, and others may be fed by the parents at first and then fed by hand for the last few weeks of weaning.

Some people use the terms hand-raised and hand-fed interchangeably, so ask pet store employees or breeders exactly what they mean when they use either term.

To judge the personality of an individual bird, observe her and then handle her yourself, perhaps over several visits to the pet store or breeder’s aviary.

Approach the cage slowly, allow the bird to come close to the front of the cage, and then extend your finger just in front of the bird’s belly, providing a perch.

You may also use your thumb as a perch, and then gently wrap your hand around the bird to lift her.

If you feel comfortable handling her and she seems comfortable and interested in being handled by you, you’ve found your match.

One Budgie or Two?

If you are a first-time budgie owner, start by purchasing a single budgie.

One bird will give you an idea of what it is like to have budgies as pets and whether you want to expand your bird family.

Allow your first bird at least three or four months to become acclimated to you and your home and to undergo basic training and bonding.

Once the first bird is fully bonded to you, it is okay to purchase a companion bird.

Don’t immediately put the second budgie (preferably a young bird) into the cage with the first one; instead, cage her separately near the first bird so the two have a few days or even weeks to get to know each other.

Introduce them gradually, perhaps in a neutral room or in a new play gym, and only under your supervision.

Although budgies are rarely aggressive by nature, female budgies are more aggressive than male budgies.

Never place two females together in the same cage.

When you are deciding which sex to buy, just remember that if you put a male and a female together, you will get eggs, so two males may be the best pairing for pet budgies.

Where to Buy Your Budgie

Most large pet stores always have at least a few budgies for sale, and some pet superstores may offer more than a dozen birds in a variety of colors.

Pet stores that specialize in pet birds will offer you the best selection of all.

Not all pet stores are equal, and it is important to check the appearance of a store and the health of its birds before you consider buying a budgie there.

Judge each store individually.

Most shops are clean, but occasionally you will find one that doesn’t meet even minimal standards.

You have to make some allowances for the messy nature of birds, which is especially noticeable when a few birds are housed together in a store.

If birds are overcrowded with no room for toys or to exercise, consider that a red flag.

Because so many avian diseases are transmitted through the air, it is never safe to buy a budgie from an unclean pet store.

Ask to be allowed into the back of the store to see how the birds are fed and handled—good stores should let you see how they handle their birds.

Ask the management and employees about budgies; do they really know about the birds, or do they give out bad information or ignore you?

The best stores often have friendly and helpful employees, and the worst have truly disagreeable employees.

Be sure to ask about the exact ages of the birds being sold: if the budgies have not yet been weaned, you will have to hand-feed your bird yourself, which can endanger her health if you aren’t experienced at hand-feeding.

­­­­­All reputable pet stores will offer some type of guarantee that covers the health of the bird for at least a few days after she leaves the shop—certainly long enough for you to take her to a veterinarian for a general examination.

Make sure the store will take the bird back if the veterinarian finds a problem.

It’s Your Decision

Every pet bird owner has different opinions on what makes the best budgie.

But you won’t go wrong if you buy a healthy, weaned budgie, preferably slightly immature or a very young adult (older birds may be difficult to bond with), of whatever color and sex you prefer.

Budgies live five to eight years on average, with some reaching twelve to fifteen years of age.

This means your pet may be with you for about a decade. Choose wisely!

A Visit to the Veterinarian

Plan to take your new pet to a veterinarian for a checkup as soon as possible.

A veterinarian can see problems you won’t notice and can give you a general evaluation of the bird’s health.

In many areas, the store’s warranty will not be valid unless the budgie is examined by a veterinarian.

There are usually time limits on warranties, generally from a couple of days to a week.

Veterinarians are trained medical professionals, and you should plan to spend perhaps three hundred to five hundred dollars (depending on the city) for a complete veterinary workup.

This may sound expensive for a bird that is likely to cost from twenty to seventy-five dollars, but it is essential for your pet’s long and healthy life.

You’ll need to budget for this veterinary cost, as well as for annual checkups.

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