Many first-time parrot owners are surprised at the amount of care, time, and money a pet bird requires.
Some people believe that a pet bird simply sits passively in a cage all day and is content as long as he receives regular food and water.
In truth, parrots are highly intelligent, extremely social creatures who crave regular interaction, need a specialized diet, and require regular veterinary care.
You’ll discover that caring for a pet bird isn’t much different than caring for a cat or dog.
So, to determine if a budgie is right for you, ask yourself the following questions.
Can you afford the time it takes to care for a budgie? You will need to feed your bird each morning and evening and replace his water every day.
You also will need to spot-clean his cage, toys, and perches daily and do a thorough cleaning every week.
Budgies have high metabolisms and produce feces approximately every ten to fifteen minutes.
Although many cages have seed guards, or aprons, around the edges to help funnel droppings, food crumbs, and seed hulls back into the cage, some debris will certainly escape.
If you believe that vacuuming, sweeping, and dusting are dreaded chores, then a budgie—or any pet bird—probably isn’t right for you.
Secondly, do you or does anyone in your household have allergies?
Birds constantly shed small flakes of skin and secretions from around their feathers, and they spread dried dust from droppings, pelleted foods, and seeds.
Some people are just as allergic to birds as others are to cats or dogs.
Although allergies can be treated and are seldom severe, dealing with them certainly would be an added expense and nuisance.
Thirdly, can you afford the time to give your bird at least an hour of one-on-one attention each day, along with a few hours of ambient attention?
This means spending time in the same room, talking to the budgie, and supervising his playtime on top of the cage or a play gym?
Budgies are companion birds. They are among the most human-centered pet birds and will become depressed if simply placed in their cages and ignored.
Budgies need company because they are flock animals that are never alone in the wild —other birds are near them when they fly, feed, sleep, and even nest.
A lonely budgie may pick his feathers and tear his skin into bleeding patches; he won’t eat and will become withdrawn and morose.
As his owner, you are part of his flock, and he will demand your attention for as many hours a day as you can manage.
So, can you put down your work or set aside hobbies and housework so you can interact with your bird every day?
Are you willing to forego long vacations or even overnight visits to keep your bird company?
Or are you willing to find and pay a bird sitter to watch your budgie when you do go away?
Or do you have a trusted friend or neighbor who likes birds and would be willing to come by each day to spend time with your bird and refresh his food and water?
Fourthly, will your neighbors tolerate a bird in your home? Or are there local laws against keeping budgies?
Some cities and states have passed laws that exclude all or most exotic pets, and budgies are still considered exotic in some places (even though they have been bred in captivity for a century and a half).
You probably won’t have any problems, but if you live in a large city such as Chicago or New York City, it is best to check for recent changes in the laws.
Apartment complexes and condominium developments often exclude pets of all types on the basis that they are a potential bother to neighbors.
Budgies have relatively soft voices for parrots, but they can still call and whistle fairly loudly, and this can carry.
So, if you suspect there will be a noise problem, check with the owners or the management before investing in a pet that you may painfully have to give up later.
Responsible bird owners obey the law and respect their neighbors.
Lastly, are you prepared for the financial responsibilities of caring for a budgie?
A safe, quality cage will cost more than a bird, although the cage should last for years.
And you will be amazed at how many accessories you can buy to make your bird more comfortable or your cleaning efforts easier.
You’ll also have the ongoing expense of high-quality food, as well as new toys and perches to replace those that become dirty and worn.
One or two budgies are not expensive birds to maintain, but accidents and illnesses do happen, requiring veterinary visits and surprisingly large bills for such small birds.
Can you budget for both the expected and the unexpected?
How Fragile Are Budgies?
Compared with mammals, all birds are relatively fragile. And, budgies are relatively fragile when compared to larger birds.
So, you need to be aware of the following physical characteristics before you purchase a budgie.
Budgies have complex respiratory systems that require the ribs to move in and out when they breathe.
Holding a budgie too tightly will restrict his breathing and could lead to death.
Their bones are hollow and fragile and contain extensions of the lungs, so a broken bone not only affects the bone but also leaves the lungs open to infections and bleeding.
Birds bleed easily around the bases of feathers that are erupting through the skin. This is called pin-feathers, blood feathers, or feather shafts.
If these feathers are injured, the bleeding can sometimes be difficult to stop.
Budgies, like most birds, also have fewer fat reserves to tide them over if they miss a meal or suffer minor ailments, and often they show signs of diseases only just before dying.
Budgies react wildly to sudden movements and even loud noises.
Their typical reaction is to try to fly away from the disturbance, which can lead to deadly collisions with cage bars, toys, windows, or furniture.
The fact is that budgies are small, lightweight, relatively delicate pets who at the same time, enjoy being handled and petted.
Just keep this in mind: always handle your budgie gently, and avoid approaching his cage suddenly.
Do you or any other members of your family smoke? If so, a parrot isn’t the pet for you.
Budgies, and indeed all birds have highly efficient lungs that allow them to take in oxygen rapidly and process it more thoroughly than, for instance, a mammal does.
As birds take in oxygen, they take in any other compounds in the air, including secondhand smoke.
Exposure to smoke of any kind can lead to respiratory disease and early death in birds.
Pet birds are also negatively affected by the exposure to nicotine and other chemicals that remain on a smoker’s hands.
When a smoker pets his or her bird, or when a bird perches on a smoker’s finger, these toxins are transferred to the bird.
The bird’s feathers and feet become irritated, leading to highly destructive feather picking and intense foot chewing.
So, exposing your bird to any potentially toxic fumes, such as those created by household cleaners or cigarette smoke can be deadly to him.
Budgies and Kids
Do you have young kids in the home? Budgies are good pets for children, but only under the supervision of an adult.
These birds need to be fed twice a day, every day, which most children under twelve may not be able to do consistently without guidance.
And you can expect only the most responsible child to change a budgie’s cage papers regularly without prompting from an adult.
Safety is another concern.
Children may accidentally injure a budgie, perhaps by grabbing him tightly or throwing him when surprised by the bird’s quick nip or scratch.
Talk with your child about how to hold a budgie, what kinds of behaviors to expect (like small nips or taps of the beak), and how to respond.
But be prepared to always supervise playtime between children and budgies.
Budgies and Other Pets
Do you share your home with other pets?
If you have fish in an aquarium or perhaps a lizard in a terrarium, you’ll have no problems.
However, if you have cats, dogs, or even other pet birds, there is a potential for conflicts.
What Birds Can Live With Budgies
Budgies cannot share their cages with larger birds, and even relatively small lovebirds and cockatiels may pick on budgies, pulling out feathers and trying to nip at their toes and eyes.
Budgie and Snake
Snakes are a no-no, of course, as most would regard a budgie as a great snack, and snakes escape from their cages often enough to simply not be safe to keep in the same house as a budgie.
Budgie and Dog
Dogs sometimes adapt to having a budgie around the house, and many will ignore a bird or even treat him with gentle respect.
However, even the smallest breeds of dog (who are more likely to chase a hopping or low-flying budgie than larger breeds are) can kill a budgie with a single snap of the jaws or by a scratch.
Some people have had success gradually introducing (and always supervising) dogs and budgies, but it certainly cannot be recommended without caution.
Budgie and Cat
Cats are even more dangerous—any cat that deserves the name will look at a budgie as either prey or toy, and if the cat can reach him, the bird will be killed.
Cats have sharp teeth and nails, all of which can wound a budgie with just a touch.
And the bacteria carried by a cat’s teeth and nails quickly produce infections that will kill most slightly wounded birds within a few days.
Cats and budgies are a fatal combination.
Budgie and Guinea Pig or Rabbit
Guinea pigs and rabbits may adapt to having a budgie around when both are free in a safe room, but they are clumsy enough to accidentally trample a budgie.
Hamsters, Rats, and Mice
Hamsters, rats, and mice may consider budgies prey—or at least worth a curious nibble that could have disastrous results.
A curious budgie who is investigating a caged small mammal may become tangled in the bars of the cage or react in fright to a sudden movement in the cage, causing the bird to panic and inadvertently jump or fly into a wall, window, or furniture.
These warnings aren’t meant to discourage you; they’re just to give you a realistic picture of what pet bird ownership is like.
So, think carefully about how owning a bird will affect your household before rushing out to buy a budgie.