Twenty million American families keep birds, and the greatest number of those birds are parakeets.
Parakeets are sweet-tempered, friendly birds. You can teach them to talk. They can keep you entertained for hours with their antics.
Parakeets aren’t hard to take care of, but they have some special requirements that make the difference in keeping your parakeets active and healthy.
In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know on how to take care of parakeets and give them a happy home.
What Are Parakeets, Anyway?
The most common kind of parakeet is Melopsittacus undulatus from Australia, also known as a budgerigar or budgie (we will refer to them as parakeets from here forward).
In nature, they live to be five to eight years old, but as a well-kept pet, they can live considerably longer.
Parakeets can have feathers in a variety of colors. They bond to their owners when you keep just one, but if you maintain a pair of parakeets, they will accept you as a member of the flock.
Parakeets love to play in their cages and will keep you endlessly amused if you buy them toys. And, of course, you can train a parakeet to talk.
Now let’s get to the nitty-gritty of basic care for parakeets. You don’t have to read these sections in any particular order.
Just scroll down the sections that interest you. We’ll start with buying your bird.
How to Select a Parakeet
It’s not unusual for parakeet parents to go into a pet store, walk up to cages full of adorable little parakeets, and point to one as they say, “Give me that one.”
However, you can find many different kinds of parakeets: tamed, untamed, parakeets in a vast variety of colors, even previously owned parakeets.
Which parakeet you should buy depends on what you want from your bird.
American parakeet or English budgie?
American parakeets and English budgies are basically the same bird, except the English budgie is about twice the size of an American parakeet and the American parakeet lives about five years longer than the English budgie, twelve years instead of seven.
English budgies tend to have mellower personalities than American parakeets.
Budgies are easier to train, but parakeets are easier to breed.
Fledgling or adult?
A fledgling is a young bird that has just come out of the nest and is only recently able to eat on its own.
Fledglings are most often sold at the age of six to eight weeks, although some breeders may keep them longer to make sure they are healthy.
The ideal time to start training a parakeet is when it is a fledgling.
It’s OK to buy an adult bird that is six to nine months old if it has had extensive interactions with people, but an adult bird that has never had human contact will take a lot more effort to train.
If you want a really sweet bird, find a breeder who will hand feed a baby bird for you.
Knowing how old your bird is
There are three ways of knowing how old your bird is:
- Bars on the head. Baby parakeets will have bars of colors on their heads. These bars become a solid color as the bird reaches adulthood.
- The cere. The cere is a tiny bit of flesh over the beak. It is pink or brown in adult females and dark blue in males (and is a way to tell the difference between the sexes). This appendage is a pale pink, brown, or blue in immature birds.
- Leg bands. Many states require breeders to band their birds. The leg band will have the breeder’s ID number engraved on it, as well as the state where the bird was bred, the year the bird was born, and a unique identifying number for the bird.
Green or blue or…
Most pet shops offer parakeets with yellow, white, violet, gray, or pied feathers, but parakeets come in over 70 different colors and color patterns.
Color doesn’t make a difference in how good a companion the bird will make. Just choose the color you like.
Male or female
Female parakeets tend to be temperamental. Male parakeets are more docile. Female parakeets will only learn a few words.
Male parakeets can learn hundreds of words and expressions.
When you are buying your bird
Buy your parakeet from a pet store that obviously cares about the welfare of pets.
If the pet store isn’t clean, there can be disease. Turn around and walk out. Any birds offered for sale should have food and clean water.
They shouldn’t be crowded. They should look healthy.
And if the sales staff doesn’t know what a parakeet is, or is rude when you ask questions, go somewhere else where you are more likely to find help with your bird later.
Parakeets are also available at swap meets and in flea markets. Your best bet is to find a parakeet breeder who specializes in raising and training parakeets for good homes.
Choosing the right bird is an essential first step in taking care of your bird. Now let’s consider some day to day practicalities of keeping your parakeet.
Home Tweet Home
Every parakeet parent faces the same basic questions in making a home for their bird:
- What’s the best cage?
- What do you do about the inevitable mess?
- Should the cage be covered or uncovered?
- Are there alternatives to cages?
Let’s take a look at these important questions in order.
The best cage for parakeets
Parakeets fly horizontally, so they need a bigger cage than some other birds. Bigger is better.
Don’t buy a small, pastel-colored cage designed for a kid’s room.
Ask the clerk at the pet supply store for a cage that is big enough for several birds, and then use it as a home for just one or two.
The cage should be your parakeet’s home, not its prison. Every parakeet needs a larger space to fly around in at least once a day.
Flying space for your bird should be free of hot stoves, household chemicals, fans, open windows and doors, mirrors that are too clean, electrical cords, medications, standing water (parakeets can drown in the toilet), and cats.
It’s important not to put your parakeet in a brass or copper cage.
The copper can be toxic to them. If you see your bird pecking at the coating on the bars of its cage, remove it immediately for another enclosure.
Better yet, buy an acrylic cage. Acrylic looks good and is pecking-proof.
Other things to keep in mind about parakeet cages
- Avoid cages with up-and-down guillotine doors. Your parakeet can get its head caught.
- Avoid cages with decorative scrollwork. Parakeets can get their toes caught in it.
- Always buy a cage with a grating over the floor to keep your parakeet away from its own mess.
The best liner for a parakeet cage is good, old-fashioned newspaper.
The ink sanitizes and deodorizes droppings, and the white paper makes them easier to see.
There are bird litter products for catching your bird’s waste, but people who use them tend to forget to clean the cage, which is something you should do every day.
Don’t use household cleansers on your bird’s cage. Many of them are deadly to birds. A mixture of one part vinegar in 10 parts of water is best for removing dried-on poop.
Where do you put your parakeet’s cage? Do you cover it?
You will have a happier parakeet if you place its cage where it feels secure.
Don’t hang the cage from the ceiling. Place it in a corner where your bird is protected by two walls.
It’s better to place the cage where your bird gets more attention rather than less, but make sure your bird isn’t in a place where there is traffic 24/7.
Your parakeet’s cage needs to be in a location that is free of drafts, warm enough at night, but not scorching hot during the day.
The location should be sunny and bright during the day and dark at night.
Some parakeets like their cage to be completely covered at night, while others like to have one side open so they can look out.
Your bird will let you know if you are covering too much or not covering enough by making a commotion at night.
Covers protect parakeets from lurking pets with carnivorous habits, and shield them from drafts.
Cover your bird’s cage for up to an hour every day so they can take a nap.
What about alternatives to cages for parakeets?
Some people build entire rooms onto their homes to provide their parakeets with an aviary.
The key thing to remember about keeping parakeets outside their native habitat is that they need protection to thrive, and for you to enjoy them.
Give them as much space as you can, but don’t let them get a taste of flying free outdoors.
That doesn’t sound too hard, does it? Housing your bird will take some planning, but it’s not hard to do. Now let’s consider feeding your bird.
Eating Like a Bird for Parakeets
It’s easy to overlook the one nutritional requirement that keeps your parakeet alive:
Parakeets need their water changed twice a day. If your water is heavily chlorinated, you should let it stand, covered, for a few hours before you give it to your birds.
Never let your bird’s water supply become filthy. This invites bacterial infections of their beaks.
Feeding parakeets also requires a little planning.
In the wild, parakeets feed on grass seeds. They fly as far as 30 miles (50 km) between stands of the grasses they like.
They need the fat and calories in seeds to keep them going.
In a cage, parakeets can be playful, but they never burn as many calories as they do in the wild.
That’s why you will need to give them a varied diet. Colorful fruits and vegetables provide vitamins and minerals.
A millet spray provides your bird with nutritious seeds and gives them a sensory experience similar to what they would encounter in the wild.
Commercial bird seed and pellets are OK, but they should never be your bird’s entire diet.
And there is one thing you absolutely must remember when you are changing your bird’s dietary routine:
Make changes to your parakeet’s diet slowly, over a period of a couple of weeks.
Parakeets that are offered strange foods will not eat them, and many will starve if they don’t get at least some of the foods they are used to.
Chances are that you won’t find your parakeet’s dietary requirements especially difficult.
Now let’s consider how your parakeet can have fun in its cage and how you can have fun with your bird.
Playtime for Your Parakeet
It’s not hard to keep your parakeet amused. Buy bird toys!
Parakeets love a variety of perches. They will spend hours crossing little bridges and rocking back and forth on swings.
But those aren’t all the toys that your parakeets will enjoy:
- Balls and beads. Parakeets love balls and beads. They are safe for parakeets, as long as they aren’t so small that they can swallow them. If you also have parrots, keep balls and beads out of their cages so they won’t choke on them.
- Rings and ladders. Make a parakeet circus that your parakeets will love with rings and ladders. They will use them even when you aren’t using them.
- Mirrors. Want to give your parakeets the feeling of living in a flock? Provide them with mirrors. Mirrors make your parakeet feel like they are living in nature. Just don’t put a mirror in a cage with a single bird, because it will become enamored of its reflection and protect it as if it were a flesh and blood bird. If you try to take away the mirror, your parakeet may bite you.
- Musical toys. Parakeets don’t just love to talk. They also like to sing. Give them a tune to learn with a musical toy.
Learn to “speak parakeet” to know how to train your bird to keep you amused
Your parakeets won’t have to be taught how to play on their own.
But for them to learn how to play with you, you will have to learn the basics of speaking their language.
- Dancing in front of the cage door. This is your parakeet’s way of telling you “Get me out of here.” Your bird wants to come out and play.
- Backing into a corner, wings outstretched, beak open. This is your bird’s way of telling you they are frightened.
- Shaking and fluffing. These are the gestures of a sleepy bird.
- Banging toys around. Your bird is feeling amorous.
- Head bowed down, as if in prayer. This is your bird’s way of telling you to give them a little neck rub.
If you can learn these simple signals, you will be able to time your training sessions with your bird so they can learn to talk.
It takes a lot of repetition for a parakeet to learn a word or a phrase, but they can be easier to train than some dogs.
These are the basics of what is required for a happy relationship with your parakeet.
Make sure you can meet the basics of bird care for your parakeet but know that parakeets aren’t hard birds to keep.
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- Can Parakeets Be Left Alone for a Few Days?
- Can Parakeets Die From Loneliness?
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- How to Tell Gender in Parakeets
- How to Prevent Mites in Parakeets?
- Why Does My Parakeet Keep Sneezing?
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