Parakeets (budgies) are tiny and beautiful members of the parrot family, originally found in the dry grasslands of Australia. These cheerful companions are capable of living a long and healthy life if given the kind of care they deserve and need. Budgies are also easy to breed, and can become a very rewarding hobby. Two basic types exist: American, or small standard budgies, and English, or large size budgies.


If you are home frequently and can give your pet plenty of attention a single bird may do very well. However, remember that if your life becomes busier, it may be best to purchase a second bird later on (any sex). Budgies will not actually breed without the provision of a nestbox, and two males will get along as well as a true pair or two females. Budgies can be sexed once they are mature by looking at the cere or noseband. All adult females have a brown cere; most males have a blue cere, although lutino (yellow), albino, and pied budgie males have a pinkish cere.


An iodine block or a cuttlebone, and a treat cup containing oyster shell should be available at all times (except during illness). Regular gravel or grit is loved by budgies but the oyster shell makes a calcium rich substitute. VME seed is an excellent basic diet because fat soluble vitamins including vitamin A are added to hulled oat groats ( a favourite seed). However, the use of Prime is also recommended as trace minerals, amino acids and beneficial bacteria are also supplied by this product. Without Prime, or other animal source proteins, the budgie will not produce the beautiful feather quality they should after moulting. Sprinkle the Prime onto green treats such as sprouts, spinach, romaine lettuce, parsley, dandelions, clover and chickweed. Budgies can be offered green food in small amounts every day.


Standard parakeet cages are designed for budgies that will be allowed out each day for exercise. Talk to your veterinarian about safety during these excursions. Most budgies have the wings clipped during taming, but are allowed flight later on. However many dangers are found in the home - always supervise! If you need help trimming the wing feathers, ask your veterinarian or pet retailer. Many Hagen cages are easily disassembled to allow ready removal of the newly clipped young budgie for taming and training sessions. You may wish to remove any swings from the cage until tame, and you should add natural branches to the cage to supplement the standard perches. Fresh branches are great for perching and chewing - try willow, alder, ash, birch, or apple. Just remove the leaves and replace every 4-6 weeks.

Louise Bauck BSc, DVM, MVSc.

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