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Advice & welfare

Caring For Budgies

Budgies, or Budgerigars, are colourful parakeets native to Australia. They are inquisitive and very social little birds that can live for around 8-12 years. If trained, some budgies can even mimic human speech!

Nutrition

Budgies can be very fussy with their food and may require some encouragement to eat their vegetables and leafy greens. A balanced diet is important for the health of your budgie.Your budgies diet should consist predominantly of a high quality, pellet budgie food. In addition, they should be given a variety of vegetables, leafy greens and sprouted seeds daily and fruits once a week as a treat. For example, banana, apples, melon, broccoli, carrots and dark leafy green vegetables. Pellets are recommended over seeds because your budgies will tend to pick their favourite seeds from the selection and may not receive all the nutrients they require. Seeds are also high in fat and budgies can become overweight on a seed-based diet.

Fresh food should be replaced regularly (at least daily) to prevent budgies from eating spoiled food and/or prevent harmful bacteria from growing.

Fresh clean water must be available at all times. Wash food and water dishes daily in hot, soapy water and rinsed thoroughly.

Your budgies will also benefit from a source of minerals, such as a cuttlefish bone or mineral blocks designed for budgies, especially during moulting or breeding season.

Note: do not feed your budgies avocado, rhubarb, lettuce and fruit seeds as they can make them very ill.

Enrichment ideas: Foraging, e.g. methods of searching and acquiring food, is an important natural behaviour, which you can encourage by providing dietary enrichment. This can include hiding food inside foraging toys and treat boxes, fruit on skewers or other food items hanging from the side of the cage using bird-safe ties e.g. wood clips. You can make foraging toys from cardboard egg cartons, paper plates, popsicle sticks and cardboard boxes.

Environment

Budgies should be housed in aviaries, so they have plenty of room to fly. If you do not have space for an aviary, you can house budgies in large cages. Cages must be large enough that budgies have sufficient room to fly between perches (at least two wing beats) and fully extend their wings without coming into contact with the cage or any objects in the cage. As always with bird cages- the bigger the better!

Carefully consider the location of the cage in your home. Factors to consider include, protection from potential predators, e.g. cats, shade and shelter from all weather conditions, room temperature/ventilation and sound. Cages should be kept in a quiet area of your home, and away from cooking fumes, which can be toxic to birds.

Other items to provide in your budgies environment include:

  • Nesting boxes and cage cover, e.g. with shrubbery, so your budgie can feel safe and comfortable with places to hide and rest.
  • Multiple perches, of a variety of textures, diameters and lengths. Perches should be placed apart to encourage flying and never positioned above water or feed, to avoid contamination.

Budgies are very social and prefer to live in groups, therefore, it is recommended that budgies are house with a companion or two. Budgies can also form strong bonds with their guardians and will benefit from social interaction such as training.

Health

Just like other prey species, budgies are great at hiding their symptoms when unwell. It might not be until they are really sick that you will realise. Because signs of illness in birds are subtle, regular, preventative health examinations are important. A health check by your veterinarian with experience in avian medicine is recommended for newly adopted birds and once or twice a year thereafter.

You can also give your budgie regular health checks. Things to notice for include:

  • ‘Fluffed’ or huddled appearance.
  • Excessive loss of feathers, feather plucking or poor feather condition.
  • Sleepiness
  • Quietness or loss of voice
  • Changes to droppings – watery/diarrhoea
  • Increased effort in breathing
  • Vomiting or regurgitation
  • Bleeding, swellings, wounds
  • Overgrown beak
  • Not using wings or legs
  • Watery eyes or nostrils
  • Loss of interest in food

If you notice any of the above symptoms, please consult with your avian veterinarian immediately.

Moulting, i.e. the shedding of old feathers, is a natural process that occurs once to twice a year in birds. Moulting is required to get rid of old/damaged feathers to keep a healthy plumage. Feathers play an important role in maintain body temperature and flight. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your birds moulting patterns please visit your avian veterinarian.

SPCA opposes the permanent deflighting (e.g. wing clipping and pinioning) of birds, except when it is required for therapeutic reasons. If required for therapeutic reasons, it should be carried out by a veterinarian with appropriate pre and post-operative pain relief.

Behaviour

Budgies are social birds who live in large flocks and spend much of their time foraging for food.

You will need to keep their minds and bodies active and stimulated using toys, games and plenty of exercise. Budgies must have supervised out-of-cage time daily to fly, climb, explore in a safe space and get the exercise required to maintain physical and emotional health. Additionally, you can encourage exercise and exploration within their cages using wooden ladders, rope perches and tree stands. If you are letting your budgies fly free in your home, make sure you pick a safe and secure room, close all windows and doors, keep any other pets out of the room and remove all hazards e.g. turn off ceiling fans, hide electrical chords and household plants and cover any large mirrors and glass windows.

Budgies love to play so make sure to provide them with a variety of complex toys of different textures, materials, colours and shapes to keep them busy. Providing a dish of water to bathe in will also keep your budgie happy.

Enrichment ideas: Moveable perches, playing music to your birds, cardboard boxes with doorways cut out, cat balls with bells inside. For more information on behavioural training for birds, please see this resource developed by the Unusual Pet Vets.

Additional Information

Visit the SPCA Kids’ Education Portal (www.spca.nz/kids) for more information on caring for your companion birds, including enrichment and training tips and helpful videos!

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