Caring For Ring-Necked Parakeets
Indian ring-necked parakeets are very intelligent, social and active birds. They are natives of Africa and India and can live up to 30 years! Most males will have a black line around their neck, which is where they get their name.
Indian ring-necked parakeets, also known as rose-ringed parakeets, are one of the few parrots to adapt to urban habitats, likely facilitated by their highly generalized diet. Ring-Necked parakeets feed on wide variety of seeds, fruit, nuts, vegetables, leafy greens and other vegetation. A balanced diet is important for the health of your parakeet. In addition to seed, fruits such as apples, banana, berries and melon, and veggies such as broccoli, corn, carrots, spinach, peas and sweet potato, make great daily snacks. They will even enjoy cooked chicken!
Note: Avocado, rhubarb, chocolate, onion, garlic and many household plants are toxic to parakeets.
Fresh food should be replaced daily (ideally twice a day) to prevent parakeets 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.
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.
Parakeets should be housed in aviaries, where there is enough room to fly. Parakeets should be at least 3m long x 2m wide, however the longer the better! Solid netting is required to prevent escapees as parakeets can chew through soft netting. Place nesting boxes and potted trees inside aviaries to provide shade, shelter and resting places.
If you do not have space for an aviary, you can house parakeets in large cages. You should use cages constructed from solid, sturdy material, such as metal, as parakeets can chew through softer materials. It is therefore also important that any wood used in their cage, for perches, hides, etc., is untreated. Cages must be large enough that parakeets 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. Parakeets require a larger cage than another bird of the same size to protect their long, beautiful tail feathers. As always with bird cages- the bigger the better!
You can partially cover the cage with shrubbery and provide nesting boxes so your parakeets can have some privacy and a place to rest. Multiple perches, with space for all birds must be provided. You can provide perches made from natural branches and of differing diameters. Perches should be placed apart to encourage flying and never positioned above water or feed, to avoid contamination.
Parakeets have liquid droppings and therefore, having solid flooring and lining the cage floor with shredded newspaper may assist with cleaning. Remove and replace the shredded newspaper daily.
Carefully consider the location of the cage in your home. Factors to consider include, protection from potential predators, e.g. your neighbours cat, shade and shelter from all weather conditions, room temperature/ventilation and soundproofing, for both the parakeets and yourselves as parakeets can be loud and unfamiliar sounds may frighten them.
Parakeets are highly social and therefore should be housed in pairs to ensure their needs for social interaction are met. Parakeets will also benefit from human interaction and will often consider their human family as part of their social “flock”.
Note: It is very important that your parakeets are kept in secure aviaries and cages. The Indian ring-necked parakeet (Psittacula krameri manillensis) is an introduced species to New Zealand and is classified as an Unwanted Organism under the Biosecurity Act 1993. Whilst it is legal to keep parakeets as pets, it is illegal to release parakeets into the wild (including if they escape), as they pose a threat to native bird species.
Just like other prey species, ring-necked parakeets are experts at hiding or ‘masking’ symptoms when unwell. It might not be until your parakeet is very ill that you will see signs of sickness. Therefore, regular, preventative visits to your avian veterinarian is important. Your parakeet should visit the vet at least once a year for a health check. Signs that something is not right could include:
- Feather plucking
- Reluctance to move
- Open-mouth breathing
- Fluffed feathers (appears fatter)
- Eyes closed, eye discharge or swelling
- Reduced appetite or not eating
If you notice any of these signs, please consult your avian veterinarian immediately.
Parakeets love to chew on almost anything, which can cause problems if they chew and ingest things they shouldn’t, such as metals. Lead and zinc are the two most common metals causing heavy metal positioning in birds. Signs associated with heavy metal toxicity include vomiting/regurgitation, wobbly balance, and weakness. Please consult your avian veterinarian immediately if you notice any of these signs.
Note: Make sure all toys given to birds are free of metals that can be toxic (i.e. lead and zinc).
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.
Parakeets are very intelligent, social and active birds. They are excellent talkers and enjoy a good challenge, which can make training a lot of fun for both the owners and the birds!
You will need to keep their minds and bodies active and stimulated using toys, games and plenty of exercise. They 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 parakeets 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.
Parakeets 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 you parakeet happy.
Normal daily activities for parakeets including foraging, bathing in water, preening i.e. tidying and cleaning feathers, and socializing. Parakeets occur in large flock in nature, which provides them with socialisation and a sense of security when flying, roosting and feeding. It is recommended to house parakeets with a housemate of the same species and arrange their cage in way that provides security. Observe your parakeet and become familiar with their normal behaviour and routine, so then you can more easily recognize when your bird is stressed or shows a fearful reaction to an event.
Indian ring-necked parakeets are known for their impressive talking abilities. They can be quite loud and noisy, so it important to consider if they are suited for your home. Parakeets can also be nippy, so be careful when introducing your lorikeet to children and other pets. Biting can be prevented with regular daily handling, however it is important to take this process slowly and let your parakeet get used to you and other family members at their own time and pace.
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.
Visit the SPCA Kids’ Education Portal (www.spca.nz/kids) for more information on caring for your companion birds, including enrichment and helpful videos!