SPCA New Zealand

Thinking of adopting a budgie?

30 April 2019
Thinking of adopting a budgie?

Every year, thousands of animals of all shapes, sizes and ages come into SPCA centres around the country, all looking for a forever home. It’s important that the pet you choose to adopt is the right pet for your lifestyle. In this article, we discuss budgies!

Budgies, or Budgerigars, are colourful parakeets native to Australia. They are inquisitive and cuddly little birds who are the most popular parrot species to keep as pets. If trained, some budgies can even mimic human speech! This makes them a delightful companion for people but keeping a budgie as a pet isn’t all fun and games. Budgies are social birds who live in large flocks and spend much of their time foraging for food. They can also live for around 8-12 years, so make sure you and your family understand what’s required to become a long-term guardian for a Budgie, before you adopt.

More than just seeds

Budgies can be very fussy with their food! They tend to ignore the healthy options and pick out their favourite foods instead. To have a happy and healthy bird, the majority of your budgie’s diet should consist of a complete, formulated bird food (high quality pellets). Additional wholesome foods such as oaked or sprouted seeds/grains, legumes, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds, and some fruit should be added too.

There are a few things you should know about dry seed diets. Firstly, dry seed mixes lack variety, and are generally high in fat and deficient in important vitamins and minerals. Since budgies are fussy and pick out their favourite seeds, many pet birds don’t receive adequate nutrition on a high seed diet. Budgies fed solely on a high seed diet often become overweight and suffer from nutritional deficiencies. If feeding seeds as part of their diet, ensure your budgie gets as much variety as possible. Provide additional fresh vegetables, fruits, and supplements such as an iodine/calcium bell. Sprouted seed mixes are also much healthier than dry seed mixes.

During moulting or breeding season, your budgie may require supplements to keep them healthy. Cuttlefish or mineral blocks will offer your budgie additional calcium. Grit is also essential for birds that feed on seeds or plant material. It aids with digestion, breaking down seeds, and plant matter in the gizzard (the part of a bird’s stomach that grinds down food). Make sure grit is always available for your budgie!

The perfect environment

Don’t be fooled – many cages sold by the pet industry are far too small. The bigger the better! The ideal budgie environment is spacious so they can walk and fly freely, and if you’re not able to allow your budgie ‘outside flying time’, consider housing your pet bird in an aviary.

It’s also important to make sure your budgie’s environment:

  • Is safe and clean – protect them from predators or hazardous/toxic materials. Placement of their enclosure is key! For example, placing by the kitchen may put them in danger of cooking fumes.
  • Has suitable shelter – birds are prey animals and can feel vulnerable if they have nowhere to hide. Make sure you cover your budgie’s enclosure at night-time as they will feel more comfortable.
  • Has good opportunities for perching – these should be a variety of textures, widths and lengths. Remember to not place food or water containers directly under perches to prevent contamination.
  • Allows for foraging and mental stimulation – did you know wild budgies spend up to 70% of their time foraging for food? Offering enrichment in the form of training or puzzle toys is a great way to encourage this natural behaviour. When offering fresh foods, place them in different areas.
  • Allows for social interaction with other birds (and people if tame) – budgies should ideally be housed together with others of the same (or compatible) species. If this is not possible, they should be able to see other birds, but be careful, as some birds can bully others. Providing a mirror can help a lonely animal temporarily but this is not a permanent solution.
  • Allows for Interaction with your family – budgies can bond strongly to their owners but give your budgie plenty of time to adjust to you and their new surroundings. You can use positive reinforcement (food rewards) when training, but never punish a bird. This can make your budgie fearful of you, and sometimes escalate the unwanted behaviour instead.

SPCA recommends never to clip your bird’s wings. Flying is part of a bird’s natural behaviour and enables them to feel normal and safe. Instead of clipping wings, try training your bird to ‘fly down’, or ‘step up’, by rewarding them with food that they like for when they need to go back into their cage.

Health and welfare

Just like other prey species, budgies are also 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, changes in colour. But be aware that some vegetables can change the colour of budgies’ faeces (e.g. beetroot and carrot).
  • Increased effort in breathing
  • Vomiting or regurgitation
  • Bleeding, swellings, wounds
  • Overgrown nails
  • Not using wings or legs
  • Abnormally long beak
  • Eye or nasal discharge
  • Loss of interest in food/rapid weight loss – this is a major sign of ill-health.

If you notice any of the above symptoms, consult with your vet.

Lots of love and care

Budgies require just as much love and care as any other furry or feathered companion! But if you follow the above tips and tricks, we guarantee you will be rewarded with a happy and healthy budgie as your new family member.

Looking to adopt? You can view our animals available for adoption here.

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