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Haylesbury on the budgie. Inside and out!
Member Name: haylesbury
Advantages: Brilliant pet, great when you get a talker!
Disadvantages: Not able to take out with you!
It is very important to consider all aspects of the animals welfare when keeping a budgie in captivity. The natural environment which the budgie is homed in must be fully planned and evaluated to ensure that it fulfils the budgies needs as well as remembering that this is a commercial animal collection so the enclosure design and suitability must match the needs from the publics perception. This includes looking into the size, enrichment, cleanliness and security of the enclosure with special considerations of the animals welfare and the publics perception of the enclosure and animal/s within it.
The size of the enclosure should be large for the budgerigar. People will often keep budgies in small cages as pets, but this is not suitable for a budgie being kept within an animal collection as the area which the bird is kept in should look as natural and similar to the budgies natural environment. This is important for the public to be able to see and learn from and to provide the animals with suitable enrichment to prevent abnormal behaviour. The aviary can never be too large for budgies, but the aviary should not go above around 4m by 4m within a commercialised business as the public may then be unable to see the budgies fully which ruins the public perception, however with homing budgies at your own property and not for business, you can never get too big for the budgie.
The aviary should have some trees in it which can be quite small, but tall trees with few leaves so that the public can see the budgies, but the budgies also have branches to sit on as they naturally would in the wild. It is important to fit wooden branches near to the fences of the aviary so that the public can easily view the budgies whilst they are resting. There should be wooden nest boxes attached to the fences of the aviary as the budgies would naturally make nests and will enjoy spending time in a nest box.
There should be a roof to the aviary obviously to prevent the budgies from flying away. The aviary should also have enrichment such as cuttle-fish which budgies love to chew on (and I have known them to sit and fall asleep on these too!) as well as millet sticks for additional enrichment when eating. The first budgie which I had the nails became overgrown and the vet had to treat this, after this we were told to cover a small area of the floor with sandpaper which worked really well and we never had this problem again. Although I have not found any research online or in books to suggest this, I have seen it work, so I would say it is a really positive method of enrichment in my own experience.
The aviary should be cleaned on a regular basis and the faeces and urine should be removed from both the floor of the aviary and the branches within the aviary. Anything which can be removed such as possible rocks or mock logs etc should be disinfected to reduce the chance of infection or the harvesting of bacteria and parasites.
The enclosure should also be fully secure to prevent the birds from escaping and possibly harming themselves or causing distress to members of the public. This should be done with double doors to prevent escaping as birds can fly and will commonly fly for freedom if they can. The fencing to the enclosure should be strong and be able to withstand possible break-ins using pliers commonly used by vandals and petty thief’s.
All budgies should have regular treatments against worms, parasites, and vaccinations against disease. This is very important with the budgie as there Is often many of them in a small environment so the risk of cross infection is very high. This is for the welfare of the animals mainly, but also the public perception as embers of the public can find it very distressing to see an animal which is unwell.
The budgies normal behaviour will generally include being quite timid when approached by a human or if a sudden movement or sound occurs. If the bird is not used to being handled it is normal for this to occur more frequently and is not a cause for concern. A calm approach the budgie is needed and lots of patience around the budgie to allow the budgie to get used to human presence.
Budgies should make noise and sing to each other or to itself or any people who are around. Usually a variety of sounds will be made by the budgie as a way of communication and the budgie is very big on repetition. Budgies can spend hours singing tunes at each other and repeating the tune being sung.
The budgie should also have its feathers flat unless it feels under threat when they will fluff their feathers up. The tail should be in a straight line, sometimes the budgie will fan out tail feathers as abnormal behaviour. The budgie will also often climb bars or fences of a cage and this can not be prevented and is normal for a budgie within captivity although it is created from boredom which the budgie experiences in captivity.
Budgies should always be keen to eat food at least once an hour whilst awake. If this behaviour and pattern is not shown then there could be cause for concern and there is the possibility of a mental or physical problem with the bird. The other option is that the budgie may have just had a change in diet and so will not eat the food.
Budgies will often feather pluck. One budgie which I have owned feather plucked to an extreme and was almost entirely bald down one side. This occurs when the budgie is bored, stressed, exhausted, living in an overcrowded or too small environment or is not receiving the correct nutritional diet.
Budgies which are ill can often be seen to sit continually on the floor of the aviary. This is often a result of the budgie suffering from chill, shock, digestive problems, weakness, lack of food, muscular problems or joint problems. This behaviour should be responded to by checking the amount of food which has been eaten first and then the room temperature. If neither of these are abnormal then a vet should be contacted.
If a bird continually fluffs up its feathers it is a possible abnormal behaviour. This is done often when a bird feels threatened and often the tail will be spread also. This is all done to make the budgie appear larger and more threatening himself. This can also happen because the budgie feels too hot or too cold or is attempting to dry after a bath or getting wet somehow. This is not often a problem unless it occurs frequently and for seemingly no reason when it could be a physical or mental problem causing it.
The budgie can show signs of aggression towards other birds and budgies are not adverse to bullying the week. This can include pulling at other birds feathers and all pecking and scratching at the bird. If this happens then the bird being picked on should be removed as budgies can end up killing birds when picking on them.
To prevent any of the above abnormal or aggressive behaviour enrichment which stimulates the budgie should be put into the aviary. Mirrors are a popular choice in small areas or if there is only one or two budgies, but additional perches, branches and other resting areas as well as a bath or two baths which the budgie can use are a good idea. Music has been thought to have a calming effect on the budgie as well as the sounds of other birds on tapes. This can be used therefore, or tested, to see if it helps any situations which appear to be stressful to the budgie.
One of the reasons that the budgie has become such a popular pet to own is that they are very cheap to feed. The food is not expensive and additional treats work out at a good price and tend to last the budgie a long time.
The budgie should be fed a commercialised budgerigar diet. Budgies will eat between one and two teaspoons of this bird seed mix per day. Budgies should not be given other forms of seed food as these are not suited for the budgie and different foods are designed specially to suit individual bird species.
Budgies eat their food by cracking the seed using their rounded beak, eating the kernel from within the seed and removing and leaving the husk (outer layer or shell). The husks are normally left in the seed bowl and these should always be checked to see if the bowl is full of husks or seeds as these look similar. The husks should be removed every day and the food should be topped up at the same time to ensure all budgies have a constant supply of food.
Fresh fruit as well as fresh vegetables can be given to the budgie in small quantities and help to provide more variety to the budgies diet as well as making the diet more balanced. The fruits and vegetables which are suitable are apple, broccoli, brussel sprouts, leafy vegetables (except cabbage and lettuce) are all ideal. You can also create variety by taking some budgerigar mix and soaking it overnight then putting the seeds onto kitchen paper towels and leaving for two to three days. These will begin to sprout and add extra variety to the diet.
All this additional food should be removed daily also. Fruit and vegetables left for more than 12 hours can make the budgie very ill. It is important to give the budgies a supply of grit continually. This is because the grit is digested and used in the gizzard to grind down the seeds as obviously the budgie does not have teeth.
Cuttlefish bone is brilliant to give to the budgie as it helps to keep its beak in good condition and is a good treat for this bird. Cuttlefish bone found on a beach should not be used. Only fully cleaned cuttlefish should be given to any budgie.
It is important to clean the budgies water at least twice a day as it can get very dirty very quickly as birds will often defecate in this. The budgie will not drink a great deal so if water does not seem to be drunk often this is not a means for concern and is quite normal in the budgie.
When buying a budgie to breed from it is important to try to get them at a young age. The way to sex a budgie is by the colour of the beak. The male budgerigar has a blue tinge to the higher part of the beak around the nostrils, whilst the female has a beige, red, brown, pink or tan tinge to this area. To breed it is essential to buy one of each sex, but if you wish for a bond with the budgie, or if you are homing them with a budgie brought in a different place it is essential to quarantine them for 90 days minimum. This means keeping them in separate cages, in separate rooms and washing your hands after touching both budgies. This is because disease usually shows before 90 days of being in a new place, and if one has a disease it is economical as well as ethical to prevent the other budgie from getting the disease.
There are no separate species of budgie, however there are different colours and the different colours can be preferable to certain people. The English Budgie which is bred domestically in this country is the largest variety of the budgie worldwide, the domesticated budgie is markedly smaller in other countries and the wild Australian original budgie is smaller still with a lot more speed. The most popular budgie for people to buy is the English budgie within this country with the yellow plumage as this offers a full variety of colours, the most popular sex is the male as the male is generally less temperamental and can make a much stronger bond with the owners as well as having a higher chance of talking. Another thing which many buyers will want from a breeder is a hand reared budgie, so this is something worth considering, although the time and effort which must be put into this is enormous.
When buying your own stock it is important for breeding to look for colours which should give a nice looking baby budgie. This should increase sales and popularity for the budgies. The budgies should also be in good health and living in a good environment. It is important to check the conditions which they have previously been kept in as well as the age of the budgie as they reach sexual maturity at nine months and the length of time they may stay sexually mature varies greatly with each budgie.
It is important to check your budgie for health issues before attempting to breed from the budgie. This is important because diseases may affect the pregnancy may also turn out to be unsuitable for breeding if they are not and the bird may suffer from the pregnancy if it is pushed on her. Also a general veterinary check up should allow them to quickly check that the bird is ready for being mated and it will not be harmful or distressing to the bird.
The budgie along with the cockatiel are the most common birds to be seen in a veterinary practice and there are a lot of diseases which need to be checked for with standard keeping of the birds, but when breeding it is essential to screen for everything.
Budgies are very prone to obesity, which can cause problems with mating and during the pregnancy, they are also extremely susceptible to getting lymphomas (fatty tumours). These are not harmful, but they can cause problems in mating depending on where they are situated as the mating process may cause pain in the tumour.
Birds which are found to have a problem with weight often also suffer from liver problems as a result of the obesity. This is because over time fat cells can replace the liver cells until it is unable to function properly because so much tissue has been destroyed. This can be checked by doing a bile acids blood test, however this is not always conclusive, the only fully conclusive way to check is to do a liver biopsy, but this will often cause death in a small bird such as the budgie, so this would only be done in dramatic circumstances or in a post mortem.
Thyroid dysplasia was once a very common disease to be found in the budgie, and is now less common. It is caused by Iodine deficiency in the diet. This mainly occurs when birds are fed seeds only and so this is deficient in iodine. This can be checked for by looking for signs of it which includes problems with breathing, differentiation in normal noise and sounds which the bird would make and an enlarged thyroid gland, this is easy to treat, but needs long term treatment before breeding.
The next thing which will be check for is parasitic diseases in the budgie. This includes the Knemidokoptes mite, (recognised by a crusty beak and feet), red mites (recognised by looking like tiny specks of red pepper on the skin), feather mites (recognised under a microscope and also by a bird scratching to excess), Giardia and Ascarids-roundworms (recognised by diarrhoea or faeces tests).
A full blood count is used on a bird which can recognise if the bird has a bacterial, fungal or viral infection as well as checking for anaemia or dehydration in the bird. A gram’s stain is also often used to check for potential problems although this is not 100% accurate by any means.
Reproductive problems which can occur in the budgie are; hypocalcaemia which can be treated with an intra-venous injection of calcium, a tumour of the testicle which is recognised by the beak going from blue to brown in the male budgie and is not treatable at the moment to make the budgie suitable to mate and dystocia, which is problems in laying eggs, which is recognised by the egg not being able to pass through the birth canal and can be helped by supplying heat and humidity to the female, and if this does not work, veterinary care will be needed for the bird.
The main thing to check is that the birds do not have any genetic problems, this can be done by looking back at the line of birds which have bred to make your birds and looking at the family, the lifespan of the birds and overall health of the family members of the birds.
The main issue in breeding from birds and problems with genetics is from in-breeding. For this reason it is important to separate brothers and sisters from each other and purchase birds from entirely different regions to prevent chances of genetic problems in the offspring.
Also it is important to record the previous mating success of the birds family and the birds you are breeding from yourself, as if you breed correctly and create pedigree birds then breeders may want to buy from you and a full health and mating as well as reproductive history will be a bonus and increase the chance of sales as genetic problems can cause reproductive problems in the bird.
There are three different methods to breed budgies, this is colony breeding, flock breeding and cage breeding;
Colony breeding is when all the birds are put into an aviary regardless of colour and the birds are allowed to pick their own mates and then the babies are sold when they arrive. This has a problem in the fact that the genetic history and the information on the parentage of the young is hard to record, also the colours will end up mix and can create numerous numbers of one colour which does not give potential buyers a choice as the dominant genes will generally prevail.
Flock breeding is the method where pairs of birds are chosen by the breeder and are then put in cages to form a bond and then put into a large aviary one pair at a time. The pairs then usually stay together long term and always breed together and also have the benefit of the other birds which makes it a lot more like their natural lifestyle, the only negative factor is if one partner dies as this can cause fights as the lone bird will try to make a new partnership, or the lone bird will end up being isolated. Also the males can sometimes mate with other birds, although this is not common.
The final breeding method is cage breeding. This is where the human picks out the pairs and they are put into small cages for mating. There is a high success rate for this and parenthood is guaranteed, but it can cause undue stress to the birds and they do not get to socialise and interact with any other bird’s which is a disadvantage.
The birds should be kept in a large aviary. There is no such thing as an aviary which is too big for breeding bird’s, or birds in general. It is very important that the birds remain active before, during and after pregnancy to enhance the health of the birds and reduce the chances of problems with reproducing. A wire mesh aviary is ideal for the birds with natural enrichment such as large branches, numerous perches, water bowls and feed bowls in a sheltered area, hides, tree’s etc.
The thing which needs to be introduced to the cage is a nesting box. This can be an external attachment to the cage or aviary, or can be placed within the natural environment. The bottom of the box must be build with a concave design (an oval dip) to prevent the eggs from rolling around. Providing that this is provided as well as all the amenities for the budgie to build its own nest, as some prefer to do this, the birds should not have any problem with mating.
It is important to build a sheltered, sometimes even heated area, to keep the budgie warm whilst she sits on her clutch of eggs as well as providing a place which the budgie knows will be safe and warm to enhance the chance of mating as the female will be more likely to have a high survival rate within her brood.
It is essential to keep the food and water near to the budgies nesting box or nest as the female will leave the clutch to eat, drink and defecate and it is important that she does not leave the eggs for too long. Budgie nests are not hygienic, which is why it is so important to have an outside design which still provides the essential protecting that the budgies need. The chicks will flap and feathers do fly everywhere as well as defecation, dusts and numerous unpleasant smells!
Extra food needs to be put into the environment such as foods containing vitamin D3 as this enhances the chances of a healthy reproduction. Also after the health screening is done the vet may advise for certain treatments and changes to environment as well as less of more of certain types of food to give to the budgie to give high chances of a good healthy brood of chicks.
It usually takes around a month for a pair of budgies to bond well enough for the female to become ready for mating. This is variable depending on the age of the pair. The female will develop a crusty beak when she is ready to be mated and many ritual dancing and singing formations will occur to impress their partner. The mating itself takes around 5-10 seconds. The female has then been mated with and will usually lay a clutch of around 4 – 8 eggs one after the other.
After mating the first egg will usually be born around 2 – 4 days later. The female budgie will leave this in the nest and continue to sit nearby but not on the egg whilst preparing to lay another egg, this is then laid around 2-3 days after the first and this continues until she has completed her clutch.
The female will usually not incubate the eggs by sitting on them until around 2 days after the last egg is born, this is assumed to be because she is unsure as to weather she will lay another. She will then sit on the eggs for the duration.
The process prior to incubation can vary in length and from the time of mating, to the time when 5 eggs have been laid (as this is the average) can be between 10 days and 16 days, again this could last longer or shorter, usually longer if anything, but this rarely happens.
The normal incubation period for a budgie egg is 18 days. This begins when the female sits on the nest. This can sometimes happen with the first egg in the budgie, though it is more often to happen once all the eggs have been laid. The female will sit on the eggs or close to them constantly, only leaving to get food, water or to defecate and then will quickly return to the eggs to continue incubation.
This is the same in all types of budgie from the different countries which they come from and can vary so much in colour and sizes due to. They are all as fertile as each other and the incubation period lasts as long in each form of budgie.
It is important to note that a budgie should never ever be removed from the accommodation it has settled in during incubation. This will distress the budgie and often she will reject her eggs or possibly eat them or cause damage to them upon her return. This should only ever be done in extreme cases, like if the budgies health is at risk, and then the eggs must be removed and incubated elsewhere.
Sometimes if an accident happens or if the mother of the eggs shows no interest in incubating them you will need to incubate them yourself. This should be done in a small box with a lot of cushioning and in a room which is warm, but not hot, such as perhaps a cupboard with a lamp in it etc.
The eggs should take roughly the same amount of time to be incubated by human intervention as they would if the mother was incubating them; as should happen normally, and is recommended. This method of incubation is also often used to aid in hand rearing of the young which helps to increase sales as the budgie get used to humans from such a young age and is believed to be much more likely to make a good bond than a budgie who has been normally reared by its mother.
The mother of the chicks will naturally rear the chicks, bringing them food and water, as will the father usually. Occasionally the mother and father of the chicks have been known to fight at around this stage, although this is a rare occurrence, but worth taking into account.
The form of learning whilst the chicks are at such a young age is called imprinting. This means that the chick learns from the noises which the mother makes as well as the behaviour both the mother and father show. The chicks start learning whilst they are still in the eggs and can hear the noises which their mother is making as early as this and learn to recognise these noises.
The chicks first open their eyes at around 12 – 14 days of age, before that they recognise the call of their mother and father as well as noises, but no visual stimulus at all. There is also a form of taste, as the mother and father will feed the chicks from their own mouths, which allows the chicks to learn the smell and taste of their parents, further allowing natural bonding to take place.
From birth the chicks will be heard to make noises, however at around 20-25 days of age it is often recognisable that the chick is imitating either its father or mother in the noise patterns which it is producing. This is still part of the imprinting and bonding which will take place for the budgie.
The chicks will often begin moving out of the nest at around 2 months of age, when they are learning to fly and have a good show of feathers appearing, colour is now obvious on the bird. This is the stage where the clients who are considering buying the birds should be contacted, as they can come round to view and book the bird they like.
The birds are fending for themselves and flying at 3 months of age when they are ready to go to a new home, or can stay put depending on the reasoning for the breeding. At this age they will be able to climb bars, eat from the food bowl, fly successfully and mimic behaviour patterns which their parents have shown over the period of imprinting.
The other way of rearing is to hand rear the bird, the same things will happen as the above, but the bird will copy behaviour patterns you give, listen to noises you make and you have to be completely dedicated to the birds as they need feeding around every 2 hours even during the night as well as needing warmth and company and protection.
The birds won’t mimic noises made my its mother and father and imprinting is not so successful. However it is believed that there are higher chances of the bird talking and higher chances of a strong bond between the budgie and the owner, which is why prices are higher and hard reared budgies are more in demand than the normally reared bird.
I have had both hand reared and parent reared budgies and I found that the hand reared budgies tend to be more prone to making mess and less intuitive, whilst the other birds are fully capable of doing everything themselves and I have even noticed they seem more confident in flight and in general. I had one budgie which talked fluently, which was not hand reared, and one who talked a little and did learn around 10-15 words, though no sentences, which was hand reared, so I am not entirely sure I agree with hand rearing birds, I also find that with patience and determination as well as a kind and gentle nature, the non hand reared bird is just as tame as the hand reared, and can be even more so.
Summary: Brilliant first pet or for a more experienced owner, excellent to breed from!
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