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So you want a pet? How about a budgie?
Member Name: nykied
Advantages: With training, they can be a real part of the family
Disadvantages: Feathers and seed all over the floor!
Having grown up with dogs, my ideal pet is a dog. However, living in a rented house that doesn't allow dogs, cats, rabbits or any other 'intrusive' pets, I needed to look for more options. Goldfish were out, as the last ones were placed on a windowsill during a redecoration when the blinds were down and unfortunately it was a very hot day. Hmmmm... I didn't want a hamster, nor a mouse, nor (God forbid) a big spider. So myself and Mr. Nykied settled on a budgie.
Off we trotted to a pet shop (having discovered that Pets At Home no longer sell birds) to look at the budgies. We left the shop with a cage, a budgie, a landing pad, food, cat litter (for the bottom of the cage) and various other items.
The budgie travelled home in a little box and once we'd cleaned his cage, he sat on a perch and didn't move for the entire evening. Well, it had been a bit of a traumatic day for him, after all! The next day he was a bit more lively and now Floyd Mayfeather is chuntering away like R2D2 on my shoulder. But how have we got to this stage? Well, first I'll look at what a budgie needs.
A cage, for a start. Preferably quite a large, square cage. The fancy cages just don't do it for budgies as they won't go into the extra space that is usually at the top. It's good to get one that has a pull-out section at the bottom, for when you're cleaning the cage. This cage needs some sort of lining on the bottom: sand, special sandpaper or, in our case, cat litter.
The cage needs perches. For some reason (I've yet to discover why), the perches should run from front to back rather than sideways across the cage. The perches should be made of wood rather than plastic, or at the very least be covered in sandpaper.
The cage also needs some sort of feeding implements. We're currently on our fourth lot of feed holders. The first lot that came with the cage were not accessible to the budgie when he was on his perch, so we put some glass ramekins on the floor of the cage, which worked well, but we wanted some that were at perch level, so I bought some tall ones that had a base that poked through the bars of the cage, but our bird didn't like those, so I bought some that hooked onto the inside of the bars and he seems to be happy with those.
Budgies need seed. It's best to start them off on the same seed that they're used to eating. The seed also needs to be accompanied with grit. This can either be mixed in with the seed or put in a separate container. They also need water, although I have yet to see Floyd actually drink from his drink box, but this is not unusual. They also need some green items, such as a slice of apple of a leaf of lettuce. They should not be fed avocado as this is poisonous to budgies. We also give Floyd either a millet spray or a seed bar which hangs from the roof of his cage. To be honest, he doesn't really touch his millet since he's discovered that he likes the seed bars but this is one fussy bird.
They also need a cuttlefish to chew on and an iodine block, which they will nibble on. My budgie when I was a child ate everything, including salt from dinner plates and roast potatoes, but Floyd is still shy of things he doesn't know.
They also need a bath. We bought one that clips onto his cage when the door's open, but he doesn't like it yet, so we spray him with warm water in a water spray, which he's getting used to and quite likes now.
The budgie needs some toys. There's the belief that if they have a mirror in their cage, they will pay you less attention and are less likely to talk, so Floyd doesn't have a mirror. He's still not talked though, unless you count copying off Star Wars characters as talking!
~*~Taming and Training~*~
Once your new budgie has been in his new cage for about a week, you can start to hand-tame him (or her - a male budgie has a purple bit where his nostrils are, a female has a neutral colour). This involves putting your hand close to the cage until he's used to it, then gradually, over the course of weeks, putting your hand further and further into the cage. When he's finally used to that, it's time to try getting him to step up onto your finger. This is achieved by gently pushing your finger into the bottom of his belly, just above his legs and saying 'Up', so that he gets used to stepping up on that command. I'll mention that budgies should not be handled roughly, so it's a case of very gently pushing his belly.
Only once the budgie has learned to step up confidently and will happily be moved around the cage on your finger should he be let out. Some people say take him to a small room but we let Floyd out in the lounge. The curtains should be shut, as the bird won't understand the concept of glass and could break its neck should he fly into the window. It was a bit of a scary time, as once he was flying, he got a bit panicked until he found something to land on. Because he should be used to stepping up at this point, he should step onto your finger so that you can take him back to his cage, although this could take some time as the movement could send him off flying again!
Once your budgie is confident at being out of his cage, flying and landing, and being walked around, you can try putting him on your shoulder or head. Floyd will now happily sit on my shoulder for hours, even when I sit down, stand up or walk around. He also lets me put my face very close to him and he's getting more confident every day.
And that's it really. Floyd's cage is open whenever we're awake and in the house, so he comes out whenever he wants to, although he is yet to learn how to fly to us and land on us (that takes a while, as a budgie needs to get his sense of perception first and Floyd certainly doesn't have that yet!).
He's noisy, that's for sure, and he'll chirp away and chunter to himself. He also has episodes where he will chirp really loudly, as though he's angry, which mostly occurs when he wants attention. And budgies do need a lot of attention.
So, if you're thinking of getting a budgie, you're all set! You will laugh at your bird but it takes a lot of patience, time and attention to get your budgie to trust you and be happy to be with and close to you.
Thanks for reading and if I've missed anything out, please tell me!
Summary: Loses a star because a budgie just isn't a dog! ;o)
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