Parakeets (known outside the United States as budgerigars) are small hookbills. These amazing birds have been kept as pets for over 100 years. Though many people consider them a child's pet or a 'starter bird', their worth should never be underestimated. Parakeets are among the best talkers in the bird world, though they rely more on repetition of words and phrases than their larger cousins. They are also inquisitive and interactive, clearly demonstrating their own distinct personalities and preferences once they are bonded to their human companions. Most parakeets offered for sale are not hand raised - however, if they are obtained at a young age, it is easy to train them to be friendly to humans.
Parakeets are playful birds and should be provided with a cage that is a minimum size of 18" x 18" x 18". The larger the cage, the more comfortable it will be for the bird. A good cage should have horizontal bars on at least two sides, as hookbills love to climb. Horizontal bars help to make climbing easier. Bar spacing should be no more than 1/2" apart to prevent injury.
Most birds can be kept at room temperature. Be sure to place your bird and its cage off of the floor and away from drafty areas or hot places like open windows, air vents and doorways. Some birds may catch a cold if exposed to a draft while they are wet (after a bath), so it is best to keep a wet bird in a warm area (at least 70 degrees) until they are fully dry.
Every bird, no matter the size should have toys in their cage to prevent boredom. Parakeets especially need these distractions, as they are very intelligent and in the wild would be solving many problems each day just to find food, create nesting sites and avoid predators. Provide at least three toys of different materials to begin with – wood (for chewing, an important part of beak health), plastic/acrylic (to make sure they have a toy just in case they destroy their other ones) and some other material or combination of materials such as vegetable-tanned leather, sisal rope, woven palm leaves, and/or corn cob.
Your parakeet cage should have at least two or three perches of various sizes, shapes and textures so that its feet stay healthy and strong. Make sure the perches are thick enough for the bird to stand comfortably on them without losing its balance. The smallest perch a parakeet should be given is 1/2" in diameter. Some materials to consider are natural wood branches (like manzanita), concrete/pumice/bonded sand perches (for trimming nails), and rope perches.
If your bird is housed in a quiet room, you may want to get a cover for your bird's cage to help it to sleep at night. If your bird lives in a more active room, it may be kept awake by even low volume sounds, and will not get the proper rest that it needs to stay healthy. Parakeets should have between 8-12 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. If it is not possible to keep their room quiet for this amount of time, you may want to get a smaller cage for for your bird to sleep in and place it in a quieter room. Using a sleep cage will give your bird a safe, quiet place to get a good night's sleep.
The natural diet of parakeets consists of ripe and half-ripe seed heads and the leaves of native vegetation. For a healthy, balanced diet, it is necessary to provide a variety of foods for your pet bird. Pellet foods and seed mixes can be fed as a daily base diet. We are currently feeding our birds Kaytee (tm), Rainbow Exact and Kaytee (tm), and Forti-Diet. Pellets or seeds should not be fed exclusively because it does not provide proper nutrition and will lead to health problems in the future.
Grooming & Hygiene
It is very important to include a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in your bird's diet. Some healthy fruits include apples, grapes, berries, papaya and mango. Vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, zucchini, squash, cooked sweet potatoes, and dark leafy greens (such as romaine, kale, chicory, dandelion leaves, and turnip or collard greens) make great parakeet food. Other healthy treat foods include cooked whole grains (like brown rice), whole grain pasta, multigrain breads, unsugared cereals, or even small amounts of cooked eggs. When feeding fresh foods, be sure to remove anything uneaten after a few hours so that the food does not spoil, and to wash the dishes thoroughly before using them again.
Your parakeet can share many of the foods you eat - just try to keep their consumption of fried, greasy, sugary, and salty foods to a minimum. However, NEVER offer your parakeet alcohol, chocolate or caffeinated beverages. These substances can kill your bird, even if given in very small amounts. Other foods to avoid are avocados, rhubarb, asparagus, onions, raw legumes (beans and peas), and dairy products.
Birds like to bathe, but different individuals prefer to bathe in different ways. Some like to bathe in a shallow dish, some like to be sprayed with a fine mist and still others like to get in the shower with the owner. Parakeets come from dry areas of the Australian outback that don't receive as much rain as the native environments of other parrots, but it is still beneficial to their skin and feathers to be soaked with water at least once or twice a week.
Behavior & Interaction
Clipping your bird's flight feathers is not necessary but usually helps in taming your bird. It also helps to prevent escape and injury. Birds like parakeets cannot survive in the climate of most of the US and would not survive without a flock (a flock protects them from predators as there is safety in numbers). For this reason, please consider carefully before allowing a parrot to remain flighted. Consult your avian vet to have the wings clipped by a qualified professional. Nails should also be trimmed by a qualified person if they get too long, unhealthy, or hinder the bird's movements.
Parakeets are highly social birds that live in large flocks in the wild. For this reason, parakeets need a lot of social interaction with their owner or with a mate in order to stay happy and healthy. If you would like to be able to train your parakeet to be friendly with humans, we recommend getting only one bird to start with.
Once your bird is trained, you can introduce another bird into the cage to keep it company, but this must be done very carefully. The best way to have two human-friendly birds that can live together is to get one bird to start with, train it, purchase a second bird (which should be placed in another cage in a separate room), train the second bird, and then slowly introduce the pair. They should be placed in cages side by side for several weeks before any attempt is made to introduce them. Two parakeets will not necessarily get along and That Pet Place cannot guarantee that two parakeets will be able to live together peacefully, even if they came out of the same cage. Parakeets are most active when kept in pairs or groups, but careful consideration should be taken before any two birds are placed together to prevent injury.
Whether you keep one parakeet or several, your bird must be handled daily to keep its training intact. Parakeets that are trained and then allowed to stay in their cage without any human interaction will revert to their wild state in a short period of time (especially if there is more than one bird in the cage). These birds can be very difficult to retrain.
Parakeets are one of the best talkers in the bird world and can learn multitudes of words and sounds if exposed to them repeatedly. There are a variety of training tools that you can use to help teach your bird to talk, such as digital speech recorders (Wordy Birdy) and CDs . Your best training tool is your own voice. You can train your bird to talk just by talking to your bird frequently. Please keep in mind that while many birds choose to talk, it is up to the bird whether it wants to learn or not - not every bird talks and there are no guarantees.