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The Budgie
Last updated: November 13, 2002

Avg. Price (BD$): Untrained: $20 each. Trained: $35 - $55 each

Availability: Readily Available

Species/genus: Melopsittacus undulatus

Common Name(s): Budgie, Budgerigar (an Aborigine phrase that means "good to eat"), Parakeet, Keet, American Parakeet, English Parakeet

Adult Size: 6 inches.

Life Span: 15 - 20 years

Feeding: Vegetarian. Make sure your budgie has clean food and water throughout the day. Change water twice daily, morning and evening. Budgies can be offered a variety of foods. Special care must be taken to ensure that your budgies get a well balanced diet, as nutritional deficiencies are a common cause of illness and death. Although seeds are a budgie's basic diet, if fed only on seeds, they will develop an iodine deficiency, making them susceptible to goitre (swelling of the thyroid gland).

What can I feed my Budgie?

Budgie mix (shown on right) can be purchased at the pet shop and is a staple diet containing a mixture of millet, oat groat and canary seeds. The diet should also include a daily offering of fruits and vegetables. Who likes to eat the same thing all the time anyway? Don't be surprise if your budgie doesn't eat the fruits or vegetables at first. It make take months, but keep trying. Thoroughly clean any fruits and vegetables you feed to your bird. You can offer your budgies apples, grapes, guava, mango, orange, pomegranate, watermelon, blanched or grated carrots and green leafy vegetables such as lettuce and spinach. However, do not feed them cabbage, as cabbage will make your budgie sick. Some other foods to avoid are chocolate, avocado, beans, croton, eggplant, raw peanuts, apple seeds, raw potatoes and asparagus. It's important for budgies to have calcium in their diet. Budgie owners provide their bird with calcium by placing a piece of cuttlebone (the bone of the cuttlefish) in their cages.

Note: Budgies shell the seeds when they eat. Therefore what may look like a container with food might be a container full of shells (husk). Don't be fooled and let your budgies starve. This is a common feeding mistake. Also, you should never put new food on top of old food. Discard the old food and shells first. Keep it clean. A dirty feed container is a breeding ground for bacteria. Remember to change the drinking water regularly since food will get into it and your budgie might decide to take a bath in it as well.

Sexual Differences: Easily distinguished when mature. A budgie's sex is determined by the colour of its cere. The cere is the fleshy, wax-like membrane at the base of the upper beak surrounding the nostrils. Adult males have a blue cere and females have a brown cere. A female's cere will turn a dark brown and might become rough and crusty, when she is in breeding condition. This is not to be confused with scaly face disease.

The male budgie has a blue cere

Differentiation in young budgies is harder to the untrained eye, as the cere in both sexes will be a purplish colour. The adult colour starts to show after 3 to 4 months of age.

Note: In some budgie colour variations, such as albinos and lutinos, the colour of the cere can't be used to determine the sex, since in both sexes it is pinkish. However, female budgies are said to be more aggressive and have a harder bite, or as Bajans might say, a harder bird pick.

Determining Age: There are 3 areas you can examine to determine the age of your budgie; the head, eyes and legs:
- If your budgies has stripes (barring) on its head down to its cere, this usually means it under 4 months old. This is not the case for albinos and lutinos budgies since they don't have stripes.
Eyes - Budgies under 4 months of age usually have completely black eyes. The exception is yet again for albinos and lutinos whose eyes will always remain red. After 4 moths of age, budgies usually develop a light gray or white iris.
Legs - If you are lucky, your budgie may come with a band around one of its legs indicating the year it was born. If you budgie doesn't have strips on its head or black eyes, this is the only way you will be able to tell how old it is.

Breeding: Difficulty: Very Easy.

Budgies are easy to breed. For obvious reasons, the first thing you need is a male and female. Now we've gotten that out of the way, the next thing you need is a nesting box. An external nesting box can be attached to the bird's cage. The bottom of the box must have a concave bottom for the budgie to lay its eggs on. Since budgies don't build nest, the concave bottom serves to stop the eggs from rolling around. Without the proper housing, the budgies may not breed at all. In the wild, budgies nest in holes in trees. 5 to 6 eggs are laid in a clutch. Eggs hatch in 18-21 days. Budgies reach sexual maturity in approximately 9 months.

Budgie nesting box with concave bottom

Cage Size: The general rule is that bigger is better. Your budgies must have enough room to fly around for exercise. The length of the cage is more important than the height. The guideline suggested for minimum cage size is as follows:

20"x12"x18" for 1 Bird
40"x20"x32" for a Pair

The space between the bars is also quite important. If they are too wide, you can guess what will happen, the bird will get out. The budgie may also get his head or body stuck if it tries to squeeze through the bars. To prevent this from happening, make sure that the spaces between the bars are no wider than ½ inch. Some budgie enthusiasts also recommend that you get a cage with horizontal bars and to avoid those with only vertical bars. This is especially so when the cage is small, since the budgie will do more walking & climbing than flying. The horizontal bars help the budgie to get a better grip when climbing on the cage.

Special Requirements: Exercise. Budgies need exercise everyday, especially if they live in small cages. They need to stretch their wings and fly around. Budgies that live in small cages should be allowed out of the cage for some exercise. Before you let your budgie out, you must make certain the room is clear of hazards. You probably don't want your budgie to take an outdoor excursion, he may never come back, so make sure all doors, windows and other escape routes are closed. Make sure ceiling fans, or any other fans are turned off (I am sure you don't need an explanation why). Open flames, mirrors, transparent glass windows or doors, cats and dogs all can make your budgie a dead bird. You must also be wary of drinking glasses or any containers with liquid. You certainly don't way your budgie to drink something poisonous or take swimming lessons.

Baths. Unlike some dogs, budgies like to take baths everyday. Provide a pan of water about 6 to 8 inches in diameter, with a water depth no deeper than 1 inch. It should not be a swimming pool or your bird might drown. An unused plant saucer will do fine. Keep the pan clean because the bird will drink from it as well. The cage will get messy after a bath, so be prepared to do some cleaning.

Sleep: A budgie needs 12 - 14 hours of sleep. Keep the bird in a quiet place away from TVs or radios. If necessary, cover the cage with a cloth to relax the budgie, and to keep out cold drafts. Leave the cage partially covered so that the budgie can see out. Make sure the cloth does not have a strong smell of detergent since it may cause the bird to have difficulty breathing. Cover the cage around the same time every night so that your budgie can develop a routine sleeping time.

Considerations: Before you decide to buy a budgie, there are a few things you should consider first.

How many Budgies? - In the wild, budgies live in large groups and are very social. Therefore they like the company of other birds. It is best to keep budgies in pairs. However, if you only want one bird, then you have to become that bird's companion. Give the budgie lots of attention, talk to it and play with it. The budgie may regard you as its parent and even fly around behind you. It's also easier to train a single bird, as there are no other feathery companions to distract it.

Noise - Budgies like to sing and sing they do… loudly. Others call it noise. Will you be able to tolerate the singing or noise? Will you be bothering your neighbours or other family members?

Do you have Allergies? - Some people are allergic to feathers and the dust budgies give off.

Common Diseases: Scaly face disease - This is caused by Cnemodocoptes mites. These mites cause scales to appear on the affected area, usually the face, cere, eyelids and legs, and can cause beak deformities.

Respiratory Disorders - This is usually caused by living in a dusty environment or by mites. Make sure the bird's cage is cleaned regularly (every week). Respiratory disorders can be treated with Biomycin Antibiotic, available in pet stores.

Signs of Illness: Sudden changes in behaviour, fluffed up feathers, difficulty breathing, glassy eyes, poor reaction to stimuli, submissiveness, drinking more than usual, lost of appetite, weight loss.

Information courtesy of Exotic Fish & Pet Supplies
Exotic Fish & Pet Supplies
5 Westburn Plaza, Cr Baxter Rd. & Westbury Rd.
Tel (246) 436-5410
email: exotic_fish_pet@hotmail.com

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