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Question:

My parakeet keeps flitting [flipping] all the food out of two of the dishes whenever I refill.  I saw her laying in the dish at one time, but only briefly and her activity level has not diminished.  what is going on?

Thanks
Glenna

Answer:

There are several things that could be going on here. I’ll start with the most extreme:

Your Parakeet may be wanting to lay an egg

If she is in fact a female she may be trying to make a nest (you can tell if she’s a girl if she has a brown cere).

If she has a mate then they may have mated and she needs to make a nest. If you think your bird may have mated, get her a nest box and read up on parakeet breeding. You are probably going to have babies.

If she does not have a mate but she has another bird in her cage (male or female), if she thinks you are her mate, or if she has a mirror in her cage then she may think she has mated with the other bird, you, or her reflection in the mirror and now she wants to make a nest.

If you are sure she has not mated, don’t encourage nesting behavior. Parakeets can lay eggs even without a mate if stimulated but egg laying is always hard on their bodies. Make sure she’s getting plenty of calcium in case she does lay an egg.

To discourage her from making and laying eggs, get a smaller food bowl or maybe even a plate that she can’t sit inside of, get rid of any mirrors in the cage, and when you handle her, never touch her vent, under her wings, or her lower back (she may think you are mating if you touch her in these places).

Some people say that shortening her days by covering her cage and putting her to bed earlier will help stop nesting/breeding behavior. This works on other parrots but I have not seen this work with budgie parakeets. You’re welcome to give it a try though.

If you think your parakeet might be egg-bound (she needs to lay an egg but it’s stuck), see a vet right away. You can tell if a bird is egg-bound because she will have a bulge near her vent (butt), and she will be lazy, fluffed up, and usually off balance.

Your Parakeet may just hate her food

She might hate all of her food. This happens all the time when people are switching there birds from seeds to pellets or from one brand of seed to another. Parakeets will flick the food out of the bowl in search of the food they once loved that they used to find in the bowl.

She may like some of the food but not all of it. Parakeets usually pick a favorite food in their food mixture and eat it first. Maybe they like millet or flaxseed the most. They will pick through the seeds or pellets and eat these first. Once they are gone, they will get frustrated and toss everything else out hoping to find at least one more piece of millet.

To fix this, let her get hungry between meals. In the wild, parakeets eat in the morning, sleep in the afternoon, then wake again in the evening to find food again. It is hunger that stimulates them to wake up and get food. You can simulate this but taking food away from the bird at night, giving it back in the morning for a few hours. Taking it out again, giving it back in the afternoon, and taking it out again before bed. A hungry bird is less picky.

Make sure she has access to food for at least 4 to 6 hours a day. You don’t want to starve your bird.

Maybe she’s board and has found a new hobby!

Lucky you, your bird is doing it just for fun. Not only is food entertaining to play with, but it also gets  your attention. As soon she empties her dish, you come and refill it. Could anything be more fun!

If you think this is the case, do what I said above by limiting her access to food to only several hours a day. You should see the behavior start to stop within a few days.

Also, make sure she gets plenty of play time with toys, you, or other birds.

Good Luck!

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Parakeet Toys

Nov/10/2010

Pet Parakeet Toys

The above photo was taken by Anna Saccheri (originally posted to Flickr as Budgie Playpen!)

Budgerigars are active little critters that need plenty of things to explore and play with. In the wild they spend part of the day napping but the rest of their time is spent foraging for food, looking out for danger, and playfully interacting with flock. Your job as a bird keeper is to see that there are plenty of fun things to do in your parakeets cage. We recommend having at least two toys in your cage at all times and switching out (or rotating them) with new toys each week to keep things interesting.

Types of Parakeet Toys

There are three basic kinds of parakeet toys and each one serves a different purpose. Make sure that your pet gets regular access to toys of each type: Action toys, foraging toys, and shredding toys.

Action Toys for Parakeets

Action toys are any strange objects for your parakeet to climb, swing, or bounce on. These include things like ladders, swinging perches, bouncy ropes, dangling ropes, and hoops.

Warning: Makes sure that ropes are not shredded or stringy. Your bird can get his feet stuck in a  rope thats too warn. See that any hoop toys are large enough for your bird to easily fit through without getting stuck. Don’t put any string in your cage longer than 6 inches or your bird may get tangled.

We recommend using leather strips instead of string. The thicker leather is hard to get tangled in but is still small enough tie things together in your parakeets cage.

Foraging Toys for Parakeets

Foraging is the act of searching for food. Foraging toys are any toys where you can hide seeds and treats for your parakeet to find. Some people think it’s mean to hide food from their pets but it’s actually a wonderful form of parrot enrichment for your bird to search for his food like his cousins in the wild do instead of simply eating it all from a bowl (though you should give your bird food in his bowl as well). Foraging toys stimulate the body and mind of the parakeet. It’s fun to play with your food.

Forage ideas:

You can buy foraging toys or make them your self in a number of different ways.

  • You can fill a small paper bag with crumpled paper towels and seeds.
  • You can place some treats inside a used toilette paper roll and then stuff the ends with wads of clean unscented  toilette paper for your bird to pull out and get to the food.
  • You can put a bowl or plate full of sand mixed with seeds into your parakeets cage. Your parakeet will sift through the sand for hours in search of food just like his wild cousins sift through dust in search of fallen seeds. Make sure not to put this below your parakeets favorite perch. You don’t wanting him pooping in the sand where he’ll be foraging.
  • Use a leather strap to tie millet or fruit to the top of the cage so that it dangles and sways. It will be hard for your parakeet to get to but he’ll have a blast swinging around while eating.

Shredding Toys

All parakeets love to tear things apart but females seem to be in constant need something to shred! Parrot beaks grow constantly just our fingernails do so parakeets need to chew in order to keep their beaks sharp and trim. Buy toys made with wicker or soft wood parts or give your parakeet the following:

  • Popsicle sticks
  • cotton roaps
  • leather strips
  • wicker balls (unscented)
  • cardboard of all types
  • paper
  • old phone books
  • plastic straws

Some parakeets will be frightened of toys at first and may not want to play. Be patient, with time they will warm up to their toys and begin to explore. Once your bird knows that toys are fun, he’ll love getting something new play with each week and you’ll love to watch him play.

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Pet Parakeets and Children

The above photo was taken by Chris Saccheri

People often think of parakeets as good starter pets for children. They’re small, cute, colorful, and compared to other pets they don’t make too much noise. Keeping pets is fun and of course it’s always a great learning opportunity but before you go out and buy your kid a parakeet, there are a few things you should consider.

Parakeets are Breakable

A parakeet is a lot tougher than he looks but when you’re only 7 inches tall there is a limit to how much abuse you can take. Many small kids (especially 5 years old and under) like to grab animals, pet hard, and play rough. If this is the case with your child then a parakeet is not a good match. What was supposed to be a wonderful experience of owning a pet is likely to end in tears.

Parakeets Need Daily Care

Food and water needs to be added every day for your pet parakeet. Even a child with the best intentions can easily forget the routine. If you get a parakeet for your child, it’s your responsibility to check on the bird at least once a day to see that he’s been properly taken care of.

Parakeets Need Attention

When parakeets are housed alone (no cage mates) they need direct attention from people everyday in order to be mentally and emotionally happy. 1 to 4 hours of daily supervised play time out side the cage is ideal. If your child has a busy schedule with school, sports, and summer camps, you are the one that’s going to have to give your bird that attention. Are you up for it?

Parakeets Bite

Parakeets can get feisty if they have not been properly tamed, are frightened, feel mistreated, or simply don’t want to be played with at the moment. Parakeet bites don’t usually do any harm to adult fingers but little kid fingers can easily bleed. Can your kid handle the occasional bloody finger? It’s bound to happen at least once, even with the nicest of birds.

Parakeet Cages Need Cleaning

Birds don’t generally stink if you keep them clean but they can sure be messy. The papers in your parakeet cage should be changed every day and once a week a deep cleaning should be done of the entire cage. This is a great opportunity for a child to learn some responsibility but keep in mind that you’ll be doing a lot of the work too.

If you and your kid feel you can take on all the tasks of keeping a parakeet alive and healthy then I suggest you go for it! It will be a blast. I wish you luck. Remember, if you have any questions about pet parakeets, just visit us here at MyPetParakeet.com

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Parakeet Cage

If you’re trying to figure out what kind of parakeet cage to buy then you’ve come to the right place. Here I’m going to go over some options and clue you in on some important considerations you should be making.

Parakeet Cage Size

When it comes to cage size, bigger is always better. Birds did not evolve to be suited for life inside a cage but as long as parakeets have plenty of toys and get lots of free time out of the cage to fly around and play, they seem to be very happy even with a relatively small cage to live in.

According to the world parrot trust, a parakeet cage that is housing a single bird should be no less than 30inches (76cm) long. Most pet stores sell cages much smaller than this but it’s important to remember that your bird was designed to live as a nomadic wild parakeet in the Australian Outback. You need to be careful not to cramp his style.

Other sources claim that it’s okay to go as small as 24inches in width. Susan Chamberlain of Bird Talk magazine suggests that parakeet owners with a single bird need should stop and to the “60 test”. That means that the length, width, and height should add up to at least 60 inches (note that this is addition not multiplication). According to her, a cage that is 24 by 18 by 18 inches would be appropriate.

Wider is better than taller because parakeets fly horizontally like  a plane, not vertically like a helicopter.

If your cage is made of bars or wire, the bars should be no more than 1/2 inch apart. If they are too far apart then the bird can get his head stuck or even squeeze all the way out.

If you have more than one bird, your cage needs to be larger.

Parakeet Cage materials

Cages usually come in wire form but you can also get acrylic boxes with ventilation holes drilled into them. I preferred wire for ventilation purposes and because I like to be able to hear their little chirps in case they get scared or injured.

The best wire cages come with a hard colored coating that stops them from rusting. Some cages are made of stainless steal and some cheaper cages are zinc coated. In rare occasions, zinc coated wires have cause zinc poisoning in parrots and other caged birds so I recommend you stay away from this material. I have it pictured below so you can be sure to steer clear.

I like cages that come with an easily removable tray on the bottom to catch fallen food scraps and bird droppings. This should be covered with a grill to prevent your parakeet from playing in his poo.

Cage Doors

There are all sorts of cages and all sorts of cage doors. I like my cage to have a huge door so I can easily reach my arm in to replace food and water. I also like to put a bird bath in the cage from time to time and if I had a small door that wouldn’t be possible.

The best doors open from the side or from the top. Some doors open from the bottom and lift up. These can be dangerous because they can fall shut on your bird.

Make sure all the openings on your cage can be securely locked closed to keep your parakeet safe inside while unsupervised.

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Cuddle Bone

In almost every parakeet cage at the pet store you will see a cuttlebone (commonly misspelled “cuddle bone”). It’s a little white thing that sort of looks like a mini surf board hanging on the inside of a cage wall. The people at the pet store will all tell you that you must have one for your bird to chew on to keep his beak and nails trim and they will tell you that it’s also needed for your birds health. Why? What on earth is a cuttlebone and what does it do for your bird?

What is a Cuttlebone?

Contrary to popular belief, cuttlebones are not for your bird to cuddle with. A cuttle bone is actually a bone from a cuttlefish (well its more of an internal shell than a bone because cuttlefish are invertebrates and don’t have real bones).

Cuttlefish are squid-like animals that fill their porous chalky “cuttlebone” with gasses to help control their buoyancy in the water. Cuttlefish are considered a delicious meal in many cultures throughout the world but the cuttlebone is not usually eaten. Instead its sold to the pet trade and other industries where it can be either ground up to be put in medicine and toothpaste, or it can be kept whole and placed in a bird cage.

The cuttlebone as a toy

The cuttlebone is also fun for birds to claw at and chew on and helps them keeps their beaks and nails trim. If your bird likes his cuttlebone you will have to replace it every few months with a new one for him to tear to shreds!

Cuttlebone as a nutritional supplement

The cuttlebone is almost pure calcium and also contains large amounts of iodine. Both of these substances are needed for bird health but are rarely found in bird seed that’s purchased at the pet store.

Cuttlebones also contain high amounts of salt which some experts claim can lead to egg-binding in female birds. In spite of this risk, most veterinarians recommend the cuttlebone as an excellent calcium supplement that will help insure that your parakeet has healthy bones, feathers, and eggs.

Wild parakeets never eat cuttlebones of course, but they get calcium and iodine eating grit, dirt, mud, and even bits of shell in the soil where they live. Adding a cuttle bone or some other sort of mineral stone to your birds cage will help him feel more at home.

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The above photo was taken by Ann Britton who submitted it as a user submitted photo to the ABC. It shows a flock of budgerigars at Boulia in far west Queensland (15 October 2009).

In order to keep your pet parakeet happy it’s important for you understand how these wonderful little birds live their lives in the wild. The more you can make your parakeet’s life resemble the life of his wild cousins, they happier he will be.

Wild parakeets are nomadic creatures (they live there lives flying from place to place) that live in huge flocks found in Australia’s arid outback. This is an environment that is extremely harsh to virtually all living things. In order to cope with the lack of food and water found in their desert home, parakeets have several incredible adaptations that set them apart from other parrots. They are small which helps them live on less food than larger parrots, they can breed all year round (instead of only during certain seasons like a macaw or conure) and they have a speacial gland that allows them to drink salty water without getting sick.  Parakeet bodies are so efficient at using water that if the temperature is cool, they can go up to 30 days without having to drink any water at all (please don’t try this with your pet parakeet).

Social life of a wild Parakeet

Wild Parakeets are never alone. They are extremely social animals that need a friend close by at all times in order to feel safe. On occasion you might see a single pair of parakeets but they usually fly in flocks if 5 or more. If conditions are good they will fly in groups of well over 1000.

Parakeet flocks take off early in the morning in search of grass seeds (their favorite food) and fresh water to drink. Within the flock they mimic each other’s sounds and actions as they go. This is how they are able to learn and teach each other new skills.

Unlike other birds, parakeets do not seem to have any sort of “pecking order” inside the flock. There are no leaders and no servants among parakeets. All are all treated equal within the group. They eat, they select mates, and they find nesting grounds all on a first come first serve basis. Small fights can break out when a bird’s personal space is invaded or when two birds are going for the same seeds at the same time but these fights are rare and the winner doesn’t seem to gain any sort of lasting authority among the flock.

Wild Parakeet Food

The diet of a wild parakeet consists of the seeds of over 20 plants which is an amazing variety for any wild animal. That’s more variety than most people typically get in their own diets. Most of the seeds come from grasses like Astrepla Lappacea.

Wild parakeets seem to be totally vegetarian. They have never been seen to eat insects or other animal foods. They are not picky eaters. They will eat the seeds from virtually any plant they find (as long as the seed is ripe).

Parakeet flocks will feed early in the morning, nap in a tree throughout the day when it’s hot, then go out in search of food again in the late afternoon as the temperature begins to cool once more.

Wild Parakeet Coloration

Pet parakeets can come in all shades of green, yellow, blue, and even white but wild parakeets are almost always green with yellow on the face, blue spots on the cheeks, and black stripes on the head and wings. The green coloration helps them blend in with the trees on which they live and the black stripes help them blend in with the rest of the flock to confuse predator birds that may be wanting to attack from above.

The amazing color variations found in the pet trade are the results of careful selective breeding over the past 150 years.

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