Texas, United States
Posted Jan 15, 2015
Budgie, a budgerigar parakeet, came to our neighborhood when I was a young teen. We were eating dinner one evening when our attention was caught by either an unknown birdcall or perhaps by seeing the colors of the parakeet flying past, I can't remember now. We moved our dinner outside to watch for the brightly colored bird - bold greens & yellows which contrasted with our neighborhood regulars such as sparrows, mourning doves, crows, blackbirds, robins, blue jays, and cardinals. Once the colorful visitor landed on an electric line, we spent an hour inching close to it with offers of enchiladas (our dinner) and then some more bird-appropriate offerings of seeds. We had never had a bird as a pet before. Eventually, the parakeet came to my Mom and sat on her finger or shoulder and we somehow got our new houseguest indoors. Later, we named it Budgie, decided he seemed to look like a boy (truly we had no idea, though we read some confusing information about how to determine gender based on beak color), decided that we would refer to it as a 'he', installed him in a store-bought parakeet cage, installed a special hanging rack in my room, and hung the cage there for Budgie to begin a new life as a domesticated pet.
I cared about Budgie because he was a little animal with a life, a heart, and a personality, but now I have to say that I don't think a parakeet is a great fit for me as a pet owner. I like to have a pet that I can either be friends with or at least win over to friendship with time and love, but Budgie only pretended to like me when it suited him, while the rest of the time he was aloof and seemingly arrogant, conceited, and disinterested. Perhaps I didn't know what to do for him to help him be a happy bird.
At first, it was fun to try to gain his affection, as we would take him out of the cage every day, coaxing him onto a finger and then a shoulder. It was fun when he was calm enough to bring him into the living room and let him hang out on top of the piano or a bookshelf. I practiced piano for hours, so having Budgie in there cut some of the monotony of piano practice time. But on the whole, for me personally, a parakeet just doesn't seem to be my ideal pet. I like something I can befriend and preferably even cuddle or hug/hold. Budgie was too agressive and had too many annoying habits for me to enjoy his companionship. For instance,
(1) Biting - even though we were all as gentle, patient, and delicate with Budgie as possible, he had a mean streak and a sharp beak. Sometimes he liked to be taken out of his cage for exercise. But if he didn't feel like being bothered, he would lean way forward, waiting for our finger to come within range, and then he would nip and bite. Nips didn't hurt, but bites were full-on, powerful, lasted 1-2 seconds, painful, sometimes cutting into the skin, sometimes drawing blood. It was maddening and frustrating. We had to wear gloves to help him out of the cage for his exercise outings. Perhaps I frightened him in ways I never realized, with movements I made, or perhaps he felt threatened because we were bigger and he was cornered inside a cage. I don't know and I probably didn't understand him and his needs well.
(2) Escaping - He was a pretty clever bird and found multiple ways to escape the cage. He would nudge at the little lift-up gates that we raised to take his food & water dishes in and out, then pop his little head under a gate, squirm his body into place underneath the light-weight gate, and then take off flying. We would have to rush to turn off all the ceiling fans because he would smack into them. Then we wasted a lot of time trying to coax him down from the highest places in the house, like floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. Those cage gates had to be opened daily to change out his food and water, but we tied them shut with twist-ties. But Budgie would just work at them with his beak until they were untied and then he'd escape again.
(3) Aloof/Boring - I found it hard to get connected to my parakeet because he was aloof, self-consumed, and (seemingly) arrogant. His cage was near a mirror, and he spent most of his time staring at himself and trying to get acquainted with the bird in the reflection.
One sweet memory is that at night, once the lights were out, either Budgie or I would start what seemed to be an actual friendly communication. He had a little sound he made, a little clucking noise or something (who knows, it could've been a tiny bird sneeze or something) that he could obviously perform upon demand. He would do a little cluck and through the darkness I would imitate his little sound, then he would do it again and again until I was tired of answering. He would sometimes even answer me if I started first.
(4) Loud: Daytime Singing - Budgie was loud. Always. Sometimes his singing was pleasant, but then again there were many days where it could just be too much. I was constantly studying, so it was often a distraction and a headache to have so much loud chirping. There was no way to stop the chirping - there was no fooling him; if we put the bedtime sheet coverlet over his cage during daytime, he would not stop singing. So on warm days with no rain or chill, he would be "banished" to the back yard, where we had installed another hanging post for his cage, where he loved to sing with the wild backyard birds.
(4b) Loud: Early Morning Wakeups - If anyone wanted to sleep late in the morning, he/she was pretty much out of luck. On weekends, my dad needed to sleep late, but Budgie didn't know any concert schedule except, "Hey, there's sunlight, it's time to SING!" So it was ALWAYS, ALWAYS a real frustration because either Mom or I had to wake up and run fast, fast, fast to grab the bird's cage and gently but quickly usher him out of the house and into the dark garage to sit on the washing machine where he wouldn't wake my dad.
(5) Loud: Restless Nights - Nights weren't bad, just occasionally when a cockroach would somehow find its way into the cage (?!), which sent poor Budgie into a terrified and indignant fit of wing-flapping and screeching.
(6) Loud: Interruptions - Another really big problem was that this was a household of musicians. I practiced piano and cello for hours, and Budgie was a great admirer of my music. But his very loud vocal accompaniment of my practice sessions was not always welcome and I didn't always have an option of moving him out of the room, nor did his bedtime sheet calm him down. Mom and I also taught music lessons in the house, and Budgie would chirp and sing through lessons as well.
(7) Messy Cleanup: Feathers/Molting - Budgie had times where he would shed his feathers. We learned from library books that it's called molting. Well, Budgie molted, and that meant hundreds of tiny white, fluffy feathers falling everywhere, floating out the cage and onto my floor. They're so lightweight, they easily blew around the room if I had a ceiling fan on. It required frequent cleanup at the most inopportune moments, though it's not the bird's fault.
(8) Messy Cleanup: Food Tossing - Budgie developed a bad and seemingly spiteful habit of tossing his food and water. He would mount his food or water dish and, with his beak, would unceremoniously toss food out the cage and all over my hardwood floor. That was one of the most annoying things to deal with - an OCD neat-freak teenage girl (often barefooted) stepping around a constant decoration of tossed birdseed. He also tossed water droplets out the cage, which never harmed anything.
(9) Cleanup: Poop - The good thing about parakeet waste is that it's mostly tiny. It's tiny and curled or circular. The bad thing is that it does pile up in the tray (removeable tray at bottom of cage) and has to be taken out daily to clean. You have to find a place to clean the tray and get all the caked-on, stuck-on poop off, somewhere you don't mind having bird droppings. You need water and paper towels at the very least. Also, the poop will inevitably somehow end up falling outside the cage as well, and there was often some on my floor under the cage. Again, not the bird's fault, but not my cup of tea.
(9) Illness - My first budgerigar parakeet (I had two others) became oddly ill after several years of seemingly stellar health. He developed some condition that made him look really sickly and he obviously felt poorly. I can't remember exactly, it's been a long time. He got very ill and couldn't hang on more than a couple more weeks after that. We all watched him pretty helplessly (Mom must have called or visited a vet) and when he died we felt awful about it. We later learned that you're supposed to give them something called "grit" for them to use along with their food to help the digestion process, and we felt horrible for not having realized that and wondered if that was what made him sick in the end. Poor little thing.
(10) Wing-Clipping - We also learned that they were supposed to (or maybe just that it was an option if kept as household pets) have their wings "clipped," clipping just a bit of the tip of each wing to keep them from being able to fly at full capacity. I hated this process and didn't like to watch. We did it on our own as carefully as possible while reading instructions, because we were simply too poor to go to a veterinarian, but it wasn't fun for us or for the bird.
A budgie parakeet could probably be a wonderful pet for someone, and I could imagine his singing could be a real comfort to someone who feels alone/solitary. If a person plays music for him, he may really sing along. He never seemed the ideal pet for me personally, so I would not purposely seek one out again nor recommend them, simply because I didn't enjoy the experience of owning one near as much as I loved having dogs.