Acquired: Breeder (non-professional, hobby breeder),
Bred bird myself,
Rescue / shelter organization
Maine, United States
Posted Oct 15, 2012
My first two budgies came into my life rather unexpectedly. I was, at the time of acquiring them, beyond infatuated with training Border Collies so budgies were something of an afterthought. A teacher from my school figured I'd be a good owner for them because her daughter didn't give them the attention she felt they needed and deserved.
I'll admit, in the very beginning I knew nothing about them so I mostly just made sure they had fresh seed and water each day before heading out to school or to the fields with my dogs. It wasn't until my dad asked if they talked or did anything and my reply was "...well, I don't know!" that I decided to try and find out.
I've never, to this day, quite managed to get a budgie to 'talk' but they're definitely capable of mimicking whistles, chirps, and calls. After spending some six months or more trying to get them to repeat simple things like "hello" I decided to simply focus on whistling different patterns on my trainer's whistle for my dogs and they took to it like ducks to a pond.
If you're looking for birds that mimic human language budgies might not be the best pets for you. :) I'm not saying they can't - YouTube has videos of birds that've learned, but I think it's generally uncommon. On the other hand if you enjoy whistling and the prospect of birds that can, with practice, pick up your tunes budgies might just be perfect.
Now for the nitty gritty:
* sexing budgies isn't always easy. If you're around them for a long time you'll learn in the same way parents of twins can always tell which is which. The usual standby is that males have a blue 'cere' which is the nose area located at the top of their beak. Females will have a brown cere, but this is only if you're lucky. Classic green budgies will usually have blue ceres and brown ceres but if you start acquiring other color combinations (blues, whites, yellows, mix-pieds) sexing becomes a challenge. On top of this, occasionally birds can develop hormone complications that cause their ceres to present in a color other than their gender. I've owned a male bird with a brown cere. Right now I own a recessive pied budgie I thought to be female for the longest time, only to have 'him' bond with a female and raise a clutch of chicks! It gets tricky.
* budgies have two breeding seasons. The strongest, at least for my personal flock, occurs from late August into early October. The second breeding season (milder, at least in my opinion) happens between late March and early June. (I live in New England, Eastern Standard Time.) These times can fluctuate and may depend entirely upon your flock and how much light they receive on a daily basis. Birds needn't be bred during these times if you don't wish them to; it's usually enough preventative to simply not provide them with a breeding box. If they're especially desperate they may try to raise chicks in the bottom of their cage, but this is only if they're paired and feel it's safe enough to give it a go. 'Nesting behavior' includes digging a hole in a corner of the cage and possibly dragging shreds and suchlike to circle it. If you catch your birds doing this and don't want chicks it's bed to completely change out the bottom of the cage, place a separating grate, or move them into a new cage - but only if you catch it early, and even then you might be too late. Typically, though, it's far easier for them to nest in a box and they probably won't attempt cage floor nesting, especially if you have more than a matched pair in the cage.
* budgies should typically receive more than seeds or pellets in their diet. Most people feed seeds because they're easy to find while other people insist an entirely pellet diet is the way to go. I personally buy the seeds that have both mixed in - seeds and pellets, but on top of that I provide fresh Romaine lettuce (they like it soaked, running it under water before sticking it in their cage may get them excited about it). My flock also enjoys chewing on carrots, strawberries, and watermelon (seedless). Besides that I frequently provide sprouts, fresh spinach, parsley, and cilantro. I have seven birds currently and one's always brave enough to give something new a try which incites the others to follow. If you only have two you might have to introduce them to new foods slowly. ** Budgies should never be fed avocado, mushrooms, or onions as these foods can prove toxic and deadly to them. **
* Hand-taming budgies is best practiced on juvenile birds as they're still young and often very receptive to new things. Older birds can still learn but in order to prevent frightening them it's best to approach it slowly. If the bird(s) is/are new to your home allow them time to become accustomed to you. Provide them with treats (honey seed sticks, Romaine lettuce, cilantro) and let them see your hands often. If possible, allow your hands to sit inside their cage while you talk with them. Before long your hands will be 'part of the scenery' and, in time, they may move to sit on your fingers or otherwise perch here and there on your hands. I've initially taught budgies to 'step up' by pinching a treat between my thumb and first finger while holding my middle out for them to 'step up' on as a means of getting closer to the treat. Equally, holding seeds in your palm and letting them climb on works just fine, although they may end up sitting in your palm amongst the seeds to eat instead of on your fingers. :)
* Budgies make noise. They're very chatty, sociable, and energetic. If you're sensitive to noise and occasional squawking and screeching these may not be the birds for you. Having them in the same room where you work (such as a stay-at-home office) isn't always conducive to maintaining a train of thought. They enjoy chirping and chatting from dawn until dusk with periods of louder noise - early morning, around noon, and just before bed.
Overall I'd recommend budgies to adults and kids over eight, as young children may unintentionally harm them. They are, after all, quite small and while I wouldn't label them as 'fragile' (like canaries) they can still be harmed by over-enthusiastic play. They make lively and social companions, especially if you've got a whistle or can carry a tune.