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Seed - Every budgie's diet staple should be a fortified seed mix. This should include (but doesn't have to be limited to) millet, canary seed, and oat groats. Some seed mixes come with extra additives such as dried fruits/veggies and small pellets. These are all fine, but don't be surprised if your budgie doesn't eat them. Some seed mixes add colors to the seeds. Avoid any mixes that use artificial colors. Only buy those that use natural colorants, such as beat juice. Keep the seed fresh by keeping it sealed in an air-tight container. To avoid seed moth problems, you can freeze the seed mix overnight after bringing it home.
Fresh Foods - Many people don't realize that seed is not the only thing a budgie should eat. In fact, budgies on a seed-only diet will suffer from malnutrition and related complications and will live much shorter lives than those on healthy diets which include fresh foods every day. Budgies on seed-only diets can be expected to live only 4-6 years, while budgies can actually live to be 10 years or more. So it is very important to provide your budgie with a healthy, varied diet which includes fresh fruits and vegetables. Every budgie has individual tastes, and you will learn what your budgie(s) like and dislike. In general though, budgies like crispy things, such as crisp lettuces and greens. They also enjoy their fresh foods wet, so be sure to rinse first and put greens into the cage while they are still dripping wet. Some fresh foods that budgies often enjoy include carrot tops, sprouts, strawberries, kale, apples, broccoli, and most dark, leafy greens. When you feed lettuces to your budgie(s) avoid those that are mostly water, such as iceberg and cabbage. These light colored, watery greens don't offer much in the way of nutrition. Stick with the dark green/purple lettuces which are full of nutrients. Also, always take any left-overs of fresh foods out of the cage after a few hours so that it does not go bad inside the cage.
When offering fresh foods to your budgie, go for variety in choices and presentation and experiment to see what your budgie likes. In other words, try many different kinds of fresh foods, and offer them in different ways. You can clip chunks (ie melon, corn-on-the-cob, apple, etc) in the cage, or pierce them with a skewer made for pet birds. You can clip wet greens to the side of the cage, hang them from or twist them through a favorite toy, or just hang them from the top of the cage. You can offer sprouts in a treat cup or on top of the seeds. You can chop up/shred different foods (i.e. broccoli, cauliflower, carrot, bell peppers, etc.) to make a birdy salad and put it in a treat cup or bowl in the cage. You can even offer favorite foods from your hand. Variety in choices will ensure your budgie receives complete and balanced nutrition, and variety in choice and presentation will keep him interested in fresh foods and in trying new fresh foods. If you are having a hard time getting your budgie to try fresh foods (in other words, if you have a "seed-junkie") see my FAQ article, "How Do I Get My Budgie to Eat Veggies?"
Supplements - Budgies need to be supplied with a cuttle bone and mineral block at all times. These provide important minerals and calcium. Some budgies prefer one over the other, some like to tear them apart, and some like to use them as perches. No matter what, they should always be available, even if your budgie doesn't even touch them. Your budgie's body will tell him (or her) if and when it is in need.
There are also other supplements available in pet and bird stores, which range from vitamin and mineral supplements to pro-biotics and algaes. None of these are necessary, especially if your budgie is healthy and receives a healthy diet. However, some owners may choose to consider using any of these supplements. Before using any supplements, you should first consult with your avian veterinarian.
Dangers & Hazards
There are several categories of dangers and hazards to your pet budgie that you should be aware of:
Foods - There are several foods which should never be fed to your budgie because they are toxic. This includes chocolate, coffee, soda, caffeinated beverages, avocado, rhubarb, and the area of pitted fruits which touched the pit. Many fruit seeds are toxic to birds, so to be safe always remove any seeds from fruits you give to your budgies. You should also avoid giving your budgie anything but limited amounts of milk based products, as birds are lactose intolerant. Also, do not feed your budgie anything but very limited amounts of anything considered to be junk food (i.e. chips, fried foods, sweets, white bread, etc).
Toxic Items - Never let your budgie play or mouth an item or plant unless you know it is safe and non-toxic. Some metals, the heavy metals, are poisonous to birds and can poison them simply through contact with the beak or skin. The poisonous heavy metals include lead, zinc, copper, and brass. Metals you can know are safe include stainless steel, iron, and ungalvanized tin. For more information, see "Heavy Metal Poisoning in Birds" by Gillian Willis. You also need to be very careful with items which have paint or glue. You need to be sure that any paint or glue in/on an item is non-toxic. If you don't know what an item is made of, it is better to be safe than sorry by not letting your budgie play with it.
Toxic Plants - Some plants and parts of plants are poisonous to birds, so you need to research any plant that you have in the house or that you plan to use to make perches to be sure it is safe. If you can't identify it or find out if it is toxic or not, then it is again better to be safe than sorry by not having that plant in an area where your budgie will be or by not using that plant to make perches. (Click here for help looking up poisonous/non-poisonous plants.)
Household Cleaners/Chemicals - It goes to say that anything you wouldn't want a baby or child to get into, you wouldn't want your bird to get into. But additionally, birds have very sensitive respiratory systems, and you will want to avoid using most household cleaners and chemicals around your budgies. This includes anything with a strong scent or chemical odor, cleaners, sprays, liquids, aerosols, etc. When it comes time for you to use a cleaner or chemical in your home, put your budgie's cage into another room where the fumes will not get to, or place the cage outside, partly covered and out of direct sunlight. Also, you should not use air fresheners (deodorizers and scents) when you have a budgie, including sprays/aerosols, plug-ins, powders, and scented candles. You should also avoid using beauty/personal hygiene aerosols and sprays around your budgies, including hairspray and deodorant.
Another source of toxic fumes in the home is non-stick coating (PTFE), which comes under many names, such as Teflon. When non-stick coating is over-heated, it releases toxic fumes which kill birds very quickly. Even under normal heating conditions, non-stick coating can release some toxic fumes. It is recommended that you never use cookware or appliances with non-stick coating when you have birds in the home.
Physical Hazards Around the Home - Don't let your budgie roam/fly free in an area or room of the house until you've established that it is bird-safe. Be sure that there are no fans running, and that the blinds or curtains are drawn on the windows. Also try not to have your budgie out where there are mirrors, or try to cover any mirrors. Budgies can accidentally fly into any of these and injure themselves badly. Make sure that there is nothing your budgie might land on that could fall. Reduce the amount of exposed electrical and computer cords to the bare minimum, and always keep your budgie away from these. Remove any plants unless you know they are safe for birds. (Click here for help looking up poisonous/non-poisonous plants.) Examine the area or room from a bird's point of view and try to identify and remove anything that might be a hazard.
Escape Hazards - Open doors and windows are obvious escape hazards. Never have your budgie out, even if it is clipped, while there are open doors or windows. If a door or window does have a screen, before you have your budgie out, check and make sure it is in place properly, that there are no holes, and that it is not becoming loose along the frame. When your budgie is out and about, make sure everyone in the family/household is aware so that they don't accidentally leave a door or window open. Also, if it does become necessary to temporarily open a door, secure your budgie close to your body gently with your hand or bring him into a room with the door closed until the outside door can be shut.
Of course you care about your budgie's well-being, so one of your main priorities as a budgie-owner is your budgie's physical health.
Establishing Your Budgie's Health - In general you can tell that budgies are healthy by looking at them and watching their behavior. A healthy budgie will be well-feathered (unless he is molting at the time) and clean and free of any stains above the nostrils and around the vent. He/she will also have eyes, nostrils, and face clear of build-up or mucus and a smooth, well-shaped, clean beak. A healthy budgie will be active when the flock is active, and will be interactive with the flock (whether it be other budgies or people).
To start out things on the right track, when you first get your new budgie you should schedule a check-up with your avian veterinarian. You can use http://aav.org/search/index.php to help you look up an avian vet in your area. This will allow you to get to know your local avian vet, to establish a history for your bird with this vet, and to get any questions answered and helpful advice from a real expert. At your first check up, your avian vet will be able to establish that your budgie is in overall good health, and will keep a record so that you can monitor his/her health and progress over the years. You should take your budgie in for a check-up about once a year.
Once you've established that your budgie is healthy, from day to day you should spend time watching your budgie and learning what behavior, activity level, and eating habits are normal for him/her. This way you will be able to identify any changes, even subtle ones, that could indicate an illness or problem.
Maintaining Your Budgie's Health - The most important thing to your budgie's health is a healthy diet. Budgies also need exercise and activity to stay healthy. Your budgie's cage should be big enough to allow your budgie plenty of freedom of movement and room to flap around. The best cage size for your budgie will allow him/her to fly from one perch to another. To ensure that your budgie is getting enough exercise, take your budgie(s) out of the cage once a day to allow them some time to fly and run about. Just be sure that you've established that the area/room is bird-safe.
To avoid illness, be sure to maintain your budgie's cage by cleaning out the liner often and keeping the perches and accessories clean. Also be sure to provide fresh, clean water every day.
A budgie's mental health is just as important as his or her physical health to happiness and well-being. There are many aspects to a budgie's mental health, but as long as you are a dedicated and educated budgie care-giver, you and your budgie(s) should have no worries.
Flock Mentality - Budgies are flock creatures. This is one of their most defining aspects. Budgies need to be part of a flock and it is cruel to keep a budgie lonely and isolated. It is perfectly fine to keep only one budgie as long as you plan on taming him (or her) and you and your family can interact with him/her every day. In this case, you and your family will become your budgie's flock, and he or she will form a very close bond with you. If you have a male budgie, he is likely (but not guaranteed) to learn to talk in this situation. Your budgie will become a beloved household pet. However, if you and your family do not plan on keeping a tame budgie and do not plan on interaction with the bird(s), you must keep at least two together. You can keep any combination of males and females together, but I recommend at least 50% males. The budgies will become a flock and will interact, chirp, and sing together. They will be enjoyable to watch and to have around. But no matter what, a budgie should never be kept alone and isolated without interaction from it's flock (whether it be it's human flock or budgie flock) on a permanent basis.
The Cage - The budgie's cage is it's home, shelter, and safe place. The cage should be an appropriate size for the number of budgies kept in it. Unfortunately, pet stores often sell cages that are too small for any bird to be kept in on a permanent basis, so be sure to click here to learn about cage sizes for budgies. An appropriately sized cage should allow the budgie plenty of freedom of movement and room to flap it's wings. Try not to impede on this by over-cluttering the cage with toys or other items. The cage, perches, and accessories should always be kept clean. Don't position the cage directly in front of a window, or near any drafts (i.e. drafty doors and windows, heating and A/C vents, etc). Also don't place the cage where any positionable lamp/light fixture would be pointing directly at the cage. If at any time your budgie appears to become nervous because of something going on in the house (i.e. movers moving furniture, turned on ceiling fan, etc), cover part or all of the cage until the commotion is over. At night, cover the cage for security and keep a night-light on.
Toys - Budgies are curious, inquisitive, playful creatures. They need to be provided with toys to keep them mentally stimulated. Budgies love bells, rings, beads, swings, and chew toys. I recommend buying several basic toys, the simplest ones sold at the pet store, and then buying one or two fancy expensive ones. You don't need to have all the toys in the cage at once. In fact, I recommend only keeping two or three in the cage at a time, and switching them out every week or two. See my FAQ article, "What Are Some Favorite Budgie Toys?" for more detailed information on budgie toys.
The one type of toy I recommend avoiding is any toy with a mirror. Budgies can sometimes develop an unhealthy obsession with the "other" bird in the mirror, which can cause problems with tame budgies as well as fighting and possessiveness among budgies kept together.
Illness and Injury - Nobody wants or expects their budgie to get sick or injured, but every budgie owner should be prepared in case this happens.
Illness - If you've established what behavior, activity level, and eating habits are normal for your budgie, and you pay close attention to him every day, you need to be on the look out for any changes, even subtle ones. This is because any change can be a sign that there is something wrong. Since budgies are actually wild creatures (not domesticated like dogs or cats) all of their wild instincts are still intact. In the wild, budgies have to mask their illness, because if the flock identifies a bird as ill and weak, the flock will reject that budgie. This is simply and purely a survival instinct. Therefore, pet birds are extremely good a hiding their illness and pain, which is why it is very important to be on the look out for subtle changes. By the time there is something obviously wrong with the bird, he/she has been sick or in pain for a long time and is just now too weak to hide it. The minute you suspect something may be wrong, you should schedule an appointment with your avian vet. You can use http://aav.org/search/index.php to help you look up an avian vet in your area. Keep track of everything you observe about the budgie until the appointment, including eating and sleeping habits and changes in appearance and behavior. Reporting this to the vet at the appointment will help him/her determine what may be wrong. If your budgie has become obviously sick and/or weak you should seriously consider taking him/her in for an emergency visit. You can call the vet's office to let them know you would like to take your budgie in to be seen as an emergency. They will be able to tell you the price of the emergency visit, or, if they are unequipped to help you at the time, refer you to a facility that is.
Remember, the earlier you catch an illness or problem with your budgie, the better chances you'll have of treating it and of avoiding very costly treatments. Check on your budgie every day and be aware of the signs of illness: