Basic budgie care for new budgie owners – budgies 101

Getting a budgie for the first time is an exciting event. Of course you want to do right by your little friend, so you try to do as much research as possible. In this article I will summarize the most important things you need to know before getting your budgie.

Getting one budgie or more

Budgies are flock animals. This means that they live in groups of budgies in the wild. Because they live in flocks, budgies are in need of company. Whether that is you or another budgie depends on your lifestyle. If you work from home every day, for example, you can spend a lot of time with your budgie if you allow them to hang out with you during work. This way your budgie might get their social needs met by you. However, keep in mind that if you are going out for a day (to visit friends or family for example), your budgie will be all alone, which can cause stress and unwanted behaviours like feather plucking or excessive screaming. That’s why I recommend getting at least 2 budgies. This way they can keep each other company and get their social needs met in the most natural way. 

For the taming process, it’s easiest if you get one budgie first and introduce a second once the first budgie is fully tamed. This way, you can spend quality time with each bird separately and get them to bond with you.

Setting up the cage

Before you go out to pick up the budgie itself, it’s best to have the cage ready first. Having the cage set up will allow for a smoother transition for both you and your bird. As you can imagine, being in a small carrier cage is stressful for your little friend and it will be even more stressful to be inside it while their new family needs time to set up the cage. Set yourself up for success and have the cage ready to go as soon as your budgie enters your house for the first time. A suitable budgie cage needs to be at least 12x18x18 inches (or 30x45x45 centimetres) for a single budgie. Keep in mind that these measurements are the bare minimum for a single budgie. It’s best to get a bigger cage if you are able to.

What you need to put in the cage

First of all: bowls for food and water. It’s best to avoid plastic bowls or bottles, as they collect bacteria very quickly. I would especially advise against plastic water bottles as they are hard (if not impossible) to clean. The bacteria that is collected in the nozzle will soon start to mould, which can cause your budgie to fall ill. A safe alternative is to use stainless steel bowls for both water and food. Stainless steel surfaces collect fewer bacteria in the same amount of time as plastic surfaces do, and they are easier to clean.

Secondly, you will need some perches so your little friend has a place to sit. Most cages will come with a few dowel perches already inside. It’s best to take these all out or leave only one at most. The reason for this is that dowel perches don’t allow enough variety for your birds’ feet. Keeping their feet in the same position for long periods will cause arthritis when they get older. A better alternative is to add in a variety of natural perches and one or two platform perches. You can also add a few rope perches but if you do, please wrap them with vet tape. If a rope perch starts to fray over time, your budgie can get their nails stuck on it or they can ingest the fibres. If they ingest too many fibres it can cause a blockage in their crop which is fatal in many situations. Vet tape protects your rope perches from fraying and allows you to customize their colours as well.

Some other very important things to put in your new budgies’ cage are a variety of toys. Budgies need toys for two main reasons: the first is to vile their beaks and the second is for mental stimulation. Budgies’ beaks never stop growing, similar to nails. This means they need something to vile their beaks on like toys of different materials (preferably natural materials) or a mineral block. 

Toys are also very important to keep them entertained and mentally stimulated. If your budgie is not adequately stimulated, it can lead to depression and boredom. This will likely result in unwanted behaviour such as excessive screaming, aggression towards their owner or plucking their feathers. When picking out toys it’s best to go with several different ones that stimulate different natural behaviours. Some natural behaviours that need to be stimulated are foraging for food and destroying things.

When picking out toys, try to avoid buying ones with plastic parts or cotton rope. If plastic parts break, they can leave a sharp edge on which your budgie can hurt itself. The cotton rope needs to be avoided for the same reason as cotton perches can be dangerous: your budgie could start preening the rope and unknowingly swallow some fibres. This can cause a blockage in their crop which can be fatal. Luckily, there are many DIY toys to be found on the internet. These toys are usually made of cardboard pieces (like toilet paper rolls or egg cartons) or paper.


The right diet

When you’re getting your first budgie(s), they will likely be on an all-seed diet. Sadly, this isn’t a sustainable diet for your little friend. An all seed-diet for birds can be compared to an all fast food diet for humans. It tastes good to them but it’s high in fat. Keeping your budgie on an all seed diet can cause health problems over time. The most common health problems are fatty liver disease, where a clump of fat cells cling to the liver and nutrient deficiencies as a seed diet does not provide all the necessary nutrients for your bird.

A healthy diet that is supported by vets consists of high-quality pellets and chop. When picking out a brand of pellets, check the ingredients list carefully, as most pellets sold in pet stores are very high in sugar. Especially coloured pellets have a risk of being high in sugar. Personally, I give my birds (2 budgies and 2 cockatiels) each a serving of high-quality pellets in the morning and fresh chop at dinnertime. Chop is a mixture of finely chopped vegetables and grains, usually done with a food processor. There are several chop recipes available online. My birds get the seasonal feeding system from Birdtricks. Their cookbook is developed with the help of veterinarians and nutritionist experts, making it a great choice for your birds. 

Keep in mind that you can’t convert your budgie to pellets and chop in just one day. It’s a difficult process that needs to be monitored carefully. Budgies are known to rather starve themselves to death than eat something that they don’t recognize to be food. For tips on converting your budgie onto a healthier diet, please read our articles on converting your budgie to pellets and getting your budgie to eat fruits and vegetables.

Taming and training your budgie

Like I mentioned before, budgies need to be stimulated mentally to avoid issues like boredom and depression. One way to challenge your budgie mentally is by training them. In order to be able to train them to do tricks, you first need to tame them. In our article about taming your budgie, you will find all the information you need to tame your new friend. 

Practising tricks with your bird encourages them to use their problem-solving skills to get a treat from their owners. This challenges them mentally and it’s a lot of fun to do. While training your budgie you also work on strengthening your relationship with them. 

There are many tricks you can teach your budgie. Think of things like flying to your hand on command, shaking hands, doing a spin and walking through a tunnel. You can even teach them things like ring toss and bowling! There are many Youtube videos that break down the steps you need to take to teach your budgies these things.

Budgie-proofing your house

In order to let your budgie free-roam your house safely, it’s important to budgie-proof your living space. This includes doing things such as getting rid of houseplants that are toxic to them (or moving said plants to a room where your budgie can’t get to them), hiding electrical cords and making your windows visible for your bird. Most budgie-related accidents happen in homes that have not been budgie proofed. Take your time to do this properly so your little friend can explore safely.

Final thoughts

Getting a new budgie for the first time can be very overwhelming. There is so much you need to know in order to give them a happy and healthy life with you. Please remember that it’s okay to make mistakes along your journey. You do what you can with the information that you have at that moment. It’s important to keep an open mind and keep researching, even if you’ve had your budgie for quite some time.

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