For some people, like me, welcoming a budgie into your home is the best decision they ever make. For others, having a flying, destructive and loud pet can be their worst nightmare. In this article I will list the most important downsides of having a budgie as a pet, so you can decide for yourself if a budgie is a good fit for you. This article is meant to help you make a well-informed decision, not to encourage or discourage you from adopting a budgie.
Budgies are NEEDY
If you thought dogs were needy when it comes to wanting attention from you, think again. They are nothing compared to birds. As I’m typing this, my whole flock of two budgies and a cockatiel is gathered around my laptop, constantly trying to walk on the keyboard or my arms to get my attention. To some people, this might be endearing, but to others, it’s simply an annoyance, and that’s okay.
When raised right, a budgie will see its owner as a part of its flock. This means they will want your attention at the most inconvenient moments, like when working on a project. It also means they will miss you and most likely panic when they can’t see you anymore. When you leave the room they feel like their flock is incomplete, and they will call for you to come back. This again might sound endearing, but imagine sitting on the toilet with an immense feeling of guilt because you hear your budgies calling for you to come back.
Something else important to keep in mind is that budgies are in fact parrots. Although they are very small, their needs are similar to the needs of a giant macaw. This includes their need for mental stimulation. If you can’t provide enough mental stimulation to your budgie in the form of trick training and foraging toys, this will inevitably lead to depression and/or stress for your little bird. This, in turn, can lead to health issues like plucking their feathers out of boredom.
Budgies are EXPENSIVE
Although the bird itself might not cost that much, their supplies and upkeep sure do. Budgies need a big cage to cater to their need to burn energy. The cages you find in most pet stores are not suitable for them unless you use them for travel purposes only. Depending on where you live, a good cage can easily cost 100 to 150 euro’s or more. This doesn’t even include suitable perches. Most cages come with standard plastic or dowel perches, which are bad for your birds’ feet if they have to perch on them for long times. This means you have to invest in natural wood perches, platform perches and rope perches. And you probably want some nice swings in the cage as well. Budgies love swings and they look adorable playing on them, so make sure there’s room in your budget for that.
And then there’s the food. Like I will mention later in this article, budgies need a suitable diet. This means they can’t live on a cheap bag of seeds for their entire life. They need a variety of fresh vegetables every single day, which doesn’t only cost you money, but also a lot of time to make. In addition to their fresh vegetables, they also need good quality pellet food. Some pet stores sell bird pellets, but most of the cheaper brands contain lots of sugar and fillers. So if you want to feed your budgie a good healthy diet, you can’t cheap out on the pellets.
Of course, there’s also the toys. Budgies, like all parrots, are meant to destroy and shred things. This means you have to provide toys that can be destroyed easily. And this, in turn, means you have to replace the toys every time they’re broken. With toys too, you want to avoid the cheaper stuff. Most pet store toys, especially the cheaper ones, often contain materials like cotton rope, dyes or plastic, which are harmful and potentially deadly to your birds. So ask yourself if you are willing to spend a good dime on toys that will likely be destroyed within a month or even a week. However, there is a way to save some money on bird toys, but it will cost you time instead. You can always make toys yourself by using cheap or no-cost materials suitable for birds. My birds for example, absolutely love toys made from toilet paper rolls. There are plenty of great ideas on YouTube and Pinterest if you are willing to take the time to make them.
Did you think we were done now? Think again. What if your budgie falls ill? They will need to see a vet. And not just a regular vet, but a specialized avian vet. The anatomy of birds differs greatly from the anatomy of other animals humans keep as pets. This means a vet has to do a specialization to provide the right diagnosis and care for a bird. Because of that, avian vets are rare, which causes the prices of their help to be higher than the prices seen at a regular vet.
Budgies need SPACE
Although they are so tiny, budgies need a lot of space. Let’s take a moment to think about the amount of space budgies have in the wild. They have endless amounts of it. They can fly enormous distances without the hindrance of cage bars. Of course, we can never mimic this amount of space in captivity, but we can do a lot better than sticking them in a small tabletop cage. A budgie needs a cage where it can fly around and burn energy. They are some of the most energetic birds I’ve ever seen. If we don’t allow them to exercise, they can get stressed, become obese, bored, resort to screaming and their muscles can deteriorate from lack of usage.
Aside from a big cage with enough space to fly around, they also need time outside their cage. They need to be able to become part of your ‘flock’ (aka family). This means you have to bird-proof your house, just like you would need to make your house safe for a baby.
This also means you have to hand-tame your budgie, which takes a lot of effort. You can’t just open the cage door and expect your budgie to be well-behaved and fully trusting of you. Parrots have only been kept as pets since the 1800s, so they haven’t had the chance to fully evolve to cuddly and trusting family members like dogs or cats. Their initial instinct is that you are a predator that’s trying to eat them, so you have to work against nature to gain their trust. Once you manage to do this though, they will never want to leave your side again.
Budgies are VULNERABLE
Owning a budgie means having to sacrifice a lot of nice things to make sure your bird is safe. Our houses are full of things that can be harmful to our birds. Even things that we really like. Think about certain house plants for example. You might have a really beautiful plant that you put a lot of effort into growing. This same plant could be highly toxic to your budgie, so if you want a budgie, the plant needs to go. With a budgie you can’t afford to take the risk of thinking ‘Yeah, but I will keep a close eye on them and shoo them away from my toxic plant before they touch it.’. Although this might sound like a good idea in theory, it’s not sustainable in real life. Budgies are very curious, especially about the things their humans try to keep them away from. So your budgie might just wait for you to go to the toilet and then still try to nibble on that tasty looking plant.
Another household danger that we humans really like are things that contain chemicals. Think about non-stick cookware, scented candles and nice smelling cleaning supplies. Owning a budgie means you have to give up all of these things. If you are willing to purchase new PFOA free cookware, swap your candles for fake ones on batteries and clean your house with vinegar, you can consider a budgie as a pet. If you really like these household items (because yes, they do make our lives a whole lot easier), that’s okay, but you should consider a more resiliant pet than a bird.
Then there’s a danger that we can’t really avoid, but have to learn to work around, are windows. Budgies don’t understand the concept of windows and will crash into them if you don’t do anything to prevent that from happening. If your budgie flies into a window on full speed they will likely break their neck on impact. It is possible to teach your budgie about the precence of this invisible barrier, but it takes a lot of time and effort.
Budgies are DESTRUCTIVE
If you like your furniture nice and scratch-free, a budgie might not be for you. Although their beaks are small and look like they can’t do much damage, they sure can (and will). A loose thread on your couch will likely be viewed by your budgie as a fun thing to play with, which will result in more loose threads. Or like I mentioned earlier, budgies love chewing on houseplants. So if you value the beauty of your plants, a budgie might not be for you. Keep in mind that destructive behaviour is part of a budgies nature. Therefore it’s unfair to them to punish them for doing what comes naturally to them. If you do decide to get a bird, try to find ways to work around it. You can put a nice play stand in your (living) room with lots of fun toys they can destroy. If those toys are more appealing than loose strings on your couch or clothing, they will chew the toys rather than the things they’re not supposed to. Offering toys, however, does not FIX the problem, it’s merely a form of damage control. As for plants, I have a variety of herbs growing in my living room that my birds are allowed to chew on. Some herbs, like basil, can be beneficial to your budgies health. They like the taste of it and will likely choose to chew the basil over your other plants.
Budgies need a suitable DIET
A budgies diet is complicated, time-consuming and expensive. Like I mentioned earlier, you can’t buy a bag of seeds and think your budgie will live a long and healthy life. Seeds for budgies are comparable to fast food for humans. If you were to only eat fast food for breakfast, lunch and dinner your health and lifespan would be compromised immensely, so please don’t do that to your bird either. This doesn’t mean you can never give them seeds, it just means to give them in moderation. Personally, I only offer seeds or millet during training sessions or I mix a small number of seeds through their veggies when there’s a special occasion.
A healthy diet should consist of a wide variety of vegetables every day. This means you have to make this chop daily or spend a long afternoon in the kitchen making a big batch and freezing it in small portions. Making proper chop also calls for a lot of research. You can’t just throw some random vegetables together and expect your bird to get all the nutrients it needs.
And lastly, you will need pellet food as an addition to the fresh vegetables. Finding the right pellets also calls for a ton of research. Most of the cheaper pellet brands contain lots of sugar and fillers, which are not good for your budgie. Try to find a brand that is as organic as possible and contains all the nutrients your bird needs. You can always consult your avian vet for recommendations on this.
Budgies are MESSY
Have you ever considered vacuuming your walls and ceiling? If you want a budgie, you’d better get used to doing that. They are extremely messy, especially when eating. At dinner time, there’s chop EVERYWHERE. They throw it on the wall behind their cage or play stand (depending on where I serve dinner that day), they throw it on each other, they throw it on their humans, on furniture and if you have bad luck they even throw it in your food while you’re eating.
And it’s not just the food that’s a problem. It’s also the poop. Since your budgie will need time outside of their cage every day to exercise, they will poop all over the place. Budgies, on average, poop every 15 to 20 minutes. So that’s 3 or 4 poops they drop every hour. The good news is, their poops are small and don’t smell. You can easily wipe them up with a paper towel, or even vacuum them up if you wait for them to dry. The downside of not smelling the poop is that you will likely not find all of them when cleaning. This results in you often stepping in poops, having them on your back without your knowledge or reaching for a high shelf and grabbing in poop.
Then, there’s the mess from toys. Since toys are meant to be destroyed and budgies don’t exactly care about what happens to the broken-off parts, you will likely find pieces of toys scattered around your house. I don’t see this as a problem because these pieces are usually so small you can easily vacuum them up, but I still wanted to mention it to help you paint a realistic picture of what to expect from owning a budgie. Yes, there is a lot of vacuuming involved when owning budgies.
Lastly, there are the feathers. Your budgie will moult twice every year (and there’s one extra moult at the age of 3 months). This means all of their feathers fall out one by one while new feathers grow simultaneously. Every time this happens I wonder if I secretly have some extra budgies in my house that I don’t know about because there are so many loose feathers! Although this is a messy period, most bird owners like it when their birds shed their old plumage. Many people, like me, have a jar so you can save up the most beautiful feathers. And I have also seen many cool crafts that are made from pet birds’ feathers.
If you made it all the way to the end of the article and are still considering taking in a budgie, I think you can handle it. Just be sure to keep educating yourself along the way. The information on budgies and parrot care in general updates every day, so stay up to date and adjust your care accordingly. Budgies are lovely pets, but you have to make some sacrifices to accommodate them.
Since you now know what to expect, please consider the idea of taking in a budgie from someone who was in over their head and needs to rehome theirs. Many budgies are given up for adoption because their owners thought they were easy pets when taking them in. Or they fail to provide the right type of care which can lead to screaming, boredom and aggression. A bird like this can flourish over time once put in a suitable environment with a loving owner. Adopting a second-chance budgie is not for everyone, but please look into the idea to see if it could be for you. If you are interested in reading how much a bird can change when being provided with the right care, I would recommend reading the adoption story of my cockatiel Falky.