Budgies are one of the most popular birds in the world and they are also often referred to as parakeets. Many people ask about the difference between a parakeet and a budgie so this may help explain. A budgie is a parakeet, but not all parakeets are budgies. The term parakeet is a general designation for a number of small parrots with long tails, including the budgerigar.
Budgerigar describes a single species, Melopsittacus undulatus. However, there are two breeds of budgerigar which differ in size and shape. The most commonly one kept as a pet is the American budgerigar which is smaller and less expensive than the larger English budgerigar, shown here.
Often referred to as exhibition budgies, English budgies have been selectively bred over generation after generation for size and show quality. Many bird keepers specialize in raising these wonderful birds and they delight in showing their best birds.People planning to breed their budgies should wait until they are a year old. Despite the fact that some are sexually mature after a few months, they should be at least a year old before they begin raising young, as it is a very demanding job! Both male and female parakeets help raise the babies. Parakeets, like many birds, are monogamous and their bond lasts for life. They make charming pairs, often sitting together and preening each other. When choosing a pair to put together, there is usually a period of adjustment, after which time the two birds will generally get along well together. If the female rejects the male though, it is best to remove him and replace him with another more compatible bird, because the females are usually more aggressive and may attack an unwanted male. Also do not add another female budgie to the cage as two female budgies are likely to fight each other, whereas conflicts between two males is rare.
Most English budgies are bred as individual pairs in cages, while budgies bred commercially for the pet bird trade are usually bred in large flights containing 10 to 30 birds or more per flight. In either case a nest box or boxes must be provided. The box should be 5 1/2 inches high, 7 inches deep and 10 inches long (14 x 18 x 25 cm). It should have a landing perch and a top that flips up for easier cleaning. The bottom of the box should have a scooped out portion where the eggs will be layed. Some people provide pine shavings, but they are not necessary, as they will lay the eggs on the bare wood. The choice of the nest box is entirely up to the female, so once she has taken an interest in it and starts spending more time in it, she will likely beginning laying eggs. Try to avoid disturbing the birds at this time, as loud noises or too much activity in the room, might cause the female budgie to leave her nest. During the breeding cycle, the bird room should not be too cold and have plenty of fresh air, as well as a humidity of about 60 percent. Budgie parents should be fed soft food when egg laying starts to support the growth and nutrition of the new babies. Baby budgies often perish when only normal seed and millet are fed during breeding. The soft food is made up of soaked oats or groats in water, a vitamin mixture and an egg food mixture, such as CEDE. Your local pet or bird store can advise you of the ingredients since they may have different brands of vitamin mixtures and egg food.
Eggs are laid one at a time, every one or two days, until there are usually three to five eggs. The female usually does all the brooding and incubation (the time between the laying of the eggs and the hatching) begins after the first egg is laid. The first egg will generally hatch in eighteen days and each chick will hatch in the order the eggs were laid. The mother budgie spends almost all her time sitting on her nestlings the first few days to keep them warm. After 14 days, she does not always take them under her wing, but stays close to them. When the last chick that hatched is 16 days old, she usually stops sitting on her brood and most babies are ready to leave the nest when they are four weeks old. The babies may come out of the nest at this time and be seen eating off the cage floor. When they have been eating on their own for seven to fourteen days, they can be transferred to a bigger holding cage, where they should be provided with fresh seed and water. The adult pair of birds should be allowed to raise only two nests of babies a year or their health may be compromised, as they have to devote a lot of energy to raising young.
Some people have inquired about hand raising the babies, but this should only be attempted under the guidance of an experienced breeder or avian vet, because it takes extensive experience and a great deal of time to get enough food into these tiny chicks so that they can thrive. In the case that the mother bird dies, this may be the only option, because few male budgies will take over raising the offspring. If you are considering hand raising the young to keep them tame, this is not necessary, because they do not have to be hand-fed to make great pets. Budgies are easy to tame and train if they are under 3 months old and they are probably stronger and healthier, having been raised by the parents. Males and females are hard to distinguish at this age, but males usually have a light blue cere or a pink one on the pied varieties. A young female's cere is whitish, turning to a deep brown when she matures. Both males and females can be friendly and affectionate with both having the ability to talk.
A good friend of mine had a budgie that would sit on the windowsill and would call out his name when he saw him walking up the street after work. Many can learn to use words in context to the delight of their owners. His parakeet lived to be fifteen years old with the average lifespan being six to ten years.
If you want a truly devoted pet and one that will learn to talk, I would recommend buying a single budgerigar. Two budgies together often become good friends and bond with each other instead of their owner. Of course, if you only have a single bird, you will need to be it's friend by interacting with it as often as you can and when you are not there you should provide your budgie with a variety of toys to keep it busy and happy.
A good diet for budgies consists of a high quality parakeet seed, which can be supplemented with pellets. Fruits and vegetables can be provided daily. They enjoy millet sprays and you should supply a cuttlebone for calcium. Always have fresh water available for drinking. Many budgies do like to bathe or be misted with a spray bottle.
There are many different color mutations in parakeets, including spangles, pied, albinos, violets and even rainbow colored, among others. They are beautiful, so whichever you choose, I believe you will find a budgie can make a wonderful friend and companion and will probably start you on a life long love of birds.