All About Parakeets: A Perfect Pet for Kids
After opening this year’s birthday and Christmas cards, my ten-year-old son proclaimed himself to be “rich." There was no convincing him that “rich” is a state of mind. He was going to go crazy and spend, spend, spend. First thing on his list: a bird.
That’s right, not a bike, a skateboard, or a video game, but a bird. All of a sudden I found myself immersed in bird culture. What kind of bird should we get? What is the proper cage? How much is all of this going to cost (he’s not that rich!). Ultimately, we settled on a parakeet. I would like to share with you why that has been a great decision for my son and our family.
What Is a Parakeet?
A parakeet is a member of the Parrot family. They are indigenous to Australia where they are called Budgerigars or “Budgies”. The name Budgie is routed in Australian culture, but its exact origin is unknown. They are relatively small birds and weigh very little. They have been bred to come in many different colors, but what makes them stand out the most is their unusually long tail.
Parakeets are social birds. They enjoy being with other creatures (including humans), chirping, showing affection, and getting exercise. Some parakeets will learn how to mimic other sounds. There have been reports of pet parakeets repeating more than 100 sounds produced by their owners. There is no guarantee that your parakeet will “talk”, but there are few other birds that can be had as pets that give you a chance at this fun activity.
Things To Consider
There are a few things to consider before you buy a pet parakeet. The first is connected to their desire to be social. If you cannot commit to spending time with your bird, do not get a parakeet. They want to be out and around you. They want to fly around the house. They want to be whistled to. If you do not do these things, you will be hurting the mental and physical health of your pet. Consider getting two birds if you are not willing to or can’t put in the time needed.
On the other hand, if you are able to spend an hour or more a day with your parakeet, consider getting only one. Better yet, get a male. Males are the more social and less aggressive sex of Budgie. They are more likely to perch on your finger, shoulder, or as my son has proclaimed ”on my guitar”. Males also give you a better chance at mimicking activities.
Birds can be dirty; hence the phrase “dirty bird”, but compared to most pets, they are fairly clean. Sure they will shed a little and you will find the occasional dropping, but all and all, a little cleanup is all it takes. It could get messy if you do not stay on top of it, so plan on spending a few minutes each day cleaning up after your bird.
And, of course, you need to consider the financial obligations of owning a parakeet. They generally run in the $15-25 range. A cage, some food, and a few toys complete the purchase. For less than $100, you can have a pet that you will enjoy for years. The only on-going cost will be the occasional bag of bird food and some fill for the bottom of your cage (grinded corn cobs are one option). Compared to other pets, these costs are minor.
A few simple rules should be followed when buying your bird. First and foremost, you need to observe the birds for a few minutes before you pick one. Do not choose one based on color alone. You need to pick one that looks healthy, active, and social. A bird that is immobile or isolated from the flock should be avoided. Again, if you are looking to interact with your pet, try to pick a male, ideally one that is young. You have a much better chance of shaping their behavior if they are young. Any bird over 5 months old could be too stubborn.
Your cage and its accessories will be an important part of your bird’s life, so you should plan on getting them the best accessories there is to offer. Parakeets like to fly, so the bigger the cage the better. It is understandable if you cannot afford an extremely large cage and/or your living space cannot fit one, but you should spend a little extra to get the biggest cage possible.
How you accessorize your cage is equally important. Parakeets are intelligent birds and they require cognitive stimulation. Adding multiple perches, bells, and ladders can be a great way to keep your bird active and happy. You may want to reconsider buying a mirror for you bird if you are planning on socializing a lot with it. Parakeets are smart, but not that smart. They will think the bird in the mirror is another member of the flock and will be less likely to want to hang out with you if a mirror is present.
All in all, having a “Budgie” in our home has given us great joy. With a little patience, some minor cleaning, and a small financial commitment, you can enjoy this wonderful species as well. If you do decide to purchase one, consider reading up on how to “train” them. The following link is an excellent resource:
Have you ever owned a Parakeet?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.