What Do Budgies Eat?
1. The Basics
Budgies are omnivores. This means they can digest both vegetables and insects. In their natural habitat in Australia, they have a varied diet of grass seeds, leafs, insects and so on. They sometimes fly miles and miles to feed themselves. Of course, for a domesticated bird, this isn't an option. But still it's important to keep them fit and healthy, while still staying as close as possible to their natural diet. A tamed budgie, much like its counterpart in the wild, is very curious and will try anything it's offered. Therefore, it's up to you, the owner, to offer the little bird a healthy and balanced meal.
Note: Budgies eat insects and so qualify as omnivores, but do not offer them a steak or other slice of meat. They cannot digest this. The same goes for milk.
Seeds or Pellets?
Like all birds, budgies love to eat seeds. As this is absolutely necessary in their diet, a good and quality mixture of living seeds is crucial. Always choose the best premium food available: if you want to save money, this is not the item to do it with. Premium brands will offer a mixture of seeds, millet, oat, grit and eggfood. Often there are other additives as well, all designed to keep your budgie at the peak of its health.
Of course, there's a downside to a mixture like described above. A picky budgie (and they're all picky) will be able to choose the seeds it likes best, and ignore the rest. Often the budgie will choose the fattest seeds as the yummiest, and so the healthiest seeds are left behind! If this is the case with you, don't refill the bowl until it's almost completely empty. Don't be fooled though: the empty husks of the seeds are often dropped into the bowl, so take a good look to make sure there's still something edible in there.
An alternative would be to limit the access to the food to set hours in the morning and evening. In the beginning, this will take some adjusting from your budgie, but soon he'll learn to adapt and eat as much of the food as possible, as he's learned it's not freely available. This will result in all seeds being devoured, not just the tastiest.
You could also choose to offer your budgie pellets. These are about the size of seeds, composed of compressed seeds and fruit. This is often the most complete food you will be able to give the bird, and it's also not able to select the tastiest seeds. However, not all budgies like to eat pellets. There is usually a schedule on the package to convert your budgie, but keep in mind that some birds never make the switch. Of course, you still need to provide fresh drinking water, grit and fruit&vegetables to your bird.
Fruits & Vegetables
A healthy addition to any bird diet, fruits and vegetables help ensure long and healthy lives. Give your budgie a piece every day, preferably as fresh as possible.
Every budgie has its own favorites and will need some time to get used to this new form of food. Offering a piece every day at the same place in the cage will help the bird identify it as food, rather than a toy to tear apart. Being the curious little thing that it is, eventually the bird will take a nibble and so be introduced to the wonderful flavors of fruit or vegetables. Of course, it's always possible they just really don't like the taste of what you offered, so try to put some variation in what you offer. It will help if the bird sees you or its own kind enjoying the healthy snack, This will again stimulate their curiosity and will teach them it's a delicious form of food.
Many budgies prefer the taste of apples, carrots, or oranges. Bananas, pears, lettuce, ... all are loved. Do not offer too much lettuce though, as that might cause diarrhea.
Warning! Rhubarb and avocado are poisonous to budgies! Avoid the cabbage family.
While many bird owners only offer this at times when the bird is breeding or growing new feathers, it's not a bad idea to provide eggfood at least once a week. It's packed with minerals and nutrients. To offer a complete and balanced diet, eggfood really should be on the menu.
Eggfood is healthy, easy to digest and delicious. It not only strengthens the bones (a calcium bomb), it gives extra strength and vitality and stimulates growth. It's an excellent dish to serve a mother budgie and her youngsters.
Eggfood, while very good for your budgie, contains a lot of fat. Twice a week at most when not breeding or sick really is enough. However, when your birds are sick or breeding, always have eggfood readily available. Put the dry eggfood in a feeding bowl, add some water to moisturize it, stir and offer. It's not supposed to float, just a bit of water is plenty. Don't leave it in the cage for too long as it will quickly grow a lot of bacteria and spoil.
There are some who argue budgies do not need grit as they take the husks off their seeds. While this is true, they do actually still need grit. Here is why.
Grit is a name given to a lot of very small little sharp stones that we feed to birds. It contains calcium that helps to strengthen the bones and stimulates growth, but it has another, more important function that has to do with a budgerigar's digestive system.
A budgie has 2stomachs. A first stomach adds digestive fluids to help soften the dehusked seeds. After this, the food is transported to a muscular stomach that grinds everything with the help of the grit to allow the nutrients to be taken in by the body. Since eventually the grit is grinded into powder, new grit is frequently needed. Grit made from oystershells is the most nutricious.
A budgie's beak never stops growing. Eventually, the beak becomes very pointy and long, making it impossible for the bird to eat. It also starts to stab the bird in the chest! Of course, you can imagine that this would hurt. A bird's beak needs to be maintained. This is why a bird needs a mineral block or a cuttlefish bone. Cuttlefish bone is made from the skeleton of a squid and is high in salt. Therefore, a mineral block would be preferable.
The extra benefit of offering a mineral block is you're providing the bird with a great source of calcium, resulting in stronger bones, stronger eggs and preventing a breeding bird from getting eggbound.
Like all living beings, budgies need water. Replace the water at least once a day and have it always available to the birds. It shouldn't be ice cold or hot. Sodawater is not good. Water out of bottles is the healthiest.
2. What Else?
A veritable delight to any budgie's tastebuds. Almost without exception, budgies are extremely fond of this treat, and it's the ultimate assistent when trying to tame a new bird. It's also easy to digest! Thus millet is also often used to teach a young budgie to eat seeds, or to encourage a sick budgie to eat a bit.
Millet is high in fats and should only be offered once a week, at a quantity of half a string per bird. While millet is no replacement for a good seed mixture, it is to be preferred over candy sticks for birds.
Who doesn't know them: the seeds glued together with honey in the form of a long stick. Budgies love them. Naturally: it tastes very sweet! Almost every store has it on offer. It's yummy and very popular. However, there is a lot of sugar in candy sticks, so don't offer it too often. It should be more of an exception rather than a frequent snack. Besides causing diabetes in budgies (yes, they can get diabetes), it causes obesity and infections in the crop.
Perhaps unexpected, and still listed: tea! Even for budgies, tea is healthy. Of course, it shouldn't be boiling hot, and you shouldn't add honey or sugar, but plain tea is very healthy and can even be used to support a sick budgie. Make the tea as normal, then add the same amount of water again, stir and let it cool down before offering.
Types of tea you can offer and their effect...
- Camomile - strengthens the immune system and helps fight off infections
- Sage - use when the bird has diarrhea
- Black Tea - good against stress, supports the bloodflow
- Thyme - helps fight a fungus infection
- Stinging Nettle - purification and vitality
- Fennel - improves digestion
Note: If your budgie is sick, take it to the doctor. Giving it tea should not be the only treatment!
When you offer tea, always also offer fresh water.
Of course, there is much more a budgie could eat. To list it all would be impossible. Therefore, we'll end this chapter with a list of some examples: bread crumbs, dry toast, a little bit of dry boiled rice or macaroni, a few drops of yoghurt, a small bit of cheese, ...
One golden rule: when in doubt, don't feed it to a bird!
3. What Definitely Not To Feed A Budgie
Some things, a budgie really cannot eat, ever. Either it's really unhealthy or hard to digest, or it's just plain poison!
Although sometimes it can be very tempting, it's best not to allow your budgie to eat food that's on your plate. People food tends to be very bad for the tiny kidneys of a budgerigar, and is often simply poisonous. Avoid salt (bad for kidneys) and sugar (causes infections, obesity and a whole host of problems).
Absolutely forbidden because it's lethal to a budgie: avocado, tobacco, rhubarb, chocolate, coffee, cola and alcohol.
Disinfectants also contains alcohol: avoid using!
4. How Much Do They Need?
If you only have 1 budgie, buy smaller bags to ensure the seeds are still fresh when you offer them to the bird. The nutrients are at their peak, and there's a smaller chance of bacteria or funghi being in it. A normal budgie needs about 2 overflowing tablespoons of seeds per day.
If you have multiple budgies, always have some extra bags ready. You'll be all out before you know it!
Keep an eye on the date label on the package.
Budgies can eat a lot, but not everything. Quality and freshness should be valued over price: it can determine how long your budgie will live, and in what condition it will spend its life. Avoid sugar and salt, and never ever feed them an item from the poisonous list. Your budgie will thank you, and reward you with a playful friend that has a long and healthy life.