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Bringing Home
Your Baby Parakeet

by Joyce D’Accardi

First Few Days

When you first bring your bird home, don’t expect much. He’ll usually sit at the bottom of the cage for a day or two, without making any sounds. As he gets more used to his new surroundings, he’ll hop up on his perch and chirp a bit. After a few days, keep your hand in the cage a while when changing food and water. Hold your finger up to him to sit on. If he flutters around, keep your hand still. When he gets used to you, he’ll sit on your finger. At this point, if you want, you can let the bird loose in a small room where he can be easily caught. Put him on your shoulder. Some birds will just stay there while others will fly off. In any case, don’t make sudden moves or loud noises. The more time you spend with your bird, the tamer he will become. And the more time you talk to your bird, the quicker he will talk back. Don’t be over-anxious, or disappointed too quickly. Some birds are just naturally more calm or talkative than others, and some require more patience. Most parakeets will bite when you attempt to pick them up in your hand until they are used to you.

Some birds will not even eat for a while. They can go without food for about 48 hours. However, this is unusual, and when he gets hungry enough, he will start to look around for some seed.

The first night or two, it’s a good idea to keep a night light on for them. Sometimes they fall off the perch during the night, and if they cannot see to find their way back to the perch, they might flutter around and injure themselves. If someone does not sleep near the cage, it’s a good idea to always leave a night light on for the parakeets. Also, if you leave during the day, not planning to return until after dark, it’s best to leave a light on for them.

Seed and Water

Seed shells should be blown out daily and the cup refilled with fresh seed. Sometimes a person might look into the seed dish and think it is full, seeing the empty seed shells. Once a week, empty the dish completely. Pre-packaged seed, as found in grocery stores, may or may not be good. You cannot tell how old the seed is, and “old” seed provides no more vitamins that would cardboard. The best seed to buy is that packaged fresh by your pet shop.

Water should be changed daily. Dump the water, rub the inside of the dish with your finger and replace with fresh water. If a stain develops, like in a corner of the dish, it could be mold, mildew or bacteria. Take a brush at least once a week and scrub the corners. Especially in hot weather, bacteria can develop quickly from droppings, or seeds and shells that find their way into the water dish. This could give your bird diarrhea.

Gravel is optional. Some breeders don’t give it to them. I do, simply because they like it. Loose gravel is better than gravel that is preglued to the paper. I use brown paper bags that have been cut up, for the cage bottoms, being sure to cut out seams that have glue. Each cage should have a cuttle-bone or mineral block. This provides essential minerals for your bird, keeps his beak trim, and gives him something to do. In rare cases, beaks might get too long and need trimming. Also, the nails of some birds might grow too long and need trimming. Never cut into the “quick.” Consult a book or a knowledgeable person before attempting this.

Parakeets like fresh fruit and vegetables. It is fun to experiment to see what they like best. Be sure all dirt and chemicals are washed off. They especially like carrots, either grated or in small sticks; grapes cut in half; small pieces of apple. Remove any left-overs within a few hours to prevent bacteria from growing. They also like fresh greens, though only in small quantities to prevent loose stools. Iceberg lettuce should not be given, since this seems to give most birds loose stools very quickly.

General Information

Parakeets do not need to be covered at night. The advantage to covering them, however, is that they stay quiet longer in the morning until uncovered.

Never let them get in a draft or in direct line with an air conditioner, fan, heat duct, etc. They like sunshine but do not like extreme heat. When too warm, they will hold their wings out, and hold their beaks open. They can take cool temperatures, if they are used to it all the time, but of course, not to excess. A good rule of thumb is, what is comfortable for you, will be for them too. Parakeets seldom get sick. Diarrhea is the most common ailment if they do come down with something. It is possible for them to catch a cold from people, so take care when sickness is in your home. If your bird seems sick, go to the pet shop that you usually deal with and ask what medication they would recommend. Effective medications are readily available, and should be used as soon as you notice something is wrong with your bird.

Signs to look for that indicate sickness include puffed up feathers, sitting on the bottom of the cage or in a corner while puffed up, and not eating. It is a good idea to purchase a small booklet on ailments of budgerigars (parakeets).

When parakeets become 6-12 months of age, it is easy to tell the sexes apart. Male ceres (the colored area over the nostrils) will become blue, and the females will become tan or brown. If you have a harlequin or lutino or albino, it will be harder to tell. On these varieties, the male may have a more purplish cere, while the females tend to be light tan.

When birds are loose, be sure they do not chew on plants, or any other substance that may be harmful. Antiques sometimes contain lead solder, or paint with lead. Be sure not to spray chemicals, cleaning products, hair spray, etc., near your birds or on something they can chew on when loose. They are especially susceptible to sprays which could cause them not to be able to breathe. If teflon is allowed to scorch, it releases a gas that is extremely poisonous to your birds.

Keep your cage bottom clean, changing paper at least once a week. Keep perches clean too, and anything your bird might chew on.

If you want your bird to be a real pet, it is best to have just the one bird, and to give him lots of attention. If you are not going to be around much, he may get lonely, and then a second bird might be good company for him.

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