In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about parakeets, from how to care for them to all of their unique (and fun!) little quirks.
A parakeet is a type of small, long-tailed bird that is commonly kept as a pet. They are colorful and can be quite entertaining to watch.
To keep your parakeet happy and healthy, you need to know exactly what they eat, how they play outside their cage, and the best way for you to care for them.
What Are Parakeets?
Parakeets are pet birds that are generally regarded as the smallest of all parrot species.
They are some of the most popular pet birds you can raise, not only because they are extremely affordable but also because they are friendly and easy to tame.
You can even teach parakeets to mimic human speech, though they are admittedly more difficult to understand than other parrots.
You may hear the word “budgie” used for a parakeet, but a budgie is technically a specific type of parakeet.
However, no matter what you call it, the bird is more or less the same. Parakeets are native to Australia, where they are often found in large groups in grasslands.
The parakeets we know and recognize in our pet stores are larger than those found in the wild since they have gone through many years of breeding in captivity.
Parakeets – or more specifically, budgies – were first brought to Europe in the 1830s, where they became favorite pets.
By the end of the century, Australia had banned the export of budgies, so a breeding business began in Europe. It didn’t arrive in the United States until about 1920.
Two types of parakeets are most common in the U.S. pet trade – the English budgie and the American parakeet.
The American variety is the one you’re most likely to see in your local pet store, but if you frequent exhibitions and shows, you’ll probably find the English budgie instead.
Parakeets are normally pale green with black bars on their backs, heads, and wings.
Mature parakeet females usually have a cere (this is the fleshy piece around the nostrils) that is tan or beige, while the cere on males is blue.
Juvenile parakeets also have unique bar markings on their foreheads. These tend to fade with age. Their eyes change, too – young budgies have dark irises that turn gray as they get older.
You can find parakeets in just about any color, including albino, pied, yellow, blue, violet, and the most typical coloring – a vibrant neon green.
Parakeets are small, generally only seven inches or so in length.
When it comes to temperament, parakeets are some of the most gentle and docile you will find. They’re easy to tame, particularly if you bring them home at a young age.
You may want to consider keeping pairs of parakeets since they like to entertain each other and can keep each other company.
Just keep in mind that if you decide to keep parakeets in groups, they may not bond quite well with their owners or learn how to speak quite as easily.
Otherwise, budgies are friendly, active, playful – and quieter than many other types of parrots.
This makes the species a good compromise if you want the friendliness, sociability, and beauty of a parrot – but perhaps without quite all that noise!
How to Care for Parakeets
Make sure you have a large cage for your parakeet, ideally one that is a minimum of 12 inches deep by 18 inches high by 20 inches long.
Bigger is always preferred – you want to make sure you give your bird plenty of room for eating, sleeping, playing, and flying around.
Watch the spacing of the cage bars – these should be half an inch or less apart from each other so that your bird does not get stuck.
Although these cages can be more difficult to find, those with horizontal bars are great, so your bird can exercise.
You should also include a variety of perches to help keep your bird’s feet in good shape.
Socialize with your bird often. Make sure you give your parakeet plenty of time outside of the cage to fly around in a safe, secure area.
When it comes to feeding your parakeet, variety is the species of life. Seeds can make up a small portion of the diet – they are nutritious, but you don’t want to overdo it since seeds are high in fat.
You can feed your parakeet a pelleted diet and fresh foods like broccoli, carrots, corn, beans, spinach, and fruit.
Common Parakeet Health Issues
Parakeets are pretty healthy birds but can be prone to some of the same issues that plague other parrots – as well as a few issues that are all their own.
Goiters are common, typically caused by iodine deficiency. If you need your bird too many seeds and not enough fruits and vegetables, this can cause tumors.
Another disease that parakeets might suffer from is something called parrot fever. Caused by bacteria, it requires treatment from a vet. Scaly mites are common ailments, too.
All said and done. It’s important to have the contact information of a vet whom you trust before you even bring your parakeet home.
That Way, you’ll be able to get your parakeet the medical attention it needs if something should go awry.
How Do Parakeets Sleep?
Every bird is unique, but parakeets will typically sleep with their heads tucked into their necks. Sometimes they will sleep with their heads resting on their backs.
Generally, parakeets sleep perched on one foot with the other tucked into the belly area.
While you shouldn’t necessarily worry if your parakeet sleeps in some other way, it’s probably not a bad idea to contact your vet if your bird seems uncomfortable when he should be sleeping.
Watch Those Beaks
Keeping your parakeet healthy is an essential part of being a pet owner! When it comes to raising healthy birds, something many first-time pet owners overlook is the beak.
Beak behaviors are essential to keep an eye out for. Here are some common beak behaviors – including what’s normal and what’s not.
If your dentist told you that you were grinding your teeth, it would probably cause alarm! However, with parakeets, it’s nothing to worry about.
Beak grinding is something parakeets do to show that they are comfortable and content. It’s not going to cause your birds any harm.
Parakeets often grind their beaks before falling asleep, so don’t stress out if you find your bird doing this on a nightly basis.
It might sound disgusting to you, but regurgitating food is something parakeets do regularly as a sign of affection. They’ll do it as a way to show their love!
Even though it sounds gross, we’re guessing that there’s a good chance you want to teach your parakeet how to do this for you.
Please don’t! While regurgitating is a way that parakeets express their love, it can also inspire unwanted breeding behaviors.
Biting and Chewing
Parakeets, like many pet bird species, are natural chewers. Whether it’s softwood, toys, or paper, there is nothing a parakeet loves more than nibbling on items around the house.
It’s wonderful to allow your parakeet to chew but try not to let it chew on dangerous items like unsafe toys, houseplants, or poisonous foods.
You can discourage unwanted chewing by giving your bird items that are safe for them to noble on.
Biting, on the other hand, is a behavior that should not be encouraged at all. Parakeets will bite when they feel afraid, threatened, cornered, or protective.
Biting is much more common when a parakeet is with a mate or trying to protect its eggs, but unfamiliar animals or humans can also trigger biting.
The good news is that you can train your parakeet to not bite with a little effort.
However, since biting can indicate a health issue, always check in with your vet to make sure nothing else is going on before you decide to train the behavior out of your parakeet.
Understanding Feather Behaviors
There are a few feather-related behaviors you will want to keep an eye out for, too. Whether it’s molting or feather plucking, a parakeet’s feathers can tell you a lot.
If you’ve ever raised birds before, you probably know that molting, or feather loss, is a normal part of the process.
Parakeets lose their feathers once or twice a year to regrow new ones. It’s a natural, gradual process and shouldn’t cause any patchy or raw spots to appear on your birds – if it does, there’s likely another problem.
You might see pinfeathers emerging between existing feathers and more feathers on their bottoms.
Again, there’s nothing wrong with a bird who is molting – he isn’t sick – but you may want to introduce some extra protein into his diet to help him regrow strong, beautiful plumage.
Wing flapping is yet another way that parakeets try to communicate with one another. It can be a way that these birds say “hello!” or even just as a sign of contentment.
Feather plucking is something that should always raise the alarm bell among parakeet owners.
If you see your bird chewing on his feathers or pulling them out entirely, it is a sign that he is bored, has a skin issue, an illness, or even an allergy.
Contact your vet right away if you notice any feather plucking.
Decoding Parakeets Communication
Let’s face it – a parakeet is a member of your family! Although they don’t express themselves the way we do, they have their own quirks that allow them to communicate with you and with other animals.
Here are some common types of parakeet communication so that you know exactly what’s on the mind of your favorite feathered friend.
Believe it or not, parakeets can actually talk using words that they have heard. Some can even learn hundreds of different words from their human friends!
Although they don’t speak quite as clearly as some more famous talking birds, such as Macaws, parakeets can easily be taught to talk via repetition.
Like you might teach a baby to talk by repeating words back to your bird, do this with your parakeet, speaking as clearly as you can.
Before you know it, your parakeet will be chatting up a storm.
Just keep in mind that male parakeets often learn more quickly (and speak with more overall clarity) than female birds. However, both are capable of striking up a conversation with you.
Just like talking, whistling is a way parakeets communicate. You can easily teach your parakeet how to whistle, but ideally, you should teach your parakeet to talk before you teach it how to whistle.
Whistling is much easier (and more fun!) for a parakeet to learn, so teaching your bird how to whistle before it knows how to talk might prevent it from ever talking at all.
Screaming and Screeching
The good news about screeching and screaming is that these are not common parakeet communications.
Your bird might let out a shrill, high-pierced scream now and then, but it’s not going to be a regular type of communication.
That’s good news – because a parakeet that screams is often trying to signal that he is in some pain or distress.
How to Choose Parakeets
You can find parakeets at just about any pet store, so it’s a good idea to brush up on how to care for your bird before you bring it home – that way, you won’t be caught off guard.
Choose a bird directly from a breeder, if possible, since it may be better health than the one you buy at the pet store. I
f you don’t want to put the time into taming your parakeet, it might be a good idea for you to buy a bird that has been hand-reared or trained from a young age.
A pet store will normally only have older birds, so they might be more challenging to train.
When you select your parakeet, look for one that is active, alert, and bright.
Feathers should be lying flat on the body and be smooth and shiny.
Pay close attention to the vent, which should not have any crusted-on fecal matter and be clean and dry. The scales should be smooth, as should the beak and nails.
Other than that, there’s not much else you need to know to bring your parakeet home. Have fun with it – these pets live for many years, and they’re fun birds to have around!