Thursday 2 June 2016

14. Cages, Toys & Equipment

This is a long post!! 

In this post, and one to follow, I want to tell you about the cages, toys and equipment that I have for the boys and tell you whether I have found them to be worth while or actually just a waste of money. There will be a few bits of advice (which I have read from the professionals) that I think are essential to know and should definitely be followed but mostly I will just write about my own experiences. This is a big topic so I have written in this post about what you should have inside the cage to help keep your bird healthy, entertained and safe. There is a whole lot that can be said about outside the cage time which I will post separately - watch this space! 

I usually only buy items once I have read reviews about them and compared them with other items of the same specifications. This has proved to be very useful, but it makes spontaneous purchases challenging! Please use this post as just another review to compare to what you might read elsewhere. There are many other cages and toys available and you might come across something fantastic that your birdies love (please share!). I think creating a fun cage environment is something quite personal between the owner and the bird and you will come to your own idea about what works well for your bird. I have updated Reggie's cage in the past and he's quite clearly been annoyed about the changes. 

1. First of all you need a cage (or a house as I prefer to call it)

Cage size - depending on where you read it!
Minimum recommended cage for 1 bird = 18 x 18 x 18 inches
Minimum recommended cage for 2 birds = 30 x 18 x 18 inches

Generally you would want to buy a cage that was wide rather than tall. Let you little birds stretch their wings and hop along the cage. You will find a lot of space isn't actually used when you have a tall cage. Birds like to perch and roost at the highest point, so be sure to use the rafters of your cage as well as the middle. 

It's sad how many birds are still being housed in round cages, and its even sader to see how many shops continue to sell them. Only last week was there a discussion on a Facebook page with someone advertising their shop. They said round cages were popular that's why they sell them. This is a terrible attitude and it's why bird owners need to do their own research and not trust these dodgy sales personnel. Pet shops cannot be trusted to sell you what is right, instead they will sell what makes them money, there is often little pride in providing adequate pet care and advise. 

Anyway - why are round cages bad? Several reasons:
1 - They are dangerous! Where the bars meet at the top, they close in and birds have been found hanging with trapped feet. Dead. 
2 - Birds like corners, they provide comfort and allow the bird to perch up high in relative safety. Round cages lack corners. 
3 - They have very little space. Bird cages need length not height. Round cages provide height and no length. They are so deceiving, they look spacious and they absolutely are not. 

Round cages are incredibly outdated, just because they were OK in the 70's, or they are used in countries like China, does not make them OK now. Aviculture has come an awfully long way and for the better. 

Reggie's first cage

Liberta Siam Bird Cage, 52 x 46 x 36cm (20 x 18 x 14 inches)

Image from - Item Liberta Siam bird cage

This cage doesn't quite fit the recommended minimum cage size for 1 budgie, however I found it to be more than adequate for Reggie and had I not gotten Buster I would have happily kept Reggie in it for a while longer. 

The Pros:

The doors: In my opinion, the best thing about the Liberta cages are the doors. There is a main door on a hinge that swings open - as doors tend to do. But it's the door that slides up, within the large door, that is the best feature. When you are hand taming your bird you need to get your hand inside the cage, but you want to prevent the bird from escaping. This little door is the perfect size to put your arm in to train your bird at step up, it also rests comfortably on top of your arm to seal off the exit. I didn't have to worry at all about Reggie flying free before I was ready and it removed that worry whilst I was working with him. 

The feeders: A little door slides up so you can take the feeders out without opening the main door and putting your hand inside. When training your bird you still need to give them seed and fresh water daily and these feeders allow you to do this without disturbing him too much. 

The tray: The slide out tray at the bottom was well designed and came out easily. Not too sure what more can be said about this as it all worked OK. Most cages come with a slide out cage as standard, if the cage you desire does not then I would recommend reconsidering it as they really are helpful to keep the cage floor clean. 

The Cons:

Erm.....OK this is hard to write any cons!!

The size: I've already noted that the size of this cage is not the recommended size for one budgie, and whilst I do think the bigger the better, this cage was absolutely fine for Reggie. Especially as a little baby who didn't actually do a lot, the room was fine. He was allowed out of cage time every day for about 6 hours so I was not worried. I also know a few budgies that live in little cages and are actually much much happier that being in a large cage. So size isn't a con lol.

The perches: I am totally clutching at straws here, the perches are wooden doweling rods. They fit, they're secure, they're wood. Whilst they're not natural wooden perches with varying widths and textures, they're still a hell of a lot better than some of the plastic perches that are sold with cages. The boys current cage came with plastic and rubber perches which were immediately removed! 

Buster's first cage
Savic Cambridge Hamster cage 59 x 36 x 43cm (23 x 14 x 17 Inches)

I've confused you haven't I? 
Buster, in theory, was only ever going to need his own cage for a few months. We had a hamster cage going spare (RIP Natasha lol) and with a little customization I was able to convert it into a suitable budgie quarantine cage. 

I took out the platforms and ladders so it was just a cage. I then added one of the doweling perches from Reggie's cage, a swing, wooden branch swing, a ladder and a landing platform. I had to buy food and water bowls to hang from the side. The end result was actually pretty good! It worked really well as a budgie cage as it was long and had room for lots of toys and movement. Look how little he is in the photo! Had they not got along I actually would have been happy keeping Buster in this cage. 

Disabled budgies: There are many budgies that are disabled and cannot fly very well or at all. You might see budgies being sold as 'runners' - they actually have French Moult and the people selling them are really bad doing this without explaining what it is. Anyway, that's a topic for another post! My point is that disabled budgies need more length than height and rodent cages are very good places to house them as they can reach the floor. 

When the boys moved in together

Reggie & Buster's bachelor pad!
Ferplast Canto Cage with divider 71 x 38 x 61cm (28 x 15 x 24 Inches)

Image from Zooplus - Ferplast Canto Cage

I wanted the boys to have a slow introduction to each other, for various reasons, but mainly to ensure that they were happily getting along before they lived permanently together. Also, because I wanted to ensure that Reggie and I remained bonded to each other -  you can read about introducing new budgies here.
Anyway, so I researched cages with dividers and there wasn't actually a lot of choice. Thankfully this cage offered everything that I wanted. 

The Pros:

The divider: The divider allowed the boys to be in close to each other during the day and night, but not so close that they could fight. You simply slot it into the groove at the top and slide it down to the bottom. Easy peasy. 

Buster is a very domineering little boy and Reggie is very peaceful and relenting. I am pleased I got this cage because it allowed Reggie to have his own bed at night, his own food bowl, and a little bit of space as he had been used to. Not all budgies would need this, but he seemed quite keen on his own ladder for bedtime and would get a bit angry if Buster was on it. Now that the boys are best buddies the divider is never needed, but should I get a third I would happily split Reggie & B from the new one. 

The size: The size is great! Now the divider is out I can fit so much inside the cage for them to play on, but even as 2 separate cages they were adequate sizes. It fits on top of our 'pet' table perfectly and gives them lots of room without dominating our living room. 

The Feeders: They are fun little swivel trays that you turn around to remove. They're sturdy and hold a good amount. The birds did need to get used to sticking their whole head inside but that didn't take long. You must ensure the clips are secure or the birds know to swivel them and we found Reggie and Buster had gotten out one day (at our friends house!! They were climbing all over poor Stanley the budgie's cage!)

The tray: It's a tray, it works. 

The Cons:

The doors: This is a personal con, that probably isn't an issue for lots of people. As I said with the first cage, the doors were really helpful with taming as there was a lovely big swing door and a little latch door to get your hand through. This cage has 2 small doors at the sides, and 2 classic cage doors at the front. For me, they're nowhere near as good as the big swing doors and I genuinely think they hinder getting the boys back home (I say boys, I mean Reggie) as they act more like a trap door than a big glorious entrance to their castle. I am positive that if the cage had bigger doors they would fly in and out of it more often and feel less trapped. Maybe I am wrong. I wouldn't say this was a reason not to buy the cage though, it's just my feeling. 

I genuinely don't have any issues with this cage, its provided the exact home I wanted for the boys, and now they are living in it without the divider I have been able to make the most of the space and put lots of fun things in it. 

There are many many other cages available out there and there are lots that I considered. The cage is just a shell, it is what you put in it that makes it a home. As long as the outside is secure and safe, big enough, clean, made of good bird safe materials and you are happy with the look of it inside your home, you can't go too wrong.  

2. What to put inside the cage - the essentials

I won't go into too much detail about each one, but the key items to have inside the cage are:
  • Food and water dish/dispenser - there are lots of varieties available, most cages come with them but you can upgrade if desired. It is best to have a food bowl per budgie to avoid fighting. Reggie and Buster have one each however Buster the little bully just goes to the one Reggie is at and shoo's him away.
  • Cuttlebone - a source of calcium when the budgie needs it, also something to chew on.
  • Mineral block - an alternative source of calcium. You might find that your budgies don't touch the mineral block or cuttlebone, that's OK. just leave it in there and if they want it they have it. Ensure they're not in unreachable positions obviously.

  • Perches - big, small, flat, twisted, long, short. All sorts! The key thing about perches is to offer variety. As I mentioned above, I removed the wooden doweling perches from Reggie's cage and replaced them with a variety of others. They are not bad perches, I did actually keep one as the main perch, and they are at least wooden, but a cage full of doweling perches offers no variety with size or texture. As well as being something to stand on, perches help to keep the birds healthy; claw length is maintained, beaks are kept smooth and sharp, and they also act as exercise machines. As the bird has to adjust its balance and footing for each different location his little muscles are working to keep him sturdy. Imagine jumping from a wall, to the floor, to a railing, your legs and feet are working different muscles on each one to keep you on it. If all of the perches are the same size then the same bits of the birds feet are touching the perch at all times, which can lead to sores or bumble foot.

    Bumble foot/sores
    Photo from

The best material to use is wood. Ideally you want to have natural wooden perches, you can get these from a pet shop, or you can make your own. I have pet shop perches in the cage, and I have a play stand that is made out of Beech Tree branches which I collected from a forest. Please read here for a list of safe and harmful wood for budgies and be sure you know how to identify the wood you collect. Wooden perches don't have to be stationary boring perches, I have colorful wooden ladders, wooden swings and a long branch like swing with twigs sticking out the side.

> Rope - these are fun! My boys love their rope perches. They can be twisted into different shapes and they can be put all over the cage in different positions, inside and out. They can really help to make the cage fun and entertaining. I've recently added a long rope perch through the center of the cage and the boys hop on and off it all the time. There does need to be caution, check for loose threads daily as these can either be swallowed and clog up the crop (where budgies keep seeds) or their feet can get caught in them trapping them, but generally I really like them.

> Plastic perches - I do not understand why cages are still sold with plastic perches when they can be sold with doweling perches. The odd plastic perch inside a cage is OK
, but if this is all you have then please provide something different. Plastic perches are one of the key causes of bumble foot, a bacterial infection, because they offer no variety or encouragement movement around the cage. 

Sandpaper perches/covers - these are really not great for your budgies feet and they are not recommended at all. You might read that they are good for keeping the claws trim, maybe they are, but imagine what they are also doing to the soles of the feet. Varietyis key, and mixed sizes and textures of wooden perches do every thing you need. 

  • Cage floor lining - You will probably read that you need to use sandpaper lining. Incorrect. This is a waste of money and I bought into it at the beginning too. Now I use newspaper which lots of people don't recommend as it has the print on it, but the boys really don't go down on the floor of their cage often so this isn't something that worries me. If you have birds that do forage at the bottom then I would use brown packaging paper, paper towels, plain paper, whatever you have that is disposable. It is purely to help you maintain the hygiene of the cage.
  • Cage cover - used to put over the cage at night time. It is a piece of breathable clean material which you place over the top of the cage and it blocks out the light. You can buy fitted ones for your specific cage, or you can do as I do and just use a blanket. I have listed them as essential because for us one is, however I know many people do not use one. So why do we? I like that I can put the cover over the birds and there is almost instant peace. This is great for them to settle down at night and prepare for bed (they actually get in their beds when its put over them) and it is FANTASTIC for us as we can shut them up. Budgies make a lot of noise and I am not ashamed to say they are bloody annoying. In the morning you have the control to say 'Good Morning!' here is the light. This keeps them quiet until we decide they can begin their day of shouting, constantly, all the time, budgies are noisy!! It is partly a selfish act having a blanket, however it is my house too! But being serious, for us it is good for them, they get to calm down, and importantly for Reggie, Buster stops being annoying when the cover is on. Covers can also help to control night frights as it blocks out and light or movement from outside the cage. Some birds can get injured quite badly simply by spooking themselves in their cage in the dark and then having a major freak out.
  • Grit - NO! This really isn't needed for budgies. Grit is eaten in the wild by birds to help break up and digest their food. Parrots and parakeets break the husks off their seeds and so they do not need the assistance of grit to do so. In fact, grit can be very dangerous for budgies as it gets trapped in their gizzard. I understand you may read on many websites that grit is needed, I bought it at first because I thought it was, but Reggie and Buster do not have any grit and they are digesting their food perfectly fine. I personally will not give my budgies this, but if you chose to then OK, but I doubt you will ever see your birds eating it.
  • TOYS! Of course we have to talk about toys!
    I'm going to start on a bit of a negative and put some details about the toys you should watch out for, not necessarily avoid - these are not my own opinions, they are what I have read over and over again. What you have to remember is that NO TOYS ARE SAFE, this isn't me exaggerating, this is a fact. Everything has its dangers, naturally, and you need to assess which toys you deem safe enough to allow your bird to play with unsupervised in the cage, and which can be used for out of the cage time where you can keep and eye on them. There are no regulations when it comes to bird toys, therefore anything can be made and sold as one. Just because it is in a pet shop does not mean that it is safe. Check each toy over before you let your bird play with it, keep them clean, and check for damage frequently.


If you check any list of unsafe bird toys, many of yours, and mine will appear on them. Please just use your head. I am writing about what I have read about, but that doesn't mean I follow this advise to the word. I judge each toy according to my own standards. I have links, plastic, metal etc, but I know the dangers each pose. 

> Mirrors - They are not terrible toys but you must be cautious. Budgies are super clever and super stupid at the same time. Whilst your budgie might be able to churn out word after word looking in a mirror, he doesn't realise he is talking to himself, he thinks he is talking to another budgie. This behaviour is dangerous and can lead to many different mental issues, including aggression towards you as an owner. I have never had mirrors in the boys cage, even now they are together as a pair I won't add one. I do not want them to become fixated. This isn't me being selfish, this is to ensure that the mental health of my boys is not compromised. I've witnessed both Reggie and Buster sit and talk to their reflections in the door handle and the leg of the TV stand. They love it and almost go into a trance so it is very reasonable to limit the exposure to mirrors. BUT, I do let them talk to their reflections now and again, and I have recently purchased a disco ball which they love. As with most things, everything in moderation.

> Certain materials can be dangerous for birds. I have already mentioned that you need to check the threads on your rope toys and if there are lose ones cut them back, or dispose of the toy. Dangly synthetic fibers can be swallowed and they can clog up the bird inside.
Metal is generally not advised. This does seem extreme doesn't it seeing as most toys are made of metal, but stainless steel or nickel plated are the advised metal.
Some plastic 'toys' are not toys and they are not safe because if ingested they could be toxic. 

Links, hooks and clasps - just be sure that all of them are done up tightly so that little beaks and claws cannot get trapped. Watch how your bird plays with them, if they have a fascination with sticking their beak in a small chain, take it away. Why not recycle the toy and break it up into something knew, removing the dangerous parts and using the fun bits? I have done this many times.

> Bells
- Birds love bells!! There's no denying that, and I am certainly not telling you to refuse your budgies bells to play with. But just have a think and a check: Jingle bells, the round ones, quite obviously pose a threat to little feet and beaks getting caught in the gaps. The classic bell which has the little dangly bit inside can cause a choking hazard as they are often very loosely attached and budgies seem obsessed with getting their beaks on those bits and becoming ''bell face'' as we call it. 

> Moving parts - Lots of fun toys have lots of bits, and between these lots of bits, heads and feet can get trapped. These three toys are very common, the boys have a similar one to the Ferris wheel. Just be sure to watch how your bird plays with them. If I saw Buster sticking his head through some of it I wouldn't let them play with it unsupervised, it is not worth the risk and they have multiple other toys to play with. 

I am going to finish this post now as I have written LOADS! I haven't covered nearly as much as I would like to so I will write another post which covers play time outside of the cage and what the boys have. They are mega spoilt! This will include their play gyms, purchased and home made, and any other toys which I think are good recommendations. 

Please read this post as food for thought, rather than telling you what you can and can't use for your birds (although I do strongly advise against sandpaper perches!). As I said, I have many toys for the boys that appear on unsafe lists, but then almost every toy has its dangers as they are not regulated. Keep an eye on your birds as they play and inspect their toys. The more variety and fun you can provide the less likely they will probably get fixated on one toy and get into trouble. 

Images: All of the images of toys used in this blog are from

Friday 6 May 2016

13. Getting a second/new budgie - Introductions!

Please only introduce the new bird to the original birds/birds once you have quarantined it! I promise this is the last time I will write this, but I really cannot stress how important it is to place your new family member in quarantine first, it could save your birds lives. You can read all about it on my previous post - Getting a second/new budgie - QUARANTINE!! 

So your bird has proved itself to be fit and healthy and now its time to get the introductions started ....Eek!! Exciting times ahead! As you have taken the time to quarantine your bird, they will be in their own cage which is what you need to successfully introduce your birds in a safe way. From my personal experience I can tell you that things are going to get more chaotic and a lot louder! Oh and more poo. Hopefully this will all be justified though when you see how happy your birds are together. 

How to safely introduce your birds:

You cannot just pop your two birds in the same cage and hope for the best. Well you can, but I wouldn't advise it. Budgies can be aggressive little birds with big personalities and you really don't want a fight to break out. It is a slow process where you must monitor and watch your birds reactions and judge when you can move to the next stage. This is for their safety, but also for your ease. If they can be introduced slowly and calmly they will be less stressed and more cooperative with each other resulting in a more harmonious pairing. I keep wanting to write happy wife happy life, but I cant think of a budgie equivalent, you know what I mean though! 

Lets begin!

1. Place both the cages side by side (not too close as they 
might nip each others toes!) and allow them to see each other and have a chat. If you read about this elsewhere it will advise you to leave them like this for a couple of days.

I put them together and look what happened (photo on the right). Instantly they flung themselves to the sides of their cages and made eyes at each other. Reggie was very curious about what was going on. I guess he knew there was another bird in the house as they had shouted to each other, but I'm sure he was a little confused as he had been a lone bird for 5 months. Little Buster was super excited, he jumped about and flapped his wings in anticipation doing this little flying hover thing like a humming bird. It was actually so cute to watch but it terrified me as I was sure this was the beginning of the end with Reggie and I (it wasn't, keep reading!)

2. Once you have left them to get to know each other through the cages you can let them meet in a mutual environment away from the cages. You need to do this on mutual ground as they can be territorial about their cages; you want to avoid any hostility and keep everything fun and interesting for them. Watch their behavior very closely, and be ready to step in should an issue arise. There will probably be some bickering but try not to confuse excitement with fighting. Consider the age of the birds you are introducing, Reggie was still a baby meeting a baby, but an old bird meeting a little excited baby might act very differently. Females meeting males can be quite hostile so just be on your guard. 

So here's my small confession, I didn't quite follow the above steps. When the boys met through the cages I could tell instantly that Reggie and Buster would be OK meeting each other. Reggie is the sweetest little darling and Buster was mad with excitement to meet him properly. I could definitely have gotten my judgement wrong, but I knew my boys and I could just tell they were going to be alright. I think it was only 1-2 hours that I actually left them in their cages side by side, but I didn't go straight to letting them out together, I added a precautionary step just in case I had read their body language wrong. I got Reggie out on to my finger and I took him to Busters cage to see him. One reason for doing it like this was also to make sure that I was a part of this meeting (My hand is a representation of me and it was in the thick of the action). You can see in the picture that there was a lot of interest and Reggie had his happy puffy big head on <3

I then did the same but this time I put Reggie in his cage and I got Buster out on my finger and let him meet Reggie through the bars. T
he photo on the right is not from that time but I believe it looked something like that! They would put their beaks together through the cage and touch, I guess these were budgie handshakes? They hopped off my finger a few times but I would get them back so that there was less chance of toe biting through the bars. They didn't actually bite, they were very well behaved.

I put them back in their own cages whilst I was sat watching TV with them behind me and I just thought, oh bugger it, i'm doing it - I'm going to let them meet! I'm not promoting that you do it like this, haha, but i'm also not saying you can't. I was honestly trying to follow the rules and wait a few days and had there been any sign of negativity or fright I would absolutely have waited before letting them out. Excitement got the better of me and as I said before, I knew my boys. I didn't know Buster too well by then but he was really showing to me that he was eager to get out and meet Reggie. Reggie I had no doubts about, he has always been so gentle and brave so I was convinced that he would be nothing but humble and welcoming to Buster. 

A moment of pure cuteness the
first night they met
Thankfully, I was correct with my assumptions. I got Reggie out and popped him on the play gym on the coffee table and then I went and got Buster. They flapped about a little, and Reggie busted out his finest vocabulary for Buster (Reggie the Budgie, whose a good boy, I even think he had started to say Buster by then) which appeared to confuse Buster so much.
There was a little bit of bickering and so I separated them into their cages for half an hour and then we tried again. I don't remember specifics but I think this sequence happened a few times and just to be safe I would put them away for the rest of the evening. It was purely excitement that was winding them up. Buster is a brave little soul and he was not afraid to try and assert his dominance over Reggie straight away.  

The day they met.
I think my heart melted/broke when I saw Reggie groom Buster on the first evening. It was the cutest moment and I loved watching their relationship unfold but I still had a horrible feeling I had doomed our relationship. They don't actually groom each other much even now, only last week (early May 2016) did I see Buster groom Reggie for the first time, so its interesting that this happened almost immediately upon meeting. The photo on the right was also the night they met, waaa too much!! 

Over the next few days they got to know each other more and more and I developed mild post budgie depression. I know I keep harping on about it, but I genuinely thought oh bugger, I've lost my boy now to this evil little thing called Buster. Buster was proving himself to be a very assertive little boy and it actually made me a little upset to see Reggie bossed about like that. If Buster made the slightest little snap at Reggie he would concede and move away immediately and I'd be there saying 'Hey Reggie, that's your favorite toy, don't let him have it!' Then 5 minutes later Reggie would be whispering sweet nothings to Buster and showing him all the love. What! He nicked your broccoli! Clearly I had a lot to learn about budgie society.

I kept them separate in their own cages next to each other for about a month and then I upgraded to a new bigger cage that had a divider. I wasn't being mean, I was being very cautious for many reasons:

Buster on Reggie's bed
  1. They were still having little spats and Buster was pulling Reggie's tail a lot. There was also some toe biting. I cant control that at night time when I am in bed.
  2. Buster was pinching Reggie's bed whenever he went in his cage and I was being an over protective Mum and I wanted my baby to have his bed at night.
  3. When they came out to play with each other, my boyfriend or I was always there to be a part of it. I wanted to ensure they knew that family play time was just that, family, all 4 of us. I was very conscious of the fact that budgies prefer budgies.
  4. I was still deciding how to house them lol.  
Ferplast Canto bird cage from Zooplus

I eventually went with the Ferplast Canto bird cage which had a removable divider. This cage is a great size when the divider is out and it is more than adequate for each birdy to have his own half during the day when we are at work. It's a very strong sturdy cage with great little twizly bird seed holders, it feels like you are serving them up their food every morning! There are 4 doors, 2 at the front and 2 at the side and an individual tray under each half. I miss the door Reggie's old cage had, it was a big swing open door, but everything else about this cage is fantastic.  
The boys are at the top on their ladders

I decorated each half with the toys from either birds cage and away we went. I didn't have to worry about them fighting or not getting to the food, I could just put down the divider and they had everything they needed and their new best mate right next door. When they sleep they are either side of the divider on their own little ladders, they talk to each other and touch beaks. 

Sleeping either side of the divider

It's now 4 months later and the divider is still used at night time. We take the divider out during the day and they have the run of the whole cage together, but I still like to separate them at night time. For a while I did feel this was absolutely necessary for Reggie's happiness, perhaps I am putting human emotions on to the birds, but I was sure he looked upset when he got pushed off his bed. They are very independent birds when out at play time so I don't worry that I am depriving them of each other over night. I'm sure in the next few months I will stop putting the divider in at all, they squabble a little bit but they are now good firm friends, and Buster seems to have learnt that the ladder on the left is his and the one on the right is Reggie's - or that's what he shows me anyway!

The boys get along great and my relationship has grown and grown with both of them and I do believe that is partly because we have taken it slowly. My worry that Reggie would fall madly in love with Buster and neglect me has also helped to make sure everyone remains friends - sometimes paranoia can help! It's easy to get carried away and hope that everyone will get along straight away but sometimes that is just not reality. Take your time with the introductions and don't rush them to be best friends. Watch how they react and act accordingly. Reggie had been alone for 5 months but he still seemed to remember how to budgie, but if you have a bird whose been alone for 2 years he might need to learn how to be a bird again. If all they have done is talk and annoy a toy they might get a shock when a new bird fights back! 

September 2016 Update; Reggie and Buster have been sharing their house for months now with no hassle at all. They have their mini squabbles but that's it. The cage is still fantastic and we can make the most of all the room now that the divider doesn't have to slot down the middle. Would still highly recommend the Ferplast Canto cage. Reggie is still my baby boy and he loves his mum. Buster and I are still amicable lol. 

Good luck! :)

Friday 18 March 2016

12. Getting a second/new budgie - QUARANTINE!!

YAY! You have decided to get a new bird, this is super exciting!! 

Now you need to work out how to successfully quarantine the new bird away from your current bird/flock. Do this before you get a new bird and not the day you get him home! If you don't do it before you might be tempted to bring home your new bird and then not bother with quarantine. This really isn't a good idea!

This is the second post in a series about what to do when you get a new budgie. I've concentrated on talking about getting a second bird as that's the experience I have had but I think these posts would work for adding a new budgie to your flock. This one especially does!!

What is quarantine and why is it so important?

free printable admittance to authorized personnel only osha  sign Quarantine means that you will house the new bird in a different cage in a different room so that there is no contact between the two. I really cannot stress enough how important it is to do this. Birds are cheeky and they can hide their diseases so that they appear strong and healthy to the rest of their flock. This means that a bird can hide an illness until it literally cannot hide it anymore, and by this time it could be too late. Your new budgie might appear perfectly healthy when you buy it, and even when you get him home, but after a few weeks you might start to notice he is not quite right. If that bird is in the cage with your original bird it might be too late for both of them! 

Quarantine rules:

  • Depending on where you read it, you will keep the birds separated for a minimum of 30 days. 45 days is better and 60 - 90 days if you really want to make sure they are hunky dory. If I were getting a new bird from a pet shop I would absolutely go to 45 days, 60 if I could manage it. 
  • There should be no air flow between the new and the old birds. As you probably know, birds can make a lot of dust, sometimes it looks like a snow storm has landed on my knee when Reggie has had a good groom! Parasites can travel between your birds in this manor.
  • Wash your hands before and after touching anything that is for the birds. 

free printable watch for forklifts osha  sign
It is not always easy but I cannot stress how important it is. Birds are very good at hiding issues and illnesses but a change in their circumstances can cause the illness to rear its ugly head - like the stress of moving to a new home. 
You might have noticed when you got your first budgie home that his poo's went runny/gloopy? That's the stress of the move having its effect. Busters poo's went so weird when I got him home, looked like slime!

free printable no water skiing  sign
Ok, so my signs are obviously totally irrelevant and to the point of being extreme, but is it not better to be safe than sorry? I would have hated to see Buster and my Reggie belly up at the bottom of the cage because I hadn't attempted to isolate a problem before it appeared. 

Did I think Buster would be ill? No not at all, I completely trusted my breeder to sell me a healthy bird. I honestly did not doubt his budgies at all, Reggie was perfect and I knew that he put a lot of care into his aviary. BUT I was not going to risk Reggie and I strongly encourage you to take the same course of action with any new bird you get! 

You will probably try to justify why you don't need to quarantine......
Your new bird is from a breeder you trust. So what.
The pet shop said the bird was healthy. So what.
Your new bird looks healthy. So what.
A vet has said the new bird is healthy. I'm still inclined to say so what!

You really can't be sure that the new bird is healthy until it has demonstrated this! 

I don't have a spare room?
Ok, so this does cause a bit of a problem, but you can still perform some level of quarantine. 
Can someone else quarantine the bird for you? 
Can you put the bird in the bedroom during the day and move it out under a blanket in the night time? 
Do you have a separate bathroom? (bathrooms are not usually advised because they are a bit of a bacteria breeding ground) 

If there really is no other choice than to put them in the same room then so be it - something is better than nothing! Put them as far away from each other as possible, wash your hands regularly, and don't let the birds out as they will obviously fly to each other completely defeating the point of the separate cages. Letting your birds climb over each others cages breaks quarantine and really you may as well just not bother.

What did I do? 

As soon as Buster came through my front door I whisked him off to the spare room where he was to live in the converted Hamster cage. I had his new cage ready and waiting for him, with his own toys and his own blanket. After a few days I gave him a stand that was Reggie's, this was fine because I didn't give it back to Reggie until they had met and I was confident Buster was healthy. 

Taming Buster

I've said on this blog before, Busters first month in the house was not the best for him, It was hard to juggle my spare time between 2 budgies (and boyfriend) and so he didn't get socialized as much as I would have liked. I also had an issue with the temperature in our spare room. It was cold for the first few days as the heating was playing up so I had to try to make it more comfortable for Buster. The hair dryer warmed the air a little, and a cover over his cage during the day (with the front open) helped to fend off some of the chill. On his 2nd night I put him in the hallway with a hot water bottle under the cover with him, haha mad woman!! 

Buster would happily sit at the
entrance to his cage and look out

I played music through my old phone but sometimes I would get home and it had stopped playing, so who knows how long little Buster had been sat in silence. He could hear us in the living room and he would shout through to Reggie who would shout back. And after a week of being great at stepping up and sitting on my hand outside the cage he seemed to have an aversion to the spare room and would refuse to leave his cage. He seemed happy enough, he was playing with his toys quite actively which was pleasing, but he just seemed a little bit miserable. I couldn't wait for quarantine to be over so I could bring him into the living room and let him see that there was a little family waiting to make him apart of it. 

Reggie being spoilt with attention at Christmas

I was even able to keep the boys separate over Christmas (bad timing by me but I had it in my head I wanted a second and so I got him). I went back to my families house with Reggie and Doug stayed at ours with Buster. On Boxing Day Doug drove to where I was and brought Buster with him. Reggie lived in my parents living room and Buster lived upstairs in our bedroom. It worked out OK, but because my niece and nephew have little regard for closing doors when asked, the boys would get into a real flap shouting to each other. We both drove home in separate cars, Reggie with me and Buster with Doug. Easy peasy haha.

I was tempted to break quarantine early, and in the end I only did 30 days after reading that benchmark on a few websites. I was looking for justification to let him out early. I don't know what day it was, perhaps it was day 28, and I wanted to try Buster out in the living room to see if he responded better. I put Reggie in the bedroom and moved Buster into the living room. The change in him was so big, he was like a different bird and he seemed a lot happier. I let him watch TV for a couple of hours and then I moved him back. I think I did that once more and then I decided that 30 days was enough, I hated to see him unhappy on his own. 

This is the day I broke quarantine and
let Buster into the living room.
He was like a different bird and even
showed me a little bit of affection!

TECHNICALLY I BROKE QUARANTINE! Whats the saying? Do as I say, not as I do. I am being honest with how I quarantined Buster which meant I'm actually telling you I broke the rules. In the end it is up to you what you want to do, but I'm telling you what should be done.

It's not all bad!  

There are other benefits to quarantine, please don't think of it as a sort of punishment and the poor birdy on his own is having a bad time. Had I lived in a busy house where one bird could live in the dining room and one in the dining room I would have gone to 45 days. In my house we live in the open plan living room/kitchen and the rest of the flat is dead space until bed time. So for us quarantining Buster was effective because he was far away from Reggie, but it was boring. 

One of the worries when getting a new bird is that the bond you have with the first will be lost. Use the quarantine time to your advantage! You have an extra month + with your first bird to really cement what you have. Up the play time and treats and really try to have fun with them and show them you are their best mate. Chances are, they will be very excited to see their new friend and they could bond to them very tightly so work at proving to your little mate that you are worth remembering.

I was able to start clicker training with
Buster when he was in quarantine
You also have an opportunity to work with the new bird and form a bond with them before they meet their new brother or sister. You can train them to step up without any distractions and a level of trust can be met. Follow the training advise I gave earlier in the blog with the new bird and hopefully by the time they meet the resident bird they will be well trained and responsive to you. You might get lucky and have a bird who is a real people person and in the 30/45/60/90 days of quarantine you and newbie really hit it off, but I'm tempted to say that the second bird will almost undoubtedly prefer your first bird to you because you just haven't had the time to bond and become their flock. If you can gain some level of trust before they meet you will at least have a reasonably obedient bird who can learn to love you from the second one. 

I think Buster and Reggie were having secret conversations and so Buster always knew that there was something better in the other room. He was obedient, he would step up beautifully and he would be perfectly happy with my hand in his cage. On the few occasion he left his cage and flew to the curtain he would step on to my finger without questioning it and I could get him home. I never felt a connection though. There was a brief glimmer of hope when he let me stroke his cheeks a few time and his little puffy head told me he was enjoying it, but other than that he just didn't seem to care about me at all. 

30 days came around and I decided that was enough. He needed some company and I was excited to let them meet. In the next post I will write about introducing budgies and how I introduced the boys. This will be another tale of do as I say and not necessarily as I do!