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! 

Friday 11 March 2016

11. Getting a second budgie - Making that decision

I'll warn you now - this might be quite a long post! 

Choosing to get a second budgie was a hard/easy decision for me and it caused a lot of deliberation around the subject - I'll explain these mixed emotions later. Following this post I will write about quarantine (please please please read that one, it is VITAL and it could save your birds from serious injury and even death) and about introducing a new budgie - it is not as simple as placing them in the same cage. 

I'm not too sure where to start with this post, so I may as well begin with a disclaimer.....
I am not judging anymore that keeps a budgie on its own! If you feel that you can give your bird enough attention in a given day and he/she is happy then that is your choice. I know many birds that are single budgies and they live happy lives with their devoted owners. I will be writing about why I got a second budgie and how I felt personally about Reggie being a lone bird, which might sound like I am insulting you single bird people. I am not. 

Back to the post! I really hope I can help anyone out there who is deciding to increase the size of their budgie family. I am writing it from the perspective of adding a second, but you can use the same principles when thinking about adding a new budgie to an already established flock. When I decided I wanted to get a second I searched the internet for peoples stories about how it went. I looked on YouTube and chatted to people who had introduced a second, I went on forums and read the stories (of which there were very few), and I asked Instagram for advice. Not all introductions will be as successful as mine so don't read this and think that's the outcome you will get, but add it to the list of positives for why you should get a second. Yours might even go better, Reggie and Buster can wind each other up a lot!

The divider means I can supervise their play times,
but I have positioned their ladders so they can still
get comfort from each other.
Getting a second budgie does have some additional costs that you should think about whilst considering the emotional well being of your current budgie. As I said at the beginning of this post, you must put your new bird into quarantine. In short, this means in a different cage in a different room with no contact with the original bird for a minimum of 30 days. So before your second budgie comes home you need to have a second cage and toys for the new bird to live in. This cage doesn't have to be anything fancy; Buster lived in our old hamster cage that I modified for him. In the unfortunate event your two birds do not get along, you need to consider the possibility of them having to live separately, permanently - do you have the space for this? This might mean you need to then upgrade the quarantine cage to something more suitable for long term living, or like me, get a larger cage that has a divider down the center. (Reggie and Buster do get on, but I don't trust them to live together 24/7)

Why did I want a second? 

Reggie seemed perfectly happy when he lived alone. We had worked super hard at the training and he was very tame and very loving. I would play with him and give him so much attention from the moment I got home from work, and he would happily eat from my hand and sit on my shoulder giving me kisses. He had learnt to talk which was a very good sign that he was enjoying his new flock because he wanted to better communicate with us. 

Doug and Reggie bonding on their
lunch break

How about when we were at work -  who did he talk to then? The radio was on, but there was no one there to give him kisses or talk to him. Apart from an hour at lunch time when Doug came home, Reggie was alone from 9am - 6pm (give or take). I told myself it was OK because when I got home I pilled on the attention and affection, and budgies sleep for 12 hours a day so no problem at all.....right?...... hmmmm, I wasn't convinced. I think I was always going to get Reggie a friend but because I was new to birdies I was a bit dubious about two. Hamsters are solitary animals so I never felt guilty about them being on their own, but I knew budgies were flock animals that lived in big groups. 

I'm going to interrupt myself here and say that again, I am not telling you to get your bird a friend if he/she lives alone. I am explaining my thoughts and if that niggles at you and makes you think differently about keeping your bird alone then wonderful, but if you are happy with your single budgie then I am too - just treat them well and don't leave them locked away with no toys. They are such playful little birds that need stimulus and they are flock animals, so you have become their flock and you must provide them with companionship. 

If you asked me whether I thought you should get a single budgie a friend, I would say yes. But here is why I would never tell you that without first being asked my opinion- when I joined Instagram I was almost immediately confronted with the following: (you might even recognize the second one word for word)

''A budgie buddy would make him happy when you and your boyfriend are out'' 

''Don't you think he feels alone without a budgie friend :) Humans can never replace a real friend :) '' 

Yes, I had thought that, and it was a consideration I thought about daily, but please don't attack me without knowing anything about my situation, anything about my plans for the future, and in some cases I have seen, anything about the birds that already live in the same house! Stop judging people on their snap shot photos! One poor girl got affronted with the question about her bird feeling alone on her first photo, an hour later she posted a photo of her bird with all his other budgie friends. This person was too quick to judge and got it wrong. I saw someone ask an account I follow just this week 'Does your budgie live alone?. I jumped in and answered saying if they looked at the other photos they would see there was another bird in quarantine. I knew for a fact this person was asking this question because they disapprove of single budgie ownership, they've written so in their account bio!! They were asking so that when the owner replied no they could shove their opinion at them. 

Some people, like me, choose to get a second bird after they have tamed the first - as I said, I think this was always my intention I just hadn't fully committed to it at the very beginning. There is nothing wrong with this! I'm going to be living with these birds for hopefully 10+ years and so I want to make sure that I enjoy them, and for me that is being able to interact and play with them. To get the best bond with them I chose to get them separately and work with them alone before they met each other. It's not selfish to want a pet that likes you, love you even, remember the more you give them, the more they give you and then the more you give them back again. It's a harmonious circle of give and take that works to everyone's benefit.

Rant over. Where was I? Oh yeah, so Reggie and I were getting along fantastically and I felt confident that we were bonded tightly enough to now get him a friend. This was exciting but quite unnerving at the same time, we were the best of mates and I had read so much online about people who regretted getting a second budgie because they lost their mate. My thoughts were genuinely all over the place; I loved him to pieces but I wanted him to be as happy as I could allow, I loved how he talked and came to me for kisses, but I wanted him to be happier, I loved how he had learnt some tricks, but I wanted him to be happier. Every excuse I came up with for not wanting to get him a friend was automatically overridden by my desire to get him one. I know when I can't get an idea out of my head because I dream about it and I dreamt so much about budgies in the run up to getting Buster!! (when I first got Reggie, apparently I chirped in my sleep haha) - May 2016 update, now I dream sometimes about green cheek conures are I really want one!! 

Also, baby budgies are so bloody cute!! I wanted one for me too! 

Boy & Boy, Girl & Girl, or a pair?

Once you've decide to get a second budgie, you'll have to decide whether to get a little girl or a little boy. Think about the new dynamics you are creating. I had a gorgeous little boy who was just starting to get frisky with his penguin - I absolutely did not want to introduce him to a cute little lady! I've never been fond of female budgies anyway, despite how hilarious they are. Little madams bossing their boys, and owners, about. This wasn't what I wanted though, girls are generally harder to tame and less likely to form a close bond with the owner and I especially didn't want that disadvantage for a second budgie. (I know lots of lovely girls, but the general consensus is that boys are easier to tame and nicer)

For many though, getting their bird a little boyfriend or girlfriend is what they decide and that's great! Just be aware that this could result in your birds breeding so unless you are certain you want to become a grandparent, you need to make sure you prevent this from happening. Breeding budgies is not something that should be entered into lightly! You have to ensure your birds are in tip top condition, provide the right food and equipment, be knowledgeable about potential problems, and be on standby should you need to take over the rearing. I know lots of people do it, I got my boys from a breeder, but I don't think your average pair of budgies housed in your living room need to make babies. If you do want to tread this path, please read up about breeding budgies; has a fantastic amount of advise about breeding. It also tells you how to prevent your budgies breeding, for example separating the male and female during breeding season, limiting the amount of natural light they receive, and simply taking out anything that could become a nest - coconut toy swings and hammocks are examples of these that you might not have considered. 

I chose to get Reggie a little brother. A pair of boys, usually, get on very well and can live very happily together. Males tend to be the calmer of the sexes and are less territorial than females (If I touch Reggie's bed at night time though, he gets very territorial!) If you already have a female, be wary about getting her a sister. As girls mature they can get very protective of their space and quite feisty so this pairing is not considered harmonious. You could find that it works very well for you and you have two little darlings, but boys are the calmer of the two and work better as a same sex pair. 

Buster was quite a sweety in quarantine
before he met Reggie
I also wanted to get Reggie a younger sibling. The younger the bird the easier they are to tame and so again, to help with the process of working with a second bird, I went with a baby boy. Buster actually turned out to be a lot younger than I expected and he was just shy of 6 weeks old. He was only sold when he was ready and he was surprisingly confident when he came to me. I hoped that getting a young bird would help the imprinting so that whilst I was working with him in quarantine he would bond to me quickly. It kind of worked, we had an OK relationship but once he moved out of quarantine he quickly attached himself to Reggie and made his allegiance quite clear. If you have an older budgie whose been a lone for a while then perhaps a baby could be too much for them, you will need to make this decision based on the personality you see from your bird and work out whether they could handle it. Introductions 

This post is so long, I'm going to break now and work on the posts about quarantine and how to introduce your two birds. I hope you have found this post helpful if you are considering what to do with your single bird. For Reggie and I it has turned out perfectly. Even though I don't trust them enough to live together without the divider yet, they love each others company (unless food and toys are involved then Buster is a little bully!). I feel more relaxed when we have to leave them alone as they've got each other for company and if we have to be out the house all day it's not the end of the world. Reggie still loves me and he flies to my shoulder every time I get home and we have bonding time where he sits with his head under my nose. I know he is doing this because he wants to and not because I am his only option which makes it feel more special. I was worried when they first met, so much so I got a bit of post budgie blues, lol, but Reggie was just so excited to meet Buster and I wasn't as important for a few days. I will talk more about this in a later post!!  

Please read my next post about quarantine. I know I keep harping on about it but I cannot stress enough just how important this is - and useful!

Tired out babies the first evening they met

Tuesday 8 March 2016

10. Why I love budgies

I've decided to write this post as someone asked me on an Instagram video recently whether budgies are good for beginners and whether I would recommend them. It made me realise that so far on this blog I have written about how I care for them and tamed them, and I've told you about Reggie and Buster but I haven't actually talked about why I decided to get a budgie or why I love them and am now a total bird convert. If you want the quick answer, YES I would absolutely recommend them, and I am still a beginner so yes definitely they are great for newbie bird owners!  

I never ever thought I would become a bird lady. I've grown up with cats, dogs, rabbits, Guinea pigs, fish and rodents and I've always said I can't wait to live in a house so I can get a couple of cats. I still want cats, but now I'm hopeful that one day I can get some different birds too.....hopefully my boyfriend Doug isn't reading this, 2 budgies is more than enough for him! Birds have never appealed to me, ever! My friend got a budgie called Penny at university (Penny was actually a boy - she is one of 3 Penny's I've now seen that are actually boys!) and he was cute and fun but I wasn't bothered about having one myself. The idea of caging a flying animal didn't appealed to me, it always seemed cruel.  

If you follow Reggie & Buster you might recognise
this as being one of their favourite toys also

When Doug and I moved into our flat we had my 2 fancy goldfish from University. Several tanks and goldfish later and we have now settled on our 180 litre tank which houses 3 lovely big goldfish, 2 weather loaches and 6 danios. Our neighbours upstairs have a cute budgie called Buddy, but a budgie still wasn't appealing and so we got a Hamster called Chubby. I fell in love with her straight away at the pet shop. Whilst the pet shop assistant was handling my desired gorgeous brown and white hamster, Chubby was sat in the corner on her butt cleaning herself and dragging her fat little cheeks forward with her paws. She was plain and brown and not the colour I wanted but she was hilarious. For 2 years she was our baby and she was a fantastic little pet with a huge personality. Nothing like the hamsters I owned as a child, hamsters are rubbish pets for kids!

Our fat Natasha!
Our second hamster was called Natasha (there's a stupid story about how we got to that name that's probably only funny to Doug and I, but it involved holding a hamster like she's our moustache lol). She was a spontaneous rescue from the Pets at Home's adoption section where she was pawing away at the glass. She was HUGE! We couldn't resist so she came home with us and lived along side Chubby (but separately). Chubby sadly passed away from old age leaving us with just Natasha. Natasha died about a year and a half later after she got an ear infection which spread to her eyes. We had learnt our lesson about dragging out death from Chubby and so after a week of treatment we agreed the best option was to put her to sleep. We loved our little hammies, they were a real presence in the flat and they had their own little personalities. They were very independent but they showed us love by recognizing our voices and sticking their little faces out from their houses when we called their names. 

When Natasha died we were left pet less and with a little hole in our lives symbolized by an empty table that a vase of flowers just couldn't fill. We still had the fish but they are like living ornaments, I enjoy them but there's not a lot of love or interaction from them. Living in rental accommodation on the second floor limited our pet choice to something in a cage - (we didn't actually know until we got permission for the budgie that we would never have been given permission for a hamster - what? Hamsters are so clean compared to budgie's with their poo everywhere!). For some reason I suddenly decided I wanted a budgie. 

I can't do anything or buy anything without first researching all there is to find about the topic or item. This is why I get annoyed when people ask me very basic questions that they could just type in to google and get pages and pages of info on that topic. I had never considered birds because I hated the idea of them being caged, but after hearing stories from my friend about her bird Stanley, and searching Instagram watching birds talk and balance on tennis balls, I was smitten! I attacked google and spent hours reading about budgie care and what was needed.  is a fantastic forum and I read so much on there, I still do - I have no intention of breeding budgies but should I decide to I know all about it! I was starting to see what was so fun about birds, and how, given the right care, a caged bird could have an incredibly fulfilling life. 

It was then a matter of finding the right bird, so I searched high and low for a little baby boy budgie from a breeder - and so I got Reggie - my first foray into bird ownership.

Ah, I have waffled!! So back to the reason I am writing this post - I would absolutely, without a doubt, unequivocally, recommend budgies as pets. I am a total convert to birds and I am a proud bird mummy. I love my boys and everything that they give me, they are my two little clowns who can't do anything without making me want to photograph it or film it to share with everyone. I post so much on Instagram because they provide me with so much material. I loved my hamsters and I'm still a cat lady at heart waiting for the right time to unleash my madness, but for now I am crazy about my budgies. They give love and affection to Doug and I and they feel like a real part of the family. 

Looking after them in terms of cages and feeding is pretty easy. They don't cost a fortune to keep once you have bought their cage and toys (unless like me you can't stop treating them) and they don't really cost a lot of your time to look after them. Where they do take up your time is with the taming and the playing but I don't think you even notice that because you are having fun. For me, they are no harder to keep than hamsters, but what they give back is way more! 

However, just because I rave about them, don't go thinking that they are little princes and can do nothing wrong. I can lose my rag with them quite easily!

They poo everywhere!!!!!!!!!!!! Everywhere is a toilet which can be infuriating, especially when I find it smeared down my leg hours after leaving the house. I try to clean up their poo regularly and I even bought a little cordless vacuum, but they are just little turd factories pooping it out as they go. I've heard that some people have successfully trained a budgie to poo in one place, but they have very little control over what their behind does so I haven't even attempted to try and train them to do that. I have just had to accept that a poo on the shoulder, immediately after they have left their cage, is a daily occurrence in my life now. AND I only have two budgies!
Plotting how to get it all out without me noticing!

It's not just poo they leave everywhere, if I give them a lovely bowl of vegetables to enjoy, that's not good enough! Bird logic tells them that they can only enjoy those vegetables if they take them one by one and drop them over the side of the table onto the floor. To add to the bits of broccoli and spinach they've thrown everywhere, they've started regurgitating to each other! It doesn't matter that they have just shared the same seed stick, apparently it is absolutely necessary to swap these seeds between their beaks and drop them all over my floor in the process! How wonderful that they can demonstrate to each other their devotion and friendship, thanks boys, I'll will just get the hoover out!

Toasted bun with a side of Reggie

They don't just mess about with their own food. A meal for us is preceded by a battle of wits to get them back in their cage because otherwise they will land in our food, no matter what it is. Hot runny curry? No problem, Reggie will just get his wellies on a walk straight through it. Cooking our food can also be a trial. When they are feeling particularly desperate for my attention, it doesn't matter that I have a meat cleaver in my hand, if they want to flap about on my chopping board they will, and I will shout and wave my arms about and get frustrated. They lose out in the end because they get locked away, but I'm sure they take great pleasure in seeing me go mental. 

My flat is a mess, there are multiple  wooden twigs in the hallway that I collected weeks ago and I can't quite work out what to do with them. Our coffee table has a play gym on it permanently which collects only half the poo they leave about the flat. I've got a large rope swing hanging off the lamp because they love it. I think I have a lovely big mirror hanging over our fire place but I haven't seen it for 6 months because it has a scarf covering it to stop Reggie flying at his reflection. My carpet is constantly embedded with seeds and their husks and the flat has permanent coating of fluffy budgie down. Watching movies - forget it

But I love them :) 

Friday 4 March 2016

9. Budgie bonding and taming - Clicker Training

Before I go in to details, I have to admit that I have not done this with the boys for a very long time. Both Reggie and Buster showed great potential for being fantastic little performers, but it does take regular sessions and I ended up stopping. I am not sure why, I think because I was just having fun playing with them and they are so well behaved I lost interest in getting them to do tricks. So I guess my first piece of advice is to not give up. I believe all budgies have the potential to learn how to respond to a clicker and to do basic tricks, but if you don't have the stamina to continue you wont get very far with them. If I ever do it again i'll be sure to update this blog.  

Before you begin clicker training I strongly recommend that you are on your way to having a good bond with your bird. Clicker training can be used to get your budgie to step up, however I don't think it is the best way to hand tame a budgie. Clicker training is about curiosity and respect as well as bribery and so you really need to be in a good place with him to get him to want to follow what you are instructing. Step up training is not a very difficult process and if you can complete that in your budgies own timelines I think you will be more successful with the clicker. That said, if your bird won't step up this probably would make that happen!

So, what is clicker training? 

You will probably have heard about clicker training if you own a dog. A clicker can come in several designs, but they are all variations of the same device - a single button that when clicked makes a short sharp noise. I have the design below which I picked up from the local pet shop in the dog section. I mainly chose this one because it had a little slider which meant I could make the clicker slightly quieter and not scare the birdies. 

The idea behind clicker training is to reward your pet, in our case budgie, when they perform a desired behaviour. In the beginning this starts as something simple, like touching their beak to a wooden dowel, but it can lead to your budgie stepping up, spinning on the spot, or even more complicated tricks like fetching and putting items into other items. You identify the good behavior to them with the 'click'. You don't have to have a dog clicker, you can use your mouth to make the click, or use a phrase like 'good boy', however it is a lot easier and more precise to just use the device. If you have a pen that has a loud click feel free to use that! 

If you and your bird can form a good clicker training relationship then the circus is your oyster! Please notice I said relationship, to get good at this you and your bird need to be friends and he needs to be interested in what you are asking him to do. You then must respect the time he takes to do it, sometimes he will learn quickly and other times he will learn slowly. This process is a great bonding experience for both of you and it should be fun for both of you and definitely not a chore; if you don't enjoy it then nor will he. At the end of the training you are rewarded with a clever little birdy who you can impress your friends with, and he has received important mental stimulation, oh and yummy millet! 

How to begin:
  1. Start by clicking the clicker and then giving your bird a treat immediately after. You should start to notice in time that when you make the click your bird will show recognition and look for the treat. Do this for a few minutes several times a day and the connection will become very obvious.

    With Reggie I used millet (I did this with Buster too but it is easier to just talk about
    Reggie). Millet worked really well as he loved the stuff and it had become a special treat for training purposes only. I started using the whole stalk, but I realized very quickly that this didn't work as he would eat too much and I would have to wrestle it away from him. Feeding the treat was then not the quick precise action it should be. I moved to using a single millet ball that I could break off the bunch. This worked well for us as he was very used to my hands and he did not mind me going so close to him. It also meant that I could be very direct with the treat I was offering him. I wanted to reduce the amount of millet he was receiving to a single seed so presented a single seed between my fingers and he would eat that. (Not all birds will allow this so just go with what is comfortable for you both!)
  2. Using a thin piece of wood like a chop stick or pencil, move it towards your bird. You want him to touch the end of it with his beak and as soon as he makes contact you click & reward a treat immediately.
    Most likely he will have absolutely no idea why you are pointing a chop stick at him and he probably won't enjoy this experience, so you need to reward the little behaviours first. If he moves away because he seems scared take back the stick - don't chase him! Wait until he is calm and then try again. If all he does is look in the right direction click & reward and continue to reward each glance he makes towards the stick. It won't take long for him to understand what you are telling him and eventually he will gain confidence and curiosity will make him reach out with his beak. When he does, click & reward and give extra praise and extra millet to really highlight the good behaviour of this new trick. Repeat this until there is no hesitation about touching it.
  3. Hold the chop stick in different locations so that he has to move to touch the stick, click and reward.

When you have reached this stage you have got the basics to clicker training mastered. You can then use the pointer to show him what you want him to do, for example: 

Spinning: Hold the chop stick above his head and get his attention. Slowly guide him so that he spins around on the spot. As soon as he has spun, click & reward. 

He probably wont spin the first time so you need to encourage him. Even if he only turns a little bit click & reward. Just like with the glances at the stick, he will realize that turning is what you want him to do and he will eventually learn to spin. It's not going to happen straight away, and he may even get bored before he completes a spin. If you notice that he has littler interest in following the end of the stick, go back to the touch exercise above and really get that nailed. 

Standing on something: Use the chop stick as a pointer to show him where you want him to go, click & reward. 

I found clicker training was fun for Reggie to learn a couple of tricks, I could get him to pull down a cat ball from an upstanding toilet roll, and then stand on the fallen toilet roll - often resulting in a funny balancing act on top of the rolling cardboard. These were all I got him to do before I lost interest, but get on YouTube and search for budgie tricks as its amazing what you can get them to do. 

For some tricks I found it easier to not use the stick as a pointer as Reggie would just step up on to it - super cute and very obedient, but not what I was asking for (he was just too good at step up!) So I would show him what to do and some how he understood! 

Reggie was scared of the cat ball
until I clicker trained him to like it! 

Aside from the tricks, clicker training has some genuine behavioral benefits too. I've used it to help Reggie get acquainted with new toys when he was too scared to go near them. I would click & reward as he got closer to the toy until he eventually touched it. Usually after this initial touch he realized it was nothing to be scared of and he would play with it.  

When I bought the little travel cage Reggie was quite dubious about getting inside it, or even getting on top of it. Clicking & rewarding as he touched it, got closer to the door, and eventually inside was so incredibly helpful and it made it so much quicker and easier to get him inside the first time. As I have said before, Reggie does not enjoy being held but now the travel cage is not frightening for him and I can get him to just step into it calmly. 

I will probably pick up the clicker again soon, I did briefly try to get Buster to spin but he had no idea what I was asking him to do. He showed a lot of potential though, so hopefully I can write a new post about new tricks very soon! 

Reggie has recently become a massive pain in the butt to get home and it was getting incredibly stressful walking him to his cage and him flying off EVERY time. It was making me get quite angry and I had to refrain from grabbing him when he was really winding my up. I'm not ashamed to say that he annoys me and makes me quite stressed, this is what budgies do, they're stubborn little buggers! Reggie was the one really losing out though, he was making it difficult to get him out for short amounts of time for a fly about. They are allowed out at lunch time when Doug goes home but he has to fight Reggie for about 10 minutes. I say has, Reggie does what I ask but not always what Doug asks. 

I needed to sort this out ASAP so I got out the trusty clicker. After rearranging his cage so that it was how he used to have it (everyone says keep the cage changing with new stuff but I really don't think Reggie likes that happening haha), I started working to get them back into their cage and onto the ropes at each entrance. Buster is a whiz and very obedient but Reggie still has his moments. Either way, getting them home is a lot easier providing they are in a good mood. I get them to their cage doors and when they hop inside onto the rope I click and reward. I repeat this several times during the day and not just when I want to get them home. I am hoping that they will see this as a bit more of a game and not always associate it with being locked up. Sometimes I will close the door on them, click and reward, wait a little while and then let them out again, then get them inside onto the rope again, click and reward. 

Reggie still tries my patience and he has decided a few times he is having none of it, and then suddenly he does it and it's all fun and games again. I have a little platform at his entrance which helps I think, I've no idea why, he's a bit of a fussy fella it seems. Anyway, this is just another example of when clicker training can be very useful. 

Consequently, I could tell that they were both enjoying this training, probably because they got millet. So I started to retrain them to spin. Reggie quickly remembered what I was asking of him and now Buster can spin on the spot too. The only issue is that Buster always goes and annoys Reggie during training (i'm attempting to do them at the same time) and so we need to work on some discipline there. I'm also teaching Buster to high 5, watch this space!


I feel like I need to write this at the end of each post......I am not an expert! This is all information I have learnt and it might not always work out accurately for your birds. I have confidence in what I write but read with caution!

8. Budgie bonding and taming - Making friends

Making friends with your budgie.

Hopefully you have gotten your budgie to happily step up by now, and you might have even braved letting him out of the cage for his first flight. This post kind of overlaps all of them as bonding with your budgie is happening continuously from the day you get him home. I will try to demonstrate how Reggie and I became good friends as this is a question I get asked really frequently. 

Please remember, you won't always get a long, I know Reggie and I definitely have times when he doesn't like me and I'm not so keen on him but as long as you respect these mood swings your friendship will stay strong - if you don't you just end up getting bitten! Budgies, like humans, have their off days, and its at these times when you need to really read the signs and not push them. During moults budgies can lose a lot of energy and sometimes be in pain as the pins emerge. Don't be surprised if your hyper little flapper is happy to just chill out in his cage rather than come out and play. He still loves you, he's just not loving life at the moment. 

Reggie and I have a great relationship, he's my little friend and he clearly enjoys my company as much as I enjoy his. Just today (28th Feb 2016) Reggie did the sweetest thing. He was incredibly irritated by some feathers around his eye that were coming lose and sticking out at a funny angle. He visited several perches in his cage and his play gym trying to rub them away but nothing helped and he looked so annoyed. I took him to the kitchen and offered him a bath but after a quick dip he clearly wasn't interested. He landed on my shoulder and when I turned to him he went for a nose snuggle, he was very clearly trying to get me to groom him. I got him on my finger and I rubbed my 'beak' around his head and he was closing his eyes and quite obviously finding a lot of relief from the grooming I was giving him. 

Buster and I have a very different relationship with each other, I'm just a play gym to him. I've always noticed he had a different personality to Reggie, when I first got him he was really brave and a master at step up, he even escaped his cage and landed down the side of the wardrobe. He allowed me to stroke him a few times and I thought that maybe we would bond quite well, but we didn't have enough time before he met Reggie. Buster is very tame, he steps up very well and I have no worries about him being scared of my hands, but at the moment I just don't see us ever being good friends. I am working on it though!

To win Reggie over in the first few weeks I involved myself in almost everything he was doing and I annoyed him with attention as much as he would annoy us by getting in our food or climbing on our phones. If we were home the cage would always be open and I would play with him all the time (I used to crochet but that went right out the window when Reggie came a long!). 

If I wanted him to have some veggies I would give them to him from my hand, even if he was in the parsley plant I would get my hand in there and ruffle it about whilst talking to him. When he wanted to play with his toys on the play gym I would play with them too, or give him a perch to sit on so he could reach them better. As a result he became mega nosey and now I cannot do anything without him having to be a part of it. Annoyingly, lots of the time, because Reggie comes over to see what I am doing, Buster has to follow. This does have its advantages though, new toys can often be introduced easily, or new foods can be tasted in my hand because he seems to trust my judgement of it.

I can't even make soup alone!
When Buster came a long I worked really hard to make sure Buster realized that Reggie and I were friends and that play time would involve me. They lived in separate cages for a few weeks and so flight time would always happen when Doug or I let them out and we would try to have them always step on to our hands to come out. They now live in a cage with a divider so I am still part of the gang when they two get together but they can communicate all day and sit next to eachother (they are divided because they argue a lot and I really don't trust them to live harmoniously all day whilst we are at work). 

If I am in the kitchen and the boys decide they want to have a bath then they will land on the sink and the taps and stare at me. Bath time is fun because they use my hands as a bath tub and splash about, or they stand under the running water like its a shower. The first wash either of them had with me was using a spray bottle, they loved it! 

I am sure all of this involvement makes me sound like I'm a complete nutter and you must wonder if the boys ever get annoyed at me always being in their face. Well you only have to watch how the two of them act together to realize that I am far from being the annoying one! If its not Reggie kissing Buster and shouting 'Reggie, Baby Buster' at him, its Buster pushing Reggie out the way and yanking on his tale. Budgies are flock animals and they are around their flock all day and night so all I am doing is showing them that I am one of them and I am fun and worth coming to visit. I have never seen Buster groom Reggie, he is totally selfish and just takes it, so Reggie comes to me for the love that he doesn't get. 

You really will get out what you put in, if your bird is left alone and you don't interact with them when you are home they are never going to see you as something worthy of their attention. Especially if you have more than one because they automatically bond to their own species. I am having to work hard to keep Reggie bonded to me, but also trying to show Buster that I am as good as Reggie. 

I feel like I need to write this at the end of each post......I am not an expert! This is all information I have learnt and it might not always work out accurately for your birds. I have confidence in what I write but read with caution!